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A few technophile gifts for less than $100

November 27, 2009|By Victor Godinez and Jim Rossman

Picking a holiday gift for the nerd in your life is never easy. In the shopping stampede, it's all too easy to end up with an outdated gadget or obsolete program. And mistakes can be costly.

U.S. shoppers plan to spend an average of $222 on consumer electronics this holiday season, up 8% from last year, according to the Consumer Electronics Assn.

Here are a few items between $50 and $100:

Hercules Dualpix HD7

20p Web camera

Everything else in life is going HD, so why not Web cameras too? Hercules' new HD camera is designed to clip to your laptop, making conference calls or cross-country bedtime stories more vivid than ever.

Who's it for? Not just business travelers. Bloggers and artists who want to get decent video out of an inexpensive package for online distribution also will enjoy the Dualpix. And it's $20 less than a similar HD Web camera that Microsoft Corp. recently released.

Availability: The $59 camera is available at Amazon.com.

4 gigabytes of RAM

This isn't a product, but a general category. RAM (or random access memory) is the short-term memory used to store programs that are open and running on your computer. Generally speaking, the more RAM you have, the faster your machine will run and the more programs you can open. Adding RAM is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to upgrade an aging computer.

Who's it for? Got a family member or friend complaining that their PC is sluggish? First, run anti-virus software to make sure a hacker isn't siphoning off your horsepower. If the machine is clean but still droopy, go online to www.crucial.com to run a free program to check what type of RAM is in the computer so you'll know what kind to buy. You generally want to install RAM chips in pairs. So if you're ordering 4GB of RAM, you'll usually end up with two 2GB sticks.

Availability: RAM is sold in any electronics or computer store, and you should be able to buy 4GB for about $80.

Apple iPod Shuffle

The world's smallest music player is barely the size of a thumb drive.

Who's it for? It's perfect for kids. It's pretty indestructible and inexpensive. It's also popular with the workout crowd. It weighs less than half an ounce and has a convenient clip to keep it on your body.

Availability: The Shuffle costs $59 (2GB) or $79 (4GB) and is available at Apple stores or other retailers such as Best Buy, Fry's and Wal-Mart.

Godinez and Rossman write for the Chicago Tribune.

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