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Geek gifts 2019: Think Opex, not Capex with subscriptions

Why manage buying your own gifts for geeks, when there are so many subscription gift box services that will do that kind of undifferentiated heavy lifting for you?

Geek gifts are undergoing a paradigm shift not unlike the enterprise IT migration to public cloud. Resource ownership and gift supply chain management are so passé -- let any number of subscription services entertain and delight your geek for you!

Just as Amazon has eliminated the toil that used to be involved in holiday shopping, from schlepping to the mall to battling for a parking space to waiting in line at a register, subscription services can step in and take over even selecting and shipping gifts online. Name an item, interest or type of entertainment -- there's almost always a subscription service out there to bring it forth to your geek, on a regular basis, often for a full year. Bacon, for example. Craft beer. E-Books. Video games.

"An HBO Now subscription so you can watch The Watchmen on your flights to and from conferences, or Apple Music so you can drown out the screaming babies on the plane," suggested one of our road warrior geek friends.

Our geek consultants this year rave about LootCrate for the geekily inclined. There are gift box subscriptions for every conceivable fandom, from Harry Potter to Marvel Comics to Hello Kitty.

"It's all kinds of geeky goodness," summed up one of our geek advisors.

Subscription services are also available for truly hardcore geeks who never stop talking shop long enough to watch movies or read comic books, such as a membership to document collaboration service Coda.io, or Zapier for home automation management.

The latest in gadgets, both practical and fun

As always, the cardinal rule of buying gifts for geeks is: know thy geek. Some geeks can't get enough Funko Pops. Other geeks' dearest wish is to get rid of the clutter they already have. Some geeks will be thrilled with beer delivered monthly to their doorstep -- others would have much more fun making their own. For the DIY geeks, or traditionalists who want to wrap something themselves, gadgets and doodads still abound.

"I'm usually a 'late early adopter' of new tech toys, so I might not [want] anything crazy," said one such geek we know. "[But] one of my favorite not-so-new things is the PicoBrew home brewing appliance."

PicoBrew is pricey (the Pico C for craft beer homebrew enthusiasts is priced at $399.00), and not everyone likes beer. There's also a $125 cocktail bitters kit one of our geeks had their eye on.

"It lets you be a bit of a mad scientist and drink the results," he said.

For teetotaling or practically minded geeks, our geek advisors pointed out useful gadgets such as the iFixit Pro Tech Toolkit, reMarkable digital notepad or Rocketbook.

"It's like a Kindle, but a writing tablet, perfect for those who like the feel of writing stuff but don't want an extremely bright or distracting tablet," said one geek expert of the reMarkable pad. "[Rocketbook] is like a notebook, but you can use it like a whiteboard, as the pages wipe clean with a damp cloth. You can also pair it with an app and upload your notes to the cloud."

Geeks with a quirky sense of humor may delight in somewhat pointless gadgets, such as the Qwerkywriter or a Makey Makey kit that can turn anything into a keyboard, from bananas to water buckets.

"I don't know if this is actually a good product," said one of our geek advisors of Qwerkywriter. "But the idea of a mechanical keyboard for an iPad makes me laugh."

Budget-friendly humorous geek gift suggestions include the time-honored coffee mug and some truly bizarre drink coasters.  

Perennial favorites: Star Wars mania strikes back

Star Wars already led our geek gift recommendations in 2015, but could have again this year, with the launch of Disney+ and The Mandalorian series (Baby Yoda!), along with the hotly anticipated Dec. 20 release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Even after all these years, it's hard to go wrong with Star Wars swag for many geeks. Not every geek is part of this fandom, but one of our geek advisors reported there is a strong correlation between enterprise IT geeks and Star Wars fans: Amazon suggested to him that those who bought Gene Kim's The Unicorn Project book also ordered Rebel Alliance stickers, he said.

Perennial favorites in the non-Star Wars category include all the other major fandoms with movies coming out, such as Wonder Woman and Ghostbusters -- dinner and a movie, anyone? Geeks also still covet Sonos smart speaker devices, drones and Raspberry Pis, including the latest Raspberry Pi 4.

"New hardware, including a gigabit NIC, finally!" one of our geek experts said of the Pi 4. "Being able to cluster these and run k3s is also super cool."

Much as geeks love home automation with toolkits such as Arduino and Hue Play, consider the potential privacy implications of devices such as Ring before you gift them, our geek friends warn.

"I would avoid anything that is going to record you and later be used by law enforcement or in other ways you didn't intend, such as Ring, Alexa or Google Home," said one. (If only we'd had this insight back in 2016!)

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