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Christmas Season Holidays & Computer Suggestions 2002: Overview

Mike Angelo -- 22 December 2002 (C)


Article Index

  • Gifts
  • Use your Computer to Help with Christmas and Winter Holidays Festivities and Tasks
  • Game and Educational Gifts
  • Summary and Conclusion
  • Resources
Computers become more an integral part of the Christmas and winter holidays every year. Partly because more people join the millions of computer users and owners each year. And partly because each year, computers can do more to help you with Christmas and winter holiday events, festivities, and tasks.

Gifts

Of course, computer systems, hardware, accessories, and software can make great Christmas and Winter holidays gifts -- or gifts anytime, for any holiday, and for any reason for that matter. A good Linux OS distribution makes a great gift that keeps on giving -- in the $40 to $200 categories. Good Open Source Software makes a great gift too -- what's more it's free.

On the hardware and accessories side, digital cameras, CD-burners, hard drives, scanners, and printers make great gifts in the $50 to $1000 dollar range. For the stocking stuffer and under $50 categories items such as mice, keyboards, blank recordable media such as CDs and floppy diskettes, mouse pads, and so forth make handy gifts.

Use your Computer to Help with Christmas and Winter Holidays Festivities and Tasks

An excellent use of computers in helping you with the Christmas and winter holidays, events, festivities, and tasks is using computers to send (and to receive) greeting cards and messages. This use applies to electronic (e-mail) and print (hard copy) greeting cards and messages.

You can use your digital camera, scanner, or Web browser to grab some artwork for your holiday greeting cards, invitations, gift messages, decorations and so forth. Using a digital camera to shoot some family, pet, or home photos for your holiday cards and decorations is lots of fun and adds a very personal touch. Or, if you have a film camera, you can use your scanner to bring those film-camera photos into computer format.

Chances are your digital camera or scanner included some photo-editing software. However, if you did not get Adobe PhotoShop or the GIMP, you likely did not get the best of breed in this category.

PhotoShop is good software but it is expensive and is not published for the Linux operating system (OS). However, the GIMP is comparable to PhotoShop, it's free, and it is published for both the Linux and MS Windows OSs. Whatever photo-editing software you use, you can use it to roll your personalized artwork into your own greeting cards, invitations, decorations, and so forth.

You have some nice choices here in the personalized greeting card, message, and invitation tasks area. If you want to send them by the classic snail mail or messenger methods, just use your computer printer to produce hard copies of them.

On the other hand if you want your holiday greeting card, message, or invitation to arrive at the speed of light and without any postage charges, e-mail it. We suggest that you avoid the temptation to send the holiday greeting card or invitation as an HTML-formatted (Web page) message. Rather send your holiday greeting card or invitation card as a picture attachment to your e-mail message. Then just ask the addressee in the body of the e-mail message to open the picture. Here's why.

First, your greeting card or invitation as a picture such as a JPG, GIF, or PNG retains its exact layout and arrangement. So the person to whom you send your holiday greeting or invitation will see it just the way you made it. If you send it as an HTML-formatted e-mail message, the e-mail client software the person to whom you send your holiday greeting or invitation uses might not display your greeting or invitation the way you designed it.

Note: Setting e-mail client software to NOT display HTML-formatted messages helps to protect your privacy and your computer system security.

The Spam artists and other Internet pests have found ways to use Web pages, HTML, and JavaScript in e-mail to the detriment of millions of Internet e-mail users. Inter alia, JavaScript in e-mail can be used to put viruses and snoop/spy software on your computer. That's because JavaScript amounts to a program running on your computer. Some e-mail client software that can display HTML-formatted e-mail messages also can execute JavaScript.

Better e-mail client software allows you to disable JavaScript in e-mail. Many savvy computer users disable JavaScript in e-mail. If you have not already disabled JavaScript in your e-mail client software, you ought to do so now.

Unfortunately, this layer of protection does not go far enough for people who are concerned about their privacy and the security of their computers. You ought to use e-mail client software that lets you block Web pages from being displayed in e-mail and news postings, and block images from being displayed in-line in e-mail. As with JavaScript, many savvy computer users disable Web pages and in-line images in e-mail too. If you have not already disabled HTML (Web page) display and in-line image display in your e-mail client software, you ought to do so now.

Here's why. HTML and in-line images in e-mail messages can be used to send information about you, your computer, and your e-mail reading habits to spam artists and hackers.

Hyperlinks in e-mail and news postings can send HTTP Requests to external URLs. Although sending HTTP Requests usually is harmless, that's not always the case -- particularly in e-mail messages. Take a look at some of the hyperlinks in e-mail, particularly junk e-mail. In some instances you will see some rather complex URLs with lots of seemingly random number and letter strings.

These complex strings of seemingly random numbers and letters included in URLs can be trapped through Web server log analyses. Much the way cookies can be used to track whom you are and what are your Web surfing habits. Spam artists and other Internet pests can use these complex URLs to track whom you are and what are your Web surfing habits -- as well as letting the Spam artists and other Internet pests know that you received and opened their junk e-mail to you.

Second, some e-mail client software is not capable of displaying HTML formatted e-mail messages. Additionally, many people these days set their e-mail client software to NOT display HTML formatted e-mail messages. If a person to whom you send a holiday greeting or invitation has set his or her e-mail client to ignore HTML formatted e-mail messages, that person will not see your neat holiday greeting or invitation.

There are lots of other ways you can use your computer to help with Christmas and winter holidays, events, festivities, and tasks too. For example, you can use computer spreadsheet and database software to keep track of your Christmas and holiday gift lists and spending. You also can use computer address books for your Christmas and holiday mailing lists -- or you can make your own customized mailing and address lists with spreadsheet or database software.

Digital cameras and Web cams can be used to make visual records of holiday parties and gatherings, the children, and Santa Claus. Then you can use image and photo editing software to make some neat photos and video clips.

Game and Educational Gifts

For children of all ages, games and educational software and accessories make great gifts. On the hardware/accessory side keep in mind things such as joysticks, game-pads, automobile and flight control sets, and all that sort of stuff that helps make game play so much more fun.

There's lots of educational software available for gift giving. Much of the educational software is presented in a game-like format to make learning fun. On the other hand some principally game software has educational attributes too. Of course just plain fun games make great gifts too.

Summary and Conclusion

Computers are an integral part of the Christmas and winter holidays. They can help you with all sorts of holiday related things. And computers themselves, as well as computer hardware, software, accessories, and so forth, make great Christmas and holiday gifts.

Over the next few days we will take closer looks at using computers as part of your Christmas and winter holiday festivities -- and giving computer related gifts too. The next installment of our Christmas Season Holidays & Computer Suggestions 2002 coverage takes a look at giving a computer operating system (OS) as a gift. Tune in tomorrow to see which OS we recommend for gifts and why we recommend it.



Best wishes for a most happy and merry holiday season

Mike Angelo and the MozillaQuest Magazine Staff


Copyright 2000 - 2002 -- MozillaQuest -- Brodheadsville, Pa..USA -- All Rights Reserved

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