The gifts you didn't get: 2012 geek gadget guide

Here are 12 cool gadgets and 8 books you may have wanted but didn't get -- or you didn't even know you wanted

A dozen techno-toys and 8 books to wish for

Christmas has past, and geeks across the world are immersed in their new techno-toys. But there are always more to get with that Christmas cash. In the spirit of spreading holiday cheer of the gadget variety, InfoWorld.com presents its 12 picks for the coolest gadgets you may not have gotten for Christmas, as well as eight books you might enjoy from InfoWorld's own authors.

Be sure to check out our previous years' recommendations in case you missed anything cool: 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007

Apple iPad Mini
Credit: Apple
Apple iPad Mini

Although long-rumored, the Apple iPad Mini is the surprise of the year, with far superior entertainment capabilities compared to a Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HD, or Nook HD; plus, it works extremely well as a "regular" tablet. We recommend you get at a model with at least 32GB of storage.

Product: Apple iPad Mini
Price: $329 to $659, depending on capacity and cellular options
Suggested accessory: iPad Mini Smart Cover ($39)

Looking for a full-size tablet? Check out InfoWorld's ratings of those aimed at professionals

Leap Motion Leap
Credit: Leap Motion
Leap Motion Leap

We're taking, er, a leap of faith here, but the Leap's concept is simply too geeky cool to not give it a shot. The Leap is a USB-connected small box that lets you use hand motions to control your OS X, Windows 7, or Windows 8 computer. Essentially, it watches your hand, finger, and pen movements anywhere in a 8-cubic-foot space and interprets them as commands. (App developers define what the gestures mean, and the company expects to see uses such as 3D manipulation for games, modeling, and industrial control systems). If you're intrigued by the "Star Trek" holosuite or "Minority Report" consoles, you simply gotta try this.

Product: Leap Motion Leap
Price: $70 (ships in early 2013)

New Potato Technologies TuneLink Home
Credit: New Potato Technologies
New Potato Technologies TuneLink Home

The Apple TV is great for streaming audio and video, but only from Apple devices. DLNA-compatible Android streaming is likewise proprietary. New Potato Technologies' TuneLink Home takes Bluetooth audio streams from both iOS and Android, even auto-connecting multiple devices. But avoid the car version -- it's unreliable.

Plus, the integrated IR blaster lets its companion remote-control app for iOS manage other entertainment devices, such as DVD players -- if you can get get a good line of sight to your devices and still have the included patch or optical cable reach your stereo.

Product: New Potato Technologies TuneLink Home
Price: $100, with free iOS app; Android app planned

iHome iDM8
Credit: iHome
iHome iDM8

At the office, in a bedroom, in the park, on a picnic, or even at a campsite, it's nice to have music playing. But you want a small, portable, and rechargeable option that emits good audio quality and lets you take music from your and your friends' mobile devices. The iDM8 fits the bill, in a cool-looking red or black sphere. It supports Bluetooth audio streaming, as well as standard line-in cables, for playback from iOS, Android, and other mobile devices. You can even charge it from your computer via its MicroUSB cable.

Product: iHome iDM8
Price: $60

Really Simple Software Simple.TV
Credit: Really Simple Software
Really Simple Software Simple.TV

More and more of us are ditching high-priced cable and satellite TV services for Internet-based services such as iTunes, Amazon.com, Netflix, Vudu, and Hulu Plus. But the truth is you typically lose consistent access to the major networks' shows as a result. If that's your dilemma, consider the Simple.TV, a TV tuner that sends the local broadcast stations' signals (as well as unencrypted ClearQAM HDTV signals) to your computer, tablet, smartphone, or other screen over the network. Attach a hard drive, and you have a videorecorder for delayed viewing. The optional Premier service also allows remote viewing when on the go.

Product: Really Simple Software Simple.TV
Price: $199 to $299, depending on service options

Samsung Galaxy Camera
Credit: Samsung
Samsung Galaxy Camera

Smartphones and tablets are quickly becoming cameras, but sometimes you need a real camera with a real lens. Samsung has released the Galaxy Camera to satisfy that need. This isn't an Android smartphone with a decent lens -- it's a pro-level camera that has a photo-retouching app and responds to voice commands such as "zoom in." You can share photos through Samsung's sharing service via Wi-Fi or cellular (AT&T provides offers a data plan for it in the United States), or you can send photos directly to other people whose mobile devices support the Wi-Fi Direct protocol. Oh, and the Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean" OS runs your Android apps.

Product: Samsung Galaxy Camera
Price: $499

Veho Muvi HD NPNG Special Edition
Credit: Veho
Veho Muvi HD NPNG Special Edition

Video cameras are everywhere these days, even in your smartphone. But if you're looking to capture the action when you yourself are in action, most don't do the trick. The Muvi HD does, with an hour's recording capacity. It's a tiny video camera you can wear in a helmet or underwater for a personal POV hard to create with other camcorders. The "No Pain No Gain" (NPNG) Special Edition includes the mounting gear to embark on such special shoots.

Product: Veho Muvi HD NPNG Special Edition
Price: $280

Nest Labs Nest Learning Thermostat
Credit: Nest Labs
Nest Labs Nest Learning Thermostat

Who'd have thunk a thermostat could be cool? One of the iPod's inventors, that's who. His startup has created the beautifully simple and simply beautiful Nest Learning Thermostat, which monitors your comings and goings and temperature preferences to both automate your heating and cooling and to reduce energy consumption. As you'd expect, you can manage and monitor it from your iPhone or other iOS device or from an Android device via Wi-Fi, as well as directly by turning its casing.

Product: Nest Labs Nest Learning Thermostat, Second Generation
Price: $249, with free iOS app or free Android app

Kanex MySpot
Credit: Kanex
Kanex MySpot

When you're on the go, you likely carry multiple devices. But many hotels charge separate Wi-Fi access fees per device, and some still have just wired Ethernet ports in the rooms rather than Wi-Fi service -- a common issue in conference rooms and conference stages as well. The Kanex MySpot is an ultraportable Wi-Fi router powered via USB, and it makes a wired Ethernet connection available to all your Wi-Fi-capable mobile devices. Yes, you can password-protect your wireless LAN.

(Kanex also makes a lot of cool mobile and Apple-related connectivity aids, including the $59 ATV Pro connector so that Apple TVs can output to VGA monitors.)

Product: Kanex MySpot
Price: $60

Improv Electronics Boogie Board
Credit: Improv Electronics
Improv Electronics Boogie Board

Why kill trees to leave notes? The Boogie Board 8.5-inch LCD panels take the place of a noteboard, letting you write notes and zap them when no longer needed, freeing the board for more notes. The Boogie Board is available in a variety of colors, and a stylus is included, though you can also write with a finger.

Product: Improv Electronics Boogie Board
Price: $40

Lantronix xPrintServer Home Edition
Credit: Lantronix
Lantronix xPrintServer Home Edition

As we do more and more on mobile devices, printing is often unavailable because only some printers can work directly with iOS's AirPrint capability. (In the Android world, printing is rarely an option.) Lantronix's small wireless print router solves that issue, AirPrint-enabling almost any network- or USB-attached printer. It's set and forget, though there's a management tool for small-office setups where you'd want to choose which printers to make public.

Product: Lantronix xPrintServer Home Edition
Price: $100
Related products: Network Edition ($150) for LAN subnets in an office, and Office Edition ($200) for large networks and Active Directory management

Read InfoWorld's guide to mobile printing products for iOS and Android

Logitech Touchpad T650
Credit: Logitech
Logitech Touchpad T650

Although we can't in good conscience recommend Windows 8, if you get Microsoft's newest operating system, do yourself a big favor and pick up the Touchpad T650 trackpad to go with it. That way, you're not uncomfortably reaching out to the screen in front of you -- a possible ergonomic risk. Instead, you use Windows 8's gestures on a desk surface, where your hands already are planted for the keyboard and mouse, similar to how a Mac user would use Apple's $69 Magic Trackpad.

Product: Logitech Touchpad T650
Price: $80

• Learn about the ergonomic risks of today's touchscreen devices

Tech books from InfoWorld authors

Bob Lewis: "Leading IT: Still the Toughest Job in the World" ($20 paperback, $10 Kindle).

J. Peter Bruzzese: "Using Windows 8" ($25 paperback) | "Conversational Geek" by  ($3 Kindle).

Woody Leonhard: "Windows 8 All-in-One for Dummies" ($35 paperback, $22 Kindle, $23 iBooks).

Galen Gruman: "OS X Mountain Lion Bible" ($40 paperback, $22 Kindle, $26 iBooks) | "Exploring iPad for Dummies" ($15 paperback, $10 iBooks) | "iBooks Author for Dummies" ($17 paperback, $10 Kindle, $10 iBooks) | "Exploring Windows 8 for Dummies" ($15 paperback)