Have yourself a very Linux Christmas

There are gifts for geeks, and then there are gifts for Linux geeks.

Whether you cut your teeth downloading Linux 0.x source code or you want to give Linux a try for the first time, we've got presents for you.

What do you get for the Linux lover in your life? Or, for that matter, a would-be Linux user or someone you want to talk into giving Linux a try? Well, here are some of my suggestions. Got some of your own? Share them in the comments.

Now, with no further adieu, here are some gift suggestions for the Tux the Penguin fans in your life.

1. Red Hat stock

I could have started this list with something cute, but I decided to go with something valuable instead. While Novell's future, now that Attachmate owns it, is unclear, Red Hat, is on its way to being the first billion dollar Linux company. Who wouldn't want a few hundred shares of Red Hat in their stocking?

Image credit: Elizabeth Krumbach

Computer Engineer Barbie packaging

2. Computer Engineer Barbie

And, now for something completely silly for Linux fans. If you take a close look at the Computer Engineer Barbie packaging, as Elizabeth Krumbach did, you'll find that Barbie has a Tux the Penguin, symbol of all that is good, true and Linux, on her shelf.

3. Tux!

Every Linux fan should have at least one stuffed Tux in their home or office. Some of the nicer ones can be found at ThinkGeek. Of course, if you'd rather wear your Tux, I recommend this sharp baseball cap. Go penguins!)

4. T-shirts

A particular favorite of mine is the Linux Cheat T-Shirt. If you work in a Windows shop and you really want to let people where you stand, there's the Give me Linux or Give me Death t-shirt. Less in your face, but one I'm fond of is the Linux: We Made IT t-shirt.

5. Membership in The Linux Foundation

Getting serious again for a minute, if you want to support Linux you can join The Linux Foundation, or give a gift of membership. Membership comes with some nice benefits, including discounts for Linux training, conferences, and neat stuff.

6. More bandwidth

You can never be too rich, too thin, or have enough bandwidth. Well, I'd argue with the second, but Linux users need all the bandwidth they can get to download the latest DVD images of their favorite Linux distributions. If you help a Linux user get a faster pipeline for the Internet, I guarantee you'll have a friend for life.

7. Linux License Plate Frames


What better way to tell the world your friend uses Linux than a Linux license plate frame! Well, getting a Linux-related license plate of your own of course. Here are some sample Unix and Linux-related license plates to help inspire you from The Geek Stuff and WebReference.

Curiously, I can't find anyplace that currently offers a Linux license plate suitable for use in places that don't require you to use an official front license plate. Back in 2000, however, Compaq, now part of HP, did offer a Linux license plate. I've got one -- and no it's not for sale -- but if you keep an eye on E-Bay you might find one.

8. Greg Stones' Good-Bye Penguins

If you have a dark sense of humor and you like the macabre illustrated books of Edward Gorey, as I do, you'll love this tale of penguin adventure. Stones also does some very nice penguin illustrations.

[ See also: 10 great illustrations of Linux humor ]

9. xkcd

There might be a Linux fan out there who also doesn't like the Web-comic xkcd. I just don't know who they might be. What they might not know though is that they, or you, can buy a book of the comic and autographed prints. This is an almost sure-fire winner of a present.


Image credit: Linux.com Store

10. Stocking stuffers

There's a lot of good stuff in the Linux Foundation store. Really hard-core Linux programmers will appreciate the Fresh Kernels mug.

But what about those people on your list who want to give Linux a try (or who you want to subtly nudge toward Linux fandom)? Worry not, I have presents for them too.

11. A Linux to call their own

You can always burn a DVD, CD, or USB-stick image of a Linux distribution, so your friends can see for themselves what you're excited about. The one fly in this soup is that you'll also need to help them get up to speed on Linux. If you don't mind being your friends' technical support that's not a problem, but even so I'd suggest using an easy-to-use Linux like Ubuntu, Mint, or MEPIS.

12. Linux and a book

If you don't have time to help them over Linux's hurdles, you can always get them a book with their distribution. While my all-time favorite beginner's book for desktop Linux, Point and Click Linux, is now terribly out of date, it's still a model of what books should be.

If your friends are already techie types and love to play with computers, you can always try them on the Linux Bible 2010 Edition. It contains, I kid you not, eighteen Linux distributions and instructions.

More manageable, and more for everyone, are either of this pair of excellent introduction to Ubuntu books: Ubuntu for Non-Geeks and The Official Ubuntu Book.

13. Linux without the Linux

Of course, one way to sneak Linux into your friends' lives is to give them a device that uses Linux but shields them from all the technical details. That includes lots of things, such as TiVo digital video recorders (DVRs), that no one even think of as being Linux-powered. Even if we confine it though to devices that are still clearly computers, we still have lots of choices.

[ See also: The oddest places to find Linux ]

The biggest example of these are Android-powered smartphones and tablets. Personally, I favor the Droid 2 for an Android-powered smartphone, but I know a lot of people I respect who also like the Samsung Captivate and the HTC EVO 4G. Your decision here should be guided by your friend's mobile phone network of choice rather than the hardware.


For an Android tablet, there's only one real choice for this holiday season: the Samsung Galaxy Tab. The really cheap ones are, frankly, junk. Don't buy one. You and your buddy will be sorry. There are others that look like they might be good, such as the ViewSonic G Tablet, but good luck finding one in time for the holiday season. By this time next year you'll have a dozen good Android Linux-powered tablets to choose from. This year? Not so much.

14. Linux pre-installed

Finally, if you really like your friends and want to get them started right with Linux, why not just buy them a PC or laptop with Linux already pre-installed? There are several good companies offering PCs with plug-in-and-run Linux.

These include Dell, System76 and ZaReason all offer Ubuntu-powered hardware. Los Alamos Computers and EmperorLinux will pre-install several popular Linux distribution on brand-name laptops and computers for you. Both offer Lenovo ThinkPads. ThinkPads aren't cheap, but for my money, you can't get a better laptop for Linux. It's just too bad Lenovo doesn't see it that way!

Of course, someone who's already a Linux user wouldn't say no to a new computer with Linux pre-installed on it! I know I wouldn't!

So, there you go, my list of Linux presents for the season. Any other suggestions? Oh, and have a happy Windows-free holiday season!

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