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THE COOLEST STUFF IN THE UNIVERSE | HOLDIAY GIFT GUIDE

Turkeys to Avoid

November 30, 2000

Canon Video Home Edition

Price: $50

This Mac video editing program belongs on the cutting room floor. It's ugly and awkward, and it doesn't support the FireWire standard that's built into Canon's best camcorders. Apple's $49 iMovie is vastly superior and included with nearly all current Macs. For non-DV Macs, XLR8's $99 InterView USB is a better choice.

"Christina Aguilera: Follow Your Dreams"

Price: $20

If even screaming, prone-to-hysterics, die-hard Christina Aguilera fans think this PC title is a loser, you know you have a turkey on your hands. This self-serving software throws together some old photos of Christina and purports to help girls "find their dreams" by playing games that are so uninspired they aren't worth the energy it takes to click through them. If you have a Christina Aguilera fan on your holiday list, your money would be better spent on some of her Grammy-winning music and not this CD-ROM.

"Fantavision"

Price: $50

If you're one of the few who know someone with a PlayStation 2, don't get yourself uninvited from holiday play parties by giving "Fantavision," one of the crummiest games ever. The object of this so-called amusement is to target unexploded fireworks shells and then detonate them in certain patterns and orders. The payoff: Nice-looking explosions that offer a hint of PlayStation 2's graphics muscle. But the pretty fire blossoms aren't enough to compensate for play that's dull and repetitive.

inVoca voice-activated remote control

Price: $40

Imagine powering up your entire home entertainment system just by saying, "On," or changing from ABC to NBC by uttering, "ER." That's the thinking behind the inVoca line of programmable, voice-activated remote controllers. It's not a bad idea, really, given how complex and button-festooned remote controls have become. But there's a fundamental problem with the inVoca Standard model: It's not nearly as reliable as the remotes it's trying to replace. When you hit a button on your TV remote, you know something's going to happen. But uttering your clever code words to the inVoca won't necessarily produce a response.

MouseDriver

Price: $30

A novelty mouse may sound like a great idea for a stocking stuffer. It's not. Case in point: The MouseDriver, a standard PS2 mouse shaped like a driver club head. This chunky, clunky mouse is enormous, and its buttons are uncomfortable. Plus, for $30 we'd expect to find a few extra features, such as the ability to scroll on Web pages. Nope. Comparably equipped mouses from Microsoft or IBM can be had for about $10.

Mysmart.pad

Price: $20

Mysmart.pad is an especially aggravating product because it's geared to lure those new to the Internet with the promise that it will make their online lives simpler. It won't. This device, which is an oversized mouse pad with buttons, is supposed to guide Web surfers through news, shopping and other sites. But the choices it offers are limited, it's overly complicated and it tends to lead users to many companies to which it has commercial ties.

Nick Click and Barbie digital cameras

Price: $50

With street prices of about $50, the Nick Click and the nearly identical Barbie Photo Designer digital camera are tempting presents for young children. Resist the temptation. These are old and tired toys. Although the software is fairly fun and the cameras easy to use, the resolution of the two cameras is just too low. The pictures are blurry, coarse and washed out. Even children will bemoan the poor quality.

Pacific Bell Park Phone

Price: $100

Let's start with the obvious: This phone is ugly. What's more, Pacific Bell, the phone company that paid to have its name in lights at San Francisco's newest baseball park, is selling it for $100. It is a limited edition, with each unit "numbered for authenticity," and features a custom ringing option that uses the voice of ballpark announcer Lon Simmons. But its relevant capabilities include caller ID and call-waiting ID, and those features are fairly standard on much cheaper--and more attractive--phones.

Research in Motion Blackberry 957 Pager

Price: $500

While there are those who swear by it, the Blackberry 957, a palm-size pager-cum-e-mail device, just leaves us cold. Like an underdog candidate in a political battle, it tries to be all things to all people: PDA, wireless Web device, pager and more. Unfortunately, beyond paging and simple e-mail, it fails because of a smallish screen, microscopic keyboard and far-less-than-perfect synchronization with a desktop PC. The price of this monochrome device puts it in the class of hand-held color PDAs from Palm, Handspring, Hewlett-Packard, Casio and Compaq, almost all of which can have paging and wireless e-mail added to a far more robust stable of applications.

Unitone telephone voice changer

Price: $40

Take two $20 bills. Rip them into small pieces and throw them away. You have just saved yourself from the aggravation of trying one of the worst and most overpriced products we've ever seen. This pocket-size gadget is supposed to enable you to disguise your voice on the telephone even to the extent that a female can sound like a male and vice versa. Actually, all the device--which you place over a telephone mouthpiece and then push buttons to change pitch--does is make your voice sound not only unrealistic but also almost unintelligible.

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