Here’s a present for you from iCare. I’d liken it to one of those emergency devices you would carry in your car. Your spouse or your parent might give you one, or you might buy one for yourself, hoping you’ll never have occasion to use it. But just in case you ever need to, you will be able to cut that seat belt and break out the window and escape from your upside-down car.

So if you get iCare Data Recovery 4.0, which is priced at $69.95 (Please, iCare, do us another favor and price your software in whole dollars), you may never need it, but if you do it will be worth every penny. Between now and Christmas you can download iCare Data Recovery at no cost, which is why I said it is a presnt from iCare.

No paying up front and then sending in a refund form. It’s plain old free.

I’m going to download it. Then I’ll install it and get it activated before the 25th.

iCare Data Recovery can restore data lost due to a hard drive crash, bad boot sectors, virus attacks, corrupted master boot records, deleted partitions, or my favorite explanation when I don’t know what else it could be: stray cosmic rays.

It works on hard drives in your computer, external hard drives, memory cards (in your camcorder or your digicam or whatever), USB drives—almost any storage other than an optical disc (CD, DVD).

Download it, run it as an administrator, and paste in the activation code. Do it before you need it, and keep a spare copy on something bootable.

Here’s the URL: Here’s the activation code: CG7332343A7XEOUD3EHH4AIL2WSB4G9F.

The reviews I have read have been glowing.

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Another freebie can be found at It’s 10 Christmas songs from the album “Christmas Piano.” You choose the genre you prefer, from classical to blues to reggae, and you will be taken to a download button. You can save the a archive (zip, or rar) and expand and save the songs.

These are MP3 files, playable from your computer and totable on a player. The ones I got are nice arrangements of some Christmas standards.

Worth how much? Well, how much would 10 tunes downloaded from iTunes set you back ?

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Do you take a lot of notes by hand? I certainly do. Sometimes I have carried a laptop to do this with, one of which was a special ThinkPad that captured the motions of the stylus and let me call up the notes in electronic form. I also had the notes on a legal pad, which was mounted in the ThinkPad. It was slow. The handwriting recognition wasn’t great.

Along came the Pulse SmartPen. It would be handy for reporters and students—anyone who takes notes. The latest version is the Echo, which costs $170 or $200 depending on whether you want 4 Gb of storage or 8.

The Echo looks like a chubby ball-point pen. It contains an ink cartridge and there is a spare.

Echo will keep track of when you take each set of notes, if you set its date and time.

The pen wants to know whether you are a leftie or a rightie.

Echo requires that you use special paper, so it can keep track of where the pen tip is. It comes with a starter pad of 50 sheets. So that’s it: they are just setting us up to sell us consumables.

Not really. We don’t have to buy special paper for the Echo SmartPen. The special paper has an array of tiny dots on it. But we can print our own speckled paper. We all know that 50 sheets of El Cheapo 20-pound copy paper costs less than a legal pad, and printing those sheets with merely visible dots doesn’t consume enough toner to think about.

When you have taken a set of notes you can upload your notes to a computer, if you wish  

There’s a come-with app called Paper Replay that lets you record the speech or meeting or lecture while you are taking notes. Later when you listen to the “pencast,” you can tap a word in your notes and hear what the pen heard when you jotted that word.

There are some proprietary apps available, including some pastimes (Sudoku and hangman, for instance) and a dictionary. These take up some of the space.

Share your tech adventures, tricks and questions here.