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October 19, 2005 10:28 AM

Broken: (Not broken) Consumer tech guide

Just released at - my brand new guide that gives you the single best choice in each technology gift category.

Download the Uncle Mark 2006 Gift Guide and Almanac.


FIRST!!!! Now i can die happy.

But i have not read this file yet.

Posted by: Bob at October 19, 2005 02:04 PM

I'd probably add in the computer part that if they want to play most current popular games they should probably go for Windows too.

I'm not crazy about the idea of recommending a Gamecube, given it's not quite abandoned, but nearly there. I'd probably recommend Animal Crossing in there though.

Posted by: JJZ at October 19, 2005 03:07 PM

I disagree that having more than 2 megapixels is unnecessary for one reason: editing! 5 megapixels grants a lot more flexiblity if you decide, say, you only need someones face so you decide to blow that part up in PS or whatever.

Posted by: Maurs at October 19, 2005 04:17 PM

While it certainly may be true that one doesn't need more than 2 megapixels to make a decent looking 5x7, you'd definitely need more than 5 to make a 'wall-sized' one!

Posted by: ambrocked at October 19, 2005 05:06 PM

The "which game system to buy" doesn't mention that the Brand New XBox 360 is coming out next month -- saying 2006 instead.

And I think it's a little heavy on the Gamecube praise, but that's just because I think that there is a wider selection of games available for the PS2. Most of the Gamecube games are targeted at younger/family audiences, which isn't bad, but the Gamecube is the wrong system to give to someone who wants to play sports games or shooters.

Posted by: Alex at October 19, 2005 08:04 PM

nice idea. but ultimately, that doesn't account very specific tastes. But no list can.

So good job!

Posted by: Sido at October 19, 2005 10:27 PM

Loved the guide. Especially loved the archive at the end.

Also love the word 'boobies', but that's a different post...

Posted by: nyackjazz at October 19, 2005 11:39 PM

If you get an XBOX, there are two games you MUST MUST MUST MUST MUST MUST MUST MUST MUST MUST buy. They are incredibly fun, original, popular, and can even help you lose wieght! Seriously!

The games are Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix and its sequal, the cleverly named Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix 2. You must also hunt for and buy at least one special type of controller, the "dance pad."

The games have a large selection of songs. Each song is sort of like a level. In them, a long list of arrows scrolls up the screen in time to the song, and as they reach the top of the screen, you have to press the corresponding buttons. This is where the dance pad becomes esstencial.

The dance pad is a mat that's a little bigger than a square yard in area and shape. It has the A, B, X, and Y buttons in the corners and the four arrow directions in-between them. With this arrangement, you have to press the buttons with your feet -- meaning that you'll leterally be dancing!

The game has a huge learning curve, but it doesn't rush you too much. Each song is given three difficulty ratings (one for each of the three difficulty levels) from one to ten. Level 1 songs have at most two arrows a measure, so beggining players can start out easily. Level 10 songs are inanely complex, with tempos of 300-320 beats a minute or patterns of nearly straight sixteenth notes. Everything else falls somewhere in between, and climbing up in difficulty is very fun and challenging. (I've found that each difficulty level is about as hard as the one two steps below it, except for twice as fast.)

The choice of songs is nice. The games have just about every type of dance song there is, from techno to rap, and even a couple of rock songs.

As you get into harder and harder songs, you'll realize something: the games are great workouts. Once you start doing eighth note patterns, you'll be moving fast enough to get sweaty. In fact, many schools are letting kids play these games in school during P.E.

Posted by: Kevin at October 20, 2005 11:07 AM

128Mb for a USB drive seems a little mean these days. Would suggest at least 512Mb.

Posted by: John at October 20, 2005 01:19 PM


Posted by: ambrocked at October 20, 2005 02:40 PM

I guess I have the same problem this year as last year: the guide seems VERY biased.

The X-Box 360 would have been nice to note, since it is a holiday release and the $300 version is a waste of money.

For what it's worth, though, this looks to be a guide for luddites. With that in mind, simple choices are best. On the other hand, a little more information can keep people from being stuck with a product that's not the best for them.

Posted by: Andrew Bakke at October 20, 2005 11:10 PM

Also, Macs suck. But that's another topic for another day.

Posted by: Bob at October 21, 2005 08:25 AM

Careful, Bob. That's why Mark shut down the discussion last year. (I don't use emoticons, but here's where I should throw in the "wink" symbol.)

Seriously, I like the intent of Mark's guide, I really do, but I think there's an inherent problem with it. If you're the intended audience (i.e., non-tech-savvy), you're in one of two situations: Either your recipient *is* tech-savvy, in which case you run a very real risk of buying them the wrong thing (e.g., don't buy Bob or me a Mac!), or your recipient *isn't* a techie, in which case you'll likely buy them something useless (what would my Mom do with a USB key?).

If I was writing a technology gift guide for non-techies, it would simply say "Go buy socks or something."

Posted by: E.T. at October 21, 2005 11:21 AM


Socks? C'mon. Clip-on ties are where it's at.

But anyway, do you have the link for the dead thread? How many times has MH used his god-like powers to smite a comments page?


If we want to have a mac vs. pc discussion, keep it reasonable. Do-as-i-say-not-as-i-do so no just saying 'Macs Suck'. Come up with reasons why they suck, have a nice intellectual debate. (for instance, 'Macs suck because they have no software' is a nice place to start.) Then someone can make a rebuttal saying that no, in fact macs have those desktop post-it note things, what are they called, which Windows clearly does not possess. See? Intelligent, not struck-dumbable, good for everybody!

Posted by: Bob at October 21, 2005 11:03 PM

Well, first of all, I'd use a mac if I could afford one. But I cant. so it doent matter. have you guys even seen MAC OS 10.4?

Second problem. Portable system. Nintendo DS. for 40 bucks more you get the new system, with some of the most inventive and original games on the market. and it can still play gba games.

I'm an xbox junkey, and I think that if you were gonna buy a home console, wait a little while, it's under a year untill the next genners are out.

I agree with the trio reccomendation, and have no clue about the camera.

iPods rule, i'd segust either the 4 gig nano or the 30 gig video.

For a flashdrive, get at leat 256. other brands ar okay, they're all pretty much identical.

As for dvr build a mythtv box if you can, it's cheaper.

Also, check out the best note taking system around at

Posted by: schwal at October 22, 2005 06:27 AM

Wait, wasn't one of MH's points that Macs were cheap? I got an iMac when they first came out for like $500, the Compaq i'm using now was like a thousand. What computer are you using if you can't afford a Mac? An E-Machine? But i agree with you on most of your other points, Schwal.

Posted by: Bob at October 22, 2005 11:41 AM

All your base are belong to us

Posted by: xzxzx at October 22, 2005 11:26 PM

I found that guide semi-useful but EXTREMELY biased. Clearly he has something against microsoft and why must everyone call them "pee sees (PC)" it sounds so stupid. Call it a Windows computer or something, macs suck because they have no software and a list of other reasons, but they use POWER PC chips, so they call themselves personal computers with power pc chips, but at the same time they are NOT pc's. I think that because microsoft is so wealthy they should buy apple and leave it in a cave to DIE!

but we should leave that for another day.

Another thing, the gamecube is for kiddies! IT IS BRIGHT PURPLE! I clearly reccomend an xbox 360 for anyone new, it has so many cool features. If you must, buy a PS3 but I personnaly dont think that they are great.

Ipods are known for having problems, the battery, you HAVE to use itunes, its apple, they scratch too easily....... and so on. He didnt even include the PSP, it is awsome!

Well thats my two cents worth, and buyers beware, this guide is very biased and only one guys opinion i reccomend looking at for real reviews!

Posted by: kip at October 23, 2005 08:55 AM

i'm using a powerspec, wich is marginaly better than an e-machine.

but you can get a new dell for 300 bucks nowadays.

plus you cant play counterstrike on them ;)

Posted by: schwal at October 23, 2005 09:15 AM

The Ninentdo DS is good, but if you're buying it for GBA games, why not buy the system that those games are designed for? It would be like buying a Playstation 2 solely for playing the original Playstation games on it.

PC, as I have long understood it, stands for not "Personal Computer." Not a windows platform, just a computer built for individuals to use. Really, I'd prefer any cheap, well performing computer, whether it be Mac or Windows.

Posted by: kwinse at October 23, 2005 01:48 PM

In Mark's defense, it's perfectly reasonable for his guide to be biased. After all, he's trying to pick the *one* best answer, as advice for those who are not interested in hearing all the pros and cons of several choices. He's generally pretty good about explaining his biases, too. (For instance, he doesn't want to sacrifice a camera's battery life for zoom function. A couple of years ago, I would have agreed with him; now that battery technology has advanced a little, I'm not so sure; but at least I know where's he's coming from.) And he states outright that these choices come from his personal experience.

Having said, that, I have to admit that, coming from *my* personal experience, there are some of his ideas that are just, well, wrong at best, and potentially dangerous at worst.

Of course I'm talking about the Mac vs. Windows opinion (you knew this was coming, didn't you?) -- it's not that I'm anti-Mac per se, it's just that there's a number of misconceptions that are widespread in the Mac community.

First off, the Mac interface is not significantly "easier to use" than Windows. This was debunked in the early '90's, with time-and-motion studies comparing Mac with Windows 3.1 (yes, 3.1!) proving that, for experienced users, whichever interface they were most comfortable with was the one they were most productive with. Those that were only familiar with Windows found the Mac just as confusing and difficult as the Mac users found Windows. And raw rookies found both interfaces just as difficult to learn from scratch.

But of course, the real proof is in the pudding. If the Mac really was a huge improvement over Windows for the average user, PC's wouldn't outnumber Macs by (last I heard) some 20-to-1. If there's one thing I've learned in 25 years of computer support, it's that when users find a task too difficult, they just won't do it (even if it's something as trivial as choosing a secure password). I'm *not* saying that Windows' popularity means it's "better" than Mac; but it does indicate that the general populace doesn't find the "advantages" of the Mac very significant.

More dangerous-sounding to me, though, is the idea that if you have a Mac, you "needn't worry" about viruses. True, Macs haven't come under attack yet, but the primary factor here is the more common distribution of Windows machines (simple evolutionary theory: denser target population means a disease is easier to spread). There's no such thing as a perfectly secure operating system; Macs are not immune to malware.

Mark says that those who must get Windows machines should "armor plate" them, and I agree, but that's not so difficult as it sounds. Keep your OS patches up to date, and use a firewall (Kerio and ZoneAlarm are free and effective) and antivirus (ditto for AVG and Avast), and maybe an anti-spyware package (again, Spybot S&D or Ad-aware). That, and some common-sense "safe computing" practices -- like not opening suspicious email attachments, even if they do puport to show Anna Kournikova naked -- will keep all but the most insidious attacks away from your machine.

But the thing is, you should be applying this same "armor plating" to your Mac! It's only a matter of time before one of the pathetic little boys who spread malware is going to set his sights on Steve Jobs instead of Bill Gates, and we'll have an epidemic of dead Apples out there.

Okay, off my soapbox now. Sorry for the long post.

P.S.: Schwal, you're right on about -- it's pretty cool, and getting better (with new page formats, etc.) all the time!

Posted by: E.T. at October 24, 2005 01:21 PM

First off I will agree and say that this is VERY

biased, and come on linux is the way to go. Windows and Mac both have their advantages and disadvantages. Ipods are great but get a protective case. Game Cube!?!?! He says that they are high qhualty?!? He clearly has not played KOTOR II or Halo 2. 128mb flash drive? Now they are just as expenseve as 256 or some 512 mb. One of the resions that Mac doesn't have many viruses is that OSX is based on BSD (Unix) and viruses are harder to write for Unix.

Posted by: Nick at October 24, 2005 09:33 PM

Hey nick, good, fair comment.

ET you are completely right, when (not a real figure)100 million poeple are using macs, more people will try to bring it down.

My pocket PC has better graphics than the game cube!

Posted by: Kip HT at October 25, 2005 03:41 AM

"He says that they are high qhualty?!? "

My name is also Nick, and i say that this Nick should lose his title.

I rechristen thee Sir Qhualty.

Posted by: Bob at October 25, 2005 06:46 PM

I think Mark's doc is a great idea. It guarantees people with a clue who read it won't go to his GEL conference next time around, for fear of witnessing something at ignorant in person as that document is.

Anybody who calls themselves a "technology expert" is displaying how little they know. People who talk loudly and tell everybody their opinions are usually not the right ones to listen to, this is no exception.

Posted by: John at October 27, 2005 05:20 PM

Anyone who says that the GameCube is the best video game system is either 9 or an idiot. End of story.

Posted by: KevKo at November 2, 2005 08:59 PM

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