December 16, 2006 holiday gift guide

Author: Staff

The holiday season is approaching rapidly, and if you're like us, you probably still have some holiday shopping left to do. In the spirit of crass consumerism, we've compiled a list of gifts you may want to add to your wishlist, or for the other geeks in your life.

Have a geek friend who really gets into the Christmas spirit, or a Scrooge who needs a hefty dose of holiday cheer? Hook him up with a USB snowglobe mouse. This mouse houses a snowman, Christmas tree, and plenty of snow to swirl while your favorite geek toils away at the computer. The snowglobe mouse also cycles between seven cheery colors, making holiday decorating as easy as plugging in a peripheral. You won't find a mouse with more Christmas cheer anywhere.

You can give the gift of gab this year with the Netgear Skype WiFi phone. Instead of using your PC to make calls, you can use the Skype Wi-Fi phone to connect to your Wi-Fi network and make free Internet calls over Skype. The phone can connect to 802.11b and 802.11g networks, has a two-hour battery life for talking, and 20 hours of standby time. The Skype WiFi phone would be a good gift for college-bound geeks who want to keep in touch without running up huge long distance bills.

For world-traveling geeks, we recommend this little stocking-stuffer -- a 150-country travel adapter. It's a tiny adapter that provides plugs for countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Australia, and the Americas. It also boasts a USB connection, so you can plug in your cell phone and charge a USB device at the same time.

Christmas is all about dead trees

With any luck, maybe some of the trees that fall victim to the Christmas mass arboreal slaughter will be turned into paper for books. Despite being electronically oriented, we at OSTG love books and wanted to suggest a few that might make your favorite geeks happy.

John Scalzi's latest, The Android's Dream, is probably on a lot of geeks' wishlists this year. Scalzi is relatively new to the sci-fi scene; his first sci-fi book, Old Man's War, put the author on the map in January 2005, and it's also a good choice for sci-fi fans.

You can also give the gift of Linux with the Official Ubuntu Book. The book covers Ubuntu 6.06 LTS, standard desktop applications, troubleshooting advice, and comes with Ubuntu on a live DVD.

While you're at it, you might want to throw in a copy of Revolution OS on DVD. It's not new, but it includes classic interviews with Linus Torvalds, Richard Stallman, Bruce Perens, Brian Behlendorf, and many others.

For handy types, a subscription to Make magazine is the gift that keeps on giving ideas for home projects. Published quarterly, Make covers the gamut of home do-it-yourself projects, from how to build homemade electric vehicles to stripping down used appliances for useful parts. Or maybe you could just peruse the Make blog for projects to slap together in lieu of purchased gifts. Nothing says you care like something put together with duct tape, PVC pipe, and a soldering iron.

If you need a place to curl up with a good book, try LoveSac oversized beanbag furniture. These things are stylish and amazingly comfy, though maybe a bit difficult to wrap.

Big ticket items

For the geek that has everything, here's someplace to put it. Probably the best upgrade you can get this year is a TeraStation NAS, which provides a terabyte of network attached storage (NAS). We haven't been fortunate enough to lay hands on the TeraStation, but according to the product literature, it can be configured as four 250GB network shares, a single terabyte array, two mirrored 250GB arrays, or a RAID 5 array with 750GB of space. This should be more than enough space for most geeks for the coming year.

The Nokia 770 has been out for a while, but if your favorite geek doesn't have one, now's the perfect time to pick up one of the little Linux-based Internet tablets. The 770 includes a Web browser, RSS reader, email client, PDF viewer, audio and video player, and VoIP capability, and fits nicely in the palm of your hand.

If it's time for a new system, you might check out System76, a company that sells nothing but Linux-based systems, including Ubuntu-based MiniPCs, laptops, and workstations. We're eyeing the Gazelle series, which includes an Intel Core 2 Duo, WXGA (1280x800) display, Intel-based graphics, and ships with Ubuntu Edgy. It'd be nice to find one of those under the tree.

Camera geeks might appreciate a lens from LensBabies. The LensBaby is a single-element lens mounted in a flexible rubber bellows. You can twist and tilt the bellows in any direction, producing vignetting, blurring, and diffraction effects. The company just released its third generation of the device, which adds the ability to lock the lens into any position; with previous generations, the shooter had to juggle holding the camera with one hand while moving the LensBaby with the other.

LensBabies are designed to be compatible with all major brands of 35mm SLR camera, though the lenses do not make use of autofocus and other electronic features. Artistic types have always gotten a kick out of reproducing the look and feel of cheap '60s Eastern-bloc cameras like the Holga and Lomo -- the LensBaby gives you all the same creative outlets, but with a lot more control and the usage of modern camera systems.

Stuff we'd like, but probably won't get in 2006

What is it with Sony and products that you can't get your hands on? Since the Sony PlayStation 3 (PS3) can run Linux (oh, and games), we'd like to add that to our wishlists -- but let's face it, the odds of laying hands on a PS3 before next Christmas look pretty bleak. Still, if you can find one of these to put under our Christmas tree, we'll take it.

The Sony Reader is also on our list, but it's also a hard-to-come-by item, though easier to get than the elusive PS3. The reader boasts E-Ink "electronic paper" which is easy on the eyes, and has enough battery life for 7,500 page turns -- which means you can read dozens of books via the Reader before you need to recharge.

The Reader supports PDF, plain text, RTF, JPEGs, GIFs, PNGs, BMPs, and MP3 and AAC7 audio files. At $350, it's not cheap, but it is a great accessory for geeks who love to read and travel a lot.

The eVo v1.1 is also on our list, but it won't actually be in stock until January 2007. The eVo is a home theater projector that allows you to project your movies, games, or desktop onto a 108-inch screen. It supports 800x600 and 1024x768 resolution, with component, AV, S-Video, Coax, and VGA inputs. It can be ceiling-mounted, too, to keep it well out of the way during those wild parties.

Unlike other projectors with extremely expensive bulbs, the eVo replacement bulbs are priced at a mere $30 and have a projected life of 6,000 hours or more. The projector is priced at $499, which isn't a bad deal for a home projection system.

If you just sold your company to Google

Consider a Hallberg-Rassy 62 sailing yacht. She's big and stable, comfy for you and up to 10 friends, and she's about as geeky a sailboat as you can get, since the H-R 62 is pre-rigged for "push-button sailing," which means you can raise, lower, and trim your sails without ever leaving your snug, dry center cockpit.

No more tricky maneuvers when docking, either. The H-R 62 has bow thrusters so you can drive her sideways instead of angling this way and that while fighting winds and currents. And you get all this for the low price of... umm... this is one of those "if you have to ask, you can't afford it" items. Let's just say your H-R 62 will cost you more than $1,600,000. Exactly how much more will depend on the options and interior layout you select.

For extra gifty goodness, don't forget to check out the gift guides over at Red Hat and Make, which have plenty of great suggestions as well, and visit our sister site Thanks for reading, and have a great holiday season!


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