Enough people were commenting on a gift guide from a previous year that I thought I might write up a new one this year. The items on this list are practically all on my own personal wish list. The prices listed are approximate -- you can probably find deals on all of this stuff if you look even a little bit.
Meade TrussTube Dobsonian Telescope
If you read here regularly, you will know that I like astronomy. There's something about space that has piqued my interest since I was a kid. Berta got me a really great telescope for Christmas one year, one of the Meade models with the computerized star finders, but the aperture of the telescope is such that you can't really see the full depth of the sky.
This Meade Light Bridge telescope comes in parts that you assemble in the field, and lets you build a fairly large scope with an aperture from 8 inches to 18 inches in diameter. That'll get you a lot of sky. The size of the telescope causes the price to vary, but the 8 inch model starts around $390.
Celestron SkyScout Personal Planetarium
One more astronomy gadget, the SkyScout personal planetarium is a little handheld gadget with a viewfinder. When you locate an object in the sky with it, you push a button and the device tells you what you're looking at. You can also look up an object, and it will use arrows in the viewfinder to direct you to that object. Much easier that carting a book out into the field. It costs around $200.
The Kaossilator is a sort of pocket-sized electronic synthesizer instrument from Korg. It allows you to compose music easily by setting an instrument with a knob, and then drawing with your finger on its touchpad. It's somewhat hard to describe in words how the device is used, but the video demonstrates it pretty well. The Kaossilator can be found online for under $200.
Livescribe Pulse Pen
I've had a Pulse for a while and finally got the software update I needed to get it to work fully under 64-bit Vista.
It's basically a $200 pen that records what you write in its internal memory, and lets you sync those recordings with your computer. It can also record audio that syncs with your written notes, so if you write notes during a lecture, you can later tap on your notes with your pen, and it'll play back the lecture from that point.
Its operating system is built in Java, and it shouldn't be long before people start coding custom applications for this thing. Considering the breadth of software that is available for the Fly Fusion (another similar product but aimed at kids), I'm anxious to see that happen.
Born To Perform DVD
Here's a little thought outside of the box. Many tech folks consider themselves "wizards" of some kind. So why not give them a gift that lets them extend that impression?
I've had Born to Perform in my DVD library for a while now. It's the very basic basics of card magic. This DVD demonstrates the required grips and slights that get you to the beginner level of performance, and provides you with enough tricks to keep people entertained at parties and conferences. It's only $30, but it leads to addiction, so beware.
My DNS bills... Oh, the humanity! Please drop a few bucks on the one you love to help them pay for their vanity domain registration. You know, the thing that lets you send email to them at "billys-own-domain.com". GoDaddy has digital gift cards that work in email, which is especially great for those distant geek gift recipients you forgot until the last minute.
There are probably a dozen other things that you could get useful gift certificates for that your geek would love. While Best Buy cards are always appreciated, the special love that goes into choosing a DNSStuff or DomainTools membership or a Pro Flickr account extension, depending on your geek's inclinations, can say a lot.
Sphereplay - Playing in the Multisphere
This DVD is kind of along the same lines as the card magic one, but is oriented to a specific aspect contact juggling. If you've ever seen The Labyrinth (and what geek hasn't?), then this is what David Bowie does with that ball (except it's not him doing it, it's a guy standing right behind him, who wrote this book on the topic).
Don't forget to pick up a set of acrylic balls to go with this, or there will be no point in watching the DVD.
Algin and Calcic
Algin and Calic are two additive ingredients for food that will let you do something called "Spherification" in a cooking discipline known as "Molecular Gastronomy". The basic process is this: First, mix some calcic into a bowl of water. Then add a little algin to pureed (like watermelon) or liquid food, put some into the calcic bath using a spoon or a syringe, then quickly remove it from the bath and rinse it in clean water.
The end result is a small balloon that contains the liquid ingredient. This is another one of those things that's hard to describe without seeing. Hopefully this video does it for you.
There's a few weird ingredients like these available that all do different, exotic things to your food. I think that being a geek and following recipes (and subsequently ignoring them to experiment) go hand in hand, which is what makes this product so exciting. Each is available by itself, Algin for $60, Calcic for $25.
Harmony One Remote
I'm sure I've talked about the Harmony Remote before. (In fact, it was in last gift guide!) It's a pretty impressive piece of tech. It's not just a remote, but perhaps the best remote ever made.
You configure your remote using your PC, then it transfers the necessary settings to the remote via USB. This lets you configure one-button access to common functions, which is especially useful when your geek has 50 components he needs to turn on when he wants to watch TV.
If you have any other geek gift ideas, please mention them here!