2021 Holiday Geek Gift Guide

Techory Snowflake

We just passed Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year and are almost to Cyber Monday (do they still call it that?). My tradition going back to 2004 has been to compile a list of geeky and techy gift guides to help with my own holiday shopping. Hopefully this list helps with your own gift giving. Most of these are geared more towards geeks and gadgets, but there are several for more general gift giving. As usual, I will keep this list up to date as I run across more.

If you know of any more, let me know and I’ll add ’em to the list.

(Guides from previous years: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004)

After Dark Screensaver in CSS

This blog is quickly becoming a collection of trips down technology memory lane. These tech flashbacks keep landing in front of me. Today I ran across a site by Bryan Braun that recreated all of the old After Dark Screensavers in CSS. I fondly remember watching these screensavers roll by on the old Quadra and LC Macs while sitting in elementary and jr. high classrooms. This collection even includes probably the most well-known screensaver out there, the good ole flying toasters.

Check out the flying toasters!

The Print Shop in a Browser

I think this is probably a sign that I’m getting old, but I love tech history stories that take you on a trip down memory lane. Palotronic just released a web-based Apple II emulator running The Print Shop, which is a huge nostalgic trip. I can remember printing hundreds of things from this program when I was a kid. It’s amazing how far we’ve come since only being able to select a half dozen fonts and only using solid-colored clip art images. I’m sure we destroyed countless print ribbons on the ole Apple ImageWriter II with this. I will say that tractor-fed paper still has an advantage in printing banners.

Fire up The Print Shop in your browser and send someone a holiday or birthday card. The emulator will provide you a PDF download of the thing you send to the printer. If you want to really get in the mood, play this in the background while it “prints.” Apparently Broaderbund, the company who created The Print Shop, still sells it. They’re up to version 23!

New He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

38 year ago, childhood me was enthralled with He-Man. I can remember pushing my mom to get home from the grocery store so that I wouldn’t miss the next episode. I can also remember getting out all my He-Man action figures to play along with the show as I watched it. Christmas, 1984 was the year my brothers and I got Snake Mountain and Castle Grayskull… what a great Christmas!

I can soon take a trip down memory lane and relive in the nostalgia of He-Man. Netflix will be releasing a new series in late July, and I cannot be more excited! The trailer for the new series dropped today!

2020 Holiday Geek Gift Guide

Techory Snowflake

It’s time again for the good ole Holiday Geek Gift Guide (global pandemic edition). It’s be a really really long year, so hopefully this brings a bit more cheer to kick off your holiday shopping season, which will likely be mostly online this year. It’s time to get moving and buy some stuff for the people you love (or hate?). I use this list as a starting point for my own gift-giving to (geeky) friends and family. Most of the guides listed below fall into geeky/techie categories, but a few are also useful for general gift-giving as well. Like usual, I’ll try to keep this post up to date as I encounter additional gift lists and guides around the intertubes. If you know of any I may have misted, leave a comment and I’ll get it added. Happy (geeky) gifting!

(Guides from previous years: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004)

The History of Firefox

I’m a sucker for tech history stories. I can remember using the first Mosaic browser that became Netscape, then ended up losing the browser wars and being sold before morphing into Mozilla and becoming the basis of Firefox. I was working my first job out of college, and we had a computer lab tied to our area. I was personally invested in Mozilla and eventually Firefox and can recall trying to get it pushed to lab computers so that everyone else could see what an awesome browser it was… at least more awesome than Internet Explorer! I’d check every day for updates to see what new cool things were being added. It’s amazing where we’ve been over the past twenty-some years.

Some Interesting Web Galleries

The past few weeks I’ve had a few fun web galleries fall into my lap with some unique collections of site, or taking a trip back in time exploring the history of the web.

Simone’s Collection of Web Desktops

This is a gallery of website meant to act like a computer desktop. These are a bit annoying to use, but fun at the same time.

Timeline of Web Design Evolution

This gallery includes a collection of popular websites, then lets you jump back in time to see their design evolution. It’s interesting to look at web design trends going back to the late 90’s.

Flash Game History

This one is pretty relevant given that Adobe Flash will stop working in a little over 100 days. Like the design evolution above, Flash definitely shaped what the webs looked like. This site takes a look at the history of Flash games and how it changed the video game industry. I can remember playing a lot of these games over the years.

Candy Cane Mentos

Candy Cane Mentos
Mentos Candy Cane

It has been quite some time since my last Mentos post. Don’t worry, I still love them and am still obsessed with them. I guess I just haven’t found anything newsworthy to say recently. I was browsing the holiday clearance section in Walgreens today, and ran across a roll I hadn’t seen before: Candy Cane Mentos. The roll caught my eye because it was in a red and white holiday striped package that claimed to be a new flavor. I was sad that nobody stuck one in my stocking for Christmas. They were super on sale, so I bought a couple rolls.

I popped one out as soon as I got in the car, and each Mentos candy has a small holiday icon on it. I’ve noticed that they’ve been doing more printing on Mentos lately. The flavor is really close to the standard mint, but there is a very slight hint of sweeter candy cane flavor in them. I think these were more about the packaging than the new flavor. Either way, they were a fun new roll… that I would love to find in my stocking… next year.

2019 Holiday Geek Gift Guide

Techory Snowflake

Aaaaaand… it’s holiday gift season again! Sneaks up on you doesn’t it? Black Friday has come and gone, so it’s time to get in gear and buy some stuff for the people you love (or hate?). I use this list as a helpful resource for my own gift-giving to (geeky) friends and family. Most of the guides listed below fall into geeky/techie categories, but a few are also useful for general gift-giving as well. I’ll try to keep this post up to date as I encounter additional gift lists and guides. If you know of any I may have misted, leave a comment and I’ll get it added. Happy (geeky) gifting!

(Guides from previous years: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004)

How to Backup Google Photos Locally after Google Drive Sync Changes

Google Photos Icon

Back in June, Google changed how it’s Backup and Sync product works with Google Photos. I used to rely on that tool to backup (or back down?) all the photos I had stored in Google Photos. I’ve used a Pixel phone for a number of years which includes free full-res storage in the Google Photo cloud, so that’s where most of my photos live. With the now-defunct Backup and Sync, you used to be able to sync all the photos to your desktop along with all your Google Docs. Googled killed that in June because it was supposedly “confusing to users.” In doing so, there was no longer an easy way to pull down my photos locally. Google recommends using their takeout service, which seems to be a bit flaky and time consuming (you queue up your entire backup and then wait for Google to send you a mishmash of zip files). Also, there’s no good way to automate it. I just wanted to to have a automatic sync with any new photo I added to Google Photos to the local photo library on my desktop.

So it turns out that Google has made this task, which was previously automated, fairly difficulty to do. After a lot of digging, I think I found something that gets me fairly close to how the old Backup and Sync used to function. A Python script on GitHub called Google Photos Sync seems to do the trick. This handy script can backup all the photos uploaded to Google Photos as well as photos created by Google (animations, panos, movies, collages etc.). Once running, the tool will create a directory named with the date, and filled with photos from that date, which is pretty similar to the old drive sync.

Since it’s a Python script, it takes a little bit of work to get it up and running on Windows. I found a helpful post in the GitHub comments to get things rolling. After installing Python and the script, I had a few issues with odd spaces in my file paths, but finally got things working. Now I have a Windows batch file set to run daily in scheduler to pull down any new photos. It’s been running successfully for about a month now, and I have the backup of my backup functioning again.

It’s a shame that Google broke a helpful feature, but that seems to be what Google does. Thankfully there was an alternative this time around.

2018 Holiday Geek Gift Guide

Techory Snowflake

Here we go again folks… time to buy stuff for those you love (or hate?). Black Friday is over, but we still have (badly named) Cyber Week ahead of us. This year is a milestone for my gift guide collection. We’ve made it 15 years! It started before there even was a Cyber Week a helpful list to use with my own gift-giving for (geeky) friends and family. Most of the guides listed below fall into geeky/techie categories, but a few are also useful for general gift-giving as well. As usual, I will try to keep this post up to date as I encounter additional gift lists and guides. If you know of any I may have misted, leave a comment and I’ll get it added. Enjoy, and happy geeky gift giving!

(Guides from previous years: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004)

LEGO Built an Actual (drivable) Car!

I’ve been eyeing the LEGO Millennium Falcon since it was announced last year. That’s their $800, 7541-piece set. I’ve even entered into an agreement with my nephew to go in on the purchase of said LEGO set… he has yet to contribute any funding. I told him we could just dip into his college fund, but he parents didn’t think that would be a good idea. Anyway, maybe we’ll save up enough for it some day.

Today LEGO topped that kit. They built an actual car. Not a tiny little LEGO car to play with, but a real, life size, drivable Bugatti Chiron made out of LEGO Technic parts. It doesn’t look like it goes quite as fast as the real thing, but is a pretty impressive task.

I guess we need to start saving up for this kit now.

LCD Handheld Games Now Part of the Internet Archive

Double Dragon Handheld game

I just got lost down a rat-hole of nostalgia. The Internet Archive has recently added a collection of playable old-school handheld video games. Their new Handheld History section houses close to 75 versions of retro handheld games. You can play them emulated right in your browser window! My brothers and I had a number of these games growing up. The collection includes super old school games like Simon and Electronic Quarterback. It also includes many of the the old Konami wedge shaped games (that we had a lot of as kids). I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t have Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I remember saving my allowance up for several weeks to buy that one. The collection also includes quite a few of the Tiger brand games as well. My brother had Double Dragon.

The archive blog has a post about the process that goes into archiving these games since it’s not just graphics on a screen like most emulated games. They have to physically take the game apart to determine what parts of the LCD light at which time and to save the pre-printed background image of the screen.

Handheld History Games

Check out the Handheld History Archive, and prepare to get lost in retro game history.

2017 Holiday Geek Gift Guide

Techory SnowflakeAnother Black Friday, and (the terribly named) Cyber Monday have passed us by, so that means it’s time for another Holiday Geek Gift Guide. This is year number 14 for this gift guide. It started before there even was a Cyber Monday as a way for me to help with my own gift-giving for (geeky) friends and family. I’m a self-proclaimed geek, so I like to give geek gifts (tech, gadgets, etc.). Most of the guides listed below fall into those categories, but a few are also useful for general gift-giving as well. As usual, I will try to keep this post up to date as I encounter additional gift lists and guides. If you know of any I may have misted, leave a comment and I’ll get it added. Enjoy, and happy (geek) shopping!

(Guides from previous years: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004)