Holiday Gift Guide - 2007 edition

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If you're not sure what you need for this holiday season, look no further.  After a year of coding and drinking soda in far too large quantities, the Coding4Fun team has released the 2007 Coding4Fun Holiday gift guide!  Did we miss something?  Comment or contact us and we'll add it to our list!



Programmable Gadgets and Software



This suite of electronics provide a low cost, easy to use building block that connects your PC to multiple sensors and motors.  Their API provides a simple, robust way to create an application within minutes.  There are phidgets for LEDs, RFID, relays, servos, touch sensors, ....

Cost: $7 to $125

Get it: Trossen Robotics (US) - Phidgets.Com

Code it: Phidget's API works on Mac, Linux, Windows, and Windows Mobile/CE!  It also works across a large sum of platforms including Microsoft Robotics Studio.



World of Warcraft Burning Crusade Expansion Pack

image With a population of over 9 million “residents”, World of Warcraft is by far the most popular Massively Multiplayer Online game in the world and with the Burning Crusade Expansion Pack, things just got a lot more fun including flying mounts, PVP zones, new level increase to 70, a new arena system, and much more. Best of all, Warcraft exposes a Lua-based API and has a huge community of AddOn developers extending Warcraft.

Cost: $19.99, requires a full copy ofWorld of Warcraft

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

Code it: The Developer Division is releasing AddOn Studio for World of Warcraft, an open source extension to the free Visual Studio Shell that is designed for building Warcraft AddOns and will be released on CodePlex. In fact, you can also find several Warcraft CodePlex projects for everything from pulling game statistics to setting up a guild Web site.

ScreenKey RGB Graphic Button


Ever wonder why there is a scroll lock button?  Me too.  However, you can replace it with a ScreenKey button and put additional functionality, along with the "wow" factor in your keyboard.  It isn't the Optimus Maximus, but it doesn't carry the price too.

Cost: $36.95 - 48.95

Get it: SparkFun

Code it: ScreenKey API


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.


Nintendo Wii Remote

Why the Wii Remote without the Nintendo Wii?  Because some clever hackers figured 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.  Want to learn more about it?  Check out WiiLi and WiiBrew

Cost: $39.99

Get it: Nintendo Wii Remote on EB Games

Code it: Brian Peek's .Net wrapper API or the WiiMote Controlled Car



Logitech G15 Gamer Keyboard


For reasons still unclear to us, Logitech decided to split the functionality of the original Logitech G15 keyboard into two products, one with a full set of programmable keys and *no* LCD became the G11, the new G15 kept the programmable LCD, but only kept a handful of the programmable keys. What's a hardcore gamer and developer to do? Well go to of course and buy the old G15 keyboard which offered 18 programmable keys *and* and programmable LCD display.

Cost: $50-$100 on eBay

Get it: Find it on eBay

Code it: Go to and you'll find a .NET SDK for building applications for your G15 keyboard as well as a number of cool, community applications.



21D04YH86WL__AA115_ Feeling a bit voyeuristic?  Get a webcam.  You can add in some motion capture ability then have it upload to Flickr.  Or you can use it to add vision to a robot.  Plus it is a great way to instantly tell if you have something in your teeth before you meet with someone.

Cost: Free - $130 (ebay/already on your computer/amazon)

Get it: Logitech - Microsoft

Code it: Mark Schmidt's DirectShow webcam source


Guitar Hero / Rock Band Drums


Are you ready to rock?  With XNA and DirectX, you can run your Guitar Hero or Rock band drums and guitar as a controller!  Frets on Fire has already put in some support for this and you too can make your own game.  Rock band has both a guitar and drums while Guitar Hero only has a guitar.

Cost: $80 to $300

Get it: Guitar Hero - Rock Band

Code it: XNA MSDN library - XNA Creators Club


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: $134.99

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.  Scott Hansleman also has a write up on Coding4Fun on .Net integration with the Optimus.


Windows Home Server

windows-home-server-logo-large[1] Ever wonder what will happen if something bad happens to your computer?  You won't if you have Windows Home Server since it backs up your computer daily.  With a single CD, you can restore your system back!  Accidentally deleted a file or altered it without a backup, no problem, get the file from last night on the server.

Even better, you now have a central location to house all your music, pictures, documents and videos.  If you have multiple hard drives in your unit and don't want to risk having a hard drive failure, turn on folder duplication.

Anyone can alter it with plug-ins such as the ones coded up for the Code4Fame contest.  I suggest PhotoSync if you have use Flickr.

Cost: $169.99 and $599

Get it: HP Server Hardware - Amazon, Home Server Operating System for custom built machines - Newegg

Code it: Windows Home Server on MSDN


Boe-Bot Kit for Microsoft Robotics Studio

28118-M[1]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: $178.77 after 15% discount

Get it: Head over to Parallax

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


iRobot Roomba

Besides being a great way to vacuum your house, you can program your roomba to help you take over the world!  I suggest making it bark like a dog and "attack" people that get too close to your Xbox.

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.


Stinger Robot Kit with Serializer

is[2] Want to build a high perforamce, low cost robot?  Look no further than Robotics Connection's Stinger Robot Platform.  With the Serializer, you can use either Microsoft Robotic Studios or directly control it with .Net!  Their Robotics Connection's Serializer platform allows for a wide range of inputs and outputs.  Want to try a different controller board, try the Make Controller Kit.

Cost: $264.54

Get it: Trossen Robotics

Code it: Robotics Connection


LEGO Mindstorm NXT

nxt_[1] 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.  Heck, you may even be able to solve the most evil puzzle ever created.

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.  Or check out Mind Squall's .Net 2.0 library for remote controlling your NXT.


Software Tools

Visual Studio 2008 Express Editions(C#, VB, C++, Web, SQL Server)

clip_image001The 2008 versions of Visual Studio Express are available for a free download including Visual Basic, Visual C#, Visual C++, and Visual Web Developer Express Editions. There are a lot of new features support for features like LINQ, SQL Compact Edition, Windows Presentation Foundation, ASP.NET AJAX, improved JavaScript support and even free hosting for client projects using Popfly Explorer.

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

Code it: MSDN - Coding4Fun



XNA Game Studio

XNA_Hero_Banner15[1] You like video games?  Why not create some!  With XNA Game Studio, you have the ability to create whatever you want.  The XNA team provides tons of examples and tutorials on getting up to speed for both 2D and 3D games.  If you ever wanted to be a game developer, here is a way to get your feet wet.

Cost: Free (Xbox 360 Development: $49 to $99 depending on 4 month or 1 year subscription)

Get it: Getting Started with XNA - Creators Club sign up how-to

Code it: XNA Creators Club



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: Zero

Get it: GetPaint.NET

Code it: Paint.NET has a managed API that you can write plug-ins for using any managed language. Check out their forum for additional information.



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: Nadda

Get it: Reflector for .NET

Code it: Refector add-in's 



synergybackground[1] One mouse and keyboard to control them all!  Synergy is a program that allows you to have one mouse and keyboard span across multiple computers, regardless of the operating system.  This is handy when you have a laptop and a desktop.  It isn't a true KVM (Keyboard, Video, Mouse switcher), but darn close.

Cost: FREE!

Get it: Synergy on SourceForge


JetBrains Resharper

bg_resharper_big This plug-in is simply amazing.  While it does require a non-express version of Visual Studio, ReSharper provides an intelligent coding assistance, on-the-fly error highlighting (no more recompiling), additional searching and navigation features, unit testing, and real time analysis of code warnings / errors … the list goes on and on. JetBrains ReSharper is free to try out for 30 days too.  Be warned, once you use it, you may not be able to live without it.

Cost: $50, $149, $200+ depending on licensing / edition

Get it: JetBrains ReSharper

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



Windows Vista Ultimate


The high end version of Windows Vista includes everything that you'd need for work and for home and with tons of new APIs, including the .NET Framework 3.0 that is installed by default, it's no wonder that Windows Vista Ultimate is a developer's dream.

Cost: $349/$249 for upgrade

Get it: $349 for full, $249 for upgrade

Code it: For C++developers, there are 10,000+ new APIs to take advantage of and Visual C++ 2008 Express already includes the Platform SDK libraries to get started quickly. For .NET developers, you can use the Coding4Fun Developer Kit which includes managed wrappers for key Vista features like Peer-to-Peer, Contacts, Mail, Calender, Bluetooth, Telephony, Desktop Search, Digital Photo Acquisition and more.

Dell XPS Machines


Besides being powerful PCs for gaming and building software, Dell's laptop and desktop hardware includes a set of LEDs that developers can control to easily change the color.

Cost: $2,000+

Get it: Dell's XPS Home Page

Code it: Download the Dell Light Fx SDK


Non-programmable Presents for Developers

Digg yourself

digg_clearcover_t[1] I got 941 diggs!  Thanks mom for opening all those email accounts!  This is the analog version of Digg!  I suggest bribing people to hit the button with candy, but that is just me.

Via Make's gift guide.

Cost: $15.00 ($1 of each sale goes to the EFF)

Get it: Adafruit store - Link.


Make Magazine

opensourcegiftguide2007[1] 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: $34.95 - Register your copy of Visual Studio Express and get 5 issues for the price of 4.

Get it: Make Magazine



Yet another wide screen LCD

320468816[1] Coupling your monitors with the Ergotron LX desk mount arms, it is just unbeatable.  Bigger monitors aid in the ability to read more and have been shown to have boost productivity 10 to 44%.   Normally, I'll have Visual Studio open in one window and the application I'm working on in the other.  Two times the desktop space with all of it visible, you just can't beat that.  Throw in a Matrox TripleHead2Go expansion module and you don't even need another graphic card!

Please verify the graphic card / device they have can support a monitor of this size.

Cost: $120 and up

Get it: Ergotron - Amazon - LCD Monitors - Dell 22" - Dell 24" - Newegg - TripleHead2Go - Matrox


Evil Mad Science LED Table kit

524977536_76a9bf923b[1]Coffee tables are so boring.  Add some kick to it with the Evil Mad Scientist style.  The system has LEDs that twinkle when activated by motion.  If you're not feeling up for the kit, you can a fully assembled table too.

Cost: $400 to $500

Get it: Get it over at Evil Mad Scientist

The Discussion

  • User profile image
    Scott Wylie - Consulting, Technology and the rest of my world

    I love coding but I love coding with cool toys or something that is a little fun than a new inventory

  • User profile image

    @Rick:  Thanks for the info on the updated link.  I cheated and just cut and copied the info from the last issue since I love Paint.Net so much.  The link has been updated.

  • User profile image
    Monkey See, Monkey Build - The mumblings of Clint Rutkas

    Coding4Fun Holiday Gift Guide 2007 edition

  • User profile image
    Rick Brewster

    That CodeProject link for Paint.NET is super old, and the API has changed since then. I'd recommend people jump straight to the forum if they want info on it, . There's even a Visual Studio template.

    -Rick Brewster (Paint.NET Author)

  • User profile image
    Noticias externas

    Over at Trossen Robotics Forums , I became aware of a sweet USB turret with the ability to track multiple

  • User profile image

    Over at Trossen Robotics Forums , I became aware of a sweet USB turret with the ability to track multiple

  • User profile image

    I was thinking about making a dartboard, sort of like the WPF one presented here at C4F. However I wanted to make one that had sound events associated with certain areas of the board, eg Triple-20 or Double-Bull. I also wanted to keep electronic score rather than keep subtracting in 301-901. I would use parts from like these? Would it be easier to use the existing electronic dart boards? Looking for ideas.

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