Jason Bittner (CEO): Hey everybody, I’m Jason Bittner, CEO of Triple Helix Corporation and welcome to our Helix Insider podcast. I’m joined today in studio with my Senior Web Developer Andy Webster and my other Senior Web Developer Sam Sheldon. Hey everybody. Today we’re going to talk about something near and dear to our hearts as we’re very close to Valentine’s Day and we wanted to talk about some tech gifts that you can get for your resident tech geek in your life and there’s some ideas that we have that would make some suitable gifts. So Sam, why don’t we start with you? You were going to tell us about your idea.
Sam Sheldon: Yeah, so the first thing that I think of whenever I think of gifts for tech geeks is always raspberry pies because you can’t go wrong with a raspberry pie. They’re little tiny computers, you know, probably a little bit about the size of a phone I’d say and the thing you can do with a raspberry pie, you can do pretty much anything you can imagine with them.
You can make little desktop computers out of them, you can use them for a whole media server if you’re web developers like we are. I know I’ve used mine for setting up a little web development machine on my home network. If you’re a little bit more hardware geeky, you can get, you know, an external board and connect up, you know, you can make your own circuit boards and, you know, lots of cool projects you can do with them and the great thing about that also is that they’re pretty appropriate for basically any age, if you’re old enough to use a computer, you can probably get something out of a raspberry pie.
Jason Bittner (CEO): So they’re a fully self-contained computer, right? And I understand they’re really cheap, like they’re only about 30 or 40 dollars, right?
Sam Sheldon: I think they’re a little more expensive than that, I haven’t checked recently. I know there’s been, you know, supply issues, I know they’re a little hard to get right now, but yeah, they’re a self-contained computer and I think that the official raspberry pie, you know, organization actually has kits that you can use to put your raspberry pie board into basically a little keyboard that you can bring around and hook up to a monitor. So really good, yeah, they’re not especially powerful, you’re not going to be running, you know, you’re not going to be running the latest games on these or anything, but if all you want to do is browse the web or have a media server to put all your movies on or things like that, they’re really going to be good.
Andy Webster: Yeah, I mean, I used to run a Minecraft server off of mine, they’re powerful enough, and that was the raspberry pie 2, I think they’re up to raspberry pie 4 now, yeah. So they’ve got like, if I recall, I think they’ve got 8, some of them have 8 gigs of RAM in them now, so you can do quite a bit. Yeah, I mean, probably my personal uses for all will be A, Minecraft server, B, like a personal media.
Jason Bittner (CEO): So while we’re talking about raspberry pie, you know, we refer to these devices on a type of certain class of computing called embedded computers or embedded hardware, and it reminds me of these other types of computers called Arduino boards.
So like, unlike a raspberry pie, which is like a full up server and you can do anything with it, an Arduino board is a little bit sort of like a dumb board in that it doesn’t have like an operating system, and it has an embedded operating system, and it has its own programming language, a little similar to C, C sharp.
And what you do with Arduino boards is more sensor based. So if you want to like, put a temperature sensor on a board and then have it outside so we can read the temperature, or if you want to send signals from it, they actually have all of these pins that you hook things up to the Arduino board. And because it’s very small and lightweight, small footprint, you can do a lot of interesting programming exercises with this.
So if you’re if you’re tech geek in your life actually loves to program and it loves to like tinker with like hardware and stuff, that that’s a really good gift.
The other thing about Arduino is there’s literally thousands of what we call daughter boards that actually go on top of them that extend the functionality. And that could be anything from motor controllers to for sensor suites, because you only have so many inputs on the main board. So you add these extra boards to give you lots of additional sensors. So it’s a really great gift for someone who likes to tinker with electronics. Let’s take a little shift. Andy, why don’t we talk a little bit about the drones and the cameras you were talking about earlier?
Andy Webster: Yeah, so, um, I mean, drones, that’s a more expensive but also a good gift. They do make less expensive drones now too, that you can just kind of hook a camera to and fly around, take aerial shots. Pretty cool for if you have somebody who likes photography, you can get some very unique shots with the drone.
Jason Bittner (CEO): You mentioned you can get a drone to follow you too, right?
Andy Webster: Yeah, some of them are high tech ones, actually, people, they’ll like they’ll do they’ll track you so you could bring it with you while you’re walking or running or something like that. And, um, you know, take some epic shots and put some epic music to it or something.
Sam Sheldon: You can get pretty good landscape shots with them too. You can go way up high and get angles you wouldn’t ordinarily get without like a plane.
Jason Bittner (CEO): That reminds me of like the GoPro cameras too, right? I mean, like not necessarily drone based, but I mean, like those people that do all that action adventure stuff, they strap a camera to themselves or to maybe their pet or something like that. And they they see the video footage from a different perspective.
Andy Webster: That reminds me for some reason of people who are just curious, where does their cat go during the day? So they put a GPS tracker collar on the cat for the curious in us. Speaking of curious, another interesting idea is security cameras. I mean, they’re for your safety, per se. But for people like me, sometimes I just want to like, see what’s going on outside, middle of the night, or set them up pointing at, you know, some place where animals usually run out in the middle of the night. For the curious people watchers in us, we’re not creepy, we just like to know what’s going on. I wouldn’t…
Sam Sheldon: I think with watching animals, the other kind of camera that I know some people might be interested in, it’s less specifically techie, but game cameras that you can mount on trees.
Andy Webster: Oh yeah.
Sam Sheldon: Because I live out in the middle of nowhere. So we actually got that for Christmas, was a game camera that we can set up somewhere to watch, see the deer go by or whatever other critters might be out in our field.
Andy Webster: That’s a really good idea. Yeah, my dad, my dad has one of those, he really likes them. It’s interesting to see like, what lives in my backyard, actually, funny story about that. He told me he saw a bobcat. Never knew I had bobcats in my parents’ home growing up, but apparently we do.
Jason Bittner (CEO): I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t actually address the video game and the gamers in us and our friends. There is actually one very specific, really cool gaming platform called a Steam Deck. So if anyone has heard of the Steam platform, which is basically a video game distributor platform for all things video games, that company made its own portable gaming platform called a Steam Deck.
So if you’re familiar with like a Nintendo Switch, this is like that, but it’s actually quite big, got a very beautiful screen on it. And it actually runs Arch Linux, which is another reason we like it because we’re very fond of Linux and those operatin systems.
But if you’ve got the Steam Deck and you’re tied into your Steam account, you can actually add the Steam games in your library and play them portable on the device. The only caveat I’ll throw out there is that Steam Deck is fairly new and it’s not 100% compatible with like all the games Steam offers.
So what you do when you look at a game on Steam, you actually look for verified for Steam Deck. And if it’s got the little symbol verified for Steam Deck, you know you’re good to play it on there. And when I first got it, I had Portal 2, which I had not played yet, and I fired it up on my Steam Deck. And I mean, I lost myself in Portal Land for like a good few hours. I mean, it’s an amazing platform.
Andy Webster: Man. Yeah. I’m jealous of people who have one of those. I use Steam for most of my games now. And it’s probably the only portable device I would buy. They’re hard to find now because they’re so popular.
But I mean, there is a bit of a wait. But I got mine on opening day because I put in the pre-order. And pre-orders were opened up like six months or a year before it was released. But once those came through, I was able to get it. And yeah, if you can find one, it’s a really awesome gift for your loved one.
Sam Sheldon: Yeah. And I think from the tech nerd perspective as well, it’s a pretty powerful machine. And I think there’s been people working on customizing it, using it for things other than games.
Andy Webster: Oh, yeah.
Sam Sheldon: As soon as a powerful machine, handheld machine comes out, you know that people are going to be trying to do everything with it.
Andy Webster: At its base level, it is just a Linux computer. And you can run it as such.
Jason Bittner (CEO): I’ve heard that. So while we’re on the topic of other tech gifts, Sam, talk to us about some of the tech gifts you’ve given to your loved ones. You were mentioning, I think, monitors the other day.
Sam Sheldon: Yeah. So honestly, I think I’ve gotten more mileage out of giving just good monitors as gifts than any other tech gift, because I’ve yet to meet a tech geek who doesn’t want another monitor. It doesn’t matter how many they already have. We all want more monitors.
Andy Webster: Oh, yeah.
Jason Bittner (CEO): Absolutely.
Sam Sheldon: But yeah, I throw my money behind, you know, get a decent big monitor, just pretty standard, something that handles 1920 by 1080 resolution, has decent color, good brightness. I’ve never met anyone who would turn that down.
Andy Webster: Who wouldn’t?
Jason Bittner (CEO): What do you think about these new monitors that are really, really widescreen in their curve and they’re sort of like give you like a bit of perspective depth? What do you think of those?
Sam Sheldon: Oh, gosh. I have never used one of those. I kind of want to. It’s one of those things where I’m interested, but I don’t fully understand it, but I want to.
Jason Bittner (CEO): I’m going to drop hints at Mike, I think.
Sam Sheldon: Yeah, you know, but again, I don’t know where I put it. So I’ve seen Pedro’s. I’ve seen pictures of his monitor and it’s huge. It takes up his entire desk. There’s not room on my desk for the monitor stands, get a good monitor stand for your loved one.
Jason Bittner (CEO): Right.
Andy Webster: I mean, the simplicity of that is you only need one plug.
Jason Bittner (CEO): How about you, Andy?
What other tech gifts are you interested in giving out?
Andy Webster: Oh, probably like portable charging banks. Anybody can use those even at home. It’s not even a travel thing. Who knows that moment when your phone’s about to die and the wall plug is like all the way across the room. What if I had a portable charging bank right now or the power? That’s a more practical solution. This is just like everyday life, like, oh man, my battery’s about to die. It’s a good thing I have this portable charging bank just ready to go.
Jason Bittner (CEO): Well, I find them handy for when the power actually does go out. Thankfully, Connecticut is a fairly stable power and whatnot, but every little once in a while where we are in Windsor, we do lose power for a few hours and it can be really messy if your phone’s on low charge, so having a portable bank all charged up, ready to go is actually pretty cool for that.
Andy Webster: Yeah, and a lot of those things are good for a phone. A lot of them are good for two and a half charges these days, so there’s some pretty good ones out there.
Jason Bittner (CEO): You were talking about keyboards too. Oh yeah, always a great idea. Good mouse and keyboard. I prefer a wireless keyboard. Those are pretty amazing. This particular one that I have is a Logitech and you can switch between three different computers.
Jason Bittner (CEO): Oh, what? No way. What? You can switch between two?
Andy Webster: Oh yeah. It’s got a little thing right here. It’s got a one, two, three switch. I don’t know if that’s backwards in this camera, but yeah. I can switch both my mouse and keyboard, so if your loved one uses multiple computers, it’s a really nice thing and they make them in.
Jason Bittner (CEO): That is really cool. So you can have one keyboard and mouse and actually control multiple machines, but it’s just one set and you just flip a button and it flips to the other machine.
Andy Webster: I would not want to have three keyboards on my desk. Something like this is a lifesaver.
Sam Sheldon: The one caveat to that is a lot of us tech nerds are really, really picky about our keyboards because I know I’m a picky person about my keyboards. If it’s too clicky, if it’s not clicky enough, is it mechanical, is it membrane? Andy likes wireless, but I like wired.
Andy Webster: True. Yeah. I don’t like wireless keyboards. This one is really good responsive. I’ve never had a problem with it.
Jason Bittner (CEO): Yeah, that’s a really good idea. I wouldn’t have thought of keyboards for that, but you’re right. Some of the more advanced ones could be really handy. That’s awesome.
Andy Webster: Or if you don’t know, just write in the card, I want to get you a really fancy keyboard. Please show me the way.
Jason Bittner (CEO): Oh, man. Well, this has been fun, guys, and so I think that’s all the time we have today, so I wanted to thank my two colleagues, Andy Webster and Sam Sheldon, my senior developers on our team, and thanks for all the great ideas. And until next time, see you around, everybody.