It seems like just yesterday that we were doing this last year… hopefully 2010 treated you all well to the point where at least some of the following can be realistic suggestions. As always, we have one suggestion for those of you that are lottery winners, inheritance benefactors or willing to take out an equity line on your house… a second recommendation keeping it functional and under $200 for some of those more special on your list… and then bringing up the rear are some stocking stuffers in the under $30 range.
Mac Pro G5 Dual 2.66 (12 Cores) ($10,550) • State-of-the-art is a term you’ve heard often that has probably lost all meaning to you over the years, but in this case… this is the fastest personal computer available for you to purchase… in the world… and to the right people, speed helps to enable some wonderful things, open fantastic doors. Truthfully, this machine most likely falls under the category of a gift you might buy for yourself if so inclined and financially able. This much speed and its associated cost will only be attractive to a small percentage of the computer buying public… but if you’re a pro photographer, film maker, video editor, sound designer or a recording musician… the power this computer brings to the table allows all these professions a tool unsurpassed. When you’re a practitioner of an art that’s “processor intensive” as the phrase goes, this computer allows you to work as fast as is currently possible, which considerably frees the artist to focus on the art.
As configured this machine sports 16gb of RAM (32gb is the max) and (4) 2TB Hard drives (the max)… dual Super Drives for simple disc-to-disc dupes and (2) 27” Apple Cinema Displays that feed off of an ATI Radeon HD 5870 video card that has 1gb of onboard memory and will support up to (3) 27” Displays with no outside assistance. Also worth noting is that any of the 2TB drive bays I’ve already mentioned can be swapped out for 512gb Solid State drives adding even more speed to the world’s quickest PC… although those are $1,250 each (as compared to $300 for the 2TB drive which has 3 times the capacity). And to round out the dream machine configuration would be the software, this one comes with Aperture (pro photography), Final Cut Express (pro video) and Logic Studio (pro audio) pre-installed… and these all run on top of the world-class OS X operating system which of course ships with the machine. Good Hunting!
Airport Extreme ($179) • The term WI-FI has become ubiquitous in our collective vernacular over the last half-decade or so. Connecting our laptops, tablets and smart phones to home, office and classroom networks, most of us use WI-FI daily… never having paused to find out how or why it works, and that’s fine, in the end we find ourselves concerned with two factors; how fast am I accessing the internet? and how far can I get from the source before quality begins to degrade? Speed and Range. Those are the two aspects where Apple’s Airport Extreme and Airport Express excel. Having just recently upgraded my use of the stock 2wire Wireless Router that ships with AT&T’s DSL package to a combination of Extreme/Express components… the upgrade has been astounding. I’m sure the results are pretty much the same on a PC network, but for the record I can only vouch for performance on an Apple network.
In a nutshell, the Airport Extreme is the Base Station. If you currently use a DSL or Cable modem that also generates wireless, the Extreme, not a modem itself, would be connected to your current modem via ethernet cable and take over all functionality short of actually receiving the signal. The Airport Extreme supports 802.11 A, B, G and top-of-the-line N specifications. It also operates simultaneously on two different wireless bands to behave well with all sorts of devices… the slower 2.4GHz band used by iPod Touches and iPhones as well as the faster 5GHz band used by newer Macs as well as the AppleTV, a device where you especially want the fastest wireless speeds possible. Another cool feature of the Extreme is a USB port for the connection of a hard drive that can then be shared by all devices present on your network. If you have a MobileMe account you can even access this drive over the internet remotely. There’s a plethora of security options associated with the Extreme as well… if you’re interested, read about them here.
Airport Express ($99) • The second, smaller component that can be used to thoroughly enhance your Extreme-based wireless network would be the Airport Express. The Express is a much smaller wireless node that plugs directly into an electrical outlet, no cord. For me its most significant use is in conjunction with an Extreme as a wireless “repeater”. If your Extreme is set up in the basement let’s say… you can place an Express on the 1st and 2nd floors of your house to blanket the interior with a strong wireless signal… really handy if you’re using iPhone’s, iPad’s and Laptops as well. Another great feature is the analog/optical audio jack for connecting a stereo receiver or a pair of powered speakers. Once you’ve done that you can remotely play music from your iTunes library to any room in the house where you’ve set up an Express… and you can even remote control it wirelessly with a free app on your iPhone or Touch, beats tearing up the drywall… and rounding things out is a USB port. Connect a USB printer and then print to it from any device in the house, wirelessly.
Stocking Stuffers Under $30
3-months of Netflix ($30) > I wrote about it last year, I’ll do so again as I believe it’s still a really great, economical idea that would really be appreciated by the uninitiated within your clan. The thing to consider is the ever-growing number of Netflix-enabled devices that are making their way into so many homes… Video game consoles, Apple TV’s, iPhones and Touches… just about every television monitor and DVD Player in production… how many of those on your list have the Netflix capability but are just unfamiliar with the Netflix service? Once you’ve found those folks on your list, a 3-month trial membership will be all that’s needed to prove its worth, especially at $10 a month… what price would you pay to watch Up In Smoke on your iPhone while falling asleep in bed? Sometimes I really love the times we live in.
Cee-Lo Green – The Lady Killer ($11) > At the end of a post this size, you wouldn’t think that picking a single album to recommend would be that big of a deal… but picking just one, that’s always next to impossible. But considering what the listeners to our particular show might enjoy… The Lady Killer is this years winner. Feeling on first pass as what you might label retro-R&B, repeated spins reveal the emergence of modern musical vernaculars that didn’t exist back in the Motown days. A big part of what makes this record great is that Cee-Lo has a phenomenal voice that gives you that righteous feeling, right up there with Luther Vandross and Al Green. “Love Gun” I can’t get out of my head… bits of Prince, Duffy, even Parliament… part Philly soul, part ghetto blaster anthem… and “The Lady Killer Theme” brings surf guitar and propulsion to the mix, sometimes reminding me of the English Beat before quick transitions to more of a Duane Eddy thing… this album covers a lot of ground and comes highly recommended for bringing a little warmth to an otherwise very cold winter.
A Merry Christmas to all!