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'Tis the season to Crave: Dan Ackerman's picks

Dan Ackerman shares the top five goodies on his holiday wish list, from a new smartphone to the "Snuggie."

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
3 min read

Editor's note: From now through the end of December, various Crave contributors will be sharing their top five (mostly) tech-related wishes for the holiday season.

A remarkable computer-generated simulation of what I'd look like if I had any holiday spirit--which I do not.

1. Either a BlackBerry Storm, Samsung Omnia, or Apple iPhone: After getting laughed at one time too many when whipping out my chunky Treo 700P, it's finally time to give in and get a new smartphone. Initially, as a long-time Verizon customer, I was torn between the BlackBerry Storm and the Samsung Omnia. After playing around with both, I wasn't convinced--the Storm's click screen seems like it would get annoying real quick, and the Omnia, despite the rave reviews, just felt sluggish to use, and the low screen resolution made it hard to read text in the Web browser.

Now, I'm also considering making the switch to AT&T and joining the iPhone masses, just on the strength of the interface and general ease-of-use. I use my phone primarily for Web surfing and AIM, not so much for calls, but even so, Verizon's good reputation for service in NYC (and AT&T's less-than-stellar rep) gives me pause. I'm still undecided, so let me know what you think...

2. Flip Video MinoHD: As a one-time film student, I still have the folding chair and tilted beret of a big-screen director in the back of my mind. To help kick off my alternate career as a documentarian in the mold of the Maysles Brothers or Werner Herzog, I'll start with this handheld HD mini-cam.

3. M-Audio Keystation 88: If you're a part-time musician like myself, figuring out how to squeeze the most music-making power out of your gear is always an important topic. There are as many combos of hardware and software, digital and analog equipment out there as there are music styles, but my personal preference is a PC-based ProTools setup. I currently use a Digidesign Mbox and ProTools LE 7.4, with Propellerhead's Reason software ReWired into it for keyboards and sequencing.

If that's all Greek to you, the point is, I've used a variety of different 49-, 61-, and 32-key USB controllers (essentially dummy devices that look like piano keyboards but have no onboard sounds and are used to control music software) over the years, but have never had a full-size 88-key controller. Since they're basically just plastic keys wired to a USB port, they're usually moderately priced, such as this $249 model from M-Audio.

4. Logitech Harmony One: What's the single greatest tech invention of our lifetimes? It's an easy call--the Logitech Harmony remote control. A universal remote that actually works, you just plug it into your computer via a USB cable and the software walks you through the setup with simple questions ("So, what kind of TV do you have?"), and downloads the appropriate command codes automatically. I've had a basic Harmony for years, and it's literally changed my life--but maybe it's time to trade up to the newest model--the Harmony One, which includes a tiny color touch-screen interface.

5. The Snuggie: OK, I don't really want one of these, but the crazy TV commercial is just too good to ignore. It's basically a blanket with sleeves, designed for the absolute laziest of humans--those who can't be bothered to put on a sweater. On the plus side, the promo copy points out you can now "use your laptop without being cold."

PREVIOUS CRAVE HOLIDAY LISTS: Sharon Vaknin, Anne Dujmovic, Erica Ogg