Christmas, Yule, Winterville, new socks day… Whatever you call it you’ll be panic stricken to hear that it’s almost here. Like the rest of us in denial, you are a little stumped for ideas.
It’s why you clicked on this article, after all.
And with now just 9 days — 9 days! — left (at date of publish) in which to buy an overpriced trinket and wrap it in overpriced paper, you better get those winter skates on.
To help you out l racked my brain (read: Googled) to find a wealth of natty Linux-friendly gift ideas. I tried to highlight something to suit all budgets, ages and levels of Linux ninja-dom. And, more importantly, assuming you’re not reading this at 23:59 on December 24, should arrive in time for the big day.
“Santastic!“ as the kids these days never say.
As Linux gifts go, a Chromebook is a really sane choice. Not only does it run a custom Linux distribution out of the box (Chrome OS is Gentoo-based) but it makes use of ample open-source projects and software, including Chromium, Coreboot and more.
Not that you have to stick with what it ships with. There’s a special version of Ubuntu tailored for Chromebooks called, predictably, Chrubuntu. While you may prefer the reflash n’ purge approach, consider the huge, huge benefits to running Ubuntu alongside Chrome OS:
First off, it’s not a dual-boot; you can run both at the same time and switch between them by tapping a key. Best of both worlds.
Secondly, by running Ubuntu on the Chrome Linux Kernel you’re getting the best possible performance from the hardware. That means insanely long battery life, working touchpad, Wi-Fi, webcam, Bluetooth and all that jazz.
Chromebooks are relatively cheap but not all equal. To avoid difficulties opt for Intel over an Exynos of Tegra K1 chip. Haswell models, like the £179 11.6-inch Acer CB3-111, deliver best overall performance, though newer Bay Trail models, like the 13.3-inch ASUS C300, are still speedy enough to handle Chrome OS and most things you can throw at it.
Just remember that Chrome OS is not a direct desktop OS replacement. It’s more analogous to an iPad or tablet vs a PC in that its strengths and benefits lie in what it can’t do in as much as what it can.
Tux is the Linux mascot. And he’s a penguin. Ergo anything penguin related, however pants, will show a Linux-loving loved one that a dash of thoughtfulness went into your purchase.
Stuffed penguins (no, not that kind — this isn’t omgtaxidermy) can be picked up cheaply, in various sizes, in varying degrees of resemblance to our pal Tux from pretty much anywhere (thanks John Lewis).
For a more practical penguin themed gift — no one wants socks — I like this Lego penguin keychain. It’s under a tenner and a bit nerdy.
If you’re not willing to trust the post to deliver goods, even penguin shaped ones, in time for Xmas (if you’re British, very wise) then consider a “subscription gift”.
Just recycle an old Christmas card, scrawl in a few lines of faux sentimentality and jot down a redemption code, signup link or any pertinent details from an email received after purchase.
LWN.net Subscription (Online)
If you or someone you know lives for the super technical side of Linux, be it news on the latest kernel merges, Systemd debates or 1000 word thesis on why Xorg is actually pretty awesome, then the wonderful, wonderful LWN (née Linux Weekly News) is a great resource.
LWN make their premium content available to subscribers right away, and then public (i.e., free) a week later.
For just a couple of dollars a month you get to support a great site with great (and I do have to stress this) technical content. Fewer screenshots, more detail. It’s like OMG! Ubuntu! in reverse.
Linux Format Subscription (Print)
Linux Format has the best magazine covers of any magazine that’s not titled “Doctor Who“. Paying to have them land on a loved one’s doormat every month is a veritable act of charity to the gods of creativeness.
Schmancy artwork aside though, Linux Format is a great all-round read. It’s pitched at Linux enthusiasts of all levels so the content of each issues varies nicely from week-to-week, rather like my fickle interests. And since all issues here in the UK come with a cover-mounted DVD of distributions, you can even play with what you read about right away – no downloading needed.
Subscriptions to Linux Format start from…well, that’s not quite so simple. Who you subscribe through determines not only on how much you pay for per issue, but also whether you get digital editions and any extras.
Going direct through the publisher’s own website will cost you £83.90 (Europe) for 13 issues over a 12 month period (delivered) and £90 (US), both including digital editions. Intermediary services like ‘My Favourite Magazines’ offer subs from as low as £25+ for 6 issues over six months, and £54+ for 13. Both are sans digital copies and UK only.
Other Linux magazines are also available, including Linux User & Developer, RasPi, Linux Voice and Ubuntu User.
I love Spotify. It’s got most of Relient K’s back catalog, lets me scrobble my history and suggests new stuff I might like. It also has one of the nicest development teams you’ll ever (likely never) meet.
That fact is proven by the sheer existence of Spotify for Linux, the service’s official, native app. Although distributed officially it is maintained solely by employees who give a damn about Linux to put in their own time and expertise to develop it.
That’s worth £9.99 of anyone’s money.
Now they’ve finally furnished Linux with the gift of hack-free playback it’s finally ok to gift them with the gift of, er, a gift of money…as a gift. Don’t know where I’m going with that.
Annoyingly the service has retired its old “buy someone a subscription” spiel so you may need to stuff £5.99 in a card with strict instructions on how to spend it.
As far as Linux-powered, open-source friendly smartphones go (that isn’t Android) the Jolla is as good as things get. It’s fantastically built, runs both native Sailfish and Android apps, and has a gesture-rich UI that a certain other mobile operating system has a few nods to.
Since it’s not a low-end phone you won’t be paying low-end prices. The 16GB model (SIM-free) is available on Amazon UK for £199 (Prime eligible), a saving of £100 off the regular RRP.
Consider the price not merely the cost of a fantastically made phone but part of the entry price to one of the most enthusiastic and warm hacker/enthusiasts communities I’ve seen in a long time.
Raspberry Pi Kit Thing
Here’s something I’d love to find nestled under my tree: a Raspberry Pi. This tiny, hackable, extendable and educational PC was built with Linux in mind. It offers a wealth of possibilities for old and young alike.
Amazon has all kinds of models in all kinds of sets. Some have extra modules, like a camera, some have neat little cases and instruction books, while others are faster, have more RAM or throw in super-speedy SD cards with OSes preinstalled.
Prices are fairly low too. If anything on this list screams “…for Linux enthusiasts” it’s this.
The Gift of Linux
The cheapest gift you can give this xmas is the one of
Yes, I know. It sounds saccharine. But the gift of a virus-free, super-secure, and well supported OS isn’t to be sniffed out. Keep a disc handy for when Aunty Sally starts regaling the table with an anecdote about a PDF she could open (sent by a wonderful man in Nigeria who also runs a lottery and antelope hospital).
Sure they may not use it once you’ve left their house but it’s something worth giving if only to educate and broaden people’s take on tech and their choices. And despite the name above the door, I won’t even say it has to be Ubuntu (who knows, your Grandpa might really dig Slackware).