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A list of lists



The holiday season is peaceful for a reason. The people who make the news go on vacations, leaving reporters - with deadlines and pages to fill - no choice but to look to the past and the future for stories.

'Tis the season for best-of and worst-of lists, for rating news stories and products, for picking our personal favourites, and for looking ahead, making our bold predictions for 2004.

That's not to say it's all fluff or filler - making lists can be a valuable exercise because they can refresh and reorganize our thoughts. What kind of year was 2003? You'd never know unless you sat down and made a list.

The Internet world, relentlessly naval gazing at the best of times, is one of the most prolific source of holiday lists out there. Here are a few good lists to check out.

The Chich Geek - Gadgets that made the grade

Ian Johnson writes for the Globe and Mail's Tech section, and gets to test and review hundreds of new hardware and software gadgets and gizmos every year. His list of the top toys includes:

1. The Mini-ITX motherboard from VIA technologies. This motherboard is about the size of a CD case, and includes sound, video and networking capabilities. They run fairly cool, and are helping to drive the recent trend for smaller desktop PCs, and for converting items like football helmets and plastic toys into fully functioning computers. Next year things could get even smaller with VIA planning to release a Nano-ITX motherboard.

2. External USB and Firewire hard drives. These external hard drive devices are growing in popularity as people see the need for extra storage, and want to be able to access it quickly for their peripheral laptops, PDAs, MP3 players, and other devices. The external drives also provide an affordable way to back up files.

3. The Guitar Port. Developed by Line 6, you can plug your guitar directly into your computer and play your choice of 10 of the top guitar amplifiers ever made.

4. Sandisk Picture Viewer. This Sandisk device lets you view your digital photographs on your television without the use of a computer, DVD writer, or any other linking devices. This product brings the slide projector into the 21 st century.

5. Logitech QuickCam Orbit. This Web cam is small, and has a built in motor that can swivel the camera left and right, up and down.

6. Cymouse game controller. According to Johnson, this is "the ultimate in geekware." Basically it's an infrared, head-mounted mouse controller that can be programmed to assume different keyboard commands for specific head motions. You'll look silly, but rule in online games.