FROM THE TUSTIN NEWS, THURSDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2003


THE DOC IS IN...

Computer software makes a great holiday gift

The holiday season is here again so it's time to think of digital stocking stuffers.

More and more people will be buying online with forecasts of a 21% gain in Internet sales to a respectable $16.8 billion dollars. And online retailers are becoming much more sophisticated in their offerings.

Gone are the days of skimpy web pages and incomplete product displays. This season most retailers are offering complete listings of items and including more graphics and even video to induce us to buy.

Now might be the time to think of a home broadband Internet connection to take full advantage of this new sophistication. Dialup connections are becoming just too slow to see what the Internet has to offer. And broadband selection now includes cable, dsl and satellite service.

In deciding what to buy, digital imaging still seems to top the list. The selection of digital cameras and video devices has increased greatly this year, with prices coming down to reasonable levels. Four and five megapixel digital cameras are abundant in the $400-$700 range while the entry level two and three megapixel cameras are $100-$300. There is something for every need.

In the past, I hesitated purchasing a digital camera because I wasn't sure if I would use it. Now it is my constant companion because I can "shoot and see" instantly and easily email images to family and friends. I'm sorry I didn't purchase sooner.

An interesting twist on using digital images is to use one of the online services that will take your images and turn them into customized books. Business Week magazine highlighted three of these online publishers in a recent article; www.mypublisher.com, www.imagestation.com and www.snapfish.com. Each uses a different approach and software to allow you to upload your images and design your book. In a week or so you will be mailed your finished copy or copies. These make great coffee table items or gifts though they might not be ready for this holiday season. I'm sure a Google search would turn up other online publishers.

I visited with Greg Gilles of MicroCenter to see what is new and hot in computers for the holidays. He took me on a tour of the many laptops they are featuring. It seems that many people are purchasing laptops because they take less space and are easy to use while traveling, especially now that more "Wi-Fi" wireless Internet connections are becoming available in coffee shops, airports and hotels. There is a large selection that has large screens and keyboards, and speed and built ins are rivaling desktops.

Of course, computer software still is a great gift for yourself or others. For manipulating digital images, Adobe Photoshop Elements 2 still is a favorite while there is a fabulous selection of new games for the younger set. Some of these games may cry for a new, high speed computer, which also is a good stocking stuffer.

If you want to do your shopping online, don't forget to visit Amazon (www.amazon.com) , Wal-Mart (www.walmart.com) or Ebay (www.ebay.com) for an ever wider selection of books, toys, music and other items that they will ship directly to your chosen recipient.

If you are looking for the best price for a particular item, visit www.shopping.com, www.bizrate.com or www.mysimon.com for product reviews and store selections. I purchased my digital camera from one of the listed stores that had good customer satisfaction feedback and the transaction was flawless.

So, for a digital holiday, I have tried to list a number of hot selections. There are thousands to meet every need, and they can be purchased online or in stores. Incidentally, with retailing sophistication, many items can be purchased online, picked up in affiliated stores and returned to these same stores if necessary. Truly, online retailing is coming of age.

If you would like to hear more about holiday shopping, or other computer topics, visit "Coffee and Computers" at the Tustin Area Senior Center, 200 S. 'C' Street, any Friday morning starting at 9 a.m. Bring your questions or just come in and visit.

In the mean time, keep the neurons happy, synapses snapping and enjoy computing. 

And, happy holidays to all.

 _____________________________________________________________________________

Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: www.arholub.com. This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at: doc@arholub.com.


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