Coding4Fun Holiday Gift Guide 2008
- Posted: Dec 05, 2008 at 9:31PM
With every year, the Coding4Fun team has come up with a small army of gift ideas. Here's our list of gift ideas sorted by price, starting from the freebies (things you should just have installed on your PC) all the way to up to gifts that are $500.
CodeRush Xpress is freely available to all Visual Studio 2008 developers and offers a comprehensive suite of tools that enable you and your team to simplify and shape complex code - making it easier to read and less costly to maintain.
Get it: Download from CodeRush
ooVoo is our favorite video chat software for multi-person video chat, because not only is it a high quality video being streamed, it’s also simple to setup and free to use. Best of all, there’s a COM API to play with and automate ooVoo for developers interested in tinkering.
Robotics Developer Studio is a set of tools for building robotics applications using either Visual Studio Express or Visual Programming Language (VPL). In addition to the development tools, Robotics Developer Studio includes a powerful simulation environment for running robotic simulations. Best of all, you can go to RoboChamps and compete head-to-head in a number of challenges including the Mars Rover challenge, Roomba Sumo wrestling, or the Kia Motors Urban Challenge with a grand prize of a new Kia car!
Want to make some neat items models for your video games or add models in Virtual Earth? Give Caligari Software’s trueSpace 7 a try. Since Caligari was acquired by Microsoft, they've made trueSpace a free download for everyone to enjoy. You can use it for XNA games for Windows and xbox 360. And it has a real-time engine that allows you to create some amazing scenes too with their shader effects!
Ready to rock out with Guitar Hero and Rockband but can’t find the song you really want? Check out Unsigned, an XNA band instrument that can be played both on a PC and on an Xbox 360. They are always looking for additional people to contribute too!
While Unreal Tournament 3 isn’t a newly released game, you can now build Unreal Tournament bots using VB and C#. The newfound joy is in being able to do something both geeky and cool about being able to play a deathmatch game with some friends against your own AI code!
For developers on the go, chances are you have to charge not only your laptop, but potentially your digital camera, video camera, cell phone, and MP3 player. The surge protector can rotate 360 degrees to accommodate tight spots and it can hold 3 electrical outlets and 2 USB ports.
Get it: Surge Protector on Amazon
The Intercooler TS is an Xbox 360 accessory that improves air flow to improve ventilation for your Xbox, especially in small shelving units where you may not have the best ventilation.
Get it: Intercooler TS on Amazon.com
PicoLCD is a 4-line, 20-character USB-powered LCD display that is compatible with Windows Sideshow, a technology that displays Windows Vista Gadgets onto different types of hardware. What that means is that you can setup Vista (Home Premium or higher) to send data directly to the LCD. There are 30+ pre-built Sideshow gadgets including stock updates, Twitter and Facebook updates, and more.
Get it: PicoLCD on Mini-box
Code it: Go to the Live Gallery Developer Center for more information on building Sideshow gadgets. You can also make Sidebar gadgets that are compatible with Windows Sideshow.
Andy Konkol created an application that picks up newly discovered Bluetooth devices that come in range. Why care? Tons of people have their Bluetooth set to be on visible and now to abuse that fact. You can have the application alert you when certain devices are in range so you no longer have people sneaking up on you!
Sure, its shameless self-promotion, but our Coding4Fun book has some fun, and entertaining projects ranging from XNA Game development to handy examples for programming Twitter, Facebook, Wiimote controllers and lots more.
MAKE magazine is a magazine that actually encourages you to break your warranties. Wonder how to do modify your camera to do strobe photography, they’ll explain how to create a rig to create. How about a toy gun alarm clock? A jet made out of a jar? A 5-in-1 network cable? These are just a few of many things they show people how to make in their quarterly magazine. In addition to their magazine, they have a great blog over at http://makezine.com/blog/.
Cost: $34.95 - Register your copy of Visual Studio Express and get 5 issues for the price of 4.
Get it: Make Magazine
Interested in creating one of the world’s weirdest musical instruments, the Theramin? Ken Moore did just that with WPF and Brian Peek’s WiiMote .Net library. If you want to do projects like this or Johnny Lee, get a WiiMote and start hacking.
World of Warcraft is popular enough that Wrath of the Lich King sold 2.8 million copies in the first 24 hours, making it the fastest selling PC game of all time. It’s so popular, that the previous record holder for most PC games sold in 24 hours was the previous World of Warcraft expansion, The Burning Crusade. Wrath adds lots of stuff including a Death Knight, new dungeons, level 80 cap, several new zones including a dedicated PvP zone, tons of new spells and abilities, and lots more that are sure to entertain you for hours.
Cost: $39.98 + $15 monthly fee
Get it: Wrath of the Lich King on Amazon.com
Code it: Download AddOn Studio for World of Warcraft and check out the Coding4Fun book project FeedReader to see how to build an in-game RSS Reader that dynamically updates using VB and C#.
Elevate your skills with a revolutionary mouse designed to provide you with unprecedented performance, handling, and adaptability. Customize your mouse with every game you play using advanced software and adjustable accessories. Use the first ever LCD display on a gaming mouse for macro recording and DPI settings to reduce on-screen interference during game play.
Get it: Order the SideWinder Mouse from Amazon.com
Lights go on, Lights go off, Lights go on, Lights go off…. If you want some home automation, check out some of the z-wave technology. This is a door sensor that will detect if a door/window is open or closed. Then with their software or write your own to help automate your home.
Get it: Order a Z-Wave Door Sensor from Amazon.com
Code it: Check out Jerry Brunning's Stall Status Coding4Fun article to see how you can build gadgets that notify you when a door sensor is tripped
Want to drive cars on your walls with your WiiMote? With some AirHog Zero Gravity cars, Phidgets, and your trusty WiiMote, you can accomplish this. Add some crayons taped on the back of the cars and you can redecorate your house!
Get it: Order AirHogs from Amazon.com
Code it: Since AirHogs are remote control, you can use Brian Peek's Wiimote Controlled Car article (featured in detail the Coding4Fun book) to open an R/C controller, connect it to a Phidgets board and programmatically control your car's steering.
Hey, you’re not supposed to be at my computer, let me correct that with some Nerf action! Nothing like the satisfying urge to shoot something at co-workers that makes the day well worth coming in.
Get it: Order USB MSN Missile Launcher from USBGeek.com
Have extra hard drives that you need to shove in and out of your computer but can’t open up your desktop or on a laptop? This USB drive dock allows you to make your extra drives into quick, easy external hard drives for a fraction of the cost. Best of all it can handle memory cards too!
Get it: Order USB SATA Drive Dock from USBGeek.com
Are you Sam Fisher from Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell in training? EyeClops has created a fun, cheap way to get night vision. And if you partner this with a webcam, you can have now have a webcam with night vision!
Get it: Order EyeClops Night Vision Goggles from Amazon
For the person that loves seeing items way too close, get then a endoscope web camera. Hair, teeth, watches, The camera has a few different focus rings for your entire close up desires.
Get ready to increase your fragging skills of newbies with the SideWinder Keyboard. With a switchable key pad, in-game macro record button, and much more, this keyboard helps make you into the scariest gamer out there
Get it: Order the SideWinder X6 Keyboard from Amazon.com
The Wii Fit Balance Board is a bluetooth-enabled device with two scales and several sensors for developers to play with.
Get it: Order a Wii Fit Balance Board from Best Buy
Code it: Simon Bergweiler and Matthieu Deru from the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence built the Wii Fit with Warcraft sample you see in the YouTube video above.
For those of you looking to do some home improvement for the holidays, check for Z-Wave home automation gear like the Elk M1G or Elk M1EZ Security and Automation Panel, Z-Wave Dimmer Switches, and get a Z-Wave Controller such as the ControlThink ThinkStick or equivalent.
Get it: Z-Wave Products
Code it: Charles Stacey Harris has a great Coding4Fun article on using Robotics Studio to control Z-Wave home automation gear.
For just $99 a year, an XNA Creators Club subscription gives you access to premium game development content, the ability to create XNA games for the Xbox 360 and even the ability to publish games to the community arcade on Xbox Live (and even make money).
Would you like to have an instant visible notification of a build failure or have something tell you the newest tweets you got off Twitter? Check out a Nabaztag! It uses XMPP protocol to communicate via WiFi and has a robust API model that can be programmed with .NET and multiple other languages.
Want a slick MP3 player with tons of features and some APIs you can program against? Check out the Zune! Coding4Fun even posted about some “undocumented” APIs to get some neat functionality.
Want to rock out not only on Unsigned but a full blown drum machine? Check out Andrew Rudson’s drum machine application which lets you transform your Rockband drums into much more!
Do you have a huge energy bill and don’t understand why? Now you can with The Energy Detective Monitor, a tool that adds a transmitter into your breaker box and logs your energy consumption. Best of all the data can be downloaded to your PC and you can catalog and track using the included Footprints software.
Get it: Order from SmartHome USA
Code it: Since the data can be read directly off the hardware, you can go to town by building custom reports, say using the new ASP.NET Chart control to share your energy consumption with your geeky friends.
One size doesn’t fit everything, so why should your cell phone. Windows Mobile allows you to create cool applications along with keep everything you need to keep your life sane!
Price: $100-$250 depending on model
Get it: While there are lots of Windows Mobile Smartphones to choose from, the Palm Treo Pro has definitely caught our eye.
Code it: Check out the Windows Mobile Developer Center to get started building custom Mobile applications.
Rovio is a beautiful wifi-enabled mobile robotic webcam that you can drive and steer remotely over the Web. Rovio enables you to have a self patrolling robot at home that can record video, take pictures, and even stream audio. One of the cooler features is that Rovio also includes a TrueTrack beacon that will send Rovio back to his charging station automatically when batteries are low. Note: Users on Amazon.com are reporting some hardware quality issues with the Rovio.
The Erector Spykee is a robot with a built-in Web cam for photos or video, motion detector, wifi, MP3 player, internet phone and more. Like the Rovio, Spykee can be controlled over the Web and it will also automatically dock when it’s low on power.
Need some backup storage but a home server is a tad overkill? How about the WD 2 terabyte external hard drive? It uses RAID 0 to provide that extra safety net to keep your data safe in case of a hard drive failure.
Get it: Order a Western Digital My Book Mirror from NewEgg.com
For those of you who still do not know the joy of dual monitors, getting a second monitor is a simple and easy way to increase your productivity 20-30% (source: New York Times article on Lifehacker).
Cost: Varies $250-500
Get it: LCD Monitor reviews and pricing
Code it: Arian Kulp wrote a great utility called Multiwall, a wallpaper tool for multiple monitors that explains the ins and outs of buiding multiwall applications.
SparkFun’s Inertia Measurement System enables you to measure roll, pitch, and yaw with a triple axis accelerometer and three iMEM gyroscopes. The IMU also includes a Bluetooth radio for wireless communication to a PC as well as three temperature sensors.
For the ultimate gadget, look no further than the iWear Virtual Reality glasses. Included in the glasses are two high-resolution 640x480 LCD displays that provide the equivalent of a 62’ screen viewed 9’ away!
Get it: Vuzix iWear
Code it: Brian Peek shows how to programmatically control images that are sent to the VR glasses and combine them with a Wiimote and Virtual Earth to fly around downtown Las Vegas.
Want to have one of the best holiday light shows on the block? Rob Miles shows how to use the .Net Micro framework to create that extra little show topper for your light show.
Get it: Digi Connect-ME or GHI Electronics Embedded Master or Devices Solutions Tahoe II
Code it: Check out Rob Miles's Coding4Fun article to get started programming the .NET Micro Framework.
For just $500, you can pick up an Asus ePC and get a bare-bones machine that for email, Web browsing and if you’re experimental, light coding. Make sure to upgrade the RAM on these machines to at least 2GB and of course try running Windows 7 on the machine!
Get it: Asus ePC Home site
Windows Home Server not only provides a centralized location for files and backups in your home, but also can be used as a powerful application system.
Get it: Order a HP MediaSmart Server with 500GB from Amazon.com
Code it: Windows Home Server is completely programmable and includes its own SDK for building Windows Home Server add-ins, like Brian Peek's Outlook Webmail add-in to read Outlook mail from a Web browser for those without Outlook Web Access.
This Humanoid robot, originally designed by a Transformer artist, includes 17 servos with 180 degrees, 100 pre-built movements, a speaker for playing audio through the robot’s chest, and a 3D environment for creating custom movements. Best of all, the robot comes pre-assembled for those of you with fat fingers.
Get it: Order from Trossen Robotics
Code it: MechRC ships with MechRC Commander software
With 18 servos, a wireless controller, an Inverse Kinematics engine, and a programmable microcontroller, the Phoenix Hexapod is both intimidating and agile. While this is designed (and priced) for more advanced robotics enthusiasts, we can’t help but dream of releasing a swarm of these creatures with at a local mall and watch chaos ensue.
This machine is a dream to play with as it comes with a gorgeous 22” multi-touch display, Intel Core 2 Duo (64-bit), 4GB of RAM, 500 MB, 7,500 RPM drive and a wireless keyboard and mouse combo. It’s beautiful and you’ll definitely be the envy of all your friends with a touch-capable PC.
And to go with the new keyboard and mouse, why not the HP Blackbird. This high performance beast of a computer not only can calculate Pi to 8 quadrilion digits, it can frag with the best of them too from WoW to Crysis!
Get it: http://www.hp.com/blackbird
Well that's it folks, thanks for reading and hopefully you've found some gifts to add to your wish list or gift ideas to add for a loved one.
The Coding4Fun Team