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Tech gifts for non-techies

When the holidays roll around, it is easy to buy for friends who are dyed-in-the-wool techies. But what about the people who like nice toys, but live away from the bleeding edge?

When the holidays roll around, it’s easy to buy for friends who are dyed-in-the-wool techies–the stores are bursting with the swankiest new cutting-edge gadgets. But what about the people who like nice toys, but don’t necessarily have an interest in (or the budget for) living on the bleeding edge? They deserve something nice, too, right?

That’s why we wanted to turn the spotlight to a Whitman’s sampler of items that, while not likely to grace the front cover of next month’s Wired, would make perfect gifts for the people on your list who like technology but aren’t enslaved to it.

Jasc PaintShop Pro Studio: Corel’s recent purchase of Jasc indicates that the company is serious about competing with Adobe’s Photoshop, and indeed, version 9 of Jasc’s PaintShop Pro is aimed directly toward professional graphic artists. But the scaled-down version of the program, PaintShop Pro Studio (MSRP: $79) is a great option for folks who love to restore, repair, and otherwise fool around with their photos, digital and otherwise. And the program’s special effects are lots of fun, letting you (among other tricks) whiten your teeth without going near a dentist’s office.

Griffin Technologies RadioShark: Why is there no TiVO for radio? A reasonable question, and now one with a happy answer. The RadioShark not only adds an AM/FM radio tuner to any Mac or PC, it can also record any AM or FM radio broadcast in real time. It can also be programmed to record a scheduled show, or to time-shift (pause) live radio so you can return right where you left off moments or even hours before. Also, any recorded broadcast can be transferred to an iPod or any other AIFF-compatible digital music player. Thanks to the RadioShark ($70), your favorite wacky morning zoo show can now become the mid-to-late-afternoon zoo.

ActionTec 54Mbps Wireless PC card: Putting together a wireless network in your home or business has never been easier, and if someone on your list is planning on linking the upstairs PC with the downstairs laptop, ActionTec’s PC card will be the last piece of the puzzle (in other words, leave the purchase of a wireless router to someone else). The card ($60) is a non-techie’s delight: Once the router is set up, slide it into your laptop’s PC card slot, insert the installation disc, and within minutes you’re zapping digital holiday photos all over the house.

Microsoft Works 8: For those who don’t need (or can’t afford) Microsoft’s full-featured Office suite, the newest version of Works is a hardy substitute. The idea behind Works ($50) is to give the user the ability to read and edit files created with such pricier applications as Word and Excel without having to buy those products. The generic spreadsheet, calendar, database, photo-album, and e-mail programs included with Works 8 should be all that’s needed for a computer newbie who only wants the basics.

Epson PictureMate: At $200 MSRP, this isn’t the cheapest item in our round-up, but it might be the snazziest. Epson’s PictureMate is more than just a 4×6 snapshot photo printer; it’s among the first consumer-priced photo printers to behave like an actual photo lab, giving you colorful, durable prints that you’d be hard-pressed to tell weren’t from the local one-hour joint. Plus, even with consumables, the cost per print hovers around a measly 29 cents. If you’re a snapshot-takin’ fool, and having actual, physical photos is important to you, say hello to your new prints charming.

Encore Family Tree Maker 2005: If genealogy software has a granddaddy, it’s Family Tree Maker. For more than a decade, the program has been the top seller in its field, and the reason is the continual enhancements and refinements that shape each new edition. In the case of Family Tree Maker 2005 ($30), there’s a greatly improved compatibility with the many online sources of genealogy information. The new version also includes a history and bookmarks feature (similar to that on a Web browser) that brings you to oft-referenced people and families immediately.

Cambridge Soundworks CD player: Thanks to their relentless advertising, another company (whose name rhymes with nose) has taken over the American consciousness when the subject turns to tabletop CD players. But

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