Affordable and Essential Christmas Gift Ideas for the Computer Geeks

by Ming Chow

The simple question: "what would do you want for Christmas?" I am sure that a techie's Christmas wish-list will include some of the following items: digital camera, flat-panel TV, digital camcorder, new cell-phone with built-in camera, Apple iPod, satellite radio, or a new computer. Of course for many, money is scarce (especially for those computer professionals who are unemployed this holiday season). So here is a list of considerably more affordable (most under $30) and indispensable Christmas gift ideas that all techies and computer geeks will appreciate:

  • Knoppix Hacks - Knoppix is the Swiss-Army knife of computing. When you boot a computer with the Knoppix CD, you will know why. It is an operating system (Linux) with hundreds of valuable software tools and programs all on a CD. It works on almost all configurations. The utility of Knoppix is incredible: you can learn and test-drive Linux, play games, test your network's security, and even fix Windows problems. The CD is exceptionally well-organized. Knoppix Hacks is the essential manual. Like the CD, the book is also incredibly well-organized and well-written: from basic tips of booting and running Knoppix, to complex tips on using Knoppix to fix Windows problem. And yes, the book comes with a copy of the Knoppix CD. If you shop at right now, all O'Reilly books are 43% off (thus, Knoppix Hacks is only $16.95).

  • A subscription of Linux Journal or Linux Magazine - Both magazines consist mostly of technical and professionally-written articles, covering cutting-edge tools and techniques. A subscription is tremendous for technical and professional development.

  • Any coffee/food gift package - Everyone appreciates food. For the techies, caffeine and munchies go very well together. Starbucks have many nice gift packages from $15 - $25.

  • Computer maintenance accessories (cans of compressed air, and monitor/keyboard wipes) - The computer keyboard is one of the most germ-loaded parts of the office. A clean desk, keyboard, mouse, and monitor are essential to a healthy computing and working environment. A pack of three 12 oz cans of compressed air is $9.99 at Micro Center (most of the times).

  • A USB drive - Most computers (and all newer computers) support USB. It is always nice to carry your work and other data from one computer to another.

  • CD-R 50-pack - I didn't know how useful a CD burner was until I got one several years ago. CD-Rs always come in handy.

  • Wireless router - For those who have a desktop and a laptop with a high-speed Internet connection, it is nice to do work or surf the web on your laptop from any location in your home (given that you have a wireless card installed on your laptop). Setting up wireless internet access in your home is trivial (well, security is another matter), and many stores are selling wireless routers for under $30 after rebate.

  • Apple iTunes Music Store Gift Card - There always come the time when you want to listen to that one song, and you want to download it legally.


2004-11-28 19:47:11
No canned air, please
I've never understood canned air. I'd like the reverse of canned air, with a teeny vacuum cleaner to suck stuff out of there. As for alcohol wipes, what's wrong with Windex and a paper towel?

But I'll be glad to get a thumb drive, all right!

2004-11-28 20:36:25
No canned air, please
While it is called "canned air" most canned air is actually a special chemical that evaporates quickly without adding any extra moisture to your electronics (compared to regular air or blowing with your lungs).

A vacuum would work fine as long as you are careful and don't suck up components on your motherboard :)

2004-11-29 06:43:03
No canned air, please
"alcohol wipes" .. you can't beat a nice drop of vodka and a paper tissue - lint free of course.
2004-11-29 06:48:50
Give a donation to EFF or FSF
Last year a co-worker (Thanks Sarah!) gave a donation in my name to the EFF. I thought that was really cool and I appreciated it very much. I'll be renewing it this year.
2005-12-06 09:09:06
Linux gifts / Ipod
Apple will engrave an Ipod for free, so if your Linux person is getting his or first one this season, keep that in mind.

Second the motion on the USB drive. My boyfriend is a thorough geek and has given them as gifts but doesn't have one. He'll be getting a 1GB one for Christmas.

Not that anyone would use it inappropriately, of course, but a DVD burner can be had for $50.

For the smaller more frolicsome gifts, I like,, and of course

~ Solveig