Technology’s march produces ever more ideas for gifts

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It’s less than three weeks until Christmas, and you’re still wondering what to give the computer person in your life?

Some more ideas:

REMOVABLE STORAGE

There’s one thing that just about every computer user can enjoy, and that’s more storage. In years gone by, that usually meant getting a larger hard disk drive, finding a four-leaf clover for luck and hoping the installation went well.

While buying a larger hard disk drive is still one of the most sensible upgrades you can make on an older PC (adding more random access memory is the other), the alternatives in removable mass storage are quite impressive.

Taking off this year is the LS-120 disk drive standard, pioneered by Imation (www.imation.com) and available in both internal and external versions for the PC, and a Universal Serial Bus version for the iMac and other Apple Macintosh computers equipped with USB ports.

Each of these disks holds 120 megabytes of data, roughly 85 times the capacity of a 1.4-megabyte floppy. Happily, the LS-120 drive will read both kinds of disks. Prices range from less than $100 to $149, depending upon the drive model.

Still there in the storage race is the Zip drive from Iomega, also available as internal and external drives for PCs and traditional Macs, and in a USB version for iMacs. If you have a notebook computer, there’s a good chance you can find a portable Zip drive to slip in an available drive bay.

Zip disks, which can hold 100 megabytes of data, cost as little as $9 each (when purchased in bulk), and the drives are extremely popular. You could walk into just about any Kinko’s, for example, and work on one of its computers from your Zip disk, a boon for finishing off last-minute presentations and the like. More info on the Zip drive can be found at www.iomega.com.

LABEL IT

You might want to give (or get) this one before Dec. 25. Avery Dennison’s LabelPro 3.0 software, which runs under Windows 95 and 98 and sells for around $40 in stores, is just the thing for creating almost any kind of label imaginable. Start with mailing labels and return-address labels and move on to labels for diskettes, video- and audiotapes, business cards, greeting cards, name tags and so on.

Because Avery Dennison makes one of the widest ranges of labels and card products around (more than 200 different items), this software will doubtlessly come in handy for people with home-based offices, as well as for families and other groups. I personally like its ease of use and its ability to handle both mail merges and printing graphics on labels. You’ll find the product in computer and office-supply stores, and more information on line at www.avery.com/software/lpwin.html.

PLAIN SPEAKING, PORTABLE

A couple of weeks back, I wrote about Dragon NaturallySpeakingPreferred, the voice-to-text program that takes what you say and puts it in a computer file, such as a word-processing document. The software is a good gift in and of itself.

Now, the Dragon folks (www.dragonsys.com) have upped the ante by offering a pocket-sized recorder that stores up to 40 minutes of dictation, plugs into a PC and then feeds the audio file into the software for transcribing. Called Dragon NaturallySpeaking Mobile, the product is available through Dec. 30 for $299, which is $50 off the usual retail price.

If you have a great dictator in your life, this is a cool gift for them to receive.

STUFFIT

Lest you think I’m being disrespectful, this imperative is directed at Mac users who want more hard disk space, speedier e-mailing of big files and general happiness. Yes, friends, StuffIt Deluxe 5.0 has arrived, and it may be the best $79.95 you’ll spend on a Mac software package. The new features in this version include smaller compressed files and better exchanges with Windows users.

Go to www.aladdinsys.com and find out why this program is worth having or giving.

* Write Mark Kellner in care of The Washington Times Business Desk, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002, send e-mail to MarkKel@aol.com, or visit the writer’s Web page (http://www.markkellner.com).

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