By BARBARA ORTUTAY -- AP Technology Writer
Economic meltdown and financial crisis are not phrases you want to hear as you ponder your holiday shopping. But it is possible to find tech-related gifts on a recession-minded budget, be they handy, entertaining or irreverent.
Roku Netflix Player ($100; see picture above)
This is the perfect gift for the friend who gets bored waiting for the next Netflix DVD to arrive in the mail. Connected to a high-speed Internet line, this tiny box brings movies and TV shows from Netflix's Internet library to a TV set. Remarkably, it doesn't cost anything to watch as much as you want, provided you're already paying Netflix at least $9 per month for DVDs through the mail. It's very easy to use, and comes with a remote. The movie selection is limited and the image quality can be iffy, but some of the TV shows actually look better than DVDs. For the best quality, the user should have an Internet connection faster than 1.5 megabits per second.
SwissFlash 1 GB ($50 and up)
A different take on the classic Swiss Army Knife for people who are just as comfortable building a campfire as they are reformatting a hard drive. In addition to the usual blade, nail file with screwdriver, scissors and key ring, the SwissFlash comes with a removable flash drive, and can also include a retractable pen and a mini LED light. Could be a good gift for the MacGyvers in your life, although I can't truly endorse a Swiss Army Knife without a corkscrew.
Music video games ($50 and up)
A music game, whether it's "Rock Band," ''Guitar Hero" or "Wii Music," is a good antidote to the cabin fever your family will start to feel around mid-January, having canceled winter travel plans because of the bad economy. "Guitar Hero III" with a Gibson Les Paul controller sells for $80 at Best Buy. The "Rock Band" special edition bundle for the Wii or the PlayStation 2 is available for about $100 and includes a microphone, drum controller and a Fender Stratocaster-modeled guitar controller so you can rock out to Metallica with Mom and Dad.
Tao Electronics photo key chain ($30 to $50)
Have you ever wanted to bring photos along with you on a tiny screen, perhaps to show off your new baby or puppy? No, not on a phone, silly. This rechargeable key chain-sized digital photo frame connects to your computer's USB drive and lets you load about 100 photos (56 on the cheaper version), which you can then scroll through either automatically or manually. It's a neat idea, but the first device I received malfunctioned, and the resolution on the stamp-sized screen leaves a lot to be desired.