The Geek Guide to Giving


This year I found it difficult to get into the Christmas spirit, so I thought I’d seek inspiration for my shopping from some of the folks in the Actian Emerging Technologies team.   Since Santa is on a budget this year I asked them to limit their selection to something under $100 and was so inspired by their choices that I actually bought a bunch of these items…..for myself!

Chris Hane & Emma McGrattan
Chris and I pooled our $100 and still managed to blow the budget!  We decided on a One Laptop per Child XO Laptop For each laptop purchased from Amazon a second is contributed to a child in need.

These are rugged water resistant laptops built for use in the poorest parts of the world where infrastructure is almost non-existent. The laptops run Linux and other open source products, have built in WiFi and ‘Mesh’ network and are even equipped with a video and still camera.

David Maier
My 4 year old son is using my digital photo camera too often. So I decided his X-Mas present will be a digital camera this year. So the gadget I am pointing to is the following:

Vtech Kidizoom Digital Camera

Maybe geeks are giving their childs technical gadgets even if they are maybe too young for them.

On his 4rd birthday he got a Vtech Leaning Computer from me. His mother was not really amused.

Denise MacLeod
We love our new Apple iPod Component Video Cable (various brands, ~ $50).

Whenever we missed a favourite tv show, we’d buy it on iTunes and watch it on the MacBook Pro we had. Not ideal, but we made do. Then the MacBook died and was replaced by an iMac, which is a little less portable. My husband tried to convince me the next logical step was buying an Apple tv for $229. Then we stumbled across this cable for a lot less. We download the shows onto my iTouch, and hook it up to the tv!  Now we’ve used the flat screen tv to watch our shows, listen to our playlists, and review photos (which is great when relatives come over, since all of our pics are digital now).

Enrico Schenck & Jeremy Peel
Rico and Jo have built a special Actian Database Workbench as a special gift to the community which we’ll be posting on the community website very soon.  We’re fairly sure that you’ll love it!

Eugene Karapetyants
My suggestion has to be seen to be believed.
I think it is prototype of how future software will look like. I am not sure if Mac already have something similar, but this concept is really cool and does not require any software knowledge, everybody can create 3D images and show off their creativity. Really cool soft!
That made me think would it be cool to create our Launch Pad as 3-dimentional cube so users can rotate it and select menu options they desire…

J Hankinson
With more and more media content delivered to us over the internet these days, as consumers we are becoming accustomed to being able to watch what we want when we want. Whilst the advent of DVR and TiVO alikes has gone someway to allowing cable and satellite channels a way to do this, streamed rather than broadcast content would seem to be the format of the future. Enter the Netflix “straight to your TV” device from Roku. It plugs into your TV and broad band internet connection and allows those of use with a Netflix subscription to stream over 10,000 movies and TV shows straight to the TV. This has essentially turned Netflix from a movie rental service to an on-demand TV channel. The Box it’s self is easy to use and setup and comes with a remote. At $99, it’s almost rude not to get one.

Jamie Watson
My husband is a professional photographer, so cameras and their current state of technology is a common topic of discussion.  With so many prosumer cameras available, in addition to tools like Photoshop, photography has taken on completely new heights for the average photographer.  This certainly wasn’t the case even 5 years ago, so this is an exciting time for the amateur photographer. If you’ve got your Nikon D70 but still need a pocket camera, these days you can get quite a bit out of one that is $150 or less.  DP Review is a site where professional photographers review consumer cameras and they’ve just come out with Q4 2008 – The best of the budget group.

However I’d like to have you consider something completely different.  My real reason for writing this is to introduce a gadget you may be unfamiliar with, to challenge your way of thinking and taking photos.  It’s a toy camera, one that is used by many enthusiasts and professionals alike.  It’s called The Holga, and you can find them for under $30.  The Holga is famous for producing photos with vignetting, double-exposure, light leaks and unexpected beauty.  It simplifies things in a way that forces the photographer to slow down and lets them concentrate on what’s really important in a picture.  Here is a snippet from the Holga websiteThe unassuming Holga is here to save you from a future of digital pixels and images shared on small screens on cameras or phones. We have all become numbed with photography, there is no denying it, but a chunky camera made almost entirely of plastic has been put on this Earth to save us. It will reawaken your vision, fill you with joy, make you see beauty when you thought it had disappeared forever, and bring out sunshine on a cloudy day.
Funny enough, it can be intimidating to use a plastic camera after years of your digital one – will you remember how to load a roll of film, much less a roll of 120?  So here is a Holga kit with everything you need to get started, for only $60.  If you happen to love it, most enthusiasts wind up at HolgaMods, to get all kinds of converted ones.  Have fun!

Joe Dessey
My gadget pick:
I believe the coolness of the LED shower light speaks for itself.  Not only does it let you know when the water has warmed up, but the LED is powered by a turbine that is propelled by the flow of water.  I will be trying my hardest to get someone to buy me this for Christmas, because I know if I buy it the wife will just give me that look.  You know, the one that says “I married a dork”.
The LED shower light is also available from a similarly themed site in the UK, and more importantly an Actian customer,

Keith Bolam
My geek gift suggestion is an EYE-VAC at the amazing price of just $99.99

Save your back by avoiding the bending and scooping required by traditional dustpans. The Eye-Vac EV1850 Professional Automatic Dust Pan is a 1200-watt stationary vacuum that picks up dirt, dust, and hair instantly. Just sweep debris into the path of its always-on infrared sensors, and the Eye-Vac will vacuum it away instantly, turning off automatically when finished. It also features a manual on/off switch for added convenience. Ideal for tile, wood, vinyl, concrete, and most any non-carpeted surface, the Eye-Vac’s cyclonic vacuum action with dual-HEPA filtration ensures clean air return.

Mark Wahlert
When my relatives purchased a whole new array of AV equipment last year I knew it would be a challenge to teach them how to conduct the gadgetry.  Thankfully the line of Logitech Harmony universal remotes helps simplify by consolidating your collection of remote controls into one handy device.  The remote is easily programmed using your computer – and associates “activites” with macro functions.  Push “watch tv” and the remote knows which devices to turn on, which inputs to select and determines which devices should be utilized for volume control vs other functions.
I prefer the Harmony 890 – which includes a rf extender.  It does not require line of site to the items you are controlling, however it is out of the $100 range.  However, the Harmony 510 offers most of the same functionality – although does require line of site – for about $100.

Ray Fan
As Christmas is fast approaching I asked my kids to put together a list of potential gifts that they would like; I then do a projection of price within my range of values that I would like to pay and usually it ends up an empty set, so I usually make my usual poor buying decision.  I don’t know whether I’m a geek, but there is an expectation that my presents contain some form of electronics and this year not trying to disappoint I found the Braun Oral-B Professional Care 9900 Triumph.  It’s a toothbrush I hear you shout.  Yes, but this is no ordinary toothbrush it has a Bluetooth wireless status display that is clinically proven to improve brushing habits and it doesn’t fall into the socks or underwear categories.  With the credit crunch this gadget has the potential to reduce my family dental costs too.

Viktoriya Driker
I wanted to review a small handy little gadget that could be purchased for as low as $7.99 or well over $40.  It’s a USB Bluetooth.  It looks like a tiny mushroom looking flash drive and comes with software to control it. The one I have is the $7.99 kind and while I am sure the more expansive once possibly contain more features or better software, the one I have has done just fine.  I am sure there are many uses for it, such as connecting Bluetooth headsets, PDAs, Digital cameras or printers to the computer, primarily I’ve been using it for my cell phone.  I’ve had a few incidents where I needed to take a picture right on the spot and then transfer it to my computer and I had no camera, I was able to take the pictures with my cell phone and have the pictures transferred to my laptop that same night and the pictures looked great.  In my opinion, for $7.99 it’s a handy thing to have if your laptop or a computer doesn’t have it built in already.

About Emma McGrattan

As SVP of Engineering at Actian, Emma leads development for the Actian Vector team, including the Ingres and X100 components, and the Actian Matrix Planner team. A leading authority in DBMS technologies, Emma is celebrating 20 years in Ingres and Actian Engineering.

View all posts by Emma McGrattan →

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