Buying for the Family Geek
Every family has at least one, that person that the rest of the family turns to when their computer goes down. That person that asks if others have seen some show about a blue police box or a starship, maybe even a bunch of droids and is met with awkward silence. The family geek is often the most unappreciated member and yet is called on to make sure Facebook works, or the computer powers up or the DVR was not flashing 12:00. So lets take some time and talk about how to make that geeks Christmas great.
Not every geek is a tech head so buying parts for a computer build might seem a good idea but is actually not. Unless the geek of the family has specifically requested a computer component I would suggest not buying one. Now that is not to say the family geek would not appreciate the gesture, however they usually have specific parts in mind and more than likely have bought them already. Also individual components can be expensive with some ranging into the $300+ range. Lets instead focus on some good lower cost items that pretty much any geek will appreciate.
USB Flash Drive: This little device may not seem like a big deal but these are often used devices that every geek can never seem to have enough of. You can find these devices in sizes ranging from 8 gig to 128 gig. You can find smaller but I would never suggest them and I personally think 128 gig is a bit large, to me 16 gig and 32 gig are the sweet spots. You can often find decent 32 gig flash drives for around $20. You will have a choice between USB 2.0 and USB 3.0, ALWAYS go with the USB 3.0. These newer drivers are much quicker and the geek likely has a newer system that can make use of the USB 3.0 speeds. As for brands I am partial to Kingston and every listener knows this. They make, in my opinion, the best flash drives. However I have found a few other brands that I would suggest. If you live near a Microcenter their generic flash drives have proven to be a great value and work very well. Also Corsair remains one of the top flash drive makers as well. No matter what brand you buy however a flash drive in the stocking will make that geeks eyes twinkle.
Mousing Surface: A mouse pad, the more common name, is something most people do not think of as a gift but one that I think is super for ANY computer user. A good mousing surface makes the mouse movements easier by providing better tracking for your optical mouse, your mouse movements are more precise and accurate. Now a bit of advice, avoid the generic cloth pads you can get at the local electronic stores. They might look pretty new but they stain, unravel, fade and in general fall apart way to quickly. If you want a padded, more clothe like surface I recommend the Landon series from our friends at Thermaltake. These are the BEST flexible pads I have used but they set you back $40+. I am a bigger fan of what are known as hard surface pads. My personal favorite is the WoW!Pad, only place I have seen these is on Amazon so look there and they run around $15 for the biggest one. A number of companies make similar pads but these are without doubt for me the best I have used. Your geek will love this as will anyone else that uses a mouse all the time.
Magnetic Screw Bowl: If your geek does any kind of computer building or work then this simple little gift will be a godsend. These are available in various shapes and sizes and cost anywhere from $2 to $10 depending on what you want from it. The premise is simple, a large magnet in the bottom of the bowl means any screws or such thrown in the bowl stays in the bowl until you purposefully take it out. I know this sounds like a silly gift idea but for as someone the builds computers almost every day I can tell you these are the best things since Coke Zero. Every geek that ever builds or repairs a PC should have one, and even if they do, a few extra will be appreciated.
Headband Lamp: When we did our PC Build Series I mentioned this devices as something a geek should have in his tool kit. These little lights are amazing when it comes to working on a PC. They allow light to exactly where you need it without contortions or needing 3 hands to hold lights and parts plus use the screw driver. They may not be stylish for our in public but when you are working on your PC, style is seldom a consideration. Devices like this range in price on Amazon from $5 to $35, I would say around $20 is a reasonable price.
Gift Cards: When all else fails the gift card is a solid fall back position. With gift cards available for practically every geeky thing on the planet this is a sure win. Prices on these cards can range from $10 to $100 typically meaning you can pretty much cover any price range you are shooting for. The key here is to have knowledge of the persons interests. For example if they like to read a Barnes and Noble (if they have a Nook) or an Amazon (if they have a Kindle) is a great choice. The techie geek might want a Microcenter, Newegg or even an Amazon card to buy parts and a PC Gamer will love a Steam card.
Now compared to many tech gift guides this might seem kind of sparse and generic, but my goal is different than theirs. I am not trying to sell something I would like as a gift or what an advertiser paid me to sell. I am looking at this as a way to give you some great, simple $20 or so range ideas that will make a geek happy and be useful to every geek in your family.
There are a lot of other great gifts out there but it would take pages to write up all the ideas. The best gift I think you can give your geek however is to show some appreciation to what he does. Have the family sit down Christmas night and share with him this year the Night of the Doctor special on BBC/BBC America. Do not roll your eyes, just sit and enjoy the moment with him, or her. Show them your grateful for all they do for the family and consider them more than in family tech support.