Forget decking your halls with boughs of holly. Instead, give your inner tech geek a gift by decorating your home or workspace with the things you really love — like old floppy disk drives and circuit boards. From a homemade LED menorah to a wreath adorned with old computer parts, here are five decorating ideas that will get any tech geek in the holiday spirit.
Wireless tree lights
Electric Christmas tree lights have been driving holiday decorators up the walls for more than a century. These strands of knotted wire and fragile glass may be pretty, but successfully getting them untangled and then hanging them up usually inspires little holiday cheer. [Gifts for Geeks 2014: Fun Gift Ideas for Him or Her]
However, one company is trying to change all that. Powered by Aura has created a new kind of tree light, one that's sure to have tech geeks singing with joy. Aura nestles white and multicolored LED lights inside traditional tree ornaments. Once the lights are hung in place, an electrically charged ring around the base of the tree supplies the ornaments with a constant source of wireless power.
That's it. There's no endless untangling, no replacing spent bulbs and, best of all, no fire-starting sparks. You don't even have to worry about turning these lights on at night. Just set a custom lighting schedule from an app on your smartphone and then go have a glass of eggnog.
Unfortunately, Aura lights aren't yet available in stores. But if you've taken a shine to the idea of wireless tree lights, you can back the project on Kickstarter. You can also find cool ways to light up a Christmas tree by checking out the geeky handiwork of Florian Fries, an entrepreneur who has figured out a bunch of ways to light up his tree using an Internet-connected Arduino board.
Don't bother running out to buy new candles for your menorahthis year. Rather than wasting wax, put in a little work up front and then relax right through the eight nights of Hanukkah. You just need basic soldering skills to piece together the Mega Menorah 9000, a USB-powered menorah that any tech mensch will appreciate.
The finished project features nine LED "candles" that light up in your choice of 14 different colors. You can also get them to blink, fade or flicker, even if you don't know the first thing about programming. The kit, manufactured by Evil Mad Scientist, comes with a preprogrammed microcontroller.
Geek-friendly wrapping paper
If there's one thing that will ruin any techie-themed holiday, it's ugly plaid wrapping paper. So do yourself a favor and pick up a roll of this binary code paper from ThinkGeek.
Neon green zeros and ones adorn the black background, and any computer nerd should be able to translate the message (it says "wrapping paper" in binary). This geeky touch is so subtle that even non-nerdy friends and family members will like it.
Make-your-own Christmas tree
There are a lot of alternatives to chopping down a live tree this holiday season. But if you're looking for something that appeals to your inner electronics geek, then this may be a good option for you.
Brian McNamara, founder of the music and electronics business Rare Beasts, originally came up with this design for a DIY projector that turns any wall into the perfect spot for a Christmas tree. Unfortunately, the item is no longer available at Rare Beast's Etsy shop, so you'll have to make your own.
The projector is powered by a 9-volt battery and requires three LEDs (green for the tree and white and red for sparkling "tree lights"). You'll also need a Picaxe 08M microcontroller, a plastic tube and some plywood. The instructions for this holiday-themed project proved difficult to track down online. However, McNamara shared directions for creating a similar project with Make Magazine.
Those instructions are for an alien-themed projector, but if you're an electronics geek then you should be able to alter the project to make it more seasonally appropriate. The payoff for all that hard work is a 5-foot-tall (1.5 meters) Christmas tree that you'll never have to water.
Computer geek wreath
Got a bunch of old computer parts cluttering up your workspace? Put them to good use this holiday season by incorporating them into a nerdy arts and crafts project.
First, you'll need to purchase a wreath from a crafts store, or you can buy a live wreath from your local tree farm. A hot glue gun, electrical wire and wire cutters will come in handy for attaching parts to the wreath. Of course, you'll also need to find a few discarded motherboards, keyboard letters, and other electronic or computer parts that you have lying around.
Simply glue everything in place, secure heavy parts with the wire and hang your wreath where other nerds can appreciate it.
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Elizabeth is a former Live Science associate editor and current director of audience development at the Chamber of Commerce. She graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from George Washington University. Elizabeth has traveled throughout the Americas, studying political systems and indigenous cultures and teaching English to students of all ages.