Holiday Gift Ideas

Updated:

This is my 2014 holiday gift guide.

Most of the products listed are avialable on Amazon, and I strongly suggest using Amazon's reviews as a guide (all products here are highly rated). I own or have used 95%+ of these products.

Other gift idea sites:

Please don't hesitate to drop me an email if you have any questions or suggestions for the list! I'll be adding additional items over the next few weeks.

Categories:

Recently added & updated: Raspberry Pi Starter Kit ($70), Raspberry Pi Camera Module ($25), Round Ice Cube Mold ($11), Salt and Pepper Mill Set ($80), USB Battery ($30), Airpop Popcorn Popper ($14), Plastic Playing Cards ($28), Make Magazine Subscription ($35), The Best of Make ($35), USB Pen and Touch Tablet ($177), USB Microscope ($80), Gaming Mouse ($55)

Art

USB Pen and Touch Tablet

For an aspiring artist, it's MUCH easier to create computer art with a USB pen tablet. We have several Wacom models and they're all great. If you want to save some money, consider the smaller model (CTH480).

Below the Boat

If you have someone that loves the Cape, Nantucket, the Vineyard, or NH lakes, this is a great art gift.


Auto

Smartphone Windshield Mount

Using a smartphone for navigation? Hold it safely and securely in view with this windshield mount. The clever "X" design holds any size phone with or without a case.

Bluetooth Car kit

Older car with no bluetooth? If the car has an AUX input, this adapter is excellent. Unlike many cheaper adapters, this one is auto-on and auto-paring. Also serves as a USB charger. We have several; they work very well.


Books

One Summer

An excellent book about the events of the summer of 1927. It's non-fiction, but reads like fiction. I could not put it down.

Single Malt Scotch Guide

Definitive guide to single malt scotch wiskeys.

The Innovators

I love all of Walter Issacson's books (e.g. his biography on Steve Jobs). This is his latest book, on the innovation leading up to the computer and the Internet.


Computer Gaming

Gaming Mouse

For someone that games on a PC with a stock mouse, this is a nice upgrade. I've had mine for 2+ years. Top rated on Amazon and Wireshark.

Wireless Gaming Headphones

I got this as a gift last year and I like it a lot. Very clear audio, good range (well beyond the room), and low latency.


Drones & R/C

Small Indoor Helicopter

We have a few of these small helicopters. They're a lot of fun to fly (indoors).

Single Rotor Helicopter

This is an upgrade from the little helicopter, above. My son has one of these. It has a single rotor (with a tail rotor), and is very fast. It has a "acrobatic" mode that's very sporty to fly. It's great indoors, and can fly outdoors when it's not too windy.

UDI Quadcopter

My nephew has one of these and he really likes it. It's hard to beat for the price (under $60). It flies great indoors and outdoors, and includes a small digital camera. This is a great starter quadcopter for kids.

DJI Phantom Quadctopter (Entry Level)

This is the entry-level version of the most popular quadcopter brand: DJI Phantom. It comes out of the box ready to fly. NO camera is included, but you can mount a GoPro on it.

NOTE: make sure you get a bundle with a battery!

3D Robotic IRIS+

I have the previous version of this drone, and my brother has this model. It's a very "open hardware" platform, if you want to hack on it, control the drone with software, etc. This model comes Ready to Fly, and can easily lift a GoPro camera with a gimbal mount.

DJI Phantom Quadcopter Vision 2+

Top of the Phantom line, includes a built-in camera that is gimbal stablized.

Note: you also need a battery -- see the accessories listed on the Amazon page.


Games

Set Card Game

A deceptively simple game about pattern recognition. Kids can often beat the adults!

The Resistance

A very fun party game (best with 5+ people). Lots of bluffing (it's all bluffing, really). Easy to learn. Good for all ages.

Kinetic Sand

This stuff is just weird. And fun.

Cards Against Humanity

This is a very fun & funny adult party game, but it is very irreverant. Not for prudes. Several expansion packs available.

Dominion Card Game

Best for 3-4 people, with short/fast games. Age 11 and up. Lots of expansion sets!

Plastic Playing Cards

My mom has a set of plastic playing cards she's had FOREVER. Of the various brands that Amazon sells, we like these (KEM) the best. They don't wear out and when they get dirty, you wipe them off with a damp towel.

Settlers of Catan

This generation's "Monopoly" game.

If you know somone who already has this game, there are many expansion sets available.

Ticket to Ride

A nice board game about building train networks around the US.


Grilling

Welding Gloves

Better than any kitchen mitts for handling hot pots and pans, or working at the grill.

Flat Grill Skewers

The problem with most grill skewers is that the food spins around on them. These are flat, so that doesn't happen.

Dragon BBQ

Cooking over wood & charcoal adds a nice taste, but who wants to wait for the fire to start? This battery powered device makes short work of starting the fire and also works great as a fireplace "bellows".

Smoker

Make your own BBQ. Great for smoking ribs, brisket, fish, chiken, turkey, etc.


Kitchen

iPad Holder

For holding the iPad in the kitchen while cooking.

Round Ice Cube Mold

If you were paying attention during high school geometry, you may remember that a sphere has the smallest surface area for a given volume. Which means, a sphere of ice will melt most slowly, keeping your drink cold while not watering it down.

Airpop Popcorn Popper

This is a great gift for kids that love popcorn: they can safely make their own, since this popper uses only hot air (no oil). We got one of these for Q, and he makes the popcorn for movie nights. Consider pairing with a variety pack of popcorn seasonings.

Breakfast Sandwich Maker

If you know someone who loves egg McMuffin's, they'll love this sandwich maker. Great for making "breakfast on the go" for kids or for college students.

Vegitable Chopper

Eating healthy usually means lots of chopping. This device makes short work of vegetables. I use it every week to pre-chop bins of onion, peppers, carrots, and celery.

Cuisniart Toaster Oven

Bigger than a conventional toaster, but very handy for baking small things without heating up the big oven (e.g. a small pizza, baked potatoes, etc.). Also, compared to cheaper models, it has a "one touch" button to toast.

Salt and Pepper Mill Set

We bought the pepper mill, loved it so much, we got the salt mill to go with it. Very solidly built, with coarse and fine settings. Not cheap, but very nice.

Margarita Machine

I'm not a fan of specialty kitchen appliances, especially ones that take up a lot of space. We got one of these a few years ago -- they make the best margaritas, daiquiris, and pina coladas.

NOTE: is usually also available from Bed, Bath and Beyond, and they often give out 20% off one item coupons (that's how we bought ours).

Vitamix Blender

$460 for a blender?!? This one is worth it; it's all about power. Great smoothies, purees, and soups. We use ours every single day.


Maker

Raspberry Pi Camera Module

For someone that already has a Rasbperry Pi, this is the camera module for doing all sorts of cool computer vision projects.

Make Magazine Subscription

For an aspiring hacker/maker, Make Magazine is THE magazine: lots of cool project ideas, product recommedantions. Note: this is the link for the subscription. For a physical gift to give as well, consider pairing it with "The Best of Make" (also on this list).

The Best of Make

The best projects from Make Magazine. (Consider pairing with an annual subscription.)

Soldering Iron

For an electronics hacker/maker, there's nothing more frustrating than a cheap soldering iron. This is an excellent starter soldering station.

Raspberry Pi Starter Kit

If you know someone that's interested in a Raspberry Pi, this is the best starter kit. It includes everying: power supply, SD card, and components for prototyping. It can connect directly to a TV via HDMI (full 1080p) and can be set up to run as a media center.

NOTE: This is a fairly technical gift, suitable for someone with interest/experience with electronics, programming, and Linux.

Consider pairing with the camera module, also on this list

USB Microscope

USB microscopes are a lot of fun! These are great for the inquisitive kid or the adult with aging eyesight that needs to work on small things. This model is a little more expensive than other models out there, because it has a 5 megapixel sensor (vs 2mp).


Tech

Tile

Do you know someone who loses their keys all the time? Get them a Tile.

Note: they are cheaper in packs of 4. Each tile works independently. Smart phone required.

LED Headlamp

We have a bunch of these (various brands/models): they're especially good for (a) working on something where you need more light, and (b) reading in bed at night.

USB Battery

Having a hard time making it through the day at work/school with a charged cell phone? Is tracking your bike ride or run with your phone killing your battery? We have a number of USB chargers: you charge it and then charges your USB devices. This is a top rated model on Amazon & Wirecutter.

LED Spotlight

Very bright spotlight, lightweight, long battery life. We use it to check out animals in the back yard, for working in an area where you need more light, and on the boat.

Retro Clickety-Clack PC Keyboard

If you know someone that misses the old IBM PC ("Model M") PC keyboard, this is a great gift. (Note: different version for the Mac with Apple-specific keys).

Dropcam Webcam

A plug-and-play easy to set up webcam. Use it for watching the driveway, keeping an eye on the baby, etc.

Nest Thermostat

The market leading Nest thermostat. Set your temperature from your sofa or from across town.

Toshiba Chromebook 2

This is a Chromebook laptop -- it does NOT run Windows (it just surfs the Web). This is a good gift for kids (can only run Web games). It's auto-updating and easy maintain -- no IT hassles.

Fujitsu Scanner

Tame the paper tiger! I got the previous version of this scanner and scanned in 6 banker's boxes of documents. All in PDF and completely searchable. It's not cheap, but it's the best $440 I've ever spent. Very fast and reliable paper feeding, and auto-detection and scanning of 2-sided documents.

GoPro 4

The latest version of the market leading action camrea (just released in fall 2014).

Up Mini 3D Printer

I LOVE this 3D printer. What's nice about it compared to the many other printers out there: it just works. Note: the build volume is a little small (12cm cube).


Tools

Mechanic's Toolset

A high-quality basic toolset that includes pliers and screwdrivers (in addition to sockets).


Still can't find a good idea? Drop me an email!