Image: Jack Wallen

The holiday season is upon us, and that means you’ll be giving gifts to family and friends. But what do you do when those gifts are going to fans and users of open source software? Fortunately, you don’t have to fret, as there are plenty of options available that are sure to please your Linux and open source friends.

And just because your recipients are supporters of open source, it doesn’t mean that every gift you hand out must be released under the GPL or be powered by the Linux operating system. In fact, you have plenty of options.

Here are my picks for the best open source gift options of the year.

SEE: Android gift guide: The best gifts in 2019 (free PDF) (TechRepublic)


At the moment, one of the more popular products among open source enthusiasts is the PinePhone. Although not a flagship device by any stretch of the imagination, this is a full-on open source smartphone that is supported by all major Linux phone projects. In fact, just recently KDE announced its Plasma Mobile platform now supports making phone calls on the Pine Phone; although that might not sound like a big deal, it is to those developing the product.

The PinePhone BraveHeart edition costs $149.99. Give this gift to your open source enthusiast, and you are sure to win them over (or get a kiss under the mistletoe).

SEE: More Gift Guides for Techies (TechRepublic on Flipboard)

System76 Thelio desktop or Purism Librem 13 laptop

Go big or go home, right? If you want to really make a splash with your open source friends or loved ones, get them a desktop or laptop pre-installed with Linux. Believe it or not, there are plenty of options available. Let’s take a look at two.

If you want to give the greatest desktop machine manufactured today, skip everything else and head straight to the System76 Thelio. Period. This machine can be spec’d out beyond your wildest imagination. This desktop computer will remain on my open source gift buyer’s guides until someone manages to design and build a superior machine, and I don’t see that happening in the near future.

When the Purism Librem 13 first arrived, it was hit pretty hard for a number of issues (poor trackpad being the biggest problem). However, the latest iterations of the Librem 13 are outstanding. But why select this device over, say, the Dell XPS 13 Developer edition? The Librem 13 includes one particular feature many an open source fan might appreciate: Hardware kill switches. There are two physical kill switches: One for wireless and Bluetooth and one for camera and microphone. For anyone serious about their mobile privacy, those kill switches can be a real boon.

SEE: The best Linux gifts to buy in 2019 (ZDNet)

Kubernetes playground

One thing you might consider is giving your open source fan the gift of a Kubernetes playground. Since Kubernetes is one of the hottest open source tools on the planet, getting up to speed with that ecosystem would be beneficial to the career of anyone in IT. In order to fulfill that, you might consider getting your friend or loved one credits on the Google Cloud Platform, AWS, Azure, Linode, or Rackspace. With this, your open source fan can start learning to develop and deploy applications onto a Kubernetes cluster.

SEE: Best Star Wars gifts for young or veteran fans in 2019 (CNET)

Distribution-specific goodies

Linux fans love to show their support of their favorite distribution, so why not get your Linux fan a T-shirt to help them with that cause? There are a ton of really cool, Linux-specific tees on Redbubble. Some distributions, like elementary OS and Debian, sell T-shirts and other merch directly from their sites. If you cannot find what you’re looking for, Google is your friend.

SEE: 42 T-shirts so geeky only IT pros will get them (TechRepublic)

Donate to an open source project

Here’s a gift that goes beyond your recipient. If you know your open source fan has a favorite project, consider a donation to that project in their name. Almost every Linux distribution and many other open source projects include a donate button on their sites. Remember, many of these projects live and die by donations, so every penny counts. The more money these projects receive, the less they will struggle to stay afloat. Knowing a donation in their honor might help keep the lights on for their favorite open source project would certainly bring all the feels to your loved one or friend.

SEE: Give InKind social platform can help people help others during the holidays (TechRepublic)

The best keyboard

If your open source fan is either a writer or a programmer, consider buying them the single greatest keyboard on the market: The Ultimate Hacking Keyboard. This is a fully programmable, open source, split keyboard that is as well engineered as a keyboard can be. I’ve used countless keyboards over the years, and none of them can stack up against this one. It’s beautiful, tactile, and expandable. No other keyboard on the market compares to the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard. Period.

Mooltipass Offline Password Keeper

Most open source fans are also fans of privacy and security. Your open source loving friend or family member might use a software-based password manager, but why not upgrade them to something more secure, like the Mooltipass Offline Password Keeper? This is a hardware-based password keeper that you plug into your computer, insert your smartcard, unlock it with your PIN, and visit a website that requires login credentials. With the help of a Mooltipass browser plugin, the device will ask for permission to send the proper credentials, and viola! You’re logged in.