back to article Ten top tech toys to interface with a techie’s Christmas stocking

‘Tis the season for dropping unsubtle hints about gifts that YOU’D like to receive, or – if you prefer – for making a list of things that you would buy for nephews and nieces but, because you’re an evil misanthropic Uncle or Auntie, you’ll buy for yourself instead. At least that way there’ll be no tantrums round the tree and …

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  1. JDX Gold badge

    Sphero

    That looks kind of cool but sadly for me it'd have to fall into the £20-ish price bracket alongside those remote-control mini-helicopters

    1. NightFox

      Re: Sphero

      And £80? You'll be lucky - maybe for the original Sphero, but a Sphero 2's going to set you back £100 unless the Reg reveals where it pulled £80 from (I hope it didn't just look at the US price and convert $ to £, we all know it never works like that)

      1. Nigel Whitfield.

        Re: Sphero

        That may indeed be the case; I don't recall the UK stockists lists being available when I wrote the piece. So, apologies.

      2. D@v3

        Re: Sphero

        Sphero 2, from the gosphero.com shop, including shipping (to UK) and taxes, ends up as $189, or £115.

        I got a sphero1 for christmas last year, and it's good fun, for a few weeks. The new one is supposed to be much quicker, which should make climbing obstacles (ramps etc.) easier, and you get two ramps in the box as well.

        My main issue with the sphero1 (which i guess would apply to the 2 as well) is that to get the most out of it, you need a reasonable amount of space, as is true with all RC toys, which I, unfortunately, don't have.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sphero

          Or £99.95 for the Limited Edition version from Apple UK.

        2. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: My main issue

          lack of space *and* lack of the expensive smartdevice needed to make it work. Me lack iTat.

          Guess I'll have to stick with my RC helos and the off-road RC truck that is toy-like but turned out to be the best fun since crayons and modeling clay.

    2. Valeyard

      Re: Sphero

      I got a sphero for the wife so she can use it with the cats, i'm pretty intrigued by some of the games though

      1. VinceH

        Re: Sphero

        "I got a sphero for the wife so she can use it with the cats,"

        That (and dogs) was what I first thought of when I saw it.

        "i'm pretty intrigued by some of the games though"

        The zombie one mentioned in the article isn't the one I'd have highlighted. It's the game where you take on the role of a Rover, trying to prevent Number 6 from running away.

        Except that one doesn't appear to exist. Missed a trick, there. (Or didn't miss it, but balked at the licensing fees needed, which would probably be understandable.)

        1. Valeyard

          Re: Sphero

          That (and dogs) was what I first thought of when I saw it.

          yeah same! then it was only after checking to see if anyone on youtube had the same idea that i realised it was a good choice..

        2. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Sphero

          ""I got a sphero for the wife so she can use it with the cats,"

          That (and dogs) was what I first thought of when I saw it."

          No no no.Having seen a Terrier happily tearing apart a '1' and subsequent arguments over who was responsible(IMHO the twit who said 'watch this - it will drive him mad') I can say (most) cats probably, most dogs no.

          1. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: Sphero

            And a laser pointer on the floor works very very well for cats. Someone (in the US) even filed a patent (granted) on the application to cat exercise.

  2. Himalayaman
    Holmes

    A Chromebook. Seriously? No techy would be caught dead with that.

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Linux

      They can run full-blown Linux, too, you know.

      BTW I thought the Acer C720 was the one to get, or isn't it available yet?

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Surely half the fun is trying to get it to do things which it wasn't supposed to do?

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        If the techy buys a Chromebook for a family member, they might receive fewer phone calls along the lines of "My computer is asking me a question I don't understand, what button do I press?", leaving said techy more time to play with their toys.

      2. Michael Thibault
        Mushroom

        >Surely half the fun is trying to get it to do things which it wasn't supposed to do?

        The other half of the 'fun' being trying to get it to do things which it is supposed to do?

      3. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Surely half the fun is trying to get it to do things which it wasn't supposed to do?

        Its a computer - it can do anything if you don’t cripple it with certain operating systems - Chrome included.

    3. DrXym Silver badge

      Linus Torvalds has / had a chromebook pixel which he bought for the hires screen and promptly rooted.

      The HP chromebook looks very pretty but it has a desperate 16GB drive soldered to the board and an ARM processor. It's probably fine for its intended purpose but I think it would be very cramped for running full blown Linux.

      1. Synonymous Howard

        c–h–r–o-m–e–netbook then.

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        If you want email/web browsing/netlfix and remote admin ARM netbooks are great value

        If you want to be in charge of Linux kernel development then I would buy the Pixel

      3. Tom 7 Silver badge

        very cramped for running full blown Linux???

        a bigger machine might be nicer but the a Full Blown Linux will get agoraphobia on it - if you care to load the full 'enterprise' development suite and write a program to detect all the space that would still be left.

  3. Pypes

    Neglected to mention

    You've got more chance of having a pint with the pope than getting a PS4 this side of Christmas, unless of course you already have one.

    1. TRT Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Neglected to mention

      A pint? Yes, I have one, thanks! Won't last until Christmas though.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Neglected to mention

      "You've got more chance of having a pint with the pope than getting a PS4 this side of Christmas..."

      No way. He prefers wine.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Neglected to mention

        "You've got more chance of having a pint with the pope than getting a PS4 this side of Christmas..."

        "No way. He prefers wine."

        And who said that His Holiness doesn't drink *wine* by the pint...?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Neglected to mention

          "You've got more chance of having a pint with the pope than getting a PS4 this side of Christmas..."

          "No way. He prefers wine."

          "And who said that His Holiness doesn't drink *wine* by the pint...?"

          The Metric system says so. He stops just before he has a pint, or waaay after he has one.

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: Neglected to mention

            Who says only whole litres are sold on the continent?

            1. Steve Renouf
              Pint

              Re: Neglected to mention

              "Who says only whole litres are sold on the continent?"

              Very true. You can generally get:

              250ml

              330ml

              500ml

              1000ml (1 litre) [note the correct spelling of litre, for our American friends] ;-)

              but you'll have a hell of a job getting a 568.2463ml measure m'boy! (1 pint [UK])

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Neglected to mention

          "You've got more chance of having a pint with the pope than getting a PS4 this side of Christmas..."

          "No way. He prefers wine."

          And who said that His Holiness doesn't drink *wine* by the pint...?

          Here's the answer, courtesy of Billy Connolly

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKMQKgSnGy8

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Strange

    No iThingys or Androids !

    Whats wrong with you guys at El-Reg ?

    1. sorry, what?
      Facepalm

      Re: Strange

      Um, Sony Xperia Z Ultra...?

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Strange

        Re, the Z1 Ultra, I believe that there is a Google Play Edition available in the US, although Sony's Android customisations aren't too obtrusive anyway.

        1. K

          Re: Strange

          I took the dive after some advice from other posters - amazing bit of kit. I've ditched my Galaxy S3 and Nexus 7 for this.. it looks a bit ridiculous holding it to the ear, but 90% of calls I ignore anyway ;)

          1. Moktu

            Re: Strange

            I bought myself one for my birthday. Absolutely lovely device.

            But no one loves me enough to buy me a PS4 for crimbo, and yeah, I'm adopted.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Strange

      A few of these just appeared in the office, the Android fans seem to like them for some reason (well, being £6 who else would go for them?) http://www.cozybot.com

  5. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Cheap geek toys

    I was recently recommended a website, bangggood.com, that sells lots of cheap n cheerful Chinese products, everything from mini helicopters, to CREE flashlights, spare parts and consumables for 3D printers to Arduino boards. I haven't used it yet myself, so can't yet recommend it personally, but I intend to cane £20 or so on just it's '99 cent gadgets' section soon.

    Reviews of the site on 3rd party websites seem mostly positive, though some people claim that the buyer reviews might be manipulated a bit. Any one have any experience of this site?

    1. NoOnions
      Facepalm

      Re: Cheap geek toys

      One 'g' too many in the address above...lots of Adult dating if you do go there, as I just found out (at work!!)

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Cheap geek toys

        @NoOnions

        My sincere apologies! This mini Bluetooth keyboard I'm using seemed a good idea at the time.

        1. Sheep!

          Re: Cheap geek toys

          I too have just been logged at work as trying to access it lol. I see a meeting in my near future....

      2. Valeyard

        Re: Cheap geek toys

        what's the proper URL, banggood?

        I don't feel safe trial and erroring (I'm at work also..!)

        1. NoOnions
          Go

          Re: Cheap geek toys

          @Dave 126 - no worries - could have been a lot worse ;-)

          @Valeyard - yes, I can confirm that www dot banggood.com/ is SFW!

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: Cheap geek toys

            >@Valeyard - yes, I can confirm that www dot banggood.com/ is SFW!

            Except for it's Adult Toys section, of course... like I said, they sell damn near everything!

    2. Jes.e

      Re: Cheap geek toys

      I was about to report abuse but then I tried the website name with two "g's" instead of the proffered three..

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    TP Link TL-WDR3600

    I've got one of these, and although it functions fine as a router and access point don't buy it for the USB extras as they are worse than useless. USB storage is shockingly slow and flaky (<10mbps) over the network and doesn't work at all when trying to stream some media file types. I wasted a lot of time trying to get a coherent answer to this from their completely useless support dept., I didn't even expect them to fix the problem, just admit it was the shit firmware and give me an indication of when they expected to fix it. But no, answers ranged from your media player isn't compatible to return the unit to the vendor. (DD-WRT doesn't improve things according to the WRT forum).The USB print server facility is also extremely irritating requiring some TPlink software installed on each endpoint, (which worked when it felt like it).

    1. David Webb

      Re: TP Link TL-WDR3600

      My recommendation is the Asus RT-N66U, Gb ports, DB Wi-Fi, 2 USB ports (again, slow on transfer), doesn't have ac, just n but we'll not hold that against it. Built in torrent/nzb client to download to HD when you go to bed and it looks awesome.

      Now to get BT to hurry up with my Fibre (only been waiting 5 months since they said it was available....) so I can switch from my crappy TG582n as a modem to something a bit faster.

    2. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: TP Link TL-WDR3600

      I picked this mostly as a platform for OpenWRT, though of course there are plenty of similarly priced options, depending on the exact functions you require. Raspberry Pi gets all the love at the moment, but for some sorts of projects that need a small Linux system, I feel that you are very probably better off with something like this - even if not this exact model.

    3. Fuzz

      Re: TP Link TL-WDR3600

      also this TP-Link doesn't do 802.11ac it's dual band but N only

      1. sam bo

        Re: TP Link TL-WDR3600

        "also this TP-Link doesn't do 802.11ac it's dual band but N only"

        Well, mine only cost AU$70 so I didn't expect it too. An Asus AC router costs $200 here.

        Mine runs Gargoyle flawlessly - shares a printer to all on the network via one usb port and provides 3g access from a modem on the second usb port.

        As I don't have any AC enabled hardware, I don't miss it's absence - prefer ethernet anyway.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: TP Link TL-WDR3600

      I'd also add that if you're going to run Asterix on anything the outside world can see, you NEED to have something like fail2ban protecting it, or someone will bruteforce your passwords eventually.

      1. semi-extrinsic

        Re: TP Link TL-WDR3600

        Passwords? You're doing it wrong. Limit it to only allow key-based logins (and disable root logins). Ain't nobody trying to bruteforce 1024 bit DSA just yet.

  7. QuinnDexter

    "It’s the perfect way to find something to do around 3pm on Christmas Day when there’s sweet FA on the telly."

    Er... I think you'll find that's when Betty is on most channels... So perhaps from 3:20 we can play with tech gizzets. How about a round-up of christmas-dinner tech? Is there a wifi thermometer that tells you when your turkey is done?

    1. sabroni Silver badge
      Happy

      re: that's when Betty is on most channels...

      It's disrespectful to call her that!

      Should call her Liz!

      1. bonkers

        Re: re: that's when Betty is on most channels...

        Liz?

        what's wrong with "Brenda" ?

        Phil and Brenda are well known to readers of Private Eye?

        1. davemcwish

          Re: re: that's when Betty is on most channels...

          Re:Phil

          Nope Brenda's (QE2) husband was 'Keith'.

          1. bonkers

            Re: re: that's when Betty is on most channels...

            You're quite right, sorry.

            Keith and Brenda it is.

            FWIW, Charles and Diana were Brian and Cheryl.

            Its funny how the nicknames fit them all much better...

    2. Toxteth O'Gravy

      Yeah, like the man says, nothing worth watching.

      Bet you stand up when they play the music too, you patriotic goon

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        "Bet you stand up when they play the music too, you patriotic goon"

        I'm torn between love for my country and love for that fact that my country is predominantly populated by people who don't take their country too seriously. Merry Xmas to you both.

  8. Jason Togneri

    An alternative to banggood (which I hadn't heard of until now) and which I've had good experiences with in the past, for buying random Chinese tat, is Brando (start with gadget.brando.com). Cheap postage too, although at this point in time you'll be lucky to get anything in time for Christmas!

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      >you'll be lucky to get anything in time for Christmas!

      No worries, I'll be spending Christmas day assembling a ReRap 3D printer from RS... a £500 quid toy to make a 50p hanger for a curtain rail. Apparently it doesn't like dust and hair, so some sort of cat deterrent is in order (the dog doesn't do his duty in this respect). That and a trip to the pub and a family meal.

      This is why I like the internet: http://www.3ders.org/articles/20131104-turn-your-3d-printer-into-an-instant-laser-cutter.html

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Raspberry Pi Starter Kit £75

    "$35" becomes £75.

    That matches my experience where "$35" rapidly became about $100. Just the Pi alone was actually $50 delivered. Not that there's anything wrong with that; but just don't buy the "$35" hype.

    1. Van

      Re: Raspberry Pi Starter Kit £75

      For many people they can open a drawer full of container park (local tip) fodder and have a fully functional computer for £26 inc delivery. That's half the price a Playstation 4 game that only has slightly improved graphics over the last version, but the machine is still on this list.

      Or how much would you give me for an old Dell USB keyboard? Wired USB logitech mouse. Powered chinese crystal cased USB hub. Toshiba 4GB SD card taken from a Nintendo 3DSXL. Ten bucks? No, I didn't think so. This shit sells for pennies on ebay.

      1. Hans 1

        Re: Raspberry Pi Starter Kit £75

        Agreed!

        I got a 16Gb high speed sdhc I card, case and pi for less than that money ... using old usb keyboard and mouse that were lying in the closet. I tried with an old SD card compared to my fast one and I did notice a substantial difference when the thing boots up, also launching apps is quicker ...

        The thing could do with a recent dual core or quad core ARM cpu, though. <dream>I would not care paying 100+ for the raspberry pi quad core 1.7Ghz version with 2 or 4 Gbs of RAM</dream>

        ... I definitely have the wording ready for the missus.

  10. JeffyPoooh
    Pint

    Roku 3 RC headphone socket

    Interweb: "The Roku 3 remote ... operates via Wi-Fi Direct rather than infrared."

    So the RC headphone socket will still work with the RC tucked into a pocket? As opposed to carefully aimed at the Roku 3 base unit?

    If so, nice. It'd also be a useful Internet Radio player to use with headphones around the house.

  11. Fred M

    Tado

    I can thoroughly recommend the Tado. It was a easy to install and works very well. They're currently offering a free visit for installation but you probably won't need it.

    The beta version I got had issues with Sky broadband (and of course Sky won't let you change their awful router or DNS servers). Once we'd identified the problem a Tado engineer and new firmware written and remotely deployed within a day. Great service.

    1. Ian 55

      Re: Tado

      Is it hackable to lose the Sky-only stuff?

      1. Darryl

        Re: Tado

        Does it actually save 20(ish) percent on heating bills, though? I see all the claims on the website, but there are other things to consider, like is it a 20% saving over a 1960's dial thermostat or a modern programmable, for instance...

        1. Bobthe2nd
          Facepalm

          Re: Tado

          You'll get a 100% saving on wasted fuel if you turn the heating on when you actually get home

  12. stu 4

    mince

    More like a list you'd see in 'stuff' that....

    here's my techie xmas list:

    - 3d printer (e.g. FlashForge Replicator 2)

    - electric self balancing unicycle (e.g. airwheel X3)

    - android tv stick (e.g. mk808)

    - FPV micro quadcopter (e.g. Hubsan H107D)

    - fully programmable HUD display (e.g. MOD Jet)

    (disclaimer - I may have actually already bought all these already since Santa told me to FO and be happy with my orange and hoop & stick)

    1. BigAndos

      Re: mince

      Is the mk808 any good? I bought a "smart" bluray player to get things like netflix and 40d, but then Samsung inexplicably removed all the apps I used except lovefilm and iplayer! Looking for a better replacement than plugging my laptop into the TV as I could then sell the laptop...

      1. stu 4

        Re: mince

        yup, plays everything you can throw at it format wise (xbmc). Plus you get all the xbmc plugins to get access to the more seedy side of the net like ice films if that is your bag.

        and netflix, etc all works fine too.

  13. Ian 55

    "it sure as heck isn’t going to be the year of desktop Linux..."

    Probably not. It will be interesting to see what happens come the end of support for XP in April though.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "it sure as heck isn’t going to be the year of desktop Linux..."

      I strongly suspect that all those home users who haven't been bothered to upgrade their Windows OSes, will be even less likely to install Linux than upgrade Windows. My best guess is that what happens is nothing, until possibly the first unpatched attack, when things may start to happen..

    2. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: "it sure as heck isn’t going to be the year of desktop Linux..."

      That was a little tongue in cheek, but still, I think:

      A lot of home computers will eventually end up infested with malware as new and exciting exploits come to light.

      Some people will decide to buy a cheap new computer, very likely replacing an old desktop with a much more compact laptop.

      Some will conclude that since they only ever used it for email and Skype, they can make do with something like a Tesco tablet.

      A vanishingly small number of the people who've so far resisted upgrading from XP may decide to put Linux on their aging hardware. But you'll probably be able to count their numbers on the fingers of a pretty badly mutilated hand.

      1. Martin Silver badge
        Linux

        Re: "it sure as heck isn’t going to be the year of desktop Linux..."

        A vanishingly small number of the people who've so far resisted upgrading from XP may decide to put Linux on their aging hardware.

        And they'll try Ubuntu, and discover that the latest version won't run on their machine as it needs super-de-luxe 3D graphics. Even my four-year-old nettop won't run stock Ubuntu 13.10 - it looks fine until you press the "flag" button, and then it all goes a lovely shade of blue. Quite nostalgic, really.

        While Ubuntu is the most well-known desktop Linux, it will NEVER be "the year of desktop Linux".

  14. phuzz Silver badge

    Pebble

    The Pebble doesn't have an eInk screen, it's some flavour of low power LCD.

    That said, mine has lasted at least 8 days at one point, I'm quite happy charging it once a week.

    1. SVV

      Re: Pebble

      So, £90 for a big ugly digital watch that needs recharging after 8 days. Versus a handful of quid for a digital watch from a market stall that will run for over a year off a tiny battery.....

      Seriously, this thing looks like something Sinclair would have put out in 1983, and I'm struggling to think of any applications I'd like or need to use on a screen this size.........

      I'm not going to give in to the temptation to repeat the famous Douglas Adams quote on such watches, but considering how easy it is to determine the time in our digital tech saturated world these days, and how most people carry smartphones with them which are better in every respect, this looks like a real xmas turkey.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pebble

        That's what I thought about the looks too... But I got one anyway because, well, I'm this site's target audience.

        It looks better in person, feels quite solid and I do actually find it useful. I always miss messages and phone calls because I can't feel my phone buzz in a coat pocket so that's one problem gone. I use my phone for music and leave it in an inside pocket, can use the watch to skip the tracks that I thought were a good idea to stick on the playlist at the time. I rarely use it to tell the time :D

        Plus, it makes a decent bike speedo and the SDK is gradually getting more useful, so geeky funs!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've just ordered a couple of the Trinkets, it'll be interesting to see what I can do with them. I'm thinking room thermometers, but I don't yet know how to get the data back to a base station, possibly zigbee...

  16. Salts

    Linux on the Desktop

    Not in 2014, 2015 maybe after the desktop is redefined by marketing types world wide.

    A Chrome OS based laptop type thingy, based on Linux OS, is kind of a desktop replacement, more than enough for what most consumer PC's of the last few years have to achieve, email with webmail, facebook for cats, twitter for ..., stream some stuff & maybe have to write a CV, yup sounds like a desktop replacement for many, did I mention it was Linux based :-)

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You've linked to a dual-band n router, not an ac router

    N600 the clue was in the name

  18. Arachnoid

    Banggood.com

    Yes Ive had no issues using the site but bear in mind China now has a ban on batterys going by air these days so anything with such included comes snail mail.Despite the wait its cheaper than buying exactly the same stuff on auction sites.As to stocking fillers Id be looking in the lower £20 range with my budget

  19. xyz Silver badge

    well, it's better than last years list that...

    ..only had stuff you could buy if you'd just trousered the contents of the Bank of England.

    Smartwatch....really?

  20. Vociferous

    Oculus Rift.

    Nothing else even comes close, though sadly the consumer version wont be available this christmas.

    Even more sadly, one can't buy shares in Oculus VR, if I could I'd slaughter my piggybank: I've not seen such an obvious game-changing future success since nVidia announced that it would release the first graphics card with 3D hardware acceleration (the Geforce).

    1. Frogmelon

      Re: Oculus Rift.

      Nvidia NV1 through NV6, the astounding (for the time) 3Dfx, and other early, if sub-par, 3D graphics "accelerators" say hi :)

      1. Vociferous

        Re: Oculus Rift.

        > Nvidia NV1 through NV6, the astounding (for the time) 3Dfx

        True, I expressed myself poorly. The earliest 3D cards didn't get a very strong start: few games supported 3dfx initially (though I played the heck out of Tomb Raider) and RIVA 128 had virtually no features and was buggy to the point of being broken. More to the point, they were dumb framebuffers. The Geforce 256 was the first which offloaded calculations from the CPU and did hardware transform, lighting and shading, allowing orders of magnitude more polygons on screen.

        I saw the design a couple of months before release, and I instantly knew that I was looking at the future of gaming. It almost physically pained me that I could not buy shares in nVidia.

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