The best holiday gifts for open source enthusiasts

The gift ideas below will please even the most hard-core open source users on your holiday shopping list.

The best holiday gifts for open source enthusiasts

It's a conundrum, that's for certain. You want to give gifts to those who thrive on operating systems and applications released under a license that often equates to free software. So those friends, family, co-workers, etc. aren't used to spending money on their digital tools. Only, they actually do.

Even the most hard-core open source users must spend their hard-earned dukets on computers, internet connectivity, and (on the occasion) software. So you don't have to worry about being relegated to only giving them gifts released under the GPL (wrapping said gifts in pages torn from The Cathedral And The Bazaar).

But what gifts should you give? Here are a few ideas that cover a wide spectrum of taste and price range for open source enthusiasts.

SEE: Gifts for gadget lovers: Top picks (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Distribution-specific goods

Most open source enthusiasts are really keen on a particular distribution. In fact, Linux distributions are like their sports teams. So why not gift them a gift that allows them to show their Linux pride in public? One way to deliver that is by gifting them a distribution-specific tee shirt. Even better, by purchasing those tee shirts (in most cases), you help support those distributions keep the lights on. Here's a short list of available distribution-specific goods:

Non-distribution Linux goods


If there's one universal theme that can be said about open-source lovers, it's that they love to learn. So why not provide the gift of education? There are a few ways you can do this. The most obvious is to purchase training from the Linux Foundation. Next, you could purchase them individual classes from edX or a membership subscription for A Cloud Guru, who offer such classes as the LPI Essentials. For those on your list who work in the enterprise with Red Hat Linux, there is also the Red Hat Learning subscription.


Never forget, one very important badge of honor is donating to an open source project. Many projects struggle to make ends meet. Although they may not pay programmers, they do still need to pay for website hosting and the likes of GitHub. Some distributions even have a small marketing budget. Where does that money come from? In most cases, donations. So, donate to a favorite open source project in the name of your friend/family/co-worker. If you're unsure how, head over to the website of that project and, most likely, you'll find a donate button. In some instances, the donate button is found in the distribution download section (you might even have to, gasp, download an ISO of the distribution to reach that download button).

SEE: Steer clear of these 25 terrible tech gifts (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Give Linux a try

Here's a gift that won't cost you a penny (and has the added benefit of you enjoying a superior operating system experience). Show your friend that you support their efforts, by installing Linux on a computer and give it a go. Nearly every Linux enthusiast I know will beam with pride at the gift of their friends or family migrating from Windows to Linux.


If you're really want to spend some gold-pressed latinum, you can always go the hardware route. There are a ton of really cool pieces of hardware that you can find that are sure to stoke the fires of your loved one's heart. Let's take a gander at a few.

  • First off is the System76 Thelio. This particular desktop system is a beast that will outlast about any other system you can find. Customize this desktop machine to perfectly fit the recipient's needs. Be prepared, however, to drop some serious coin.
  • Dell XPS 13 Developer edition. It's sleek, it's powerful, it runs Ubuntu Linux. This laptop might be the best in show for Linux developers. What more do you need?
  • Antsle. I've been using an Antsle private cloud server for more than a year, and I can attest it is one of the finest pieces of virtual machine hardware I have ever used. If your Linux enthusiast likes to run a ton of virtual machines, this piece of hardware might be just the thing they don't realize they need.
  • Open source keyboard. The ErgoDox EZ might be one of the single most complicated keyboards on the market (What open source enthusiast doesn't enjoy a challenge?). It's also open source, fully programmable, incredibly comfortable, and really cool looking.

Still stumped?

Chances are, one of the gifts above will make your open source enthusiast incredibly happy. If, however, you're still not sure what to give your open source-loving friend/family member/co-worker, try this: Since they have such a strong penchant for open source, ask them what they would like. Given their GPL nature, they'll most likely want to make their gift wish list open.

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