Time for a few more pieces of technology I've enjoyed this year that would make good stocking stuffers.
4. WD TV Live Hub
While there are an abundance of networked media players in market, it was the size, internal 1TB drive, format support, and the portability that won me over. Then Christmas came early when the Windows 8 Developer Preview supported this device as one of it's DLNA playback devices, helping me to justify my decision. While those of us used to playing media back through Windows Media Center will miss some of the UI elements, as a secondary travelling device the WD TV Live Hub is great. To further strengthen its position as a travel companion the power supply connectors can be changed easily to support your destination of choice. HDMI, component and composite connections mean that it can connect to almost any television in recent history, but you may need to pack a few different cables if you don't know what you will encounter. Which again supports the Grid-It inclusion in part 1 of this article.
5. DisplayPort to HDMI adapter
You might find that your DisplayPort to HDMI cable that you purchased for your laptop doesn't support audio over HDMI (as I did), so you need to invest in something to address the issue. These are cheap devices, they do their job, and they allow you to use a standard HDMI cable which can be used for other things, such as the WD TV Live Hub mentioned above. This may lead to the question why not just use the laptop for all entertainment purposes and forgo the dedicated media playback device? Well, firstly the dedicated device can be used by others as you are using your laptop, without worrying about which application is taking focus for control. Anyone who has run Media Center in multiple monitor mode probably knows what I'm talking about. Also, the IR range for the remote is much better than any combination of travel sized Media Center remotes and USB IR dongles. But if you want to travel lighter, and don't need to consider others requirements as much, then the PC is definitely a great way to play back media while travelling.
6. The Plantronics Calisto P-820M
There are a few versions of this unified communications device in market, but the version I have is a USB audio device that I can use for Lync (or Skype =) ). I can also pair Bluetooth devices like my Backbeat Headset or Windows Phone device, and use it as my communications hub. An added bonus while travelling is that you can stand it on its side and use it as a digital clock, something I rely on. It's also got headphone and microphone in jacks, so you are pretty much eqipped for making calls from home or on the road. However, it doesn't stop there... there are also versions that include land line support, as well as a Bluetooth earpiece, so you are covered for quite a few usage scenarios.
That's just a small selection of the technology I've encountered in 2011 that has worked well for me, and maybe can help give some ideas for those of you needing inspiration for gift giving.
And a small update... my quest for maximal cable and connector coverage while travelling with minimal cables hit a speed bump - who would have thought in this day and age I would have needed a SCART cable, more specifically a SCART to Component + Audio. In this case I'm going to tought it out and use composite instead. It's not the end of the world, and it doesn't look as bad as I was expecting.