Welcome to the table of contents of my avarice!
Unless otherwise noted, the items below are specified without regard to place of purchase. The places indicated by the links below often aren’t the only place to find the item in question. If you’re seriously considering giving me any of the gifts below, then I certainly like you enough to allow you to find a better deal on it if you can.
Also, the following is by no means an exhaustive list. Surprise me if that’s your thing.
Do check these. Don’t feel obligated to buy from the place of registration.
Gift certificates (Don’t and Do)
In general, I personally think you shouldn’t, for me or anyone, waste your money on 1:1 gift certificates or cards. They’re just pre-spent, inflexible cash that’s harder to enjoy than the real deal.
However, here are some good alternatives if that sort of thing is what you’d like to give.
- U.S. currency is the gift certificate of life. If you ask me to spend it a certain way, I will generally honor your request.
- “Buy one of whatever that is”: Many of the more technical items below are complicated or difficult to buy. Also, materials for individual projects tend not to even make this list because the orders are too complex, awkward, and or transient to properly transcribe (even for me). Feel free to use this option when in doubt.
- Regifted gift cards: If you think a gift card you already have would be better dispensed on me, by all means, have at it.
- Discounted gift cards: Several businesses around here have 2:1 (e.g. $50 for $25) gift card offers especially around the holidays. This is also awesome.
If you do get me a book:
- Don’t hesitate to buy used. A 100% new book may be a waste of your money.
- The audio-book version is worth so many extra points to me if one is available. My concentration is tricky and the printed page isn’t quite as nice to me as CDs or some other digital audio I can put on my phone.
- This doesn’t generally apply to technical manuals, which make more sense on paper and/or in PDF format than spoken.
This section of the list mostly contains items that are, for availability reasons, not on my Amazon list (see above).
Do note that I have on and off times for working with this kind of thing, especially since my children effectively prevent me from having any garage time. Still, if I receive any of these things, I should eventually be able to use them.
- Benchtop drill press (example): When drilling holes into things with tiny, easily snapped bits, as one does when fabricating circuit boards, a drill press is useful to keep the motion as vertical as possible.
- Raspberry Pi 3 Model B or Raspberry Pi Zero (plus accessories; see below): Raspberry Pi is a series of PCs that are ludicrously inexpensive and very small. They come ready to plug into a TV and are capable of most things you’d expect a PC to be able to do, including video and games. They also come standard with a general-purpose I/O (GPIO) port which allows them to connect easily with homebrew electronics, making them an interesting platform for creating unique TV-connected devices.
- Raspberry Pi 3 Model 3 ($40) is the current full-featured model. Roughly the size of a deck of cards, its full-size HDMI connector and built-in Wi-Fi make it nearly a home theater PC right out of the box.
- Raspberry Pi Zero ($5) takes a different approach; it’s very inexpensive and it’s really small (one could fit four of them in 2×2 arrangement on the face of a dollar bill with a little room to spare), making it a good candidate for adding the power to run software or display things on a TV to a new (or even existing!) device. It’s less RAM, a smaller processor, no onboard Wi-Fi, no ordinary onboard USB ports, and only a mini-HDMI connector (a mini-HDMI-to-HDMI adapter or cable would fix that), but worrying about these would be rather missing the point. The authorized sellers of this version currently limit these to one per sale, but having a bunch of them could be fun.
- USB OTG adapter (one example) allows the onboard USB micro-B port to be used with an ordinary USB device.
- mini-HDMI to HDMI adapter (one example, mini male to full female as a rigid adapter, another example, mini male to full male as a cable) allows the mini-HDMI port to be used with an ordinary HDMI TV or monitor.
- microSD card, 4GB or larger (one example): The Pi runs from an operating system on a microSD card instead of a hard drive, so one card is needed for each Pi.
- Raspberry Pi breadboard breakout/cable, or “Pi Cobbler” (the Pi 3/Pi Zero versions): A breakout that makes it simple to build circuits around the Pi.
- Other accessories: As with any good toy, the Pi has plenty of available accessories of the each sold separately variety. On that topic, browse Adafruit. Their budget pack includes an SD card and a Cobbler, as above, plus other items that, while not strictly necessary, could come in handy. The starter pack really overkills it, though it is rather expensive. Basically anything on the category page that looks like fun (including LCD text displays, TV displays, cameras, IR remote kits) probably is. Do ensure that whatever you’re looking at is compatible with a Pi 3, a Pi Zero, or Pi B/Pi 1 B (I already have a couple of the latter).
- AdaBox: Think of this as a sort of book-of-the-month club for electronic projects. They deliver quarterly—it actually looks like there may be about 3 months’ worth of stuff per box—and charge $60, working out to $20/month.
- Random assortments of components—whatever looks fun (super surprise box, assorted integrated circuits, semiconductors and things, switches, most of the stuff on this page): While some projects have really specific bills of materials, when engaging in on-the-fly design and experimentation, a wide assortment of randomly selected parts can be extremely useful to have on hand, and certain odd parts can even inspire projects. The links are to Electronic Goldmine because I don’t know where else such assortments come from—other than other electronics enthusiasts’ junk boxes and possibly eBay.
- Magnifying visor (example)
- Oscilloscope: It’s a device for watching electrical signals change at high speeds. Two intriguing options are the Seeed DSO Nano v3 and the Seeed DSO Quad, though there are some haters who think of these as toys and recommend more expensive devices from makes such as Tektronix. The details aren’t really too important. Even a very old, used, and/or analog one would be awesome.
Currently all fall into Polymathics above.
Consumables (and consumable-related items)
Yes, I eat and drink.
- Non-SodaStream soda syrup/concentrate: I’ve got a SodaStream that I’ve been using to make fizzy juice. It came with a bunch of syrups, too, but they weren’t very good (a bit heavy on the artificial sweetener taste) and I’ve wanted to try some from other sources to see how they compare. My preferred caffeine fix these days is Cherry Coke, but it’s a prohibitively expensive habit.
- Sugar-free hot cocoa mix: When it’s an inappropriate time of day for soda, it’s usually time for coffee instead. While I’ll drink it black if I must, a packet/scoop of hot cocoa mix makes it a lot more palatable, and without sugar the post-buzz crash isn’t as bad. No favorite brand; the store-branded stuff works quite well.
- Pocky: Try some yourself; you’ll understand.
- LOTTE Koala Yummies/Koala’s March: These things are ridiculously addictive.
- Alcohol: I really don’t drink all that much, but when I’m among others who are drinking, it is generally also time for me to drink.
- Amaretto sour: Amaretto liqueur and sour mix. Sour mix concentrate would be even better since the stuff goes bad and I don’t drink all that often.
- Mike’s Hard Lemonade (and most other Mike’s flavors—the berry and pomegranate ones especially).
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-  i.e., worth $1 per $1 paid. ↩