The Linux holiday shopping guide

Some gift recommendations for those shopping for Linux nerds...or maybe even themselves.

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For the Linux nerd who has everything

Traditionally, finding gifts for the Open Source-loving, Linux-running person in your life has not been terribly easy to accomplish. Not so this year. It seems the world is filled with Linux-powered gadgets and gizmos galore. What follows are my personal recommendations (ranging in price from $35 to well over $1,000) that, I feel, most Linux enthusiasts would be stoked to receive – and every single one is powered by one Linux-based system or another.

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Android Tablet

Most hardcore Linux users have a tablet at this point. But who can’t use a new one? The only challenge is figuring out which ones to buy. Luckily, the $399 Nexus 9 and the $299 Nvidia Shield Tablet are pretty safe bets. Both are new enough that the Linux nerd in your life isn’t likely to have one, and both run the latest version of Android.

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Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi, despite being released in 2012, is likely to remain at the top of most Linux users’ wish lists this year, and for good reason. This little computer board is cheap and capable of powering home entertainment systems, acting as a video game emulator console, and it can even serve as a complete desktop computer replacement. At $35, I recommend getting the Model B+. It’s quite a bit fancier than it’s cheaper counterparts for only a tiny increase in cost.

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The Kano is a computer kit based on the Raspberry Pi that lets kids (of any age) build their own computer from a series of easy-to-assemble parts. The Kano comes with everything you need, with the exception of some sort of monitor (most modern TVs will do the trick). Amazingly, at only $150, it’s completely capable of being a usable computer for most kids. Sure, it won’t be running the latest AAA game titles, but otherwise this beauty is ready to rock. Heck, at 35 years old, I wouldn’t mind getting one myself.

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Parrot Bebop Drone

At $500, the Parrot Bebop drone isn’t exactly a cheap toy – but oh, what a toy it is! Though I suppose calling it a “toy” may not be fair, because this thing is amazing. It’s a quadcopter drone that is only 12 inches square (and less than 2 inches tall) with a full 1080p video camera built in (with 8gb of storage). This bad boy is capable of reaching speeds up to 45 mph and can be controlled from an Android device. Oh, and it runs Linux and has a full SDK available. That’s right. It’s a flying Linux computer with a video camera.

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Chromebooks may not be able to take the place of most people's main computers, but I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t think they’re at least kind of cool. And let’s be honest, these little laptops are cheap, they look nice, and they require zero up-keep. They’re basically the perfect computer to buy for a grandparent. For Linux nerds, they’re one heck of a fun little laptop to tinker with. Personally, I recommend the Acer C720 at $230 and the Pixel at $1,300. A pretty huge price range there but, hey, you need to have options!

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Android Laptops

Wait. Android… laptop? Yes sir! Before you scoff at the idea, consider this – if you give an Android-powered laptop (or tablet with a nice keyboard dock) to a Linux user, they aren’t likely to already have one. And they are likely to think that, at bare minimum, it’s kind of cool. I even know a few hard-core Linux people who use these for their primary machines. My recommendation is the ASUS Transformer Pad TF701 with the dock, which will run you about $350. There are other Android laptops out there, but that one has a gorgeous screen and makes a fantastic tablet as well.

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BeagleBone Black

The $55 BeagleBone Black is a bit like the Raspberry Pi – it’s a crazy cheap, tiny little Linux-powered computer. The big difference (for most people) is that the BeagleBone Black has a fairly faster CPU and a lot more pin outs on it, meaning it’s better suited for custom hardware projects than the Raspberry Pi (although the Raspberry Pi is a bit cheaper and has better graphics performance). Either way, both are a great value and are sure to make any Linux nerd smile.

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Android Watch

At $250, the Moto 360 Android-powered smartwatch isn’t a cheap gift… but it’s a super cool one. Even if the recipient of this gift isn’t really the type of person to wear a watch, this will be a fun trinket to play with. Just make sure they have an Android device already – these are really built to work in tandem with an Android tablet or phone.

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Samsung Galaxy Camera

Watches, tablets, laptops, computers, flying drones… what about that mainstay of holiday gifts: The camera. The Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 ($350) and the Galaxy Camera NX ($1,200) are two Android-powered digital cameras. I quite like the Galaxy Camera 2 for the price – the power of having a Linux system right on your camera is incredibly handy. And nerdy.

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Nexus Player

The next evolution of the $35 Chromecast (which is still an excellent value), the $100 Google Nexus Player is an Android-powered set-top box for your TV. It’s a quality, powerful streaming TV watching system, to be sure. But when you add on the (optional) $35 gamepad, suddenly it becomes a game system too. And a surprisingly capable one at that.