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.
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).
If you have someone that loves the Cape, Nantucket, the Vineyard, or NH lakes, this is a great art gift.
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.
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.
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.
Definitive guide to single malt scotch wiskeys.
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.
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.
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.
We have a few of these small helicopters. They're a lot of fun to fly (indoors).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
A deceptively simple game about pattern recognition. Kids can often beat the adults!
A very fun party game (best with 5+ people). Lots of bluffing (it's all bluffing, really). Easy to learn. Good for all ages.
This stuff is just weird. And fun.
This is a very fun & funny adult party game, but it is very irreverant. Not for prudes. Several expansion packs available.
Best for 3-4 people, with short/fast games. Age 11 and up. Lots of expansion sets!
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.
This generation's "Monopoly" game.
If you know somone who already has this game, there are many expansion sets available.
A nice board game about building train networks around the US.
Better than any kitchen mitts for handling hot pots and pans, or working at the grill.
The problem with most grill skewers is that the food spins around on them. These are flat, so that doesn't happen.
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".
Make your own BBQ. Great for smoking ribs, brisket, fish, chiken, turkey, etc.
For holding the iPad in the kitchen while cooking.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
$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.
For someone that already has a Rasbperry Pi, this is the camera module for doing all sorts of cool computer vision projects.
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 projects from Make Magazine. (Consider pairing with an annual subscription.)
For an electronics hacker/maker, there's nothing more frustrating than a cheap soldering iron. This is an excellent starter soldering station.
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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
A plug-and-play easy to set up webcam. Use it for watching the driveway, keeping an eye on the baby, etc.
The market leading Nest thermostat. Set your temperature from your sofa or from across town.
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.
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.
The latest version of the market leading action camrea (just released in fall 2014).
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).
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!