If global economic uncertainty hasn’t crushed your consumerist Christmas, then this year is the year to buy tech gadgets before peak oil sends us back to an anarcho-primitivist state. Here’s a few ideas:
Drobo calls itself a robot, and while it sort of looks like a Cylon, it’s intentions are good. It won’t exterminate your species, but it will backup your data in a redundant RAID array through either USB or Firewire. You can add new hard drives to it at any time and it automatically formats them. Possibly the lowest maintenance backup system ever. With a network add-on it can become a network drive with Bittorrent and media sharing. Starts at $500 without drives.
Alternatively, a more basic backup solution can be found by going down to NCIX or a fine computer parts retailer near you, and picking up a hard drive and enclosure. If you think you can install one into the other and screw it together (you can, it’s quite easy), you can save yourself some money compared to a pre-assembled external drive.
Your desktop computer or laptop’s internal speakers likely leave much to be desired for quality music playback or movie viewing. For $100-150, you can do pretty well for some midrange speakers like the Logitech Z-4i. Good sound, but small enough to easily fit on/under a desk. Also gives better sound than those iPod speaker docks for an equal or lesser price.
This hasn’t been a particularly great year in gaming, but Valve’s Left 4 Dead is an impressive reclaimation of co-op gameplay in an FPS. Valve’s attention to detail and top notch engine has been put into this co-op zombie-shooter. Advanced AI changes behaviour and number of enemies each time. Graphic detail is strong, but the game is ultimately light-hearted. You’ll have a lot of fun with this. For Xbox 360 ($60), or Windows PC on Steam ($50).
I don’t often buy music either, in any form, but in the past few months I’ve found myself spending money on iPhone apps. An iTunes Gift Card would go to good use. Lots of apps, and lots of garbage, but enough good stuff at low prices to keep regrets low. With most apps under $5, a $25 card goes a long way.