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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Home entertainment

It's hard to keep everyone in one household happy. The kids want to watch that obscure movie you think you might have bought five years ago; your dad demands the clearest, sharpest TV around; and you ... you just need somebody to put a smile on your face. We've got you covered.

On a Budget: Movie Collector

My friends and my 16-year-old daughter rarely visit local movie rental stores anymore -- they call me to see if the films they want to watch are in my 500-plus DVD/VHS movie collection. But until recently, keeping track of it all was a problem, because I just couldn't remember what I had.

Now it's a breeze. I simply use Movie Collector from Available for Windows or Mac OS X, this incredible application allows you to type in the title or UPC code of your DVD or VHS tape, then click through several options to quickly catalog your collection.

Movie Collector software

Movie Collector

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What's really cool is that Movie Collector automatically downloads and imports information about the films, including front and back cover art, a synopsis of the storyline, the names of the actors and director, the length of the film, and much more. All of this makes it easier to find that film starring Humphrey Bogart about searching for gold in the West.

The software also lets you print a detailed list of your films so you can share your collection with friends.

The downloadable standard version is $29.95, or you can opt for the $49.95 Pro version, which includes extras like an integrated loan manager so you can track who is borrowing your movies. For people with really large collections, you can buy the Pro version with your choice of handheld scanners ($99.90 or $199.90, depending on the scanner you choose).

-- Todd R. Weiss

Movie Collector from

Price: $29.95  |  Phone: +31-207724411

Summary: Keep track of your movie collection with this easy-to-use software.

Over the Top: Sony XEL-1 OLED Digital TV

This may not be the most expensive LED television you can buy. But at $2,499 retail, the XEL-1 OLED Digital TV from Sony is probably the most expensive LED thin-panel television that you can buy with a screen that's less than 12 inches by 10 inches.

Sony XEL-1 OLED Digital TV

Sony XEL-1 OLED Digital TV

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Despite its diminutive size, this newfangled, 11-inch diagonal, OLED (organic light-emitting diode) television -- the first of its kind from Sony -- may be the technology of the future for amazing television images. OLED technology is able to reproduce the color black more correctly, which gives spectacular dark-scene detail compared with previous TV technologies.

The XEL-1 also features jaw-dropping picture quality, with a screen that's just 3mm thick and a 1,000,000:1 contrast that has largely been unseen in previous generations of LED televisions.

The XEL-1 also includes two HDMI inputs, a digital tuner and a memory stick media slot. If you can wait, Sony has promised that it will begin selling larger OLED screen TVs next year -- but expect prices even higher than those for this tiny debut model.

-- Todd R. Weiss

XEL-1 OLED Digital TV from Sony Electronics Inc.

Street price: $1,950 - $2,500  |  Tech specs  |  Store locator

Phone: 877-865-7669

Summary: You don't want just a good TV display, you want the best -- and you can't do better than the diminutive Sony XEL-1 OLED Digital TV.

Off the Wall: Mr. Personality

Fess up, now -- you've always had a thing for all those sleazy talk show hosts on late night TV, haven't you? Want one of your own to keep your spirits up when your boss yells at you, or when your monthly credit card bill shows up?

Mr. Personality robot

Mr. Personality

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What you need is Mr. Personality, a rolling robot from WowWee who cracks wise, reads your daily fortune and answers your questions about the future. Mr. Personality also makes a great gift for the lonely geek who doesn't want to deal with real people.

He comes equipped with a color LCD screen, which creates the animated "face"; four infrared sensors so it can avoid obstacles (and, hopefully, your pet cat); a built-in microphone so you can make voice memos; 64MB of built-in memory; and an SD memory card slot. You can even change Mr. Personality's personality using the included PC software, and download more from WowWee's Web site.

Mr. Personality isn't a cheap companion -- he lists at $300 and needs six C batteries in order to tool around your home. But isn't that a small price to pay for your own robotic stand-up comedian?

-- Barbara Krasnoff

Mr. Personality from WowWee Group Ltd.

Street price: $244 - $300  |  Store locator  |  Phone: 800-310-3033

Summary: Hey, didja hear the one about.... You didn't? Then try Mr. Personality, the wise-cracking home robot.

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