Reach Your Goals: Gift Ideas for Network Admins

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It’s that time of year again—time to think about what toys you want to add to your own wish list, as well as gifts you might want to surprise your techie pals and co-workers with in the Secret Santa giveaway. And right after you fill yourself up on sweets and treats at the office holiday party, New Year’s Day hits, and it’s time to make your resolutions for the coming year. Why not combine your wish list with your New Year’s resolutions, and ask for something that will help you succeed?

What’s one of the most common resolutions that, year in and year out, we fail to reach? Generally it’s some permutation of “This year, I’m really going to get in shape, get healthy, start getting out of the office and getting some exercise.” What better way to reach this goal than with a tool that will satisfy both your need to get in shape and your love of technotoys? There are lots of cool watches and tools with features like heart rate monitors, contact storage, cholesterol monitoring and more, and with the ability to download information and use it to track your progress.

Some years ago, Timex introduced revolutionary Data Link model watches that stored contacts, nine alarms and crude wrist applets, in addition to time-keeping and chronograph functions. What made the watch unusual was the method of updating. You held the watch near the computer screen, and flashing light bars transmitted information. Though netizens ( have produced updated software, those models have been discontinued, as flat screens have replaced CRT monitors.

At a giant HMO, at least one hospital used these watches to give AIDS patients a preprogrammed schedule for their complicated drug regimen. It was less expensive for the hospital to purchase the watches, program the alarms and update the watches when the patients came in to be monitored than to have the patients miss a dosing schedule. But it wasn’t only hospitals that recognized the value of these tools. Network administrators also recognized the value of having easily updated information.

Data Link has been reborn in various USB models ( with improved capabilities—up to 200 alarms, 200 laps (for runners, swimmers and anyone else who likes going in circles), more contact information and the ability to download appointments and other information from Outlook. More useful than a PDA, all models come with the cable and software. Additional software is available on the Timex Web site. My Ironman model allows me to customize the type and settings of various timers as well.

Other products store information from recordings, permitting you to track your progress toward health graphically. A few years ago, I had a blood pressure cuff that stored readings on the computer so they could be graphed and reviewed later. Similarly, LifeStream Plus’s total cholesterol monitor ( may be used to monitor heart-healthy lifestyles. The data is stored on an included magnetic card, but can be downloaded to computer via a serial cable. The best part of the package may be the included software. Optionally, you may input your height, weight and other characteristics, including cholesterol. Based on the Framingham heart study, the program will calculate your body-mass index (BMI), which determines where you stand on the healthy-overweight-obese scale, and your relative heart risk. The device worked well in my hands, generating cholesterol numbers within range of what I have at the medical center’s lab. The key is the downloaded data—a graphical display may be used to provide motivation, or you can e-mail it to your physician to be sure you’re on a healthy course.

Though other manufacturers now offer heart rate monitors in watch format, Polar ( started the industry and was the first to offer computer data downloads. Some new advanced models, just in time for the holiday season, download to computer via IR ports, so no cradle is necessary. One reference design is suitable for use in physiology and medical labs—very cool—offering relaxation rates during exercise measurement, as well as the usual readings. Graphing progress and training schedules, which is only possible using devices like these and your computer, can help you optimize your training and progress toward your goals.

Enabling as these devices are, they have found favor largely with network administrators and other power users. Others ignore what IT professionals may consider a key selling point—the ability to download data. These devices make it enjoyable to adopt a healthier lifestyle while using your workstation to track your progress. Happy Holidays!

What’s your favorite technotoy? Do you have a clever use for these devices? Send your ideas to Doug at Doug, MCNE, MCSE, MCSA, CCNA, BCSD, is a network consultant, working at a large health agency.


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