Do you still need some ideas for holiday gifts? Here are nine things to add to your holiday wish list — and one that's a waste of money.
Apple iPad: After years of failed experiments in tablet computing, Apple's $499-and-up line of touchscreen devices put this category on wish lists. The iPhone's big brother has since spawned its own growing selection of apps that take advantage of its roomy, 9.7-inch screen. A catch: It's likely due for an update, which may well add a webcam for FaceTime videoconferencing.
iPhone 4: Apple's other big launch this year brought a much sharper screen and FaceTime videoconferencing to Apple's iconic smart phone line. It also had a few weeks in the headlines for an antenna-reception issue. But its biggest flaw isn't that, but AT&T's continued monopoly on the device in the United States.
A good Android phone: Google's Android software is now on phones from every carrier and in almost every smart phone size imaginable. Verizon's Motorola Droid 2 is among the best current examples of what Android can do, with its slide-out keyboard and fast processor; Sprint's Samsung Epic offers the same hardware formula with faster 4G WiMax data service.
Roku HD: Apple's relaunched Apple TV has been in the headlines more, but this Web-media receiver is even cheaper, at just $59.99, and connects to far more Web video, audio and photo sources. It's not good at playing media from your own computers and can't play Apple's iTunes rentals, but Roku's frequent additions to its Channel Store help make up for those omissions.
Amazon Kindle: If you're going to buy an e-book reader, Amazon's now-just-$139 Kindle has a growing variety of apps for computers and phones that allow you to keep reading even if the Kindle itself goes out of style. I'd rather see Amazon dump the "digital rights management" restrictions that require you to read Kindle titles on its own software, though.
The two-tuner HDTV: Forget 3-D TV hype, the HD set you want is one that has a digital tuner for over-the-air reception and "connected TV" software to play audio and video from Internet sites such as Amazon, Netflix and Pandora.
Prepaid mobile-broadband receiver: If you or someone you know needs only occasional wireless-data service for a computer, prepaid services from Sprint's Virgin Mobile, Clear (sold as "Rover"), T-Mobile and others now let you pay only for the data or the time you need, then let the receiver collect dust until the next contingency.
SD card: Nowadays, if you buy something that takes flash-memory cards, you can bet on it accepting either SD or its microSD smart phone version, making a high-capacity card in either size a cheap and safe gift.