This year I'm going to be different. I'm not waiting until the last column before Christmas to present my annual list of technology-related gift ideas.
No, I'm not in cahoots with merchants who want to drag out the season so you'll spend more. I just thought it would be better to not wait until the last minute, that way you have more time to consider and shop, or order something from somewhere.
Which brings up another change for this year; I'm including online stuff. Previously I mainly concentrated on things you could go out and buy at a local store. Don't think I'm against the local businesses, because I'm not. It's just that, well, geeks kind of specialize in things, and local businesses have to be more generalized.
You're less likely to find real geekiness in a local store than you are at a place like thinkgeek.com (that's a real website, by the way).
So, let's begin.
As in previous years, I'll say that some items repeat as good presents year after year. Things like actual computers themselves, digital cameras and e-book readers come to mind. As time goes on, they get better and less expensive. The technology in them matures, and they get more features. So even if someone already has _ for example _ a digital camera, it may be outdated feature-wise.
The book reader market is becoming pretty competitive, with several versions of Kindles and Nooks from which to choose. You can get one now for about half what you would have paid for it a year or so ago. If you have a giftee who likes to read, an electronic book reader is a natural.
Some people scoff and say they like the idea of paper in their hands, but after they try an electronic reader for a while, it's hard not to become a fan.
Onward. How about actual books? Is your geek a Mac fan? A book about Steve Jobs was recently released. It would be hard to imagine a Mac person who wouldn't want to read that.
Does your geek live alone and try to cook for him or herself? There are a couple of books that are written just for this audience. One title is "What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained." Another is simply "Cooking for Geeks," which is put out by O'Reilly Books, a publishing house that specializes in computer titles. By the way, all three of these are available in either paper or electronic form.
If you want a present for the whole family, HDTVs have become really affordable. Here's something that you would probably be better off to get locally. That way you can actually judge the visual quality and get a feel for the size of the screen that is most appropriate for your needs. And don't forget that you'll need a Blu-ray player to play HD movies from disc.
Tablet computers are still kind of expensive, as they're still a pretty new idea. They're fun to play with, but they are still a rich person's toy. The iPad was the first, but there are some other competitors out there now. If the situation fits, one of these could be a nice present.
You probably know that I'm always campaigning for people to make backups of their data. One of the easy ways to do this is use an external USB hard disk. If the person you're buying for doesn't have one of these, this could be a very good idea. Again, the price for these things have steadily lowered over time, and now good large ones can be had for a surprisingly low price.
Although not a new idea, both USB flash drives and memory cards for cameras make good stocking stuffers. So do printer cartridges. Computer users can always use a package of blank DVDs or CDs, too.
If none of these ideas turns you on, you can always go the gift card route. Almost all stores that sell tech stuff have these, and this way the receiver can get that particular esoteric part for his computer that he's been secretly coveting. If your person is an online shopper, and most geeks are, I would suggest one from Newegg or Amazon, both reliable online technology dealers.
And if all these suggestions still don't feel right to you, don't forget that old standby, cash. It may be a little less personal, but it's certainly no less appreciated. Even by geeks.
Have a happy holiday.
Bruce Endries is former systems manager at The Daily Star. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/techgp.