Exchange Admin's Holiday Gift Guide 2008

Traditions are an important part of celebrating holidays. And no matter which holidays you celebrate, chances are excellent that there are some traditions that you always observe as part of the celebration. One example in my family: We have chili for dinner on Christmas Eve. It’s easy to prepare in advance, easy to serve, quick to eat, and a good antidote to cold, snowy weather.

Another tradition is that each year I write a holiday gift guide for UPDATE readers, and this year I’ve got some really intriguing gift suggestions for the techie on your list. This year I asked the 37,000 readers of the Help a Reporter Out site for gift suggestions, and my mailbox was quickly inundated. (Please note that I didn’t accept free samples of any of these items.)

Let’s start with food, a very popular holiday gift. Chocolate is a key part of life for many people, but around this time of year I feel guilty if I eat too much of it. IgnaFire has a perfect solution: The company sells small morsels of unprocessed chocolate that have such an intense flavor that eating a couple of them is like eating an entire bar of lesser chocolate. In a completely different vein, I was really intrigued by the custom cereals available from \[me\] & goji; the company’s website offers a nifty drag-and-drop cereal maker that lets you customize the ingredients, including a wide range of fruits, nuts, and grains. I particularly like it that \[me\] & goji prominently displays allergen and nutrition information for each of its ingredients. Of course, I still highly recommend Blair’s Death Rain Habanero potato chips for those who like spicy foods.

I received some great suggestions for nontraditional or offbeat gifts, too. Anandi Raman Creath recommended her line of stamped-metal keychains—you can have customized words or phrases stamped into them. Along the same line, the folks behind The PC Weenies comic strip are offering personalized comics, which simultaneously have great potential for fun and for unintentional offense. And a company called VoiceQuilt takes sound bites you provide (such as people saying "Thanks for fixing my computer" or "Hey, email works great!") and stitches them together to make the sonic equivalent of a quilt. My favorite gift idea in this category is probably the Duck Bill Money Clip, which features a unique design that promises not to lose its grip like most money clips do. It can be engraved with the recipient’s name or even your company logo.

Of course, some folks never get enough gadgets. Pioneer sent me a press release touting their KURO line of plasma TVs (and a new KURO projector), and if you’re feeling generous, these are certainly worth considering. In a more reasonable price range, there’s the WarmMe Warm Mouse, a USB wheel mouse that includes a built-in infrared hand warmer—perfect for those of us who live in colder climes. I also liked the panic buttons sold by (wait for it!); at $1 each, they make a great gift for anyone who might benefit from having a bright red PANIC key on their keyboard.

Environmentally conscious, or "green," gifts are big this holiday season. Powered Green offers a $16 wind-energy sponsorship; each sponsorship sponsors wind power generation—enough to power a regular desktop computer for seven years. It would certainly take more than one of these sponsorships to offset the amount of electricity my office uses, but it’s definitely a start. However, the best gift suggestion I got this year came from a gentleman named Bill Horn. Here’s what he suggested: "The best gift you can give a SysAdmin is a Faraday cage that blocks cell phones, pagers, and Wi-Fi: it cuts off all connection to the outside world. It's very popular with their wives, too!" Personally, this one gets my vote as the gift I’d most like to receive.

Happy holidays to all!

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