It’s that time of year again, when you find yourself at a loss for what to give the IT pro and uber geek that has everything. But when that gift recipient is an open source fan, what do you do? Are you required, by some sort of nerd-code, to only present to them gifts of an open source nature? Or, if by giving them something, gasp, closed source, are you breaking some sort of unwritten law?

The truth is, there are plenty of gifts, both open and closed, that you can give those special gals and guys on your list. Let’s take a look at some options you have. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll find something here that’s perfect for that friend, family member, or loved one.

Ergo-dox keyboard

It sounds like a completely mundane gift, but watching an open source fan unwrap this very unique keyboard should bring a bright spot to an otherwise dark year (thank you, 2016). The Ergo-dox keyboards are, in fact, open source. Not only can you get very specific on how you want your keyboard to function (choose your keyswitches and keycaps), you can install the open source configurator and even download the source of the firmware.

The one thing you must know about the Ergo-dox keyboard is that it is a split keyboard (Figure A), something everyone has to get used to. But, once accustomed to the layout of the keys, the user will never want to type on anything else…ever.

Figure A

You should also know that the Ergo-dox does have a hefty price tag ($295/$395, depending upon options). For that price, you are likely purchasing the last keyboard that user will ever need.

System76 computer

If you’re looking to go big, why not go with a System76 laptop or desktop. Not only do they offer some fantastic hardware (I’ve been using the LeopardFigure B – now for about three years and it has served me brilliantly), but they are an outstanding company that offers very good support, ship machines running Ubuntu Linux, and they care about open source.

Figure B

No fan of open source would turn their nose up at a laptop or desktop running Linux.


Mycroft is the open source alternative to Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home and is the world’s first open source, open hardware home AI platform. It’s a powerful piece of AI hardware (Figure C) that is always learning, always listening, always changing, and ready to help you be more productive. Unfortunately, it’s still not available. Sigh. They’ve hit a few production snags, but continue moving forward. You can pre-order a Mycroft and hopefully we’ll see shipments sometime in early 2017.

Figure C

Lulzbot Mini 3D printer

The Lulzbot Mini is the first 3D printer to have earned the Free Software Foundation’s Respects Your Freedom certification. On top of that, the Lulzbot Mini (Figure D) is the ideal gift for the DIY enthusiast. Another reason for adding the Lulzbot on the list is that they include Linux in their support platforms and even have available drivers for downloading.

Figure D

The Mini will set you back around $1,200.00 USD, but anyone that is serious about DIY would be more than happy to part with that much coin for such a printer. Aleph Objects (the company responsible for Lulzbot) is also committed to Free Software, Libre Innovation, and Open Source Hardware (and state as such on their website).

Vilros Raspberry Pi 3 Complete Starter Kit

Every open source fan should try their hand at a Raspberry Pi at some point. The Vilros Raspberry Pi 3 Complete Starter Kit is a perfect kit to make that happen. Not only do you receive the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, you also get a case (Figure E), a preloaded 16GB Micro SD Card which includes A Raspberry Pi 3 Compatible Version of the NOOBS Software, SD card Adapter, 2500 mA Micro USB Power Supply, 5′ Long High Quality HDMI Cable, and a heatsink specifically designed for Raspberry Pi.

Figure E

Swag from the Free Software Foundation

Every geek loves a tee shirt that allows them to promote their geekdom. Why not buy them a t-shirt that not only aids in your quest for the perfect gift, but also supports the Free Software Foundation. You can get books, shirts, stickers, and more from the Free Software Foundation. My personal favorite is the Run GCC tee (Figure F).

Figure F

Mooltipass Offline Password Keeper

If you’re a fan of The Fifth Element (and who isn’t?), you’ll be shouting, “Big bada boom” over this particular piece of hardware. The Mooltipass Offline Password Keeper is a piece of hardware that encrypts your passwords and requires an included smartcard to function. No smartcard, no function. The Mooltipass is compatible with Linux, Windows, and Mac and would be an impressive piece of tech (Figure G) for your favorite geek to carry around. What’s best (beside the absolute coolness of this tool) is that the company behind Mooltipass believes in open source and has made all of the software for Mooltipass available on Github.

Figure G


As always, donations are a great gift. You can opt to donate to that special someone’s favorite Linux distribution (in their name of course), or to their favorite open source application. Developers are always in need of funding and nothing says “support” like a donation. A great place to start is by donating to the Free Software Foundation.

Get creative

There are so many ways to show your appreciation to that special open source someone. If none of the above ideas appeals to you, get creative. For example, if the recipient of your gift uses Audacity to record podcasts, maybe you could get them a new microphone (like the Blue Yeti, which works perfectly with Linux) or a Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) such as the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (another piece of hardware that works seamlessly with Linux).

Get creative and the options are limitless.