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A 2019 sysadmin holiday gift guide

Looking for a last-minute stocking-stuffer? Here are a few hints for what the sysadmin in your life might enjoy.
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presents under tree

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With the holidays just around the corner, many of us are racking our brains, trying to figure out what to buy our family and friends. If you are like me, you are probably struggling to come up with a gift that feels meaningful or useful. Honestly, who wants to get a gift card or another pair of socks? Not me! So, we've done the thinking for you this year.

Here are some of our favorite holiday gift ideas for sysadmins, as picked by our staff and community:

  • Mechanical keyboard: There is nothing more satisfying than a good typing experience, especially when it's something that you spend the majority of your day using. The downside to most mechanical keyboards is noise and wires. This offering from Rapoo is the first wireless mechanical keyboard I have ever seen and would make a great gift. (Newegg.com
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    Laptop bag
  • Laptop bag: Every sysadmin needs an excellent bag to carry their notebooks, laptops, adapters, cables, and anything else needed to do the job. Having a good bag with a padded laptop compartment is essential for keeping your computer safe on the go. Organized storage compartments are also a plus. I have been a fan of Canadian company Arcteryx for a long time. They make outstanding gear from the best materials, and this Granville 16 courier bag is no exception. It fits up to a 15in laptop and is constructed from waterproof materials. (Arcteryx.com)
  • e-Reader: This is a complete travesty, in my opinion, but I understand that some people prefer the utility of an e-Reader over actual books. Preferences aside, reading is a great way to step away from the keyboard now and then. Not only does it give you a break from the screen, but it also can help you develop professionally. Reading can also help you journey to faraway lands, solve murder mysteries, and even improve yourself as a human being. If you don't have room for a traditional book, check out this Kindle. You can store hundreds of books on a device smaller than an iPad. (Kindle via Amazon.com). If you want something a bit less "mainstream," you can check out Inkbook. They run a stripped-down Android distro on an E ink screen. (Inkbook via Amazon.com
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    Flashlight
  • A good flashlight: This is going to be more useful for my data-center dwellers, but good light is excellent to have on hand. I can wholeheartedly recommend this G2X from SureFire. I have owned several of their lights over the years, and they are absolutely bombproof. They also put out enough lumens to dim the sun, so there's that. (SureFire.com)
  • USB drive: And not just any USB drive. Sysadmins need a drive capable of storing everything from training materials to working files and HD movies for travel. We are talking about something north of 500GB. You can find many USB drives on the web these days, but I like this one from PNY. (Amazon.com)
  • Multitool: Even though the job isn't usually mechanical, there have been numerous times that I have needed a screwdriver or a knife during my duties. We recommend something that has a small footprint and offers a lot of utility. I used a Leatherman Squirt during my time in the Navy, and it continues to work well in my civilian life as well. They are inexpensive and will fit on a keychain. (Leatherman.com
  • USB power bank: Since our job revolves around technology, and that technology draws power, we sometimes find ourselves in need of a little extra juice. A mobile power bank can be a lifesaver during travel and will be a well-appreciated gift by most everyone. Check out this USB-C bank by Anker. (Amazon.com)

Non-technical gifts

A wise man once said, "It can't all be about tech, right? Gotta get fat and caffeinated sometimes." These gifts will help to keep the sysadmin in your life awake, happy, and on-time:

  • Wristwatch: Every professional needs a watch, if for nothing other than to be punctual. However, if you can squeeze utility into something beautiful, then all the better. I personally like this Timex Marlin 40mm Automatic. It's simple, it's classic, and it tells the time. What more do you need? (Amazon.com
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    Watch
  • Great coffee: The bane of most sysadmins' existence is terrible coffee. There is nothing worse than needing a pick-up and having to choke down some bitter or dry swill. As a Navy veteran and a  coffee snob, let me take a second to recommend the Black Rifle Coffee, Co. They are owned and operated by a retired Green Beret, and they do a ton to support those who fight for our freedom around the world. My favorite is the "Silencer Smooth" blend! (Blackriflecoffee.com)
  • Tasting clubs: Cheese and whiskey. What's not to love? A subscription to a tasting club can be a neat way to try new things and bring a little excitement to someone's life. A mystery box of delicious consumables is just what a sysadmin needs at the end of a long day. We like these two: Cheese of the Month and the Caskers Whiskey Club.

We had so many suggestions from our community that I couldn't name them all, but you can find several honorable mentions here:

  • Tech-themed LEGO sets
  • Various Rasberry Pi kits
  • Monoprice 3D printers
  • Vintage Casio digital watches
  • Professional training or certification prep

Whether you are buying for a sysadmin or need to give someone a good idea of what to get you, be sure to bookmark this article. Whatever gifts you decide on, be sure to spend this time of year with those who matter most, as that will be far more fulfilling than any gift this season.

Topics:   Sysadmin culture  
Author’s photo

Tyler Carrigan

Tyler is a community manager at Enable Sysadmin, a submarine veteran, and an all-round tech enthusiast! He was first introduced to Red Hat in 2012 by way of a Red Hat Enterprise Linux-based combat system inside the USS Georgia Missile Control Center. More about me

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