The Poor Man's Tech Gift Guide this Holiday Season

Category: TechToday

Black Friday
and Cyber Monday have come and gone and I still can't help but be surprised by the amount of tech shopping that occurred just a few weeks ago. Europe and the U.S.'s unemployment rates are at its highest in a long time, bank operations are in tatters, and most places (including the U.K.) are struggling for growth. But people are still spending their dollar/euro/RMB as if 2012 was the end of the world. Even in China, where online shopping has become a national pastime despite slowing growth, online sales in 360Buy and Taobao rocketed to unforeseen records last November 11 during Singles Day  (which coincides with huge online sales).

With every misspent penny a crucial mistake,  I can't recommend gift-givers to go out and buy those expensive headphones or headsets this holiday season. Instead, I humbly offer Unsolicited But Offered's the "Poor Man's Tech Gift Guide this Holiday Season."

1. RAM. Users today are notorious for replacing their laptops at a regular clip. For those with extra RAM quietly sleeping inside an unused netbook or desktop, you can upgrade a friend or loved ones' home desktop without spending a dime. You may know the different types of RAM and terms like unbuffered, MHz RAM speeds, and dual-channel, but your recipient probably doesn't. If grandmother's aging Dell Dimension could use a few more GBs, then pop open your old equipment and salvage a few RAMs. If you do have the extra cash lying around, $20-$30.00 can get you plenty of memory from a Crucial or Corsair stick over at or even Amazon. Lucky expatriates can get 8GB of RAM for a cool 80RMB-130RMB (US$22.5) over at China's aforementioned 360Buy.

2. Micro-SDs, MMCs, Sony Memory Cards, and SD cards. As long as you format a memory card properly (preferably with a Linux disk utility) and didn't leave any personal sex videos that can be retrieved using file recovery tools, there's no harm in giving an unused memory card to a nephew or cousin. I probably wouldn't give my old 512MB SD card which came with my Canon A2000 digital camera to anyone for X'mas, but that 1GB Sony M2 card from my now broken Sony Ericsson phone would be very useful to a friend or two. All you need is a good box and some nifty gift wrapping and you're good to go.

3. Hard drive. Everyone needs more disk space considering the amount of downloaded material available online and the size of photos taken from digital cameras these days. Even your old 80GB hard drive may be useful to some college joe out there with debts to pay. Follow the steps in #2, taking note of removing everything on the drive and debugging it, too. You certainly don't want to start 2013 as the next Edison Chen, Olivia Munn, or Kim Kardashian Internet scandal. It's also nice if you can get a cheap enclosure or install the drive for the recipient. I'm pretty sure they'll appreciate the gesture.

4. Technical Support. I may not be able to treat that cute secretary out to a nice dinner this holiday season (I can barely afford that new Starbucks Christmas drink everyone is lining up for), but I can certainly offer to fix her loose video card, backup her laptop/desktop using a Knoppix LiveUSB, teach her Windows 8, repair her Adobe installation, and get her wireless/Internet connection working on her smartphone or home network via proxy.  I'm also willing to edit her photos for those greeting cards she intends to send out, create an image of her new Macbook or Windows 8 hybrid using Clonezilla, and upgrade her device drivers too. I just hope she doesn't expect me to fix the macros on her Excel spreadsheet.  

5. Linux LiveCD, LiveUSB, and dual-boot. Chances are, you probably have some well-off relative, friend, or loved one who bought a new desktop, ultraportable, or even one of those new iMacs. Give them the gift of rock-solid Linux. You can teach them the basics, install it as a dual OS, or just give them a LiveUSB/LiveDVD in case they need to back up their files. Tell them they can learn plenty just by running the OS and trying out useful packages/applications for school/work/entertainment. Chances are, they might prefer it over Windows 8 and even MacOSX. Let them try the sheer joy of running Linux Mint, Fedora, and openSUSE this holiday season.  And if they say you're cheap, tell them Linux comes with more free software than Windows, MacOSX, iOS, and Android combined. Plus, geek cred. Now that's priceless.


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