The Official 2011 Nettuts+ Holiday Gift Guide
I needn't remind you that Christmas is almost upon us. If you still haven't bought gifts for your loved ones, this is the perfect time to start panicking. If your loved one is a developer though, we have an easy way out for you: pick a few from the list below and you'll be off the hook!
In this mini gift guide, we'll take a look at what we, as developers, want our stockings to be filled with. Hopefully, Santa hasn't figured out that we've been feigning innocence all year!
Subscriptions and Software
Subscriptions are the gifts that keep on giving. Depending on whether you want to gift something for work or pleasure, you'll find something here.
Let's face it -- we're busy people and can't always catch a show at the right time. Heck, we're the ones missing dinners with our special ones, right? And DVRing things can get pretty messy pretty quickly. This is where Netflix comes in. Unlimited movies and TV episodes over the internet? Yes please. Gift this to the geek in your life and watch him light up.
Linode / Other VPS
Show your cutting edge web developer a shared hosting plan and he'd balk. Get them a yearly subscription to a virtual private server and watch as he formulates all the sheer uses he'd eke out of it. While there are plenty of options out there, I've personally used Linode for a few years now and gets my recommendation.
Heroku / Platform as a Service
Or you could be a bit more forward and present them with a subscription to a PaaS [platform as a service]. Unlike a VPS, most of the sys-admin grunt work is taken care for you, including load management, letting you focus on just the code. Again, there are lots of options here but Heroku gets my vote for being so darn good.
Litmus / Browser Testing
Browser compatibility testing still remains a scourge on the workflow of a modern developer but it really doesn't need to be. Get them, or yourself, a subscription to the Litmus service and forget about having gazillion browser windows and versions open to test things out.
People have been harking on about the death of the print medium for years now but they've still been chugging on. I don't have a specific recommendation since these tend to be intensely personal so take your pick. As opposed to gaming and tech magazines, I think people like me would appreciate something related to business, travel, lifestyle, or let's go crazy for a second here, fashion.
Evernote is awesome. There, I said it. It basically focuses on getting all your mental threads together and then syncs it all across any of your devices. If it sounds simple and you let yourself believe that, smack yourselves on the head -- it's much more complicated than that.
Evernote goes above and beyond the call and provides a ton of nifty features including extracting data from images. While the free version is more than serviceable, the premium version ships with just a few more enticing features.
Not to toot our own horn but our Tuts+ premium program offers one of the best ways to learn new technologies and skill sets or hone existing ones. In addition to a massive 700+ exclusive tutorial roster, you also get access to nearly 30 top selling ebooks. At $180 for an entire year of learning, you can't do better than this!
And finally, don't forget a good text editor or an IDE. They are the heart and soul of a developer's workflow and an informed gift here will definitely elevate you in a developer's eyes.
A lot of people will go with the Coda/Textmate hoopla but, for a change, try SublimeText. It's cross platform, feature laden, stable and cheap for a software of such stature.
The Venn diagram of web developers and tech enthusiasts is primarily largely intersecting. Be it the new all mighty smartphone or an innocuous desk toy, gadgets make for excellent gifts.
Tablets have been the all the rage recently and I can certainly see why: they make for excellent consumption devices. Checking your all important work email or catching up on your silly kitten videos? Do it from the comfort of your couch and through an intuitive interface. Couple this with the abundance of games and other apps and you have a bonafide winner on your hands.
Which tablet to get is an argument in itself. The iPad's software lineup is a definite advantage but don't discount its Android brethren either. The Transformer Prime looks incredible.
Or if you're feeling a little bit old school, get them an e-reader. These feature e-ink technology, making reading a lot less strenuous on your eyes [as opposed to gazing at an incandescent light bulb that is a tablet's screen] and provide an experience that's as close to a real book as possible whilst providing superior battery life.
I personally like the Kindle but there are tons of options available in this segment.
USB Coffee Warmer
It's a well known fact that web developers account for roughly 97% of the world's caffeine intake. And a vast majority of that is ingested in front of a monitor whilst mulling over some arcane piece of code that just refuses to work. Get him, or her, this magical coffee warmer that conveniently works over USB and win over their goodwill for the rest of your natural life.
IronKey USB Drive
You can never really be too secure -- specially in this digital age. Data gets swiped, accounts get hacked and passwords get broken on a daily basis.
The IronKey USB drive provides you with a plethora of features including military grade encryption, hardware level authentication, anti-keystroke logger amongst a ton of others. It's a little pricey compared to your run of the mill USB drive but the features definitely make it worth it.
The sheer number of remotes in a modern home is staggering. You need to have one for your television, receiver, speaker, settop box, DVD/BluRay and a lot more whamathingies. Not fun at all.
While universal remotes have been around for a while now, the recent ones have really started kicking it up a notch. The Logitech Harmony series deserves a special mention since they feature great build quality, support a staggering number of devices and are quite easy to set up. There are also touch screen versions if you're into that sort of thing.
Your mobile phone probably has access to a decently quick internet connection but you'll mostly be limited to tethering it to your laptop or, worse, no tethering support at all. What happens if you're a technophile and travel with a tablet and maybe a handheld gaming device that you'd like to get online?
The MiFi range of devices are custom made for these specific scenarios. These connect to your carrier and provide internet access to the devices of your choice. It only supports upto 5 devices but hey, that should cover 99% of y'all.
Nerdy Desk Toys
I'm sure you can't count the sheer number of times you've given up on a piece of code and sat staring at a random dent on my desk wondering where it all went wrong. Let's get this out of the way: I can't fix your code for you and I really can't fix the dent on your desk. However, completely unbiased, unquestionable studies from the toy making companies state that staring at a worthwhile nerdy toy on your desk should get your creative and analytical juices flowing.
I'm pretty partial to physics based items but you can find a ton more options at the link below.
Moving away from gadgets and toys, here are additions to your workstation and your workplace that are worth considering. Often overlooked, these are very obvious additions that can directly improve how you work.
A Second [or Third] Display
Yes, it's that simple -- get them, or yourself, another display. It doesn't matter whether it's a 15" TN panel or a 30" IPS panel. A second monitor can vastly improve one's workflow, and thus, productivity since there is no need to juggle around windows. Just keep your debugging window on the other display and you can be on your way. Having a video run on the other display is fun too!
An Ergonomic Chair
Developers, like most people with white collar jobs, tend to sit for a large portion of their working day. Discounting the issues caused by being static for such long stretches, a major issue is how one tends to pick up lumbar issues quite quickly.
Ensure their safety by buying them a lumbar supportive, height adjustable, comfortable chair. I'm partial to Aaron chairs but there are plenty of options out there.
The input peripherals are how you to interact with your workstation and there is no need to be flimsy here. Be it a spiffy tactile keyboard or a touch gizmo to replace your mouse, just make sure it's ergonomic. As someone who used to have carpal tunnel issues in the past, I can assure you it's not fun.
I like keyboard with low travel and illumination so I'm pretty partial towards the Logitech Illuminated keyboard.
Earbuds or Headphones
I'm one of those people who tends to have music running constantly. Probably not the heart pounding, whumpa-whumpa sounding things that young people tend to listen to though. Ahh, I digress.
A good quality headset is critical to your sanity as a developer. Not to mention coexisting with the people around you. Tried working when someone blares 'Friday' around you?
I prefer a proper circumaural pair since it tends to be the most comfortable for me, big head and all.
You can't have enough storage space -- it's a fact of life. Chalk it upto cameras that record in much higher resolutions or faster internet speeds, or aliens, the fact remains that we're constantly filling up our hard drives.
Cloud solutions are nice but not always optimal. In these cases, get yourself a big hunk of storage that's network attached and call it a day. I've used a Drobo in the past and it's fairly good at what it does. It's a little on the expensive side though. Or if you do have a higher budget, get them a nice, fast SSD and watch everything load up quickly.
If you're looking for something generic, but fun, this is the place to be!
Yes, Skyrim. There's a very good chance this gift will make the giftee lose his job, relationship and house but goshdarnit, he'll be a Dovahkiin!
If that's not an option, this year had an incredible amount of AAA releases -- Assassin's Creed: Revelations, Arkham City, Battlefield 3, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Witcher 2, Portal 2, Modern Warfare 3. Phew. Take your pick and gift away.
And promise to throat punch any whiners on online services and you'll have their eternal gratitude.
Books make for excellent gifts. They're fairly cheap, don't require power, can carry it around at will and you won't get hassled during a flight.
Choosing which book to get is an incredibly intimate thing though. The best seller list at Amazon is a great place to start but don't let it constrain you -- there are tons of incredible books out there. If you're fresh out of ideas, may I suggest the recent Steve Jobs biography? Whether you love or hate him, there's enough material in there for you.
Shows pop up all the time and it comes down to personal preference. That being said, if you can watch this video and not be interested in this show, I'm going to silently weep for humanity and start plotting something fierce.
Or if you're looking for something a bit more serious, the debut season of Game of Thrones is incredibly well made and deserves a look. Be warned though -- it's made for an adult audience.
Tees makes for low profile, high humor gifts. Just choose something that the receiver will appreciate and you should be golden. Extra points if the tee's contents contains subtle puns or jargon that no one else can understand. There are lots of places to get such clothing -- I've linked a few of my recommendations below.
Work Related Books
.... or you could take the easy way out and present them with one of the books below. Yes, they'll be glad that you bought them something that would truly enrich their lives but the next time the developer in your life is late to a movie or dinner, you'll know you have yourself to blame!
Author: Nicholas Zakas
Author: Douglas Crockford
Author: John Resig
Author: Cody Lindley
"jQuery Enlightenment was written to express, in short-order, the concepts essential to intermediate and advanced jQuery development. Its purpose is to instill in you, the reader, practices that jQuery developers take as common knowledge. Each chapter contains concepts essential to becoming a seasoned jQuery developer."
Author: Bruce Lawson
"Written by developers who have been using the new language for the past year in their work, this book shows you how to start adapting the language now to realize its benefits on today's browsers. Rather than being just an academic investigation, it concentrates on the practical—the problems HTML5 can solve for you right away."
"As one of the most popular open source content management systems available today, WordPress boasts a framework that allows you to easily customize and extend it through plugins. This comprehensive book shows you how plugins work, reviews the tools and APIs available in WordPress, and demonstrates how to extend the functionality of WordPress with plugins."
I'm sure I'm missing a ridiculous number of gifts here so holler over at the comments section below. Or if you've already bought a gift for the developer in your life, let us know what you bought. Thanks for stopping by!