2015 Holiday Geek Gift Giving Guide

by David Lover | Arrow Systems Integration

It’s that time again! You’ve got a geek in your life and you want to show them how much to love them, but don’t know where to start. Geeks are not the easiest people to buy for. They’re picky. The “It’s the thought that counts” theory doesn’t apply to geeks. But even geeks have limits as to what they’re willing to buy for themselves. This gives you a great opportunity to get them something really cool that they don’t already have. The trick is to get the best version of whatever it is you’re buying them. Nothing disappoints a geek more than buying a cheap knockoff of something they really wanted. I’ve tried to find things in everyone’s price range. And as always, I either own these myself, or know specific people who have them and rave about them. So definitely buy them for your geeks. Heck, even buy them for yourself!!

Books: Just about every geek I know likes to read. Maybe it’s tech specific magazines, maybe sci-fi. My wife loves anything in that post-apocalyptic, “the-fall-of-society” genre. She loved The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (http://amzn.to/1P3lSGr). For me, my big win this year was “Ready Player One” (http://amzn.to/1Oo5tt8), full of 80’s geeky pop culture references. Another one is a book by one of my favorite geek authors. Randall Munroe does comic strip called xkcd, which gave us the famous “sudo make me a sandwich” memes (I love it as a t-shirt http://bit.ly/1NnD49o). His new book, titled “Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words” (http://amzn.to/1MxWqFp) does an amazing job of explaining some crazy complex things using only the 1,000 most common words. For geeks it’s not really the idea of wanting an explanation of these things, it’s seeing Randall Munroe’s brilliance in action.

Star Wars: This is going to be a HUGE holiday season for Star Wars. Makes me want to go find my old Empire Strikes Back lunch box and thermos. We can finally get excited about Star Wars again, after the debacle of the last three movies. Not getting your geek at least one Star Wars themed gift would just be considered rude. My favorites are the Death Star Waffle Maker (http://bit.ly/1ObPC2t), or the Millennium Falcon wooden cutting board (http://bit.ly/1NnFpkG), or the Death Star Whiskey/Scotch Ice Sphere (http://bit.ly/1MNc25F). FYI, if crystal clear ice is important to you, boil the water first to drive out the dissolved air. I love this Pulp-Wars t-shirt (http://bit.ly/1NrJy7f),  For the gamer, definitely get them Star Wars: Battlefront (http://amzn.to/1N4pHVa). I just started playing this on my PS4. LOVE IT!

Boogie Board (http://amzn.to/1MyhIm8):  This is a great gift for geeks young and old. A Boogie Board is a thin, light weight, simple pressure-sensitive LCD writing surface, where you can write notes, do drawings, and then push a button to erase it. Nothing more complicated than that. Besides being a great toy for kids, we use one of these to write notes to each other, letting the rest of the family know where we are or what they need to remember to do. For less than $25, it is a disposable item, good for 50,000 erasings. It even comes with magnets to stick it on the fridge. Pretty cool.

Drinkware: Geeky tumblers? Heck yes! A colleague introduced me to these a couple months ago and now I can’t get enough. First, you should know that I HATE drinking out of plastic. I hate bottled water, or plastic mugs. It just tastes bad to me. I love anything in stainless steel. Typical stainless steel water bottles were great, but they just didn’t hold the cold, with the bottle sweating on the outside (I know… First-world problems). The solution? Yeti!!!! Their motto is that they “Keep your drink as COLD as science allows”. My favorite is the Rambler tumbler in 20oz or 30oz. (http://bit.ly/1LvXw0q) or the 10oz lowball (http://bit.ly/1N4rkCo). Use with your new Death Star Ice Sphere mentioned previously. You need to find these fast though, as they are always sold out. And FYI, Amazon’s price on these is crazy high. Find them much cheaper at Cabela’s or Gander Mountain.

Amazon Echo (http://amzn.to/1N4tD8v): I’m a sucker for anything that brings sci-fi to reality. And Amazon Echo does exactly that. This thing is ridiculously cool. It’s like your iPhone’s Siri, but way more useful, and far better quality. We have this sitting in our kitchen and use it all the time. From almost anywhere on the same floor as the Echo, I can ask her for things, and she hears me perfectly. Her name is actually Alexa (and no, Amazon doesn’t let you change it). I can say things like “Alexa, start a timer for 30 minutes.”,  “Alexa, play me some Foo Fighters.” (ie from Amazon Prime Music), “Alexa, turn the volume up.”, “Alexa, skip this song.”, “Alexa, what time does Home Depot open”, “Alexa, add half and half to the shopping list”, “Alexa, order more printer ink” (from your past amazon orders), “Alexa trigger, lock the house.”, “Alex trigger, turn the kitchen lights off”, etc. It is so cool. It integrates nicely with many home automation systems, and can play music from your Amazon Prime Music library. There’s even an Echo Channel in IFTTT (www.ifttt.com), which gives me all kinds of creative expandability. If you want Echo to control your house, you need some home automation stuff. While I use a more prosumer platform called HomeSeer (http://bit.ly/1lHw8aI), a much more consumer-friendly platform is SmartThings (http://bit.ly/1PXcqTI). Easy to get started and has a tight integration to Alexa.

Tactical Flashlights: Flashlights as a geek gift? Yep. This was actually suggested to me by two different people. As I thought about it, I’m a big fan of a good flashlight. And they have gotten very high tech. Larger ones with huge lumen output or small ones that you can carry with you. Either way, we want rugged. Every conference I go to, someone’s giving away a small crappy flashlight. Don’t pick it up. They suck and don’t last. Get a good one. I am a fan of the NiteCore P12 (http://amzn.to/21e9cjU). This thing has 1000 lumen for tactical scenarios. I also like the ThruNite Ti3 (http://amzn.to/1OcgNKF) as a pocket flashlight option. Very bright and small enough to carry it everywhere. Both of these use the wildly popular CREE LEDs, distributed by our very own Arrow Electronics!

Portable Power: Geeks love portable power. Last year, they loved it. This year is no different. But technology and products just keep getting better. Last year, I talked about the Anker USB adapters. I’ve tried other brands and Anker is the one I keep coming back to. I know a lot of fans of the Anker PowerPort Solar Charger (http://amzn.to/1lFzIlI) and the Anker 20,000mAh portable battery (http://amzn.to/1PKQxs3). As a traveler, I use my portable battery ALL the time. Any geek would love these.

Tile: With all these portable gadgets, they are bound to get misplaced. Several people I know have hopped on the Tile (http://amzn.to/1Hkti5o) bandwagon. Attach them to anything (keys, remotes, backpacks, kids, etc) and use the iPhone/Android app to find it. It doesn’t have cell radio or GPS, so it’s not really giving you a geo-positioning. It uses Bluetooth to help you find stuff within 150 feet, with more of a “You’re getting warmer, warmer, COLDER, warmer, SUPER HOT!” approach. It’s another one of these integrated battery, disposable gadgets that will last you about 1 year. Not too bad for a $25 gadget. Buy a 4 pack for only $70!

Gift of the Month Club: Last, but not least… Looking for the gift that keeps on giving? Maybe fruit of the month? Ummm… No. We’re preventing scurvy with the lime in our Coronas. Instead, give them a subscription to Loot Crate (http://bit.ly/1TcoRLb). My 40 year old brother and my 15 year old son both have subscriptions and love it! Every month they’ll get a box of cool stuff (mostly Stocking stuffer type items), centered on some cool theme. This month was Fallout. Last month was “Time” (Back to the Future, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Doctor Who, etc). Before that was Villains. You can check out the previous crates here to get an idea of just how popular you’ll be after giving them this (http://bit.ly/1TcqwAo).

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