I was at a party when someone asked me if there was a such a thing as a “techie” stocking stuffer. Well, that was easy to answer; if money is no object, a smartphone is always good as that little something … but for the rest of us, there are other choices.
A lot of them, actually. One of my favourites is jump drives (a.k.a., flash drives, or plain old USBs), simply because you can always use one more for moving data from A to B. They’re no longer dull, either; one of my favourites is in the shape of Yosemite Sam (“I ah-came to see a high-diving act!” I mutter as I putter about the office), and another is in the shape of a Mini Cooper. It may well be the closest I come to so stylish a ride.
There’s an abundance of small choices: a gift card for iTunes will appeal to anyone with an Apple product. Earbuds are always useful. Does your loved one like snapping pics with a phone? Pick up an inexpensive tripod mount, with some models selling for under $15. Cloths to clean a phone or iPad? Very useful.
If the gift-givee has a digital SLR camera, a very useful gift is a memory card. If they’re adventurous souls, gear ’em up with a GoPro mount, for either a helmet or dashboard.
It may not be the most inspiring gift, but one stocking stuffer that’s likely to mean something to grown-ups is … a set of printer cartridges. Seriously. That stuff ain’t cheap! A key point: do some discreet research to find out the right specs for a specific printer.
Also on the, um, arguably boring (but very useful) side: a protective case for a phone or a tablet. Those screens can get smashed during an accidental slip or drop. Fortunately, covers come in some zippy styles, even with the sturdier models. I do recommend the latter, but function doesn’t preclude pizzazz.
Bluetooth-powered or WiFi-ready speakers range widely in cost, from under $20 to over $300. Many are impressive, as they fit in snug spaces and can pump up the volume. With a phone, tablet or laptop, you can replace a tinny, limiting sound with something much more impressive.
If you have a little bit of money to spend on a small thing that could have a big visual impact, consider the Roku media streaming dongle, which plugs into a USB port and revs up the amount of content that a TV can access.
And, lest anyone declare the CD is dead, burnable discs are often useful, particularly for the older and discerning music fan. Trust me on this. Hint. Hint. Hint.
I think the closer Christmas gets, the more likely we are to do something foolish involving a photo and a Santa outfit. Christmas Booth is an app that makes it ridiculously easy to look like Kris Kringle, or an elf, or a nutcracker or something called a “greench.” (Oh, copyright; always causing a snag for app entrepreneurs!) There are plenty of similar apps at the Apple store and for Android. Have fun, and amuse your friends and family.
Make cards for Christmas, or any time of year, with the Red Stamp app, available for Apple and Android. Get a photo, choose a template, and within a minute or two, you have a professional-looking card to send.
If you like, you can order actual cards to be sent to addressees, or shipped to you. I went with the e-version, and got a kick out of how easy it was. The app is free, although premium content will cost a few bucks (as, of course, will printing and mailing).
Best Christmas Movies
Rotten Tomatoes gathers together reviews and other reaction to movies, so when aggregate numbers hit a high mark, it generally means something.
For the holidays, the site put together a list of the top 25 Christmas movies, and you may be surprised about a) what’s on the list and b) the rankings.
But before you go all John McClane (yes, “Die Hard” is on it, as it should), take the time to have a look and perhaps find some suggestions for a cosy evening at home.
John Gushue is a digital producer with CBC News in St. John’s. Twitter: @johngushue