Christmas gift ideas for the geek in your life

Paul Boag

What is on your christmas wish list this year? Put another way, what do you get the geek who queues up to buy every gadget the day it is released?

As Christmas is almost upon us I thought it might be fun for us to share some Christmas gift suggestions that we might like to see under the Christmas tree.

The idea is simple. If you have bought a gadget or other geek gift that you think is awesome, post it in the comments. If somebody else has suggested an idea that you agree or disagree with, add a reply.

To kick us off, I thought I would share with you my own suggestions. These are all items I personally own and can recommend. As it is Christmas, it seems only right that I share 12 gifts, one for each of the 12 days of Christmas.

First up is my Magic Mouse Charger.

Magic Mouse Charger (£32)

The Magic Charger
The Magic Mouse Charger means you will never have to replace another battery in your mouse again.

On the first day of Christmas my true love said to me; “you’re costing us a fortune in batteries!”

I love my magic mouse, but it does seem to burn through batteries at an astounding rate. What is more, the batteries always seem to die at the most inopportune moment.

My solution to this problem is the magic mouse charger. This inductive pad sits on your desk plugged into the mains. When you are not using the mouse, just pop it on this pad and it instantly starts charging.

This little Christmas miracle is achieved by replacing the normal batteries in the mouse with a special charging pack. This proved slightly more tricky than it should have, with the pack refusing to fit to begin with. However, once it was in place, it worked like a charm.

Best of all, if you go travelling you can easily remove the charging pack and return to normal batteries for the duration of your trip.

Talking of batteries and travelling, my next suggestion is the HyperJuice external battery.

HyperJuice external battery (£369.99)

HyperJuice Range of External Batteries
Never run out of power while at a conference, on a train or even working from the beach.

Because I travel so much, I need to be able to work from anywhere. In fact as I type these words I am flying over the atlantic. Unfortunately all of the gadgets I take with me burn through power at a ferocious rate. Laptop, iPad, iPhone, all have good battery lives, but I inevitably find myself looking for plug sockets to charge them up.

That is why I bought a HyperJuice external battery. This beauty means you are never without power.

Each comes with a USB port for charging your phone, tablet etc. However, they also have an adaptor that allows charging for your mac. This has proved invaluable more than once.

Although the larger batteries in the range can be heavy to lug around, it is worth the back pain. In the summer I commonly work out in the countryside. The combination of this battery and internet access through tethering with my phone makes working from the beach finally a reality (presuming you can see your screen).

While you are enjoying working in the great outdoors, why not take some photos to make your colleagues stuck in the office envious?

Nikon P510 (£275.71)

Nikon P510
The Nikon P510 is a great camera for those who want to take high quality photos without the complexity of an DSLR.

My Nikon P510 is my pride and joy. Admittedly I know little about cameras and also bought this on a bit of an impulse with no research. However, despite that I would highly recommend this for any budding geek.

The Nikon P510 is one of the new generation of ‘bridge’ cameras. In other words it lies somewhere between an SLR and compact camera. With an impressive built in lens that goes from wide angle to 42x optical zoom this is a great all rounder.

It has everything you would expect from an SLR in terms of settings, but has some nice additions as well. It will record hi-definition video, take panoramic photos that puts the iPhone to shame and even does 3D shots.

However, the real killer feature for me is the built in GPS. Although not the fastest GPS around, it is great to have photos tagged with location. You can then view them on a map using iPhoto, Flickr or Instagram.

My only criticism is that there is a slight delay taking photos. This means although it is a great everyday camera, it wouldn’t do for sports or wildlife photographers.

That said, if you are not a photography snob, this is a great camera at a reasonable price. No doubt, many of you camera buffs out there will have better suggestions so drop them in the comments.

Whatever camera you end up with or already have, do yourself a favour and get an Eye-Fi X2 to go with it.

Eye-Fi X2 (£58)

Eye-Fi X2
Why wait until you get home to see your photos on a bigger screen? With an Eye-Fi X2 you can wirelessly transfer photos from your camera to your iPad or any other wifi enabled device.

Most cameras these days take SD cards. If that includes your camera, make sure you buy an Eye-Fi X2.

The Eye-Fi X2 not only acts like a normal SD card but also wirelessly transfers any photos taken to your iPhone, iPad, Computer or Android device. It will also make photos available online if you want it to.

Unlike the previous generation, the X2 is also capable of setting up its own wifi network allowing you to transfer photos even when in the field. Your tablet or phone simply connects to that network and the photos transfer automatically.

I have found this amazingly useful for viewing photos on a bigger screen without needing my laptop. It also means that you can edit and even upload photos while out and about.

With the Eye-Fi automatically transferring your photos, you effectively never run out of storage, just like my next pic; the drobo.

Drobo (£203.15)

Four Bay Drobo
If you have too much data to backup in the cloud then consider getting a drobo. Its better and simpler than the other RAID like solutions out there.

I learnt my lesson the hard way many years ago. I had a hard drive fail and I lost everything; all my music, films and worst of all family photos. I managed to get some of it back but it cost me £500 to pay a data recovery company.

For less than that I could have bought a Drobo. A Drobo is a casing into which you can place a number of normal 3.6 inch hard drives. The whole unit then works as a single external hard drive that you can connect to via USB or Firewire. Anything saved to the Drobo is automatically spread over the contained drives. If one drive fails your files are still accessible.

Even better is that if you run out of space on your Drobo, you can simply remove the smallest drive and replace it with a bigger one. You can even do so while accessing the files on the drive! There is no waiting for data to be copied to the new drive.

Some argue that a Drobo is just an expensive RAID. This is not true. A RAID does not allow you to swap disks in and out while still accessing your data. However, most of all a RAID is nowhere near as simple and user friendly as a Drobo.

In my time using the Drobo I have seen two drives fail. In both cases I get a red warning light next to the drive which failed. I simply swapped out the drive and carried on working. I didn’t even have to wait while it moved data across to the new drive.

When my Drobo reached its capacity, it highlighted the smallest drive with an amber light and I simply popped in a new bigger drive. There was no wires to connect, no configuration. I just slid the new drive into the empty slot.

Of course, the Drobo doesn’t protect you if the box gets stolen or your house burns down. For that you need off sight backup. The obvious choice there is Dropbox. However, one alternative is Evernote.

Evernote Premium (£35 per year)

Evernote Pro Account
I am a huge fan of Evernote. The premium upgrade will give you more space, but most importantly the ability to search inside PDF files.

I must confess that I love Evernote. If I could have only a single app it would be Evernote, because it is just so flexible. As I have already mentioned it can be used to backup files to the cloud. However, that is one relatively minor use case.

Evernote’s tag line is “remember everything” and it certainly lives up to its claim. With its powerful search, tagging system and ability to find words within images it is an invaluable tool.

Evernote can be used for writing documents, researching projects, building a library of inspirational imagery, remembering quotes, managing to-do lists, organising code snippets, managing receipts and licenses. I could go on.

With access available through the desktop (both mac and windows), iOS devices, Android, Windows Mobile and the web, you are never without your content. As a result almost anything I produce (including this post) lives within evernote.

Best of all Evernote is free. However, if you are impressed with it then you will want a premium account that provides extra storage and other features. Trust me its worth every penny. This is particularly true when you use it to go paperless.

I keep no paper records thanks to Evernote and my next suggestion Scansnap.

ScanSnap s1300 (£254.75)

ScanSnap s1300
Combine your evernote premium account with a ScanSnap s1300 and go completely paperless. The planet will thank you.

Before Evernote and Scansnap I had filing cabinets of stuff. Letters, manuals, receipts, taxes and more. The whole thing felt out of control. If I wanted to find something it would take an age.

When I started using Evernote I moved a lot across but there was still too much paper in my life. You can’t search paper, you can’t organise it as efficiently and it takes up too much space.

The Scansnap was the answer. This small, relatively portable scanner allows me to scan any letter I receive straight into Evernote with a press of a button. Before I knew it I had gone completely paperless.

That said, if I was to do it again I would also seriously consider the Doxie Go. Smaller than scansnap it is also wire free making it ideal for use across multiple devices. The only thing that I love about the Scansnap that the Doxie Go doesn’t have is a sheet feed. This is really useful when you want to scan larger documents. Add the document to the feeder, press the button and the whole thing magically appears in Evernote as a single PDF, viewable anywhere and fully searchable.

With my clutter controlled, I turned my attention to the fact that I was an unhealthy slob!

UP by Jawbone ($120)

UP by Jawbone
Trouble sleeping? Need to get fit? Then UP by Jawbone is the answer. In my opinion this beats the competition hands down.

There seems to be no end to fitness applications and devices these days. From Nike Fuel to , it seems technology is here to get us healthy.Fitbit

I confess I have looked at most of the options out there (after all looking at options is so much better than action when it comes to getting fit). The one that stands out from the rest for me is UP by Jawbone.

The Jawbone UP had a false start and was withdrawn due to a fault when released last year. However, it has just been re-released as ‘UP by Jawbone’ and is now available in the states. Expect it in Europe early 2013.

Setting aside its teething problems, the Jawbone Up is a great product. Like all of the other devices out there the Jawbone Up tracks your activities. However, it has three distinct advantages over the competition in my opinion:

  • It can also track your sleep patterns, which if your sleep is as bad as mine is a huge plus.

  • It is waterproof and so can be warn in the shower or even swimming.

  • It has no screen and so can offer a long battery life. My original Jawbone easily went a week without needing to be recharged.

The Jawbone Up is designed to be worn all day and all night, making it a real lifestyle device. If the relaunch is successful this is a real must have for any geek worried about his or her health.

With your health sorted lets save some energy and automate your house at the same time.

Belkin Wemo (£47.50)

Belkin Wemo
Automate your house with the Belkin Wemo. With iPhone control and integration with, this really is the ultimate geek toy.

I have to confess I am a bit of a sucker for the idea of home automation, but traditionally it has been a specialist area that is incredibly expensive. However, things are changing.

The Belkin Wemo is one of a new generation of home automation devices that can be conrtrolled by your iPhone or Android app.

Belkin offer two devices; a power adaptor and . I haven’t tried the motion sensor but the power adaptor is great. It connects to the houses wifi allowing you to control it from wherever you have an internet connection.motion sensor

It was easy to setup and worked without having to worry about firewalls or ports.

Best of all, it can be controlled by the website This means you can do all kinds of amazing things. For example the switch can be triggered when you arrive home (by checking in with Foursquare), when the weather forecast temperature drops below a certain threshold or even when the sunsets.

The only downside is the price point. Ideally you would have these adaptors throughout the house, but at the current price this would stretch Santas budget to the limit.

Fortunately my next gift idea will make Santa much happier and if you have a Kindle wouldn’t even weigh down his sleigh.

Wake, Watch and Wonder (£4.99)

Wake book cover
There is so much great sci-fi out there but if you can’t decide, give this series ago. Well written, well researched and its about the web.

There are many amazing web design books out there and even more amazing novels. The world is full of more great books than we can ever hope to read, but as I was thinking about this list I kept coming back to a series of three books that I love: Wake, Watch and .Wonder

Are these the best books I have ever read? Probably not. However, if you love the web and enjoy solid science fiction writing then these should be on your christmas wishlist. After all Christmas shouldn’t be the time for reading work related books.

The premise of this series may sound a little cheesy, as they are about the emergence of an artificial intelligence on the web. However, it is the execution and beliveability of the story that captures you.

Going from a barely self aware entity with no conception of the outside world to a super intelligent being that profoundly alters human evolution, this intelligence feels real and even possible. Combined with a compelling story of a girl who has been blind since birth gaining sight, this trilogy kept me gripped through all three books.

Why not step away from your computer this Christmas and pick up a great book. You never know, it might even inspire you to write something yourself, which leads me on to the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard.

Logitech Ultrathin keyboard (£88.89)

Logitech Ultrathin keyboard
Do you find the virtual keyboard for the iPad a barrier to using the device for serious work? If so check out this physical keyboard that also acts as a smart cover.

I love my iPad. I travel a lot and so having a device that is connected to the web via 3G and has 10 hours of battery life is invaluable.

However, although the touch screen is great, for serious writing you long for a keyboard. I tried a number of iPad keyboard s before settling on the Logitech Ultrathin. It is simply head and shoulders above anything else I tried.

The biggest reason for my love is that this is a real keyboard. Its not a rubbery thing, but rather has real keys that provide the satisying feedback you need from a good keyboard. It is also comfortable to type on with an almost full sized layout. It feels just as natural to type on as my mac keyboard.

Another great feature of this keyboard is that it is also a cover that attaches with magnets in exactly the same way as an Apple Smart Cover. When in use, the iPad sits in a groove on the keyboard, which is also magnitised. This means you can pick it up by the iPad and the keyboard remains attached. In fact you can even give it a good shake without the keyboard coming loose.

For me, this accessory has turned the iPad from a consumption device to a working machine with and all day battery.

And so we come to the end of our geek Christmas list. However, as we do so I am concious that the vast majority of my suggestions are not exactly inexpensive. I therefore thought I would end the list with a delightful stocking stuffer. (From $12)

Don’t leave your photos trapped on Instagram. Let them experience life in the real world with these gorgeous little prints.

I may love my Nikon P510, but as they always say “your best camera is the one you have with me” and I always have my iPhone to hand. That said, the iPhone cant match a proper camera for quality. That is why I love instagram so much. It takes iPhone photos and turns them into something else, something that doesn’t try to compete with traditional cameras.

I have become obsessed with Instagram. It has made me notice pictures around me all the time even in the most dull of environments. As a result, I have built up an impressive number of photos documenting all aspects of my life. A visual diary of sorts.

Unfortunately, trapped in instagram these photos are not very accessible. That is why I love printstagram. As the name suggests, this service allows me to print my Intagram photos making them so much more accessible.

These beautiful little prints are a pleasure to have around. In fact I have them pinned to the divider behind my desk. At anytime I can glance up from my work and see those memories before my eyes. Wonderful and at only $12 for 48, a bargain.

So that is it. That is my list, but what about yours? After all, I own these already and need somethings to add to my christmas list. Let me know what I should be buying this year in the comments below. I am sure you can make some far better suggestions than me.

Happy Christmas and enjoy your geek gifts.

Robot Carrying Christmas Gift Box With Bow from