New Year, New Gadgets
Welcome to 2006. Do you miss 2005 yet?
My column Sunday tries to sum up the last year's worth of personal-technology developments: podcasts, TV-show downloads, Sony BMG's "digital rights management" debacle, Firefox's ascent, the ongoing Windows security mess, powerline and fiber-optic broadband and more.
Elsewhere in Sunday's business section, Frank Ahrens devotes Web Watch to chronicling the curious messages people have left for themselves to read years from now at a site called FutureMe.org. Daniel Greenberg reviews Sirius's S50 portable receiver/MP3 player . And in Help File, I offer some suggestions on how to deal with one of the most pernicious types of adware , the "Best Offers Direct" software (earlier known as Aurora, A Better Internet and a variety of epithets that we can't quote in print).
No game reviews this week; as I mentioned in my most recent e-letter, they are moving to the Weekend section, starting this Friday, although you will still be able to find them on washingtonpost.com's Personal Tech page .
January Tech Trek
My Christmas list didn't include any computers or electronic gadgets. Neither have any of my holiday wish lists from the past few years. That's not because I get sick of using the stuff I write about (although there is a lot to be said for curling up with a good book instead of, say, curling up with a good manual). It's because every winter, I know I'm going to change my mind about what I want within three weeks of Christmas, thanks to the two big trade shows that follow it.
First, the Consumer Electronics Show draws just about every company that's ever sold a device with a blinking LED to Las Vegas -- 2,689 firms in all this time around, from 3G Green Green Globe Co. Ltd. to Zyxel Communications. All these exhibitors use the show to advertise the gear they plan on selling for the rest of the year, whether it's a $75,000 wall-size flat-panel HDTV, a $200 inkjet printer or a 75-cent cell-phone cover.
After four or so days of this, I'm always exhausted, but much better informed about what sort of tech hardware will be lining store shelves over the next 12 months. So I have a hard time even thinking about making major electronics purchases any closer than, say, three months prior to CES. (Here's my column from last year's show .)
The Macworld Expo trade show happens the week after CES in San Francisco. And every year, Apple manages to uncork a few surprises in the opening keynote presentation from CEO Steve Jobs -- the first flat-panel iMac in 2002, the 12-inch PowerBook and the Safari Web browser in 2003, the Mac Mini in 2005. So I also shy away from buying any Apple software or hardware any later than three months prior to Macworld SF. (Here's the report I filed from Macworld last year .)
I'm off to Vegas on Tuesday -- where I'll be joining Post reporters Mike Musgrove and Yuki Noguchi, fellow columnist Leslie Walker and Post tech editor Greg Schneider to cover the show -- and then on Saturday I head on to the Bay Area. In addition to Macworld I'm hoping to stop in to visit a few tech companies. Look for my coverage in the paper and on your monitor.
Setting Up My Mother-In-Law's Mac
Just because I'm too chicken to get any tech gadgets for myself at Christmas does not stop me from buying some for others. This year, my in-laws were due for a new computer; after careful consultation with my mother-in-law, my wife, her sister and I teamed up to buy her a new iBook. My part of the gift was going to be moving her data off the old machine (a battered eMachines desktop) and setting things up on the new Mac, using the existing home network to link the two machines for the file transfer.