There are better things to do this week than shop on Black Friday. Go for a walk in the woods. Spend time with loved ones. Savor your Thanksgiving leftovers. Or look skyward to see if super comet ISON survives its flyby of the sun or gets ripped to shimmering shreds.
But when you’re done with all that, it may be time to start thinking about the holidays. And if you’re going to buy gifts, they might as well be cool Linux-based tech, right?
This year’s list of the top 10 cool Linux-based gifts has dropped the price limit from $500 to $400, with seven candidates falling below $300. If your budget runs a bit higher, there are plenty of other embedded Linux goodies out there, and if the sky’s the limit, you might try the 2014 Motor Trend Car of the Year: the Cadillac CTS. Like the 2013 winner, the Tesla Model S, the CTS features a Linux-based in-vehicle infotainment system. (See Jim Zemlin’s recent blog “Automotive Linux Leaves Microsoft and Blackberry QNX in the Dust.”)
Reflecting the diversity and churn in Linux-based consumer electronics, there are only two holdovers from last year’s Linux gift list and they’ve both been substantially updated: the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2013 ereader and the Roku 2 media player. Purists may want to scratch these and several other products from this list, on account of being insufficiently open source. Fair enough, but they’re still cool products, great bargains, and shining examples of what can be done with Linux.
Speaking of open source, I’ve omitted any board-level products here, although community backed boards can indeed be suitable gifts if the recipient is sufficiently geekified. On the other end of the spectrum, there are no desktops and notebooks here, although one can indeed find several Linux-equipped systems under $400, including the full range of Chrome OS-based Chromebooks. I did include one Linux-ready mini-PC, however, with the irresistible and highly compact CompuLab Utilite.
To keep the list from being overrun with tablets and smartphones, Android devices have once again been left off the list, although the Utilite supports Android as well as Ubuntu. In addition, with the exception of the consumer oriented Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit, robots have been postponed to a separate buyer’s guide coming soon.
Several promising products did not make the cut since they’re not expected to ship by the holidays. For example, the WigWag and Piper home automation kits are currently only available to earlier crowdsourcing funders.
For the first time, a Linux-based smartphone has made the list. I’ve optimistically selected Geeksphone’s top-of-the-line Peak+, despite the fact that for the moment only the Peak is in stock. Still, the Peak has the same 1.2GHz dual-core processor and 4.3-inch qHD display as the more RAM-rich Peak+, making either one the most advanced Firefox OS phones available. They’re much more advanced than the other unlocked Firefox OS phone: the $80 eBay version of the ZTE Open.
As for other mobile Linux contenders, the Sailfish OS-based Jolla phone should be available by the holidays, but not for new customers, and it costs over $500. As for those Ubuntu and Tizen phones? See ya’ next year.
Click on the link below for a slideshow of the top 10 Linux deals for the holidays. Products are listed alphabetically.