Tim and Scott

Tim's Picks

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Earlier this month, I finally cracked open my copy of XCOM: Enemy Unknown after having it sit on the shelf for months (I've had a lot going on, and haven't been doing much gaming). I have to say that, I wish I had started playing this game a lot sooner as it is quite the fun strategy game. The story/tutorial campaign leaves much to be desired but the strategy aspects are well done and I find myself pausing the game to realize that the sun set without me noticing. There is even a bit of DLC called Enemy Within that recently came out that adds more content to the game (though I have not played the DLC yet). If you or your loved ones like shooting aliens, and strategizing, consider the latest installment to the XCOM franchise.

I really dislike Chrysalids, especially since I lost more than one team on the Alien Base Assualt mission before I figured out how to effectively fight them. (heh, hint: forget about cover, run up to them with an assualt or two and blast them in the face with shotguns or alloy cannons while snipers pick them off from afar.)

Funnily enough, I actually picked up XCOM: Enemy Unknown during last year's Black Friday sales. It is currently on sale for $20 on Steam for the PC, but also keep an eye out for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales for the PS3 or Xbox versions of the game!

Crashplan Backup

Backups are important, and while you are being pulled in many different directions to answer everyone's tech questions over the Thanksgiving holidays, consider implementing a backup solution for your relatives as an early Christmas (or other winter holiday) present. One option is Crashplan, which offers local and offsite backup for free as well as a paid cloud backup service. The application is fairly easy to use, non-intrusive, and the paid cloud storage is a decent value at around $60 a year for a single computer or $150 a year for multiple PCs (there are further $-per-month discounts if you commit to more than a year of service). It offers versioning and strong encryption options that will keep your data safe from prying eyes (including CrashPlan if you choose the more advanced security options available including a custom 448-bit Blowfish key you provide yourself).

CrashPlan is just one of many paid offerings, however (Carbonite and BitCasa also come to mind). Whether you go with one of the popular backup software packages or a custom solution you put together yourself, any backup is a thoughtful gift that will one day likely make you the hero when you are able to restore hundreds of family photos and videos after a drive failure or stolen laptop. Just remember that you can never have too many backups, and to backup often (and verify the backups occasionally!). Stay vigilant and keep your family's irreplacable digital memories safe!

64GB Micro SDXC Card

While there are exceptions, many mobile devices come with around 8GB of internal storage these days. That amount of storage is good enough for several apps, email, and photos, but if your loved ones are into music or movies they are going to quickly run out of available storage space.

Luckily, most of these same mobile devices come with micro SD slots which allows for expandable storage up to 64GB (on newer devices). Cards such as this Transcend 64GB MicroSDXC card for $42 from Amazon would make for a thoughtful gift that will allow them to take more media with them and snap photos with impunity!


Scott's Picks

Razer Naga 2014 (Right Handed or Left Handed)

The Razer Naga 2014 is a fairly significant redesign for this line of mice. It feels quite solid, hefty, and comfortable (for my usage). It is also the first left-handed mouse that I have found with both a tilting (4-directional) scroll wheel and proper thumb buttons. By proper thumb buttons, I mean ones one the right side of the device BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT PINKY BUTTONS!

Since my mini-review, Razer has also enabled left and right scrolling events. The tilt-scroll wheel finally works as expected in most applications; I still have troubles scrolling sideways in Photoshop CS5.5. Also, I have noticed that I tend to accidentally click some buttons when I pick up the mouse. It seems to want to be gripped with the heel of your palm if you intend to lift it.

WD 4TB USB 3.0 External Hard Drive

Really my pick is just any giant USB 3.0 external hard drive. I have not had an internal drive in my computer, besides my SSD of course, for quite so time now. Let's face it: a USB 3.0 drive is fast enough for installed programs and to capture video. Whether you use it for backup or as an addition to your internal storage is up to you (but you better have a current backup).

There are some advantages to internal drives of course, such as not having your drive randomly drop, but USB 3.0 is pretty good and very cheap.

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