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We’ve spent the last three weeks asking you to give a gift of support to KPFT. You can consider that a warm-up for the next few weeks of pleads for your hard earned money. Only they won’t be coming from Jay or Peter, but rather the thousands of advertisers all clamoring for your holiday dollar.

There was a time in America when hand made gifts were the norm. There wasn’t any ‘store bought’ anything. At least that’s how the graybeards in the server room tell it. I tend to agree. Gift giving has gotten too easy. With things like Amazon and eBay, you don’t have to go any farther than your front stoop to send someone something material. And if you have it delivered directly to the intended recipient, you don’t even have to do that. Maybe we as geeks should go back to making our own gifts…

If a macaroni portrait of Steve Jobs or a hand sewn black turtleneck with three sleeves doesn’t embody the message you’re trying to convey, not to worry: we’re here to plant a few gift ideas in your holiday head.

A spin on the classic coupon for hugs, kisses, or housework, you could put together a few Tech Support coupons good for short sessions of help. You definitely want to limit the scope of the coupons. Each coupon could be good for one tech support instance or for one increment of time, say 30 minutes. Seriously, if you’re already doing a ton of tech support for a family member, this is a good way of assigning a little value to it or even making them think twice before they call you. It is especially appropriate gift for anyone who tends to call you throughout the year looking for free tech support, anyway.

“Ok, aunt Edna… It’s Jauary 12th and you’ve already used up half of your coupons… Better slow down…” Of course you’d be joking. Kinda.

O’Reilly’s Maker’s Shed carries both LED menorahs and Christmas trees, both just a couple of solder joints away. Chumby guts and toys from Japan also grace their website. Surf to www.makershed.com to check out the goodies before they’re gone. That’s the downside – as most of their fare comes from individual makers, the cooler items can often run out before December 25th.

The world of Open Source Hardware has opened up all kinds of doors as far as gifts go. Sites like Adafruit Industries at www.adafruit.com carry both kits comprised of all the electronic components you need to build a game, an electricity usage monitoring system, or the infamous TV B-Gone. Think of Adafruit Industries as a clearing house for Open Source projects. Just like RedHat or SuSE may package a Linux Distribution for you, Adafruit packages all of the necessary parts. If you don’t want to go through Adafruit, you can always hit the site for schematics and the parts list necessary to source your own.

Many of the Open Source Hardware kits require some soldering, but even that can be remedied with the gift of soldering skills via the “learn to solder bundle” from the Maker Shed. The ability to control molten metal and the flow of electrons around a circuit board is definitely a gift that can keep on giving.

Another gift option is a vanity URL. Sites like gandi.net let you take actual ownership of a domain, or let you assign that ownership to someone else. This is more a gift for a technically natured friend or family member, otherwise you may want to consider bundling this gift with a limited supply of tech support coupons.

If you have an electronic music lover in your life, Curious Inventor.com carries a line of audio gear titled The Voice of Saturn. Open Hardware components like a sequencer, a modulator, and synthesizer will enable them to create chop up all the music or noise they want. This may not be the best gift for roommates or anyone who lives within a few hundred yards of you.

And if you don’t want to give an entire gift, you can always give someone something to accompany what they already have. There are all kinds of creative hacks out there, from TiVos to phones to Roombas. These gifts are best for people who could actually install and use them, so be careful to avoid any Gift of the Magi situations with like-minded geeky friends.

That would be like phliKtid saying “I eBay’d my Wireless Access Point to buy you this serial cable for you to hax your Roomba.”

Then Groovehouse saying “Oh No! I eBay’d my Roomba to buy you this serial connector so you could hax your Wireless Access Point.”

If you’re not familiar with Gift of the Magi, I believe it’s a remake of the Sesame Street Christmas Special with Ernie and Bert.

That’s that for your geeky gift guide and that’s it for BarretTime.

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