2016's Best Gifts for Geeks: Ten of the Best
Innovation is increasing at amazing rates, and new products and software are popping up at every corner. In the last ten years, geek things like Linux and Android have become mainstream, the superior quality of open source software changing the tech market.
Here are some of my favorite gifts this year, with boards, drones, and more.3
Note: These are in rough order of price, from low to high.
Note 2: Black Friday deals will probably drop these prices, and I will try to update, but keep in mind that the prices here may be inaccurate. Leaving a comment with the better price would be very helpful.
The Google cardboard is a great way to get into VR. Anybody with a phone can use it, and the cheap price makes it accessible for everyone.
- The jet black style of EightOnes looks better than plain cardboard
- The Google cardboard is awesome with a FPV drone, like the Parrot AR
- The app comes with 100's of virtual reality games and experiences.
The Proto X nano is a tiny drone that flies surprisingly well. It is a great drone to learn to fly on, and has beginner and advanced control modes.
- More of an indoor toy; as one would expect, not great in wind
- Gyros keep it upright
- Lots of colors!
This is a good beginner - to mid range drone that is fun to fly and fairly cheap.
Chromecast makes streaming easy with this tiny hdmi device. You can control it with a phone or a chrome extension4.
- Streamed from the cloud, so proximity doesn't matter
- A whole bunch of apps to stream from
- Easy to use and low requirements: A TV and a place to plug it in.
- You get HBO now for 3 months when you purchase.
The new Raspberry Pi is much improved:
- 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARMv8 CPU5
- Built-in wireless card
- Bluetooth and BLE
- Hackable as ever.
This cheap Linux board will make anyone happy; my 12 year old little brother loves his.
The Echo Dot is a smaller, cheaper version of Amazon Echo that does not require you to own an Echo. This alternative packs a smaller speaker, but can be attached to your existing sound system.
- Amazon Alexa answering service
- Hackable, with open source addons called "skills"
- Integrates with smart appliances.
The Echo Dot is cheap enough to get one for every room, but still very powerful and useful.
Chromebit is Linux in your pocket, and no: it's not your Android phone. Chromebit puts Google's Chrome OS on a usb drive sized device, which similarly to the Chromecast, plugs in via hdmi to a monitor or TV.
The NVIDIA Jetson tk1 can be thought of as the older brother of the Raspberry Pi. It sports a CUDA core for every dollar of it's price, and is perfect for machine learning or computer vision projects. I've had a lot of fun with mine.
- Lots of cool projects you can do with it
- [Under]use it as a home media center
- Did I mention 192 CUDA cores?
- Did I mention it comes with Linux?
It might not be cheap, but it is powerful.
This easy to fly drone can:
- Stream 720p video to your phone or tablet
- Be controlled by touch or with the nvidia shield (up to 610 feet range!)
- Be modded easily
- Be hacked to dance to music, or whatever else you can dream up.
All in all this is a fun, hackable drone that anyone will enjoy.
Note: You can get a cheaper version with much less battery for 179$.
This curvy smartwatch made by Samsung is a great gift for a watch lover.
- Lots of apps
- Can run Android
- Rotating bezel is pretty awesome.
This computer kit is fun for both kids and adults. One reviewer said:
I was given Kano as a gift - as a middle aged female adult. As soon as I opened the kit I got so excited to assemble. Once I assembled and plugged it in I felt like my 11 year old self figuring out how and copying computer code to make games on my Commodore 64.
- Learn to put together a computer
- Learn the Linux terminal through games
- Comes with a bunch of [educational-ish] apps.
Story based Linux learning = pretty awesome gift.
Note: You can get a cheaper version without the screen for 150$.