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back to article Excise Xmas prezzie indecision MISERY with El Reg’s gift guide²

Christmas is special. When else will you spending lots of money you don’t have buying things they don’t deserve for people you don’t like? That said, we all grudgingly accept that you may want to buy some presents for people this year – bah humbug – even if you haven’t an earthly what to buy them. To help you out, we’ve come up …

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Parent present

I like the idea of a hudl, but its been out of stock for ages now.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Parent present

The idea is out of stock? Now that's dire indeed, call the thought police !

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Re: Parent present

"I like the idea of a hudl but its been out of stock for ages now."

Carphone Warehouse are selling 2012 model Nexus 7's for £119. The store I was in on Saturday had 'em in stock, and the website is offering free delivery or delivery to store and claiming availability.

I think I'd rather have last year's Nexus than Tesco's when the price is the same.

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Re: Parent present

No, this demands thought leadership! Call Bruce Schneier instead.

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Re: Parent present

Plenty of new hudls going on e-bay for a small mark up, if you are really desperate to get them before Christmas.

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washable keyboard?

Bah; head to keyboardco and buy proper mechanical one instead!

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Trollface

Re: washable keyboard?

I can think of quite a few people who could use a washable keyboard.

Stop sniggering at the back!

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Re: washable keyboard?

A splendid idea, at least for a cat owner. My cats have killed three keyboards (and two laptops) in about six years. No suitable icon for this (piss).

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Re: washable keyboard?

Brilliant idea. Why has it taken so long?

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Pint

Re: washable keyboard?

no suitable icon for piss? I think this could do.

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Re: washable keyboard?

Put my normal keyboard in the dishwasher (not including the internal circuit board). Keys go in the cutlery holder.

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Re: washable keyboard?

"Put my normal keyboard in the dishwasher (not including the internal circuit board). "

The caveat is important. I had a rather greasy and dirty keyboard, and followed the advice to dishwash it, knowingly accepting that this was "kill or cure". And it was "kill" - dead as the dodo despite partial disassembly and drying in the airing cupboard for a week. I didn't mind too much, but anybody who values their keyboard should either fully dismantle and only wash the mechanical bits, or forgo the siren call of the dishwasher and stick to cotton buds, kitchen roll and a big bottle of ispropyl alcohol.

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Paris Hilton

Re: washable keyboard?

Hmm your cats are weird, they should be killing the mice!

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Hard-learned lesson

When buying technology (for anyone: parent, child, husband,wife, girlfriend, boyfriend or all of these) just bear in mind that as soon as you give someone any present that requires a plug or has an on/off function you are responsible for its correct operation forever.

That includes explaining how it works, getting it set up, telephone support, "emergency" visits to fix any problems, perennial "while you're here, could you show me again .... " each time you visit that person and the ever popular "why does it do .... " followed by the vaguest and impossibly non-technical description you could ever get - and the hopeful and expectant look in the eye of the asker that you won't go home until it's working the way they want it to. Whether that's physically possible or not.

After that you'll understand why planned obsolescence is such a good thing - and hope that it will hurry up and arrive soon.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hard-learned lesson

" just bear in mind that as soon as you give someone any present that requires a plug or has an on/off function you are responsible for its correct operation forever"

You don't think that goes more with the reputation of the giver? I'm sure that you don't have to give the hardware to be lumbered with the unpaid support role. Many commentards are (like me) the home & family tech support, expected to know everything and fix it all for free. I know some people object, and won't play that part, personally I see it as one of my roles in the family, no more or less onerous to fixing a dripping tap or other DIY task done for those who can't do those things for themselves.

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Flame

Re: Hard-learned lesson

Tech support for the family was fine but when they started whoring me out to their neighbours and friends it had to stop.

Still do it for the immediate family but they've been well warned not to repeat themselves.

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Re: Hard-learned lesson

" just bear in mind that as soon as you give someone any present that requires a plug or has an on/off function you are responsible for its correct operation forever"

And yet somehow it never occurs to them to call the f****ng support number until you mention it. Incidentally Asus tech support talked my Mum through fixing a problem with her Transformer over the phone so they get a big thumbs up from me.

Now I'm off to Google how to solve a problem with a software package I don't have on an operating system I don't own as apparently I'm still the best person to ask from 200 miles away...

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Re: Hard-learned lesson

It's also why I recommended getting them the same platform you use. Trying to remember where on earth the various options are in Outlook for Windows, when you're sat in front of OS X Mail, is a painful experience. Especially since you can almost always guarantee that when you ask someone to describe the options they have on the screen in front of them, they'll miss out a crucial detail.

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Re: Hard-learned lesson

Its not just giving it to them. Simply mentioning that some firm has a new model shiny coming out can get taken as a recommendation, guarantee and lifetime service support agreement all in one.

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Re: Hard-learned lesson

I always install some kind of remote desktop on computers belonging to friends and family the very first time they ask for help. Principally because the 'non-technical' seem to think it's ok to revert to utterly helpless mode when they ask for assistance. People who correctly realise that phoning their garage to tell them "my car doesn't work" would be ridiculously vague still seem to think that's all they need to tell you about a PC, tablet, etc.

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Re: Hard-learned lesson

That's one of my pet annoyances with a site I run that has a few thousand users. People email and say "photo uploading doesn't work" or "the web site's broken" as if that will give me enough information to fix a problem that no one else has mentioned.

Some of them get quite shirty and accuse me of patronising them when I ask them to explain exactly what they were trying to do, and what appeared on the screen.

But I don't think anyone ever takes their car to a garage and simply throws them the keys saying "It's broken." You would, even if a non mechanic, probably venture something like "there's a funny noise when I change gear" or "smoke comes out the front" or "the brake's don't work anymore."

Somehow, though, people think a generic "it's broken" is perfectly acceptable when it comes to computers. Perhaps part of this is because they often don't pay for the help they expect, whereas even a cursory experience with a mechanic at a garage is likely to lead to the conclusion that being vague and having them examine the car from end to end because you didn't say what was wrong is likely to be pretty expensive.

Perhaps, in the manner of that photo that's been doing the rounds about a cafe charging more for coffee the less polite you are, I should operate a sliding scale; "it's broken" get your problem fixed for £50, something a little more specific costs only £25 and if you can explain exactly what you were doing, as well as tell me the OS you're using, and the browser version, then the help is free. Include a screenshot, and I'll throw in a snog when the job's done.

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Re: Hard-learned lesson

Thats why they get a bottle of booze, anything even remotely tech is avoided.

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Windows for Mother?

After her experience with Vista, my 70 year old mother will bear me another sister before she buys another Windows box. As her in-house tech support I was very pleased when she went for a MacBook.

Her experience thus far with the Motorola Moto G has been very positive - "I didn't like anyone else's smartphone but this one makes sense and it feels really zippy".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Windows for Mother?

My mum's experience with Vista was something similar. Mostly down to the laptop manufacturer selling it with 512MB of RAM although she hated the OS too. I upgraded the RAM and stuck Ubuntu on it and she's fine with it now. £20 or thereabouts for the RAM.

My dad, on the other hand, has a Mac. Swears at it constantly because he can't work out how to do something, although it's apparently easy to use. He's broken the flimsy keyboard on it because he still types like he's using a typewriter. And he constantly asks me for help, to which I reply, "I don't do Macs". I could probably work it out: it's just Unix after all, but I don't want to.

I'm going to buy him books and a bottle of whisky for Christmas. Much easier.

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Re: Windows for Mother?

I don't really care about operating systems as long as the software I want to run works. I was surprised though at my 76 year old mother buying herself a Mac book Air, because she has only ever used Windows. She loves it and managed to work out what she wanted to do in a few hours.

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Re: Windows for Mother?

@ Not also known as SC - precisely, she just gets on with stuff and I don't have to constantly fettle, cajole or persuade the machine to do her bidding. Couldn't quite get her to make the leap to Linux, but we're all happy now.

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Anonymous Coward

Cheap e-reader

Was pleasantly surprised to see Argos had the basic Kindle on offer at £49 the other week and snapped a couple up for the kids to take on holidays and long road trips. Back to £69 now though.

Picked up some cheap clip on lights from Asda. Sorted.

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Anonymous Coward

Buy yourself a grammar/readability checker or plain old english language manaul.

"Christmas is special. When else will you spending lots of money you don’t have buying things they don’t deserve for people you don’t like?"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Buy yourself a grammar/readability checker or plain old english language manaul.

Would that be an English language manual?

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Re: Buy yourself a grammar/readability checker or plain old english language manaul.

I do believe there's a missing "be". It's only two letters. Considering the fee for the article, those two letters cost hardly anything, so you've not been particularly short changed, I feel. But naturally, my sincere apologies if the loss of two letters somewhere between my word processor and your web browser spoiled your enjoyment.

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Am I the only one...

... who read the title "Excise Xmas prezzie indecision misery" and expected a story about somebody's gift stuck in Customs because they couldn't decide what it was?

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Boffin

Re: Am I the only one...

Am I the only one who thinks the Nest Protect carbon dioxide monitor is going to go off every time I use my SodaStream..?

Or breathe..?

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Great suggestions - or at least they would be if I could convince my 83 year old father to sign up for broadband rather than just using my old 64k virgin.net dial-up account on the 2 or 3 occasions a year when he steps out onto the information highway. "I've lived for 83 years without the Internet, what use would I possibly have of it now? And you've still not sent me a CD of those pictures from the summer. And did you manage to find out why my Flight Simulator scenery wasn't working properly?"

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Go

Jingle bells, batman smells...

...Robin flew away / The bat mobile lost its wheels / On the M1 motor way

That is how I recall this historic 70s playground verse.

Birmingham 1978 (ish).

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Re: Jingle bells, batman smells...

"Birmingham 1978 (ish)."

Still current in the Midlands even today!

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Anonymous Coward

I think you mean

Carbon MONoxide. The dioxide variety is what we breathe out.

Apart from that, this oldie continues to rely on fellow commentards not to send e-readers, e-books or e-subscriptions. Happily none of you have let me down on this yet.

Sadly, though, the paper equivalents, always gratefully received, are also failing to arrive...

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Unless it's for a kid, who knows exactly what they want, down to the Stock # but can't get it on their own, I don't buy technology gifts. They nearly always bite you in the ass, somehow.

If it's for a man I get them a hammer: http://www.toolsforworkingwood.com/store/item/GT-KHAM.XX

No man can turn up his nose at a hammer, they're great surprises and those are nice enough for executive and father-in-law/rich uncle gifts.

Wife buys all the presents for women, or I would say hammers for them too.

For your nemesis or wife's friends who you despise, but can't kill, I always give puppies. Alive. This is most effective if the target has children. Have said puppy delivered Christmas morning, with all the requisite accessories and gift wrapped from 'Santa'. It's the gift that keeps giving, for 7-15 years depending on your breed of fuzzy hate.

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But what sort of hammer?

We deserve to know.

Is it a 'claw' type, 'ball-pein' or something fancy like one that is used for repousee work?

Come on, giving a claw man any other type on tool is really not on.

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Happy

Re: But what sort of hammer?

Cross-peen man! For starting small nails. A real man doesn't need a claw as he's never off in his aim :)

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Re: But what sort of hammer?

A dummy, of course.

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Re: But what sort of hammer?

Surely that present is a Hammer Horror?

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@Don Jefe

That's a hammer for a wuss not a man, they describe it as if it's a bottle of wine, they've done everything except sniff it. This is a man's hammer http://www.blackrocktools.com/tekton-4-lb-sledge-hammer-3104.html, a shaft of hard wood with a lump of iron on the end, and if I had access to my workshop I'd show you a real man's hammer.

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Nest Protect

OK, Smoke (the kind contained in the hot air created by a fire) rises, which is why you mount smoke alarms on the ceiling... but Carbon Monoxide is heavier than air, and sinks... so is mounting a Carbon Monoxide detector in the ceiling going to work?

Won't your hemoglobin (easily confused little blighters who mistake Carbon Monoxide particles for Oxygen) already be filled with Carbon Monoxide before the alarm goes off?

I won't be best pleased if I'm dead before the alarm goes off?

Or is it so sensitive that it'll go off whenever the wife lights up a fag? In which case she'll know the boiler is trying to kill her and no doubt assume I've been plotting it...

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Re: Nest Protect

No , they work as advertised. It actually takes a fairly large concentration of carbon monoxide to harm you and if you approach hazardous levels/alarm levels in your house, something has gone terribly wrong. I smoke, a lot, and I've never set my CO detectors off, but using the grill inside the garage or running a car in there for more than several minutes does set it off.

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Re: Nest Protect

@obnoxious

That source of all wisdom, Wikipedia, says that carbon dioxide "is slightly less dense than air", or, in other word, lighter.

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Re: Nest Protect

The CO detectors in the ceiling work because the CO is generally being generated by an incendiary source, so the gas is warm when produced and rises to the ceiling first, before dropping to the floor as it cools.

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Re: Nest Protect

Air has a vapour density of ~14.4. Carbon monoxide has a vapour density of 14, so they are roughly the same. Carbon monoxide in a fire will quickly disperse to all parts of a room including near to the ceiling. I think you meant carbon dioxide which will tend pool on the floor, it has a vapour density of 22.

Gases produced by burning household furnishings can be very poisonous and usually contain hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide. Typically people who are killed in household fires are poisoned/suffocated by the toxic materials in smoke - You will generally only have a few minutes to escape.

The vapour density of a gas is ~its molecular weight divided by 2.

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Re: Nest Protect

Relative vapour densities only apply to gases at the same temperature and pressure - as the CO in this scenario is at a higher temperature than the air in the room (by virtue of having originated in some type of fire) its density is lower than would be suggested by a straight vapour density comparison. The same is true of the carbon dioxide, which, whilst it is denser than room air at the same temperature/pressure, is significantly less dense when a product of exothermic reactions - that's why smoke detectors are ceiling mounted and you have to crawl out of a room if there is a fire.

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Boffin

Re: Nest Protect

@Great Bu

Er, no.

I used to analyze combustion products from furnishings in test rooms. The heat from combustion quickly causes strong convection from the source up to the ceiling, but the ambient atmosphere mixes quickly with the combustion products as they rise. You are correct in that leaving the room by crawling along the floor is the best way to escape, but this is because the fire is usually in furniture etc. which is above the floor - The convection current usually sinks to near the source. You are usually killed by suffocation or poisoning, but scalding of the interior of the windpipe and lungs can also occur, so the relatively cooler atmosphere would help you.

As an aside, before the change in legislation, I have seen people who had been killed by smoldering foam furniture caused by a dropped cigarette. They had invariably been dozing and had been overcome by combustion products before the fire took hold. Sometimes people would ask why the victim had not been awakened by the fire, we explained that they were probably dead, or deeply unconscious before any flames were visible. In my house (designed for retirees) we have infrared fire detectors, as well as the normal ionization type smoke detectors.

As you say, the density of CO2 drops at higher temperature, so at ~300C it is roughly half of its density at room temperature. The density drop is similar for N2 at -300C, which is as you know, is ~80% of the original air. The drop in relative concentration of O2 as it is consumed by combustion would reduce the density of the atmosphere (at any temperature) by only 3%. In the unlikely event of all the O2 reacting to form CO2 the density of the atmosphere would increase by roughly 17%, if only CO was formed the density would decrease by roughly 3%. However all of these numbers are very approximate and vary considerably depending on the fuel, rate of reaction, draught from outside the room, and the temperature at the reaction front.

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Re: Nest Protect

@Tim99 "Er, no." - No to what ? Your post agrees with what I said - the convection current you mention is directly caused by the lower density of the warm gas from the incendiary source which is the reason for installing detectors in the ceiling - nothing to do with the relative densities of the gases, everything to do with the temperature of the combustion products.

The mixing of the room air with the combustion gases (of whatever kind) does occur but this still takes time - not much but enough that the detector has long since activated and you have the opportunity to escape. Try it - light the bin on fire on your room now, watch as the smoke fills the room from the top down - granted the room fills completely with smoke in a few minutes but you will easily have time to walk out before it does.

As an aside, I did not refer to CO2 in any of my posts (probably because the whole thread is about carbon monoxide detection) nor at any point have I been confused between carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. I am well aware of the reduction in density of any ideal gas relative to the temperature*, unfortunately your assertion that the height of the fire above the floor is the reason why a floor based escape plan is best is only true if you disregard your own argument relating to the mixing of the convection current into the room rapidly (which you should, because it's wrong - the height of the fire above the floor in no significant way alters the mixing effect of the convection currents, the combustion gases arrival at floor level is not significantly different for a couch 2 feet off the floor than it is for a fire on the floor itself).

To cut to the chase - detectors are ceiling mounted because hot gas rises. Doesn't matter what gas or how dense it is relative to other gases at room temperature, the density reduction due to temperature differentials is far greater than the difference in density of any plausible combustion product against the prevailing room air.

*Although I note as a further side point that you have failed to take into account the changes in pressure that would accompany a fire in an enclosed space, so the density only halves with a doubled temperature if the pressure remains constant, a situation that only occurs in a wide open space - inside a building the restricted air flow out of doors and windows would lead to a rise in pressure and concommitant rise in density along with the rise in temperature until the pressure was able to equalise with the outside world -this change in pressure and so density would, of course, be the same for all the gas products in the room, though.

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