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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Office gifts

You want to be popular at work, don't you? Well, here are some ways to accomplish that laudable end. You can give your bored cubicle buddies something to do with their fingers besides drum them on their desks, and you can provide them with a way to work off all that excess hostility.

And if you really, really want to impress one of your favorite colleagues, we've got a way to do it -- although you'll probably need a loan to get it.

On a Budget: Finger Drum Mousepad

Are you itching to become the next Ginger Baker? Get set to roll -- the Finger Drum Mousepad from Hammacher Schlemmer lets you play eight different percussion sounds: bass, snare, two rack toms, a floor tom, hi-hat, crash and ride cymbals. All using just your fingers.

Finger Drum Mousepad

The Finger Drum Mousepad

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But wait -- there's more. A connection for your MP3 player allows you to put drum tracks over any song in your digital music library, and you can record up to 30 of your own creations to accompany, say, your favorite B.B. King or polka album. The mouse pad even sports separate volume and tempo controls. And if you, or your intended recipient, work in a cubicle, don't fret -- the mouse pad kindly includes a headphone jack.

With all these features, it seems a great waste of time and effort, not to mention musically shameful, to use this mouse pad with an actual mouse to do actual work. Unless, of course, your spreadsheet turns out to have a great beat.

-- Johanna Ambrosio

The Finger Drum Mousepad from Hammacher Schlemmer & Co.

Street price: $39.95  |  Phone: 800-321-1484

Summary: The Finger Drum Mousepad lets you make music by tapping your fingers.

Over the Top: Diamond Flower mouse

There are very few people who are into bling to this degree (except, as a colleague of mine cracked, perhaps one of the athletes who's wearing a 2008 Celtics championship ring).

The $23,250 Diamond Flower mouse from Pat Says Now is available in 18-carat white or yellow gold and has 59 diamonds set in the shape of a flower. If flowers are too girly, you can order the diamonds in other configurations. The mouse's maker promises that they're politically correct gemstones, too; in other words, they're not "conflict diamonds" that come from countries sanctioned by the United Nations. What a relief!

Diamond Flower mouse

The Diamond Flower mouse

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I don't know of a computer or a monitor that wouldn't look pretty darn shabby next to this particular mouse. Then again, I probably just don't travel in those kinds of circles, small as they are. A spokesperson for the mouse's U.S. distributor said just seven of these have been sold worldwide in the five years they've been on the market.

For the less ostentatiously wealthy, or perhaps for the not-quite-as-deserving on your holiday list, this same outfit also sells unjeweled mice (for about $30) in other shapes, including a green brain, an American flag, a glow-in-the-dark ghost and a few other varieties that wouldn't be all that welcome in most work environments.

-- Johanna Ambrosio

Diamond Flower mouse from Mousenvy.com

Price: $23,250 from Mousenvy.com

Tech specs  |  Phone: +49 (0)201-8619 206

Summary: If diamonds are a girl's best friend, then this diamond-decorated mouse should be a real hit with today's techies.

Off the Wall: USB Missile Launcher

It all started when Computerworld's Web development group -- with whom we editor types share office space -- all got the exact same Nerf guns. (Rumor has it that they all went out and bought the same model on their own dime -- this was not company-sponsored play.)

Call it Nerf envy, but they had been having so much darn fun that the editors felt it was time to bond, James Bond-style. So after some consultation, we decided on Dream Cheeky's USB Missile Launcher.

USB Missile Launcher

USB Missile Launcher

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The missiles shoot up to 10 feet using pressurized air, and the included software installs a control panel on your computer, allowing you to swivel the launcher 180 degrees and hit one button to shoot the missiles.

It would be nice for the aim-challenged among us to have more than three projectiles included, but the software also sports a missile target, so at least you can practice by shooting at the computer. Not to worry -- these are foam-tipped darts, so no co-workers -- or computers -- were actually harmed in the making of this gift guide.

If you've got some extra dollars to spare, you can get even geekier -- the $40 USB Wireless Missile Launcher can be commanded up to 15 feet away from your computer using a USB controller, while the $60 Webcam-equipped USB MSN Missile Launcher can be fired from anywhere on the Internet by anyone on your MSN Messenger buddy list.

Let the Great Cubicle War begin.

-- Johanna Ambrosio

USB Missile Launcher from Dream Cheeky

Price: $12.99-$30.00

Summary: Go on the attack -- and improve your aim -- with the USB Missile Launcher.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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