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December 18, 2004 01:09 PM

Broken: Tech-shopping guides

If you open up a technology shopping guide in any magazine or newspaper, you're likely to see lists of the 25 possible digital cameras to buy; nine MP3 players to choose from; 42 available combinations of computer parts to create the perfect PC... a dizzying array of choices for every single purchase.

Wait.. wasn't the guide supposed to help? A guide is supposed to make the choosing easier and quicker, not more complicated!

With this in mind, I wrote my own "fix" to this problem: the Uncle Mark 2005 Gift Guide and Almanac, a free PDF download, containing all my suggestions for what technology to buy. Not the 18 things you could buy, but the one thing in each category I think is the best.

Hope you enjoy it... and happy holidays!

Update Dec. 19: I have taken down comments on this post because this post brought forth a hail of complaints from readers who disagreed with my opinion-based recommendations. It's a risky venture, recommending a Macintosh computer or a Nintendo video game system. (Caveat recommender!)

For those readers who want more recommendations, I highly recommend Matthew Baldwin's work: he has a 2004 game guide and, previously, a 2002 "guide for slackers."


I don't want to start fighting the war, here, but you overlooked a major reason to get a PC over a Mac: Games. Sure, makes are nice for those of you who want to be more productive, but for those of us who want to be less productive, PC is an unmatched platform for gaming. Of course, in that case you shouldn't stop at 768MB RAM and 60GB HDD, but you can always add more later if the price hurts.

Posted by: LAN3 at December 18, 2004 01:49 PM

Makes? I meant Macs. Sorry, I was up late playing Half-Life 2.

Posted by: LAN3 at December 18, 2004 01:49 PM

Actually, I'd say a guide should give pros and cons for each possibility for everyone to enjoy.

For example, what if the person was interested in a desktop instead of a laptop, or a PC instead of a Mac? It would be more helpful to set general guidelines (RAM, HD space, processor power) and suggestions for companies to buy from to GUIDE the buyer to the choice that is best for them instead of giving only one option.

The way it is now it seems less like you want to guide the buyer to what gift is the best for them to buy, but the gift that you LIKE the most (or did you get paid to promote only Apple and Nintendo ;) ). Perhaps tell of the benefits of items even if they are not your first choice (PS2 plays DVDs out of the box, X-Box has the most advanced graphics system. Maybe people who would enjoy an X-Box or PS2 more would like to hear these facts as well instead of being told that Game Cube is superior).

Maybe this guide is broken as well. Instead of guiding buyers to make informed decisions on which technology will be best for their circumstances, you pummell them with propaganda that there is only one choice in the field. Buyers need options, and your guide fails to provide. Still broken.

Posted by: Bakkster_Man at December 18, 2004 05:17 PM

geesh, i must have missed the part in the guide where it said BUY ONLY THIS STUFF. it is just a recomdation.

Posted by: joe plaugher at December 18, 2004 10:06 PM

i agree with bakkster, most people want choice between what platform to get... personally, i say both the xbox and gamecube suck and the PS2 rules, and as reasons why, because the controller is easy to learn, the depth of detail is still stupendous, and it plays dvds, also, you can connect and play online with it (unlike the gamecube) and as opposed to the xbox, you dont have to pay to use that specific system online!

as another reference... its not "only" a decision between windows and Mac its Mac "or" Windows, Linux, and all those other programs people can obtain for their pc. Pc's allow for variety where as macs do not.

back to the point though, its all about personal preference, in all reality, your guide is broken, not those of the magazines.

Posted by: Dragon at December 18, 2004 11:30 PM

> as another reference... its not "only" a decision between windows and Mac its Mac "or" Windows, Linux, and all those other programs people can obtain for their pc.

To clarify, that would be a decision between Mac, Unix, Linux and all those other programs people can obtain for their Mac "or" Windows, Linux and all those other programs people can obtain for their PC.

Sounds like plenty of variety to go around.   : )

Posted by: Rob at December 19, 2004 02:39 AM

Can we stick to the point? These PC vs. Mac and Xbox vs. PS2 vs. GC discussions are superfluous.

I don't like shopping for high-tech products because, whether shopping online or at the Best Big Box in town, it's hard to tell what the difference is between each model and make a decision. It would help me to allow me to enter my parameters (speed, capacity, technologies, etc.) and see which products meet those parameters and what they cost. I'll ultimately choose what I buy based on brand, price and features anyway.

Posted by: Jay at December 19, 2004 10:00 AM

It's a good idea... unfortunately, if someone had used the guide to buy for me, they would have definately bought me a mac, because (it seemed in the guide) they would have been an insane degenerate not to. Except that then I would have gone insane, because a mac would definately not fit my work and gaming needs.

A good shot, but it seems a bit... fox news-y.

Posted by: Bianca at December 19, 2004 11:22 AM

I think that your shopping guide is broken. A 2MP digital cam because nobody needs 8x10?? A Nintendo game cube because it has better quality games?? How bout the fact that it also has the fewest games. 3 things become obvious too me after reading your suggestions. 1 - You are cheap. 2 - You drive a Volkswagon. 3 - You are a whore for Apple. Your suggestions are ridiculous.

Posted by: Regis Hess at December 19, 2004 02:03 PM

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