Happy Techsgiving!

This article was published in The California Aggie on November 23, 2005. Click here to view the Aggie version.

What words do you normally associate with the holidays? Giving thanks, preparing elaborate feasts, and holiday shopping, right? Well add technology to that list by finding out how an internet connection can make holiday planning simple as pie.

The Spirit of Giving
The internet can connect you instantly with great technology-oriented charities that welcome donations.

The Gift of Technology
National Cristina Foundation: Don't need your computer anymore? This charity redistributes computers to agencies that train people with disabilities, students at risk, and economically-disadvantaged persons to lead more independent and productive lives through computing.
Kids in Need
Child's Play: You shop at Amazon.com, so why not use it to select a gift for a children's hospital? Created by the gamers at Penny-Arcade.com, the charity's interactive site allows you to select toys and games for kids at participating hospitals across the globe; they'll even mail your gift to the hospital.
MissionFish: Missionfish allows you to donate 10-100% of your eBay sales' profits to one of 7,000+ reputable charities, and has raised over $13 million in the past two years alone.
Don't See Your Charity Here?
Before you select a charity, make sure it's not a scam! Explore the site thoroughly and look for a ".org" URL, which usually indicates a non-profit organization. Go one step further: charitynavigator.org rates foundations by how well they manage donations and rates only those granted tax exempt status by the IRS.

Stuff that Turkey!
Not heading home for the holidays? Utilize the internet to create a feast as good as-if not better than-Mom's.

Recipe Databases
o Epicurious.com: Don't know how to stuff a turkey, or make a pie from scratch? Download one of Epicurious' how-to videos.
o World-cuisines.com: Is America your "home away from home?" Are you just plain sick of turkey? With this extensive international-cuisine database at your disposal, your holiday feast will provide a gift to your taste buds, whether homesick or bored.
o CookingLight.com: This online magazine shows you how to keep your figure while eating well and features an entirely vegetarian feast for your non-meat-eating friends. Type "Thanksgiving vegetarian" into the search bar.

Online Shopping: Do So Safely
Shopping from the comfort of your chair is a real time saver--most especially during the post-Thanksgiving rush--but keep security as well as convenience in mind. Sites that don't make your shopping experience secure put you at risk for identity theft and fraudulent use of your credit card.
o Look for the padlock icon in the lower corner of your browser; such sites are encrypted and your personal info is protected as it moves between your browser and the site's web server.
o Look at the site's URL. In "https://" the 's' means secure data transmission.
o Read the privacy policy. The site should promise not to sell your personal info to other vendors.
o Don't buy if you're not offered a way to print a receipt.

Student life is stressful enough without the holiday rush, so pull up a chair and let your typing fingers handle a few of the annual traditions.