Last week we wrote about the presents we'd most want to get as geeks. This week we present the flip side: gifts you should never buy any self-respecting geek.
Christmas is always a minefield for those people described as 'doing something with computers' by non-tech savvy relatives. You'e in a cleft stick on this one; relatives want to get you a high-tech gift, but lack the knowledge to make it a good one.
So if you are worried, forward this list on; it might make the holiday season slightly easier to cope with.
mention: Windows 7
Shaun Nichols: OK, put down the torches and pitchforks, Microsoft fans. This isn't a direct shot at the new version of Windows per se, but rather the circumstances surrounding its release and installation.
As you may have heard, Windows Vista wasn't the most popular release Microsoft has ever had. In fact, we think it's one of the worst, and a lot of other users seem to agree. As such, a great many people still use XP, and this is where the problem arises.
If your PC runs Windows Vista, upgrading to Windows 7 is almost painless and can be done without losing any data. Upgrading from Windows XP, however, is a different story. To install Windows 7 from XP one must delete the entire hard drive, which means backing up important data and reinstalling all of your essential applications after upgrading the OS.
Between the screaming children, eggnog hangovers and cheesy Christmas specials, the holidays bring enough headaches without having to perform a complete wipe and reinstall of your operating system.
Iain Thomson: When Shaun first suggested this I had my doubts. Windows 7 is rather good, if only because it's not Vista.
Sadly, I suspect rather a lot of people have been asking for Windows 7 this Christmas, usually eldery relatives asking the younger generation to buy it for them. If this rings a bell don't do it. "What a lovely present" will quickly be followed by "Can you help me install it?" Trust me, I speak from experience.
Now I'm the first to point out that there are plenty of tech-savvy pensioners who could show the younger generation a thing or six about computers. If you've got one of these, fine, but if not be very, very careful if you don't want to spend the festive season sorting out device drivers.
mention: Home recording
Iain Thomson: For the past five Christmases I've received a card from an old friend containing a CD - his (and for a few years his wife's) choices of the best music of the year.
It was a much anticipated gift, and led to me buying an awful lot of music based on what I'd heard. As someone who tends to listen to Radio 4, finding out about Lacuna Coil, Magnetic Fields and Stephen Lynch was a joy. But this year I just got a card, with a letter explaining that he was stopping the CD because of the current litigious climate. The recording industry might hail this as a win, but it's bad news for a lot of people.
For example, Boston University doctoral student Joel Tenenbaum has just been ordered to pay Warner Brothers $250,000 for sharing 10 songs. Imagine getting that kind of bill in your Christmas stocking
So don't give the gift of new music this year, and explain why you're not. We might finally get people stirred up about the ridiculous situation we find ourselves in.
Shaun Nichols: On top of gifts, I would also like to add home movies to the list. With the various advances in video editing tools in recent years, proud parents have taken to mixing their own home movies of the kids.
Unless you are the parent or the grandparent of the child, you really don't want to watch a four-minute montage of junior rolling on the floor or walking from the couch to the TV set to a soundtrack of John Mayer. A holiday card with a picture works just fine, thank you.
Mix CDs aren't much better. It used to be that making someone a music mix was a very personal sign of affection, as it involved carefully choosing the music and sitting in front of a tape recorder to dub each song by hand. When you can just drag and drop a bunch of songs from an iTunes playlist, the gesture loses a lot of its meaning.
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