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Cool Gadgets 

by Ted S. McGregor Jr

Cruzer Titanium Flash Drive (CompUSA, $90)

If the technological revolution hasn't impressed you much yet, consider this: Nowadays, you can wear around your neck what it used to take a sprawling library to hold. In more practical terms, back in the old days, Dad needed a briefcase to carry work files home with him; now, thanks to USB flash drives, he can bring his computer files home on his key chain. Flash drives have been around for a couple of years now, and there are dozens of them to choose from, ranging in size and price from 16 megabytes to 2 gigabytes. And these are not just for computer geeks, either, especially the sleek Cruzer model made out of titanium by SanDisk. It holds 512 megabytes, and you can hardly break it -- the casing can withstand 2,000 pounds of pressure. Worn around your neck, it's a bit of a fashion statement, too.

Toshiba DVD Recorder with Tivo (Huppin's, $540)

If you love TV (c'mon, you know you do), then Tivo might just change your life. Basically, it's a hard drive that records any show you want -- 120 hours worth, in fact -- for replay at your convenience. Got a job that totally messes with your afternoon soap addiction? Got kids who prevent you from watching anything before 9 pm? Tivo's for you. This particular unit, while spendier than most, has some features that make it worth the dough. First off, it comes with Tivo Basic, which means you don't have to spend $13 a month to subscribe to the full-blown Tivo service. Sure, it's stripped down, but it does everything you need. Second, along with playing DVDs, it allows you to record any show onto a DVD with a few quick clicks. Sony and Microsoft (teamed up with Comcast) are both getting into the Tivo game soon, but this Toshiba model will do everything you need, without monthly charges.

Strait-Line Laser Tape (Lowe's, $30)

Need to measure your living room so you can cover the walls in corduroy just like they did on Trading Spaces the other night? Forget that measuring tape; this is the 21st century. This year, you can give the gift of laser-guided measuring; if it's good enough for a missile defense system, it better be good enough to figure out whether that new pool table will really fit in the dining room. Strait-Line's gadget allows you to measure anything from two to 50 feet. And the handy interface can also calculate your square footage in a snap -- all at 99.5 percent accuracy.

Publication date: 12/09/04

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