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Holiday Gift Guide: Procrastinator's Edition

holidayrelax.jpgYou know who you are. It's Christmas Eve, your stockings are yet to be hung with care, and there's a dismayingly large gap in the "gift gotten" column of your personal Nice list -- or maybe you haven't figured out what the last three days of Hanukkah are going to look like when it comes to gift exchanges. Don't panic; we're right there with you.

While physical gifts may be more difficult (though not completely impossible) to get at this stage, the intangible options are still on the table. Some of the best ideas for late gifting were summed up this week by Andy Ihnatko in the Chicago Sun-Times and Chris Breen at Macworld, so be sure to check their lists (twice, even).

If you've got a pair of giftees on your list who are craving new cellphones -- or, more to the point, slightly previous-generation cellphones -- MacRumors notes that Best Buy stores are running a special 2-for-1 deal on the iPhone 4 32GB model, today only. Apple no longer has the 32GB iPhone 4 on the product list, so this is an inventory dump; still, it's an inventory dump that works in your favor. Both phones need new 2-year contracts.

The growth in the installed base and reach of iOS devices means that you no longer have to head for a specialty retailer (or an Apple store) to get compatible accessories. Every local Radio Shack, Walgreen's, CVS, Staples or Rite-Aid carries iPhone and iPad accessories, albeit often cheap and crappy ones. An extra pair of iPhone-friendly headphones or a set of iPad screen covers would make a dandy 'light' gift, and an SD card or Bluetooth mouse could make the holiday brighter.

As Chris Breen's story points out, sometimes the best gift is the one you give of yourself. Assisting a family member with app updates, backup setup or remote access configuration might help them all year long. Making sure that Logmein or iChat are properly configured for remote support can also save you aggravation and travel time later on when that new Mac starts behaving oddly. You can always send a pretty email certificate that your relatives can print out and stick up on the wall for quick reference.

The list of digital-only gifts is, of course, very long -- Andy I's story cites most of the usual suspects, including of course gift certificates for all the nicest places. He points out that a Flickr Pro account is ideal for shutterbugs, and that while Spotify doesn't offer gift subscriptions, streaming music competitors Rdio and Pandora both do; so does Netflix, for that matter.

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Andy also noted something I knew long ago but had forgotten: you can gift an entire iTunes playlist, even if you don't own all the songs in the list. Just drag tracks directly from the iTunes store listing into the playlist, then under the Store menu in iTunes, choose 'Share Playlist...' -- you'll get a dialog offering to publish or gift the playlist. Keep in mind that gifts of individual tracks or full playlists are only redeemable in the country of purchase; you can't do iTunes gifts for far-flung overseas family.

Finally, there are the gifts that really keep on giving: learning opportunities and charitable contributions. You could simply send some dough to your recipient's favorite cause, but the fun of giving might be enhanced by one of these charitable apps.

For the Mac or iOS user who wants to expand their horizons and sharpen their skills, there are plenty of solid last-minute additions to place under the virtual tree. Both the Amazon and Apple ebook stores include instructional titles like the Missing Manual, Apress or Take Control offerings. (New Mac OS X 10.7 Lion users might particularly appreciate this one.) For visual learners, it's easy to get great tutorial content from vendors like lynda.com, covering a wide range of creative computing topics. This year's crop of screencast content is particularly rich for Apple's new Final Cut Pro X, with great courseware from Larry Jordan, Manhattan Edit Workshop and Izzyvideo among others.

As you scramble to find something perfect at the last second, take a mindful moment to breathe, relax and enjoy your blessings with your family. Of course, thanks to the honey-voiced hypnotherapist Andrew Johnson, there's also an app or two for that.



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It's Christmas Eve, your stockings are yet to be hung with care, and there's a dismayingly large gap in the "gift gotten" column of your personal Nice list.