Holiday Gift Guide 2006

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Tired of giving socks every year to your favorite engineer or technology elitist? Coding4Fun has come up with a holiday gift guide of items that are sure to make them glee with joy. We've cranked up the geek-factor and have tried to come up with the biggest list of programmable presents on the Web!  If you like the guide, Digg Us.

Do you know of a programmable present that wasn't listed here? Email us and we'll get it added to our list.

The holiday guide is broken down into 5 sections. Programmable Hardware and Gadgets, Programmable Robots, Programmable Games, Cool Software Tools, and Top 10 Presents for Developers

Programmable Hardware and Gadgets

Enjoy tinkering?  Think that the orginary can be modified to do something different with a little effort?  This entire section of gifts are items one can program. The range from webcams to disco floor parts to cell phones.

Wireless Xbox 360 Controller for Windows

The newly released wireless controller can be used to play both Xbox 360 and Windows PC games, and best of all, you can program with it too. In fact, certain applications, like Virtual Earth 3D already include support for the Xbox 360 controller so you'll be able to use your controller to literally fly around the world!

Cost: $37.99

Get it: Wireless Xbox 360 Controller on

Code it: The XNA Framework includes full support for Xbox 360 controllers for Windows and the Web using the XInput class. To learn the basics of programming your XNA controller, check out Paul Stubbs excellent Xbox 360 controller article as well as the newly updated version ported to work with the XNA Framework.

Infrared man (Irman) is a small device that allows you to control your PC with the remote from your TV, VCR, CD or Stereo. You can use it to programmatically control any applications on your PC!
Cost: $40
Get it: IrMan Home Page
Code it: Duncan MacKenzie, the first Coding4Fun author, posted a classic article on using an IrMan through a Pocket PC using Visual Studio .NET 2003.

Nintendo Wii Remote

Why the Wii Remote without the Nintendo Wii? Because some clever hackers figure out how to get information out of it. The Wii Remote is actually a Bluetooth device that has an XYZ accelerometer in it. With some computing, one is able to figure out the tilt of the controller.

Cost: $53.67

Get it: Nintendo Wii Remote on
Code it: [Link coming soon]

Pedometer with PC Download

Geek out, even when your exercising using this built-in pedometer

Cost: $59.99

Get it: Pedometer with PC Download

Code it: With the included PC download software, users can easily export the data into a database and easily track their progress.

CrystalFontz LCD Displays
Using the new Serial Port classes in the .NET Framework 2.0, you can create some pretty cool applications to display dynamic information on a CrystalFontz LCD display.
Cost: $60-$80
Get it: CrystalFontz Home Page
Code it: Scott Hanselman has a great article that shows how to display what's playing in Windows Media Player on an LCD display and Kit George has a cool Space Invaders Console game demo that he hooked up to an LCD display to control how you fly the spacecraft.


Phidgets are a low cost, easy to use building block that connects to your PC through USB. Through a very robust API, developing applications is quick and easy. They have RFID, electrical relays, Servos, LED, multiple different types of sensors, and even a Pan & Tilt Web Cam kit.

Cost: $75 and up

Get it:

Code it: Scott Hanselman created a weather collection program and Brian Peek created a motion-detecting Halloween prank from one.

Airlink Network Camera AIC 250

Enjoy full motion video over a wireless connection with this easy-to-setup Web cam with built-in support for DSL or Cable model DHCP.

Cost: $99

Get it: Airlink Network Camera at

Code it: Scott Hanselman's got a great article that shows how to programmatically detect motion using the AIC 250 Network Camera.

GPS Receiver with Microsoft Streets & Trips 2007

Where am I? With Microsoft Streets and Trips, it provides a turn-by-turn speech support and .NET integration. This software and GPS combo can be used with your laptop, Tablet PC, Windows Mobile device to find your way when asking for directions won't do.

Cost: $129.99

Get it: Streets and Trips 2006 on

Code it: Scott Hanselman again comes to the rescue with a great article on how read data off of the GPS receiver.

MAKE Controller Kit

Need a relay controller? How about a device that is Ethernet ready? USB too? Need digital Inputs also? Don't worry, MAKE has you covered with their MAKE controller. It has all of the above functionality and more. More so, it has API for .Net, Java, Max & Pd, Flash, C / C++. You can even network multiple controllers together to create a more complex device.

Cost: $149

Get it: Make Controller Kit

Code it: The Make Controller Kit features a .NET library for easy programmability that can be used with any managed code language including VB, C#, and C++.

Z-Wave PC SDK Starter Kit

Intermatic's HomeSettings Lighting Control Starter Kit is an easy way to help automate your home. Want your lights to turn on at 7 pm or control your home entertainment system's lighting, the Z-Wave makes it rather easy.

Cost: $149 not including discount for registered Express users

Get it: Z-Wave PC SDK Starter Kit

Code it: The Z-Wave PC Starter Kit ships with the SDK, .NET Framework API and full documentation to get started. You can get help using the SDK on the ControlThink Forums.

Learning Edition Microcontroller Kit

Whether you're young or old, learning the ins and outs of microcontrollers can be tricky. You can now learn the basics of microcontrollers including programming sensors, motors, resistors, microphones, diodes, capacitors and more.

Cost: $149.95

Get it: Microcontroller Kit Home Page (source: Wired Gift Guide)

Code it: The kit includes built-in programmability for controlling your hardware.

Disco Dance Floor Parts

If you want your home to be disco'ed out, you can get the PCB hardware boards from the people over at MIT who originally designed it. They also have boards pre-constructed if surface soldering isn't your forte for an additional cost.  Not sure on what types of LEDs to buy or how to do the cabling?  They have that too now!

Cost: $35 to $450 dollars per board

Get it: Dropout Design

Code it: You can't go wrong with Clint Rutkas's Coding4Fun article for how to build out your own disco dance floor!

Sirius Conductor Satellite Radio Tuner

For Sirius Satellite radio fans, you can program macro-like behavior using the Z-Wave Sirius Radio Tuner. Because it's Z-Wave, you'll be able to easily program it or any other Z-Wave Products using the Intermatic .NET Framework 2.0 gear.

Cost: $149.99

Get it: Z-Wave Sirius Radio Tuner at Circuit City

Code it: If you have the Z-Wave PC SDK with Intermatic Home Settings Lighting Control Starter Kit, it includes the ControlThink SDK which enables you to easily program Z-Wave gear.

Windows Mobile Smartphones

The Samsung Blackjack, T-Mobile Dash, or the Motorola Q are great at making complex life easy. They run Windows Mobile 5.0 Smart Phone edition and are slim and small. With this Windows Mobile Version, you won't be able to alter Office Documents, but you'll be able to view them through Picsel Viewer. All these phones have a full QWERTY keyboard on them.

If you need more power, upgrade to a Cingular 8515, a Treo 700w, T-Mobile MDA, or the Samsung SCH-i730. These phones have larger screens that are touch sensitive and while physically bigger, they can do more. Unlike the phones above that run the Smart Phone edition these run the Pocket PC Edition. With these phones, you get Microsoft Office Mobile Suite so one can create and editing of Office documents.

Price: $199 - $600

Get it: Windows Mobile Smartphones

Code it: You can use Visual Studio 2005 Standard Edition, one is able to develop for these devices and create software with ease, like Bryan Dougherty's Mobile Pac-man

StreetDeck Software

StreetDeck software is the ultimate must-have software for pimping out your car. StreetDeck includes, GPS Navigation, internet-enhanced navigation using Google Maps or Microsoft Live Local, Media Sync for your MP3 collection, games, and best of all, there's an SDK so it's fully customizable.

Cost: $199.99

Get it: StreetDeck software on

Code it: Streetdeck includes a SDK for programming using VB Script, similar to Office VBA, and you can also build a .NET add-in in Visual Basic, C#, or C++ by making it available through COM.

eStarling Wi-Fi Email/RSS-Enabled LCD Frame
This frame enables users to either run an email configuration or RSS feed configuration so you can choose to write an application that dynamically sends an email (say from a Webcam periodically), dynamically upload your pictures to Flickr, or create your own RSS feed with pictures.

Cost: $249.99

Get it: eStarling page on

Code it: You can use Sam Judson's Flickr .NET API to easily programmatically send pictures to Flickr, or use the FlickrWebCam application to have mom get real-time pictures of you from your Webcam or use the SmtpMail Class to email a picture attachment in one line of code.

Home Theater and Lighting Controller 300 featuring OmniLinkTM
If you have your house setup for Z-Wave Home Automation, then you'll want this programmable remote that enables you to easily control your lights, home theater and more.

Cost: $599

Get it: Home Theater and Lighting Controller 300

Code it: If you have the Z-Wave PC SDK with Intermatic Home Settings Lighting Control Starter Kit, it includes the ControlThink SDK which enables you to easily program Z-Wave gear.

Windows Media Center

Now is a great time to upgrade your old PC, like the Dell XPS 410 a PC Magazine Editor's Choice that ships with Windows Media Center 2005, but includes a free upgrade to Windows Vista Home Premium which includes a revamped Media Center with built-in streaming to your Xbox 360.

Cost: $999 - $2,500

Get it: Dell Online Store

Code it: Windows Vista Media Center has a much-improved API and three different ways to mod Media Center including HTML, XAML, and Media Center's own markup language using the Windows SDK.


Mr. Roboto, please come to the front, your Roomba is waiting for you. This entire section lists robots and electronics that do everything from a vacuum cleaner to creating your own cellphones to GPS.

Microbric Viper Robot

The Microbric Viper robot enables you to build complex electronic devices with little or no prior electronics knowledge and no soldering required.

Cost: $89.99

Get it: Microbric Viper Robot and Serial IR Transmitter/Receiver

Code it: Scott Hanselman walks through programming a Microbric Viper Robot

Lassen iQ FAT16 Datalogger - Complete Kit

Ever think you constantly walk in circles? Think you could optimize your routes if you only could map where your went? Use this GPS device to passively map your routes, all you need is an SD card added in. Then return to your computer, upload your data and see where you wandered. Great for mapping routes biking or hiking.

Cost: $150.70

Get It: Spark Fun

Code It: From their GPS Logger Datasheet, you can get it to work with Google Maps or create your own from the specification provided.

Parallax Bluetooth Boe-Bot Kit for Microsoft Robotics Studio

Using Microsoft Robotics Studio, you can easily program the Boe-Bot Parallax kit over Bluetooth and best of all, the Robotics Studio team has negotiated a 15% discount on the BoeBot.

Cost: $198.77 after 15% discount

Get it: Parallax Boe-Bot Kit

Code it: You can use Microsoft Robotics Studio which exposes services to control your Parallax Boe-Bot Kit using Bluetooth.

iRobot Roomba

It's not just a vacuum cleaner it's also your programmable minion! You can use the clean-the-house excuse as your justification for getting this friendly house cleaner.

Cost: $229 or $339 depending on model

Get it: Roomba Red + RooTooth bundle, Roomba Discovery + RooTooth Bundle

Code it: You can use Microsoft Robotics Studio which includes built-in services for Roomba programming.

LEGO Mindstorms NXT

Lego Mindstorms NXT is Lego's newest release of their popular Mindstorms robotics and includes built-in three motor support and multiple sensor support including motion, touch, sound, and light.

Cost: $249.99

Get it: Lego Mindstorms on

Code it: You can use Microsoft Robotics Studio which includes built-in services for Lego Mindstorms NXT programming.

GM862-GPS Evaluation Cell phone Kit – USB

Looking to write your own cell phone software? Just pop in your SIM card and get to it. Spark Fun has an evaluation cell phone board with GPS that can interface with your computer through USB.

Cost: $274.65

Get It: Spark Fun

Code It: You can find the documentation for how to start interfacing with the board and Spark Fun provides a Visual Basic example.

White Box Robotics PC-BOTs

Whitebox Robotics has created the closest thing to having R2D2 at home with their newly released PC-BOTs. While it's the priciest of all robotics kits, it's hardware is no joke as it includes 1GB of RAM, an 80GB hard drive, Windows XP Home, DVD Drive, and a wireless network card.

Cost: $3,995 for the Developer kit, $4,995 to include the ever-so cool panels.

Get it: 914 PC-BOT, 9-Series PC-BOT both from PCPowerzone

Code it: You can use Microsoft Robotics Studio to program Whitebox Robotics devices (video).

Tira – Infrared Remote Control Receiver/Transmitter

Eric Gunnerson pointed us to Tira, or Transmitting InfraRed Adapter, which is a device that enables you to send and receive infrared signals to any IR device, say to control home automation, or to change your TV channel. Best of all, it's fully programmable so you can control when to send IR signals or what happens when it receives IR signals.

Cost: $49.00

Get it: Tira 2.1 on Home Electronics

Code it: Tira's Developer Page includes a downloadable SDK which includes a DLL that you can call from any .NET language or directly from C++, once you install the Tira drivers.

Programmable Games

Think the final boss is too hard?  "Modify" the game to give yourself that extra edge.  As any Coding4Fun reader can tell you, games are more fun when you can mod them, and we've chosen our favorite moddable games that you can take and extend to your heart's content. 

Rocket Commander

Benjamin Nitschke's Rocket Commander is both fun and educational as Ben put together 10 step-by-step videos that show how to build a fully moddable an immersive 3D game using Managed DirectX and C#.

Cost: Free

Get it: Rocket Commander Game

Code it: Watch all 10 videos and download the source code to start building your own RocketCommander mod.

Mech Commander 2

If you're interested in how real commercial games are built, look no further than Mech Commander 2, a real-time strategy game with full source code available released by Microsoft Game Studios. If you're a C++ developer you can learn how to build your own mods to Mech Commander in these three free webcasts

Cost: Free

Get it: Download the full source code (1GB)

Code it: Mike Klucher from the XNA team gave a 3-part on-demand Webcast series on how to mod Mech Commander 2that you should use as your starting point: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

World of Warcraft

If you haven't started playing World of Warcraft, you simply don't know what you're missing! With the Burning Crusade Expansion Pack coming out on January 16th, now is a great time to join this ever-evolving world!

Cost: $19.99

Get it: World of Warcraft on or pre-order the Burning Crusade

Code it: World of Warcraft scripting and add-ins are coded in LUA, which you can add Visual Studio 2005 support (Standard and above), or check out David Nikdel's WoW-360 Project, or UniUploader (screenshot) which enables you to dynamically upload much more detailed players stats to a WowRoster portal.

Neverwinter Nights 2 Limited Edition DVD

Neverwinter Nights 2 is a popular Dungeon and Dragons game that enables users to create their own worlds and adventures and includes a large community of users building games and dungeons for you to explore

Cost: ~$34.99

Get it: Neverwinter Nights 2 on

Code it: The Neverwinter Nights game builder is written in C# using the .NET Framework and you can write Game Builder plug-ins using any Visual Studio 2005 language including VB, C#, or C++.

Civilization IV

Sid Meier's Civilization IV is an unlike the typical Age of Empires battle strategy game in that players can use everything from diplomacy to technology to advance their civilization.

Cost: $39.99 or $19.99 for the expansion

Get it: Civilization IV on or Warlords Expansion Pack

Code it: Civilization IV includes a Python and C++ SDK and, while we haven't tried it, you may also be able to call the DLL from VB and C#.

Half Life 2 Holiday 2006 Collection

The Half Life 2 Holiday 2006 Collection includes Counter-Strike: Source, Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, Half-Life 2: Episode One, Half-Life Deathmatch: Source, Half-Life: Source. The good news is that you can now officially use Visual C++ 2005 Express Edition for your Half Life 2 mods.

Cost: $49.95

Get it: Holiday 2006 Collection

Code it: Valve's online wiki SDK docs include everything you need to get started including steps to get Visual Studio 2005 working.

Flight Simulator X Deluxe DVD

While Flight Simulator X's hardware requirements are quite big, the graphics on Windows Vista using DirectX 10 are nothing short of breathtaking.

Cost: $49.99

Get it: Flight Simulator X on

Code it: The Deluxe edition of Flight Simulator X includes a new SDK called SimConnect that you can use to manipulate and control the Flight Simulator world using VB, C#, or C++.

Software Tools

Tools to help make video games, robots and webpages oh my! Every good craftsmen needs their tools and we're no exception.  Below is a list of tools and tool add-on's that will make anyone's life that much easier.

Microsoft Robotic Studio

If you have LEGO Mindstorm RCX or NXT, you actually can control them through Microsoft Robotic Studio. It can control far more than just LEGO too, it is able to control far more and comes full of examples. Instead of having to deal with low level coding to deal with everything on your robots, one can write a wrapper then have the Robotic Studio do all the heavy lifting!

Cost: Free

Get it: Microsoft Robotics Studio

Microsoft Visual Studio Express Editions 

You can get everything someone needs to code in 6 different flavors. Web Development, SQL Server, Visual Basic, C#, C++, and J# Editions are available for download from Microsoft. They are the perfect gift for the hobbyist, novice or student developer that is looking for lightweight, easy to learn and use tools. Each edition is able to run side by side on your computer with other installations so you can collect them all!

Cost: Free

Get it: Visual Studio Express Editions

Microsoft XNA Game Studio Express

Think you are cut out to build video games? Using Microsoft Game Studio Express you can try out building video games that can be played. If you have an Xbox 360, you can actually transfer the game you created to it too! You can show off to your friends the games you created (Don't forget to add in a god mode for yourself).

Cost: Free for Windows/$99 year for Xbox porting and content subscription

Get it: XNA Game Studio Express


Paint.NET is a free image and photo manipulation software that is open source too! Paint.NET is written in .NET 2.0 and mostly is c# and has a small amount of C++. It supports layers, unlimited history, a simple and intuitive interface, and is loaded with special effects. While it isn't an Adobe Photoshop replacement, it is simple and powerful enough for someone on a budget.

Cost: Free

Get it: GetPaint.NET

Code it: Paint.NET has a managed API that you can write plug-ins for using any managed language as shown in this Code Project tutorial by Dennis Dietrich.

Reflector for .NET

Do you have a program that is written in .NET and you can't figure out how it they preformed a certain task? You thought you fixed that bug but it is still happening after you deployed it. Use Reflector it to see how they pulled it off and verify deployments! Reflector is capable of showing the source code of DLL's in .NET 1.1 and 2.0 in both Visual Basic and Visual C#. What is displayed isn't a 1 to 1 code representation, instead what the ILM runs, however one can figure out how certain tasks are accomplished and should be able to gauge what is happening.

Cost: Free

Get it: Reflector for .NET


If you're a gamer, you've likely used TeamSpeak or Ventrilo to have live chat while playing online games. For us, the choice between TS and Vent came down to who has the API's, and it was clear that TeamSpeak is the way to go given its built for extensibility

Cost: Free

Get it: TeamSpeak

Code it: You can find a couple of .NET TS samples including Peter Barette's C# Chat Text application or Oliver Flint's TSDisplay.NET (live demo) using ASP.NET


If your coder has multiple monitors, you may think about getting them UltraMon. UltraMon extends out the Windows Taskbar across all the monitors along with the ability to create shortcut keystrokes to send windows to different monitors. In addition, it allows for each monitor to have a different display profile. Plus it has scripting support!

Cost: $39.95

Get it: UltraMon

Code It: Ultramon has a SDK along with scripting support.

Microsoft Visual Studio 2005

If developing for mobile applications or want to use 3rd party Visual Studio add-ins, you'll need to upgrade to Visual Studio Standard or Professional Edition. Visual Studio Express Editions projects will seamlessly work with the full versions of Visual Studio.

Cost: $179 - $679

Get it: Standard Edition (upgrade price), Professional Edition (upgrade price)

Code it: Visual Studio 2005 includes a free SDK that you can use to create your own add-ins or even your own programming language.

JetBrains ReSharper

ReSharper is an add-in to Visual Studio 2003 and 2005. ReSharper provides an intelligent coding assistance, on-the-fly error highlighting (no more recompiling), additional searching and navigation features, unit testing, and realy time analysis of code warnings / errors … the list goes on and on. JetBrains ReSharper is free to try out for 30 days, $200 for a full copy.

Cost: $200

Get it: JetBrains ReSharper

Code it: ReSharper has an open API which you can use to modify how your code is refactored.

WebSuperGoo ABCpdf

PDFs are everywhere and progressively more applications are needing them. AbcPDF allows a developer to easily manipulate or create dynamic PDFs. It is fully multithreaded and is loaded with stock full of examples to figure out everything. Past just normal PDF generation, it also can do HTML to PDF generation.

Cost: $328, Possibly free if you link to them.

Get it: WebSuperGoo

Code it: Here is their API for ABCpdf.

Top 10 Cool Presents for Developers

What are your top 5 favorite ... wait, this isn't a movie.   Here are what Coding4Fun would deem Top 10 cool presents for Coders.  Some range from a magazine subscription to DNA.  Each one is

Optimus mini three keyboard

Wondering how much CPU or RAM your system is taking up? How about what the weather is? The Optimus mini three keyboard allows you to view what is going on in the world with animation.

Cost: $159.99

Get It: Optimus mini three keyboard on ThinkGeek

Code It: The Optimus Mini has a c# library to use along with other languages which can be found here.

O'Reilly Safari Books Online Subscription

Wonder why FireFox and Internet Explorer's JavaScript Dom acts different for the same property?  Me too.  That is why I have a ton of O'Reilly books at my desk.  With their online solution, one has the entire library to their disposal.  No need to go through pages upon pages of search results!

Cost: $39.99 per month

Get It: Safari Books Online

MAKE Magazine

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

Cost: Register your copy of Visual Studio Express and get 5 issues for the price of 4.

Get it: Make Magazine

Color Call

You're in the middle of a meeting and you're up on the whiteboard. The phone rings, should you answer? Find out easily with the Color-Call Caller ID System which enables you to setup which phone numbers should correspond to up to four different colors. 

Cost: $29.99

Get it: Color-Call Caller ID from Brookstone

Scrolling LED Belt Buckle

Nothing says geek chic like a scrolling LED Belt Buckle.  It can hold up to six messages at a time with each message containing 256 characters. You can see pictures of our very own Sara Ford wearing the Scrolling LED Belt Buckle.

Cost: $29.99

Get it: Scrolling Belt Buckle

Self Destruction Button USB Hub
You can't go wrong accessorizing your office with this custom USB Hub that would be perfect for Dr. Evil.  Just remember, do not press the red button no matter how much you want to.

Cost: $64.66

Get it: Self Destruction USB Hub from

Alesis USB Podcasting Kit

For your inspiring Podcaster, the Alesis kit takes the guesswork out of podcasting. It comes with an 8-Channel USB Mixer, dynamic microphone, stand, and headphones. It also comes with 30 days of free hosting for your podcasts.

Cost: $250

Get it: Alesis USB Podcasting Kit

Matrox DualHead2Go / TripleHead2Go

Afraid which new video card is right for you or are you on a laptop? The Matrox allows a coder to have up to three monitors with the TripleHead2Go (two with the DualHead2Go) with only one video input. Multiple monitor support is build into Windows. While having that many monitors may seem a tad excessive, they do help boost productivity and help the keep workspace less messy.

Cost: $169-$299

Get it: Matrox Products

DNA Portrait

The ultimate in personalized artwork, this portrait is created by using your actual DNA and comes in fun color choices like Firesky, Ice, Citylights, and Citron

Cost: $390 for 18” x 24”, $490 for 24” x 36” and $790 for 36” x 54”

Get it: DNA11

22”+ wide screen monitors

What is better than having dual monitors? Dual 22” widescreen monitors. Bigger monitors aid in the ability to read more and have been shown to have boost productivity 10 to 44%. Please verify the graphic card / device they have can support a monitor of this size.

Cost: $400-$500

Get it: Dell or NewEgg lists of 22”-23”+ or 23”+

C++ Programming Books

Every programmer needs C++ books. Some need a C++ GUI Programming Guide while others need a primer book.  The gift of reference books is always a good bet.

Cost: $30 to $50

Get it: Amazon

Happy Holidays From Coding4Fun!

Now only if I can get someone to get me all these gadgets, software, and toys, I mean highly educational, non-fun devices.  Thanks for reading and if you think we've missed any awesome holiday gift, please Email us and we'll get it added to our list.  If you like the guide, Digg Us.


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The Discussion

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    Noticias externas

    Well folks, at Coding4Fun, we're attempting not to wait until the last possible second to buy our

  • User profile image

    Well folks, at Coding4Fun, we're attempting not to wait until the last possible second to buy our gifts

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