Cool Stuff: Your 2008 Holiday Gift Guide

18 economical, expensive, and just plain weird tech gifts for your friends and family

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Travel gear

When it's time to up and leave everything behind, you want to be able to do it in style. Get behind the wheel of the best-equipped (technically speaking) automobile available. Use the latest GPS technology to track your travels and mark your photographs. And if you want to make sure you're in touch at all times, you can find that elusive Wi-Fi signal and impress the locals with your fashion sense simultaneously.

i-gotU Travel Logger

The i-gotU Travel Logger

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On a Budget: i-gotU Travel Logger

Going on vacation or visiting distant relatives for the holiday? The $49 i-gotU USB GPS Travel Logger lets you geotag your photos and then combine the locations and photos into a map mashup -- you can trace your journey and see photos or videos taken at various sites. It tracks your location in 15-second intervals and, using included PC software, syncs up with the photos' date/time information.

Compatible with most digital cameras and camera phones, the i-gotU works with Google Maps (or Google Earth for 3-D presentations). You can upload the trip mashups to various photo-sharing sites, including @trip, Flickr or Picasa. You can also connect it to your laptop to be used with compatible GPS navigation software such as Microsoft Streets & Trips.

The i-gotU is made by Taiwan-based Mobile Action Technology Inc. Don't let the Web site's occasionally awkward English throw you; it contains some handy video tutorials. And keep in mind that you can use the i-gotU for more than just tracking your own travels -- you can use it to find out where your kids were last night. Now that's multitasking.

-- David Ramel

i-gotU Travel Logger from Mobile Action Technology Inc.

Price: $50 - $70  |  Phone: +886-2-8913-1666

Summary: This very portable GPS unit lets you track your travels.

Over the Top: Lexus LX-570

They've yet to release cars that drive themselves, but until they do, you might want to settle for the Lexus LX-570.

This Lexus offers state-of-the-art technology combined with luxury. Want to make sure you're safe? The radar detects an imminent collision and takes steps to avoid it; it also sets cruise control so you stay a certain distance behind the car in front of you. Cameras in the grille, passenger side-view mirror and rear let you see everything around you.

Lexus LX-570

The Lexus LX-570 dashboard

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Have trouble parallel parking? A parking assist feature uses a series of ultrasonic sensors to give you a visual representation of the distances between your car and those in the front and back of you; you get an audible warning when the preset distance is reached.

More? The chassis actually lowers for easier entry and then raises back up as you drive. A GPS navigation system with Bluetooth voice activation provides real-time traffic monitoring to help you avoid traffic jams and road closures. Bluetooth-equipped mobile phones can also be used to operate the GPS system and place hands-free calls using the stereo system. A Lexus Link option includes its own dedicated phone to place personal calls or communicate with advisers to summon help or get driving directions or concierge services.

Bored during a long drive? A 30GB hard drive stores up to 2,000 songs for the requisite mind-blowing stereo system (19 speakers), which has an auxiliary iPod/MP3/WMA port, along with CD, DVD audio and DVD video playback. A DVD rear-seat entertainment system sports a 9-inch screen and two wireless headphones.

The manufacturer's suggested retail price for all this road-ready tech is $75,705 -- for the basic vehicle. Adding all available options bumps the price up to about $89,000, and that doesn't include more than a dozen extra options that are priced individually by different dealers.

-- David Ramel

LX-570 from Lexus

Price: Approx. $89,000  |  Tech specs  |  Store locator  |  Phone: 800-255-3987

Summary: If you've got the money and the inclination, you can have tomorrow's automobile today.

Off the Wall: Wi-Fi Detector Shirt

Do you really want to have to open up your laptop to search for a Wi-Fi hot spot? Of course not. For those of us who want to know where that hot spot is without any trouble whatsoever, ThinkGeek thoughtfully sells the $29.99 Wi-Fi Detector T-shirt.

Wi-Fi Detector Shirt

The Wi-Fi Detector Shirt

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It sports a decal with the ubiquitous symbol for Wi-Fi on the front; the bars glow to dynamically indicate the strength of any nearby 802.11b or 802.11g Wi-Fi signals.

ThinkGeek is proud of its invention. Straight from the Web site: "Finally you can get the attention you deserve as others bow to you as their reverential Wi-Fi god, while geeky chicks swoon at your presence. You can thank us later."

Uh huh, sure. I wouldn't advise canceling your Match.com or eHarmony account just yet.

The three AAA batteries are not included. The animated decal, along with the batteries, can and should be removed for laundering -- if someone who would wear one of these things would actually wash clothes.

-- David Ramel

Wi-Fi Detector Shirt from ThinkGeek Inc.

Price: $29.99  |  Phone: 888-GEEKSTUFF

Summary: Apparel for the true geek, this T-shirt lets you know when you can pick up that necessary wireless signal.

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