It's the curse of Christmas: you know the relatives are going to ask you to fix their terrible PC. We've offered guidance for that in the past, but here's some gift suggestions to ease the burden in the future.
Picture by Tada's Revolution
A Linux Live CD
Cost: One blank CD or USB; a fair amount of patience Where to get it: Start with our Hive Five of Live CDs Why it's a good choice: Switching your clueless family members to a friendly version of Linux will eliminate many woes: less malware to worry about and better system performance. If they're only doing browser-based activities, they'll thank you for it. If they're clinging to Windows, use the Live CD to show them that everything works pretty much as you'd expect, then migrate their data and settings across. (You might want to fix the window controls if you're using Ubuntu.) Picture from Wikimedia Commons
Cost: $299 Where to get it: Gizmo Why it's a good choice: If you're constantly being bombarded by minor support calls, then a MyGizmo subscription — which gives 12 months of phone support for virus woes, new peripheral installs and all the other stuff Uncle Fred won't shut up about — could easily be worth the investment.
A new computer
Cost: $300 and up Where to get it: The choice is yours Why it's a good choice: There's only so much you can do to fix a machine that's still running Windows Me on 4MB of memory. Even the cheapest netbook will run like sex on legs after that kind of experience. You might need to devote a couple of hours to helping Gretchen set it up and get it connected, but it's much easier to start with a clean slate.