This time of year, companies of all specialties and sizes are coming out with new products. From those that make gadgets run more smoothly, to those that keep them protected, shoppers are sure to find something for every tech lover on their list. Check out this list of top-rated products to not only make the electronically inclined happy, but to keep their stockings filled with something other than new socks this holiday season.
Though battery lives are lasting longer and longer, it seems as though we always find ourselves low on juice – in the worst possible times. With a portable charger, however, phone users can re-boot on the go. From those that offer an entire second battery to those that use solar power to work, look to portable chargers to give the gift of extra phone power.
It may not be the most personable of items, but gift cards are a great add-on to any present. Choose from music or app stores in virtual form, or opt for actual brick and mortar companies, like Best Buy or Radio Shack. No matter the location, a gift card allows for an extra bit of self shopping, even after the holidays have passed.
When on the go, these small, yet fully functional, keyboards pack a big punch. Not only do they offer full-size capabilities, they roll, shrink, or turn off to easily fit into a backpack. Great for the avid typer or email-er on the go, these versions are a practical addition to any tablet or smartphone.
Exercise buff or not, pedometers allow users to keep track of more movements than ever. Whether in app or electronic form, techies can keep track of movement, average steps, weekly goals, and more. Fancier models, such as the FitBit, even come with software to analyze progress. Consider one of these electronic pedometers for daily movement motivation.
It may not sound like the most exciting of gifts, but external storage can open an entire string of possibilities. Techies are constantly gaining new programs and software, and external storage means an easier transfer between computers. They can also restore or check for bugs by removing a platform without deleting it. And if you’re still not convinced, look for a quirky or stylish model for an added layer of techie nerd-dom.
Just a few years ago, the world was in awe as the first creative light show was set to music … at someone’s home. There was music, lights, and a steady beat that meant we couldn’t turn our eyes away. One creative family decided to put a little more effort (and pizzazz) into their regular Christmas light showings, and the idea took off like wildfire. A few news stories, millions of YouTube views, a huge increase in traffic, and now its an ongoing trend. Companies are now creating products to help make the timing easier, and businesses and commercial properties are charging fees to see their own snazzy versions. Like this one on Saks Fifth Avenue that comes with three dimensions.
Years later, and the trend doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
Now folks are able to synch the music with car stereos as they drive past. (While some opt to play a local radio station.) Patterns are becoming more complex and intricate – even integrating 3D projectors, such as the video above. Lights are coming crisper and clearer, and with the right tools, they can even play to a new song by mimicking the beat. All it takes is a little know-how and the right tools to make it work.
In order to create your own holiday light show at home, a few pieces of equipment are needed, such as light-controlling software, a computer, speakers, extension cords, and the light controllers themselves. Depending on the size and set up, this could easily total into hundreds of dollars, though DIY equipment is also available at a smaller sum.
For those who are less electrically inclined, however, entire kits can now be purchased with everything one needs, such as channel amp controllers, software, and the instructions to make it all work. One of the more popular companies, Light-O-Rama offers these packages in varying sizes so light shows of all intensities can get a solid start.
Whether you create the light show from the ground up, or enlist in the help of a kit to get you started, there’s no doubt the neighborhood will appreciate the efforts. From small-time home shows to elaborate routines plastered on the sides of stories-high buildings, these light shows offer a technology-based bit of holiday cheer. Check out your options today to get started on this growing winter trend.
Halloween is sneaking up quickly, and you need to get mentally prepared for the occasion — and I don’t mean going to Target to admire the vast array of candy. Start honing your Halloween spirit with these four Android apps that are sure to leave you entertained, if not ready for some ghost-busting on the 31st.
Curious how you’d look as a flesh-craving member of the walking dead? Zombie Booth will turn you into a mindless, blood-covered automaton with the option to show your friends on Facebook, Twitter, or email. While it’s not exactly terrifying stuff to us adults, the kids get a kick out of it and actually get pretty spooked by the 3D animation feature. Zombify your family cat for a 100% guaranteed-to-be-upset mom.
Contract Killer: Zombies
No better way to get in the spirit of Halloween than to surround yourself with a swarm of living dead. Contract Killer: Zombies is one of the most visually impressive games available for Android, and better yet, it’s free. Intuitive controls and engaging missions will keep you busy fighting this scourge of the Earth for hours…and I bet you’ll check your closets before you go to sleep.
Do you have an interest in history and a flair for self-inflicted pain? Haunted Sights is an app that tracks your GPS location and shows you real sites that are supposedly haunted. Tour through an old hotel or visit the scene of a century old murder as you read descriptions of each site and other user experiences. Plan to make a night of it? Haunted Sights lets you map your night’s route so you can hit the best rated attractions and avoid the dull ones. If you happen to live where I do (Bismarck, ND) head to the river and plan for a terrifying evening.
The EVP Analyzer is a tool that would make Egon Spengler proud — it isn’t free, it is a $1.60 well spent. The EVP Analyzer records silence in everyday (or haunted) locations and searches the recording for Electronic Voice Phenomena. I picked this app on a whim, but I was surprised by how fun and eerie it is to use. Just check the user reviews — many will swear they are picking up signals from the undead. If nothing else, a fantastic way to freak out your nieces and nephews or your more gullible friends.
Don’t be one of those cynical buzzkills this Halloween that scoffs at the paranormal; suspend your disbelief, and have a bit of fun. You’re never too old to have an awesome Halloween, and these apps for your Android phone or tablet will have you in the right state of mind.
Getting the perfect gift for your geeky loved one can be difficult, so fellow Techerator editor Kate Bedrick and I have teamed up to give you some fantastic gift ideas for this Valentine’s Day (or any holiday, really). No need to thank us; we’re basically professionals at being geeks.
Adult Footie Pajamas
Footie pajamas. For adults. With butt-flaps. Do I have your attention now?
I recently got a pair of adult footie pajamas from PajamaCity.com, and I can now safely say that these would be a fantastic Valentine’s Day gift (or any occasion, for that matter). These PJs are available in 13 sizes and about 40 different styles, ranging from dinosaur print to “Pink Bunny.” I decided to go with Retro Robots because I take partying very seriously, and nothing says “I take partying very seriously” like wearing footie pajamas covered in robots.
If considering this gift for a girl, I think you’ll be met with success. When my fiancée found out what was in the package, she squealed with delight and put them on as soon as they were out of the packaging.
These PJs are soft and warm, but the material isn’t too thick so overheating isn’t an issue. My only complaint is that the velcro butt-flap sometimes comes apart when aggressively sitting down (which I am wont to do), so make sure to wear underwear when wearing these bad boys.
Price: $30-$50 ($4.00 shipping)
T-Shirts from the Woot Reckoning
Woot T-shirts are arguably the best in casual nerd fashion (if there was such a thing). The Reckoning is a competition-of-sorts for Woot shirts, and gives you the ability to buy them when they aren’t featured as the item of the day.
Woot shirts are clever and witty, so consider them for any sophisticated nerd on your gift list. A couple of my favorites are Imposter and Ancestry, but check out the whole list to find something perfect for your loved one.
Price: $15.00 each (free shipping)
Personalized Flavors.me Website
Flavors.me lets you build a personalized “landing page” where everything is about you. You can display a giant picture of yourself and include links for all your web presences such as social networks and websites.
Creating your own Flavors.me website might seem incredibly narcissistic, but you can’t argue if someone makes a personalized site for you. This Valentine’s Day, consider taking the time to make your brain companion their own website. Think of it as the equivalent of a scrapbook in the days of yore – it shows that you put thought into your gift and added a personal touch.
Flavors.me websites are free, but you can spend $20 to get premium features like a custom domain names, additional layouts, and analytics. Personal branding is a big deal in the modern internet, and Flavors.me makes it easy to impress your loved one even if you don’t have great design skills.
I’m going to speak frankly: Bluetooth headsets make regular, unassuming people look incredibly douchey. It’s not their fault – enough generations of egomaniacs have yelled at their headsets in crowded places so that the whole concept of wearing a Bluetooth headset has pretty much been ruined for everyone.
Bluetooth headsets are awesome though, and an easy way to justify owning one is to get one as a gift. The Jawbone series headsets are especially nice, with great sound quality, good battery life, and best of all: they lack the douche-signaling blinking LED lights and other unnecessary attention-getters that have been so liberally applied to these devices.
I got the Jawbone Icon as a gift and I use it every day, but surprisingly I use it for talking on the phone the least. I have it paired to my Android phone, which allows me to listen to audiobooks on my drive to and from work. It’s a lot more convenient than carrying headphones around, and in the event that I do get a phone call, my audiobook automatically pauses so I can take the call. Oh, and there’s probably the minor detail that it’s keeping me from fumbling around on my phone while driving, thus saving my life daily.
(Pro tip: if you get one of these headsets, I highly recommend getting Jabra eargels as well. These slide over the ends of the Jawbone earpiece and make it infinitely more comfortable.)
Social Networking Pillows
If your geek loves social networking or computers as much as (s)he loves you (sometimes maybe even more), why not take your geek’s favorite website or software icon and make it into a soft, fleecy pillow? “But I’m not crafty!” you say. No problem! Other people are just as nerdy and crafty as your beloved geek and are selling them every day on the interwebs. There are a few shops on Etsy like iconpillows, CraftSquatch (the shop I ordered my geek’s pillow from), and ClickPillows that sell these pillows and have various icon pillows to choose from.
Price wise, ClickPillows is the most expensive ($85 for a 26×26 pillow) while CraftSquatch and iconpillows are about in the same range of each other ($17-30 for a 12×12 pillow). If a shop doesn’t have the social networking icon or favorite software icon your geek would love, most Etsy shops do custom orders for no extra charge. Just be sure to contact the seller to make arrangements.
Another shop is ThrowBoy. This non-Etsy shop does sell icon pillows, but are more focused on interweb chat sayings like “FTW”, “O RLY?” and my personal favorite “O HAI!”. They even have a “FAIL” pillow. Priced at $29 (mini pillows are $15), you can’t go wrong.
If your geek is more of the math and statistics type, they’ll enjoy cute distribution pillows “plushies” from NausicaaDistribution. Shaped in various types like uniform, Chi-Square, standard normal and even more, your geek will love the accuracy and uniqueness of these pillows. Priced extremely reasonable from $12-15 (set of 5 is $55), these plushies are too cute to pass up, even if you’re not into math.
Quirky External Hard Drives and USB drives
Has your geek been drooling over an external hard drive to put all of their docs and photos on, but they aren’t sure which one to get? Are they also a fan of the old school NES cartridges (who isn’t?!)? Get your beloved an NES external hard drive. Available for purchase on Etsy through 8Bit Memory and ConsoleClassics, storage size runs from 320 GB to 1 TB, but price may be a little more than you’re willing to spend. These vintage hard drives start at $100 and go up to $180. Though having one of these would be pretty sweet, you could always go on Amazon and snag your geek a more conventional one for slightly less money, depending on storage size. But where’s the fun in owning a basic black hard drive?
Of course, if you’re the crafty, techy type, you can always try to build one yourself , which may (or may not) be cheaper.
If you don’t want to spend that much money and your geek still needs some storage, there’s always the USB flash drive option. Though it’s nothing compared to the byte size of a hard drive, it’ll still give your geek more mobility to take their information anywhere they go. Depending on what nerdy stuff they’re into, you can get a variety of quirky flash drives anywhere online. Amazon, Etsy, ThinkGeek…just type in “USB flash drive” (or “quirky USB flash drive” into Google) and the results are almost endless.
For the Bacon Lover in Your Life
Much like the relationship between a man and his beard, if there’s one thing I don’t understand, it’s the popularity of bacon. What once was a food shunned for its greasy nature is now loved by all, thanks to the interwebs. From bacon toys to bacon-flavored food and even bacon accessories, it’s hard not to find a [geeky] website without bacon.
Instead of going into great detail about every known bacon related gift available, here are some links to some of my favorite sites (ThinkGeek and Etsy again. Haha) and what kind of baconated things they sell. Some of my personal favorites are the bacon scarf , bacon bookmark and the ever so famous bacon salt.
Okay gentlemen, this one is for you. Valentine’s Day doesn’t fare well for you or your wallet because generally all women want jewelry, which, let’s face it, is expensive or at least more than you want to spend. But if your woman is even the slightest bit nerdy, you both will appreciate this jewelry. Not only is it awesomely geeky, it’s also easy on the wallet. Is she a Mac user? Get her a “love” necklace made from recycled Mac keys. Into hardware? How about a necklace made from circuit boards.
So maybe she’s not into necklaces, but she loves rings (oh no!). Worry not! Tell her you less-than-three her by getting her a ring that says just that. Where there’s recycled keys or interweb terminology, there’s bound to be jewelry for it. At least on Etsy. Oh, those crafty crafters.