What you should know: You'll need a compatible phone, which means you're limited to the Samsung T409, Nokia 6086, and the RIM BlackBerry Curve. You can use Wi-Fi connections outside your home network and T-Mobile HotSpots, but you could get lower voice quality due to contention with data traffic. T-Mobile's coverage can be weak out of major metro areas, and the carrier has no 3G offerings and almost nothing in the way of data services on its cellular network. As with a Wi-Fi network, the service is subject to interference, which is more noticeable on a phone call then when browsing the Web.
What you need: A T-Mobile cellular service plan, plus the additional HotSpot @Home service ($20 per month). You can also get a $50 T-Mobile router for home to give phone calls priority over data traffic and to reduce the phone's battery usage when using Wi-Fi.. However, this T-Mobile device can work in access point mode when it's attached to your existing router, rather than force you to replace what you already have in place.
Data Robotics Drobo intelligent backup drive
Why you must have it: MP3 files, TiVo videos, vacation photos, you name it — a lot of precious information now resides on our hard drives, vulnerable to becoming so much electronic dust in case of a system crash or a drive failure. The Drobo takes a step beyond the large external drives widely available today by adding intelligence and configurability to the device, both simplifying operations and giving you more control. The Drobo enclosure can take up to four half-height or full-height SATA hard drives and combine them into a massive, multiterabyte backup system — no need to figure out RAID settings or worry about whether the drives are the right capacities to work together. And as you add or replace drives within Drobo, it handles the updating and migration of affected backup data automatically. It also initiates the backup for you, so there's no need to have backup software on your PC or Mac.
Your chances of having the first one on the block: Very good, as Drobo has been available only a few months.
What you should know: To support both Macs and PCs simultaneously, Drobo drives should be formatted with FAT32 partitions. Drobo has no network interface for LAN-based backup, but users have successfully connected it to a USB-equipped Apple AirPort Extreme wireless router to enable network backup in all-Mac environment. The company says Windows-only and mixed-platform network backup should be possible if you use another vendor's USB 2.0-equipped router (AirPort requires that attached devices use Apple's HFS+ partitions for storage).
What you need: A USB 2.0-equipped PC running Windows 2000, 2003 Server, XP, or Vista, or a USB 2.0-equipped Mac running Mac OS X 10.4 or later.
Oh, you didn't get the cool phone you wanted after all?
Whether or not you got the true geek gifts in InfoWorld's list for Christmas, maybe you did not get the smartphone you also crave. Maybe you're torn between buying an iPhone or some other mobile device. (After all, as cool as the iPhone is for personal use, it's not yet enterprise-class.) Not to worry. InfoWorld can make help you make that decision a little more easily, too:
Read Tom Yager's iPhone review, then watch our three-part video review of the iPhone: Part 1 covers what our reviewers still use after six months with the iPhone, Part 2 covers tips and tricks for using the iPhone in business, and Part 3 covers how to "jailbreak" an iPhone to add third-party apps to it.
Read our Test Center comparison of seven supersmart phones for extreme mobility: the AT&T 8525 (a.k.a. the HTC Hermes), HTC Advantage X7501, Nokia E61i, Nokia E65, RIM BlackBerry 8300 (a.k.a. the Curve), RIM BlackBerry 8800, and T-Mobile Wing (a.k.a. the HTC Herald). Watch our handy slideshow for a quick take on each.
No matter what phone you get or have, be sure to check out Tom Yager's picks for Bluetooth headsets.
Happy new year!