The holidays are upon us, so it’s that time again: Christmas music is in the air, spiked eggnog in your glass, and a massive list of friends and relatives who you have yet to get a present for. Never fear! I’ve gone ahead and compiled a list of the best gifts for the developer in your life. They're separated by category:
Raspberry Pi – Developers are by nature creators, and the Raspberry Pi is perfect for all sorts of DIY projects and tinkering. From basic endeavors like a home theatre pc (HTPC), or retro gaming station, to computer clusters, coffee machines, and even drones, your opportunities are limitless. Bonus points for being inexpensive.
Drone/Robot – Drones and robots are increasingly popular, and there are loads of options in this category. Tom’s Hardware has a superb list of drones, divided into subcategories based on price and experience. Best bets include the Axis Aerius drone, DJI Phantom 3, and UDI U818A. Alternately robots are pretty sweet, like the BB8 droid from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” The gift giving potential is strong with this one.
Ergonomic Office Equipment -- Most developers spend a lot of time (probably more than you'd like to...) in the office. Whether that's a home office or workplace, a comfortable set up is crucial. Suggestions in this category include a standing desk, leather executive chair with lumbar support, or balance ball chair. Plus, monitor mounts and stands are really handy, and particularly useful for those with messy desks (like me).
Laptop – While desktops offer a longer lifecycle and more customization, taking your projects on the go is much appreciated. As laptops tend to get outdated after only a few years, it’s safe to say that dev in your life may be in need of an upgrade. Try getting them a laptop. Macs Linux devices are perfect for working with things like bash shells, and for Linux you can always dual boot with pretty much any device. Reportedly setting up a Linux partition on a Chromebook is fairly simple, so that's an option for a cheap Linux machine. In terms of hardware, an SSD of any size is a plus as boot time and performance drastically increase. For RAM, 8+ gigs is essential as anything from running a local server to opening a few Firefox tabs chews through RAM. For gamers, get a GPU with at least 2GB of vRAM, such as a GTX 960m or high-end GTX 980m.
Tablet/Phone – The prices of phones and tablets are plummeting, and retailers (online and brick and mortar) are discounting them even more around the holidays. I just snagged a very affordable Samsung Galaxy S4, and I’m loving it. A last gen flagship is still plenty powerful. Hint: make sure to remain within the ecosystem that your developer friend is already in (i.e. don’t give an Android user an iOS device and vice versa, no matter how much you love Xcode...).
Streaming Device – Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV…ok you get the point. There’s an overwhelming overabundance of streaming devices to choose from, and often these can even be customized by installing XBMC. In addition to the wealth of paid apps (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc.), there are hordes of free apps like Crackle, Popcornflix, Midnight Pulp, and SnagFilms.
Gym Membership – We’ve all been there before. There’s been a lot of research on the negative effects of sitting, so staying active whenever possible is especially important for devs. A gym membership rocks because of access to a variety of weights, machines, and classes. Cardio one day, weights the next, and don’t forget yoga class. Do you even code…er, I mean lift…bro? Just remember, friends don’t let friends skip leg day.
Fitness Wearable -- Wearables like smartwatches are really popular, so it’s no surprise they’ve found a home with athletes. Tracking metrics like calories burned and heart rate is essential for everyone from pro athletes to those just looking to shed a few pounds. Fitness wearables can range from budget devices such as FitBits to hardcore Garmin smartwatches.
Subs and Software
Subscriptions – Streaming services are taking over, from gaming to video watching. It’s a much appreciated gift that is guaranteed to get a lot of use. Netflix, Hulu, Funimation, and Crunchyroll are excellent on the video on demand front, while Xbox Live and Playstation Plus rule for gamers. Amazon Prime gets you not only access to a substantial digital library of movies and TV including original content like “Alpha House,” and “The Man in the High Castle,” but also free 2-day shipping. GetFlix is another great choice, which isn’t a streaming service itself, but allows viewers to watch location-locked content by using GetFlix DNS servers (I use this all the time, 5/5 would recommend).
Software – Chances are your developer needs, or wants, some specialized software for their development work and play. The holidays presents the perfect opportunity to hook them up with a software key or software suite they’ve been eyeing. (IntelliJ subscription, anyone?) After all, the best gifts fulfill needs, not just wants. Courses are also an option, as offered by sites such as Coursera, edX, or even simply a master-curated list, like 't Hooft's How to become a GOOD Theoretical Physicist.
The Gift of Giving
Back a Crowdfunded project– A quick look on Kickstarter or Indiegodo yields a smorgasboard of neat projects, from video games to gadgets. Best bets: the PINE A64, a dirt cheap 64-bit computer, video games “The Dwarves,” and “Sylvio 2,” SMACH Z handheld console, Poco micro-computer, or FLUX biking backpack (for night biking). Stuff has an excellent roundup of sweet crowdfunded endeavors.
Gift Cards – You can always be that guy and give a gift card, but hey, no shame in a gift card. It’s better than giving a present that you’re not sure your developer acquaintance will enjoy. Who should consider this option: relatives and friends who don’t know said developer very well, but are still obligated to give a customary present. Amazon, Steam, and Visa gift cards are always great, plus you can save space by sending a digital certificate.
A Charitable Donation – Honestly, this is my favorite choice. I’ve got more than I need in terms of tangible objects. I’d much rather have friends and family donate to charity on my behalf. There’s just something more seasonal about supporting a charity, and it’s even more meaningful if it’s an organization aligned with the interests of said developer.
As a runner up, the devs I chatted with almostunanimously said "anything from ThinkGeek." My top picks from ThinkGeek are this sweet "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." watch, Flux capacitor USB car charger, and these super cool retro USB controllers (which would pair nicely with a Raspberry Pi running RetroPie).
Did I miss something? Think of a particularly dev-centric present? Let me know in the comments section, or hit me up on Twitter!