Some new ideas, some not so new ideas, but worthwhile just the same.  Show your dad you care with one or all of these . . .

• How about a new High Definition TV?  That is, assuming you can get HDTV either from an antenna, cable company or you opt for the currently limited HD programming from satellite providers. The new HD sets don’t have to cost a fortune any more, you know.  Look for models in the new 16:9 picture aspect ratio and in the screen size best for your dad’s needs that include the HD tuner (new ones coming soon will have a slot for the cable card).  Then, you’re all set with nothing else to buy.   In direct view and rear projection, I like Toshiba, but see ALL you can and decide on the picture dad’s going to like in the budget you have to work with.  As you will read below, the large size is not all it’s cracked up to be, without great sound.  Shop around!  If you’re still not ready for this step, at least explore a new DVD player and/or great sound for that true home theater effect.

• The new crop of DVD players and DVD recorders are superb, with better picture and better sound capabilities than ever, and for not a lot of money.  You’ll find good quality players with progressive scan video out for about $100, maybe less.  I like the players that also can handle MP3 CDs and will also play DVD-R and DVD+R discs (the kind made ourselves) for total compatibility.  Some DVD players also include slots for digital media from dad’s digital camera.  In the area of DVD recorders, this is a big thing this year.  With built-in TV tuners, record like on a VCR, and transfer any family videos on to DVD for long-lasting durability.  Some are more difficult to operate than others.  I like Toshiba, Sony and Pioneer.  Stick with these for ease of use.  Some of the others are a nightmare to operate.  Prices start at under $400!  High Definition DVD players and recorders are coming, but not for this holiday.  Maybe later this year or next you will see them, but I’d wait to think about buying until we see what is available.

• While on the topic of DVD players, don’t forget DVDs.  I already elaborated on just a few of my favorites from MGM Home Entertainment in another article for this Father’s Day, but PLEASE visit Fox Home Entertainment, Paramount, Disney, Sony Pictures and New Line for even more hot titles.  If you can’t make up your mind on what to buy, how about giving dad a subscription to netflix.com, one of my personal favorites.  $20 per month for unlimited DVDs, three at a time.  They send by mail, and dad returns in postage-paid return mailers.  Never a late fee and they have everything, from old to new.  Order online at netflix.com.

Get great sound to go with his video, new or old.  Sure, it’s great to have a big screen TV, but it’s not all about the picture.  Don’t neglect the sound.  Better to opt for a smaller TV size and be sure to include the sound of Home Theater, for it is the sound more than the picture that provides an immersive theater experience.  With that in mind, even if the TV set he has is not going to be replaced, get the old man a new audio/video receiver and some speakers to go with it.  Look for receivers, starting at a little as $250, that have Dolby Pro Logic II or IIX, Dolby Digital and DTS decoders.  These cover the gamut of what he needs to switch between the best sounds around.  All he needs is what is called a 5.1 system, too.  More is not needed.  Get speakers  (front left and right, front center, and a pair of rear surround) in a set, all ready to go, and including a subwoofer for those great, low tones you feel in your gut.  For a bit more money  up to a ton more money, listen to speakers at your local electronics retailer or at a specialty audio dealer.  It’s the sound that really makes the difference, and NOT the size of the picture.  I like Kenwood receivers for their added value, and there are lots more. Look also at Pioneer, Yamaha, and most all popular name brands.

• Replace dad’s plain old car mats (or get these if he has none) with custom, top quality vehicle mats from GGBailey.com.  I love mine!  Design and personalize them with a monogram, custom text (like “DAD”), collegiate team logo and more, all online, priced from about $70 and with quick service.  These are built to last and highly recommended for dad or anyone, even as a treat for you.  You can go all out for dad with their new line of Oriental Mats from Stark Carpet.  Take a look at their other auto accessories, too.  This is consistently one of the best gift ideas around because of their high quality and the personalization offered.

Audible is another favorite.  Get dad audio content from audible.com.  There is nothing like them.  Whether it’s audio books, comedy, old time radio or any of their outstanding content offerings, audible.com is always a winner.  Dad can download to Mac and Windows PCs, then transfer for portability to his iPod or other compatible device.  Check them out and you’ll be hooked. My downtime while on the road and even at home would be less enjoyable were it not for audible.com.  Let them know Mr. Gadget sent you!

• Get dad a digital audio playerNone is better than the iPod, for Macs and Windows PCs.  It is more elegant, more functional, easier to use, and iPod has the coolness factor everyone likes.  Let me put it like this:  if you have something else, or nothing at all, you STILL would want and love an iPod.  I use mine for so many things – music, of course, audio books from audible.com, my contacts, appointments, as an alarm clock, voice recorder (with the Belkin accessory to do this), as the place to store ALL my digital photos while traveling until I get back home (with the Belkin accessory for this purpose) and to play the games that are built in.  I also use it to back-up projects from my computer so I always have another copy while traveling.  Finally, I transfer text-based notes which I can read on the iPod’s screen.  Like no other!  And now, with the new, smaller, cuter and more colorful iPod Mini, the choices are even greater.  I like the mini for its portability, even more so than the standard iPod.  It doesn’t store as much (not that storage for 1,000 songs isn’t enough for most of us), but you can’t dismiss its great styling, diminutive size and the awesome technology inside.  Apple just does it right!  “Standard” size iPods hold 15GB ($299), 20GB ($399) and 40GB ($499) of fun, while the iPod Mini ($249) has 4GB of storage.  Then, get dad a gift certificate to the iTunes Music Store so he can download his favorite tunes for only 99 cents each in the best format as well as find great audiobooks supplied by audible.com. This is just about the coolest gift for dad.

• If dad’s always out and about with his handheld or laptop computer, here’s a cute and useful little gadget that really works!  It’s the WiFi Seeker ($30), helping dad to locate Internet hot spots worldwide.  It really works!  Clever, cute, pocketsize, unusual, and fun for dad.  It’s a different kind of gift idea.  Utilizing the same technology and licensed from the developer, Chrysalis Development, it should also soon be available from mobileedge.com.  Push the button, the four LEDs start to flash from side to side, and then, if WiFi signal is available the Seeker’s LEDs glow, one, two, three or all four segments to indicate not only the presence of signal but how strong the signal is.  And, by changing the direction in which it is pointed, users can find the approximate direction of that strongest signal, indicating the signal’s source direction.  My assessment:  It works as advertised!  Pretty cool gadget!

• Help dad to get the most from wireless networking or Internet sharing at home with Netgear’s newest wireless routers, the WGT624 (as low as under $80) and WGT634U (under $150).  Everyone can share a single DSL or Cable Modem to scream on the Internet and to share files among connected computers, whether wired or wirelessly connected.  In my tests they are the longest-range and most powerful wireless routers, as well as the easiest to set up EVER.  Check them out!  Both have four ports plus the 802.11 b and g wireless capabilities.  In addition, with compatible hardware, speeds of up to 108 Mbps are achievable.  This means that files transfer between Macs, PCs or combinations thereof at super-fast speeds.  It means that even if computers sharing the network are sharing files, there is likely to be no discernable slowdown for Internet surfers at the same time.  The 634, nearly identical to the 624, also has a USB port on the back.  This router becomes an easy server to the others on the network. For example, connect a USB 2.0 hard drive, load up files, music, photos and even videos, and these files can all be shared among connected users.  It’s mind-boggling and a great gift idea for dad!

• So, what about one of those big hard drives?  Either to connect to a router such as the ones above or just to add to dad’s computer with never-enough-room-on-the-hard drive. Well, I’ve got you covered there, too, with a couple of external drive recommendations.  These connect to FireWire AND USB 2.0.  I use and recommend Maxtor OneTouch with capacities up to a massive 300GB, online priced from under $200.  I use the combo FireWire and USB model so it’s compatible with any computer.  It’s whisper quiet and has an automatic back-up button on the front.  That button launches software which, when configured, can back up everything important. For Macs and PCs.  Another great choice was also Mr. Gadget-tested and recommended, the Media Center Hard Drive from Western Digital.  I LOVE this drive because it is so versatile, of course, for Macs and Windows PCs.  In capacities up to 250GB (online as low as $236), the WD drive also includes very handy and useful digital media slots for compatibility with eight of the most popular camera media types.  It also has what they call “dual-option” backup for both automatic and manual-mode data backup.  You might want to read my review on this one. Insert camera media and transfer right to the computer without any adapters.  This is one, very useful hard drive, also whisper-quiet.  I know it’s hard to decide, but whichever choice is best for the purpose is sure to please.  For reference, 250GB holds up to 19 hours of DV video, 250 hours of MPEG video, 250,000 digital photos, or 62,500 MP3 files.  ‘Nuff said!

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