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  11-28-03 | This column originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle.


Mac Gift Guide for the Fiscally Challenged


By Bob LeVitus

As I was inspecting the ever-growing pile of items I hoped to cover in my annual Christmas gift guide I realized that most (if not all) were priced in the triple digits. I’ll get to those soon but this week I wanted to suggest a few less costly items for the Mac lover in your life—gifts that will please him or her, but won’t ravage your pocketbook.

First up—if your Mac fan uses an iPod or other personal music listening device, one of the nicest things you can do for them is replace the headphones with a better set. While the little white button ear buds that come with the iPod don’t stink, they’re not particularly impressive, so, to score big points this holiday season, visit (or your favorite consumer electronics retailer) and check out the options.

I’m currently in love with my Grado SR60s, an “entry-level audiophile headphone.” Compared to the stock iPod ear buds, these $60 “cans” (what audio enthusiast-types call headphones) deliver sparkling highs, solid midrange, and tight, rocking bass.

I’ve tried more than a dozen kinds of headphones in the past few years and the Grado SR60s are my all-time favorite—the best sub-$100 headphones I’ve ever had and the ones I grab when I’ve got serious listening to do. The only downside is that they’re standard-sized, with a headband and everything, which makes them a bit less portable than ear buds. But for me, they sound so much better that size doesn’t matter.

In a lighter vein, MacPlay ( has a line of games called the Value Series, featuring previously-released (at a higher price) titles that still have plenty of life left in them. Titles include: Aliens versus Predator Gold Edition, Giants: Citizen Kabuto, Heretic II, HeXen II, Majesty, Sacrifice, Sin Gold, and Zork: Grand Inquisitor, to name a few. Priced at just $19.99 (plus shipping and handling), Value Series games are thoughtful yet inexpensive gifts for the Mac gamer in your life.

Moving right along, another excellent and affordable gift option is a book. The Mac book market has rebounded nicely over the past couple of years, so you’ll find hundreds of new titles available for the holidays, with prices starting at less than $20.

Another great (if somewhat unusual) gift idea is a RAM upgrade. These days a 512MB chip will set you back less than $100, making this an affordable gift that will improve the performance of any Mac. (If you want to score additional points, install it, too; it’s an easy 5-minute deal on most modern Macs.)

OK, my last inexpensive gift pick is the brand new Print Shop for Mac. If you remember the clunky and overly-modal Print Shop for Mac of the past, this isn’t that. It’s an all-new, made-for-Mac OS X version that totally rocks for creating labels, greeting cards, certificates, postcards, banners, fax cover sheets, gift tags, calendars, and much more. It includes over 10,000 images and 6,000 project templates so you can almost always find what you need, and then print it. This new version sports civilized touches such as transparency, fully anti-aliased graphics, and seamless integration with Apple’s iApps so you can enhance and print your iCal calendar, print merge using records from your Address Book, and import track names for CD labels and jewel case inserts.

At $60, Print Shop is so good, and so useful, you might want to buy a copy for yourself as an investment; you’ll save some money (and impress recipients) by designing and printing your own cards, gift tags, and decorations this holiday season.

Bob LeVitus is a leading authority on Mac OS and the author of 41 books, including The Little iTunes Book and Mac OS X for Dummies, 2nd Edition. E-mail comments to [email protected].

Copyright © 2003 Bob LeVitus

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