December Treasure Hunt
At that time of year when people wonder: 'what gifts can I give others or myself that are cheap but of reasonable quality?' it often helps to create a scenario. For the kind of things you outfit yourself with for depends on your self image. Starting from the assumption that the readers of this site go off each morning to slay the Dragon, what kinds of things might they find useful? Of course by "dragon" is not meant one like Smaug, but the more metaphorical kind. Here are some suggestions, though of course they may not be appropriate for everybody.
To look the part, the well dressed man on a quest might want to buy a pair of a Maui Jim HT shades for about $163. The polarized, high light transmission lenses mean that you can wear them inside an out of doors. They come in a variety of models including the really ritzy titanium framed models, for about $299. Try them at the store counter without buying them and see what you think.
Of course you might actually see a dragon. In which case you might want to buy an el cheapo Kodak waterproof HD pocket video camera to capture the experience. Almost any camcorder will shoot better HD video, especially in low light. And the still camera photography is definitely nothing to write home about.
But the Kodak camera has three major virtues. It is small and light enough to fit in your pocket; waterproof and looks cheesy enough for no one to care if you are using it to capture images. I keep one in my pocket in microfiber pouch and have found that the best video camera of all is the one you always have. The better professional quality model that's in your closet back home is always second best. Plus it's cheap enough to lose or risk without getting worked up about.
Pocket cameras like these are favorite with anyone with a reasonable chance of running across something interesting. Typically you can take your capture and upload it straight to YouTube. Or you can edit on a computer.
No modern dragon-slayer should be without a laptop, so you can run Eclipse and spend a relaxing hour or two cutting code checked into the cloud. Or maybe Putty and Vi if you had enough hair growing on your chest.
The problem used to be that any sufficiently powerful laptop might as well be a desktop for all that it weighed or the power it consumed. Or you could buy a Netbook with 1GB of RAM and a pokey processor and be totally mobile, but unless you kept to simple word processing on Notepad there wasn't much else you could do but browse.
The Tablet craze thrived on the discovery that users connected to their computer multiple times for trivial or serious reasons. To check out an address; to make a call on Skype or search for product. Netbooks and ordinary laptops took too long to do that stuff and so people used phones. But phones were too small so Tablets were born.
But it will be tough trying to write code on a Tablet, even if you have lots of hair on your chest. The Macbook Airs are an adequate answer. But the new Ultrabooks are worth a look. They are seriously powered Windows 7 laptops with SSD drives. They are as small or smaller than the Macbook Airs and light up in seconds and connect very rapidly with a decent battery life. They were designed as tablet killers. Essentially they are full-power laptops with the boot up speed and portability of tablets. This model goes for about $1,100. A Netbook will cost almost half as much without having a fraction of the capability.
But a thousand bucks in these cash strapped days is serious money. And there'll be those for whom $100 is simply out of the question.
For those who can't afford the shades, or the super secret pocket Kodak James bond camera and still less the Ultrabook, you can always read about dragons. That only takes imagination and text.
In which case you can buy my No Way In at Amazon Kindle for $3.99 for dragon adventuring of a sort, or get the Hobbit by JRR Tolkien for $8.14 on Kindle, where you can make the acquaintance of the original Smaug himself. You can also give the Kindle books as gifts via button on the Amazon site to anyone that has an email address. This is an extremely economical method of gift giving. You can send ten copies of the Hobbit to friends for about $81 dollars.
Those friends can download the Kindle Reader for free, possibly on their brand new Ultrabooks, if they are gainfully employed, while the rest of toiling mankind makes do with their grubby old CRT monitors just dreaming of crossing lofty peaks and finding secret gates.
Far over the Misty Mountains cold,
To dungeons deep and caverns old,
We must away, ere break of day,
To seek our pale enchanted gold.
The pines were roaring on the heights,
The wind was moaning in the night,
The fire was red, it flaming spread,
The trees like torches blazed with light.
The king has come unto his hall
Under the Mountain dark and tall.
The Worm of Dread is slain and dead,
And ever so our foes shall fall!
Farewell we call to hearth and hall!
Though wind may blow and rain may fall,
We must away, ere break of day
Far over the wood and mountain tall.