9to5Mac Gift Guide: Holiday gifts for IT professionals and tech enthusiasts

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It’s the holiday shopping season, and many of us here at 9to5Mac are working on our Christmas gift guides. We all have fun putting these together, and I love reading them. As someone in the IT industry, my gift list is always fairly unique! Here are some of my favorite items of the holiday season.

About Apple @ Work: Bradley Chambers managed an enterprise IT network from 2009 to 2021. Through his experience deploying and managing firewalls, switches, a mobile device management system, enterprise-grade Wi-Fi, 100s of Macs, and 100s of iPads, Bradley will highlight ways in which Apple IT managers deploy Apple devices, build networks to support them, train users, stories from the trenches of IT management, and ways Apple could improve its products for IT departments.

The gear for an umbrel server

One of my recent projects was building an umbrel server for my house. It’s an open-source personal server solution that makes running a whole Bitcoin and Lightning Node easy. A fun gift package would be to buy someone all the essential tools to build their own and send them to this package for the instructions. If you don’t want to go through the hassle of building one, you can buy a pre-made one as well.

Required items to build an umbrel server.

Flash your microSD card

Now that you have everything you need, grab the microSD card and a microSD card reader (or SD if you have a MicroSD-to-SD converter). Plug that into your Mac or PC.

  1. Download the latest version of Umbrel from Umbrel’s website. Make sure you download it from Umbrel’s website only! Umbrella’s website is getumbrel.com.
  2. Download the latest version of Balena Etcher. You need this software so you can flash the Umbrel image to your microSD card properly to run it on your Raspberry Pi.
  3. Run and install Balena Ethcher and run through the steps to flash the previously-downloaded Umbrel release. It should be a .img file.
  4. You’re done. Your microSD card is correctly configured

Assemble your hardware

Next, you need to assemble all the parts you bought.

  1. Put the Raspberry Pi 4 in the case you purchased. Every case will be different, but the one I use above will come with four screws and a heat dissipation pad.
  2. Stick that heat dissipation pad to the top of the CPU on the Raspberry Pi. Seat the Raspberry Pi board and screw the case closed.
  3. Insert the flashed microSD card into the Raspberry Pi.
  4. Put the SSD into the SSD enclosure and plug it into one of the blue full-throttle USB ports on the Raspberry Pi.
  5. Connect your Raspberry Pi directly to an Ethernet port on your router for maximum internet connection speeds. The Bitcoin blockchain is a large file that will take several days to download.
  6. Plug your Raspberry Pi into a power outlet.

Get started with umbrel

After five minutes, you should be able to navigate to umbrel.local on any PC or Mac connected to the same network as your Raspberry Pi hardware. From there, Umbrel will walk you through the setup process.

I’ve had a lot of funning tinkering with the server, and the team behind umbrel is building out an entire app store of new solutions to run on top of it.

If you aren’t familiar with Bitcoin, you can learn more by checking out Swan Bitcoin and grabbing this free audiobook.

CWNA Study Guide

The new study guide for the Certified Wireless Network Administrator exam was updated earlier in 2021, and it’s a great reference book by David Coleman and David Westcott. In addition, the book has been overhauled from the previous edition to make studying for the exam easier.

If you have an iPad or a Kindle, you might want to pick up the digital edition, so it’s easier to carry around. The book is the essential reading for passing the exam, and learning more about managing enterprise Wi-Fi is something all IT professionals should focus on.

iFixit Repair Kit

The iFixit Repair Kit brings together all the industry-standard tools you’re likely to need when opening up a phone or laptop. It’s an excellent gift for anyone who likes to tinker with electronics (or has to repair them). It includes:

  • 64 Bit Driver Kit
  • Anti-Static Wrist Strap
  • Small Suction Cup
  • 3x iFixit Opening Tool
  • 6x iFixit Opening Picks
  • Nylon Tipped Reverse Tweezers
  • Angled ESD Tweezers
  • Blunt ESD Tweezers
  • Spudger
  • Halberd Spudger
  • Metal Spudger
  • Jimmy
  • Magnetic Pad
  • Tool Roll

One of my favorite networking tools is my Netool.io. With this device, you can plug it into an ethernet port and get a lot of information about the other end. For example, you can see what IP, gateway, DNS server, and subnet it’s receiving.

You can also learn all the information about the switch you are plugged into (port, hostname, description, etc.). For how tiny and affordable it is, it’s a must-have, in my opinion. It pairs with an iOS or Android app, and then it just goes to work, making your life easier.

There’s also a new Pro edition that also adds some new automation features.

Netool.io would make a fantastic Christmas gift idea for an IT professional. Every time they solve a problem with it, they’ll remember that you gave it to them.

Audible Gold Membership

I am a massive fan of Audible, and I’ve been a customer off and on since 2008 (before Amazon purchased it). If your favorite IT person doesn’t like to read physical books but enjoys podcasts, they would likely love an Audible Gold Membership. It will give them twelve credits that can be used right away. Most books are just one credit so that the credits will last them for months. One of my favorite audiobooks is called Replay if you’re looking for something to recommend to them.

Combo MagSafe, AirPod, and Apple Watch Charger

I’ve been using this AceFast iPhone, AirPod, and Apple Watch charger on my desk for the past few weeks, and it’s a great gift idea for someone new to working at home. It’s a low-cost way to keep all your devices charged during the day. I love it because you can charge your iPhone vertically or horizontally, so it’s great for watching training videos during the day while you’re working.

Fauna audio glasses

One of the newest tech items that I’ve enjoyed using is the Fauna audio glasses. I’ve found them useful when running outside or doing yardwork. They allow me to listen to podcasts while remaining aware of what’s around me. They include a charging case (USB-C) and are recharged by the case. The battery lasts for four hours, have touch controls for starting and stopping your music, and leverage Bluetooth 5.0 for a reliable connection. If you have someone who seems to have everything, these glasses might make for a fun gift idea.

Backblaze subscription

Backups are something you can never have enough of, and I am a big believer in Backblaze for macOS backups because of the native integrations into macOS and fast upload speeds. Having an offsite backup is an essential part of the 3-2-1 backup strategy where you have three copies of all of your data, two locations, with one being in a hosted cloud solution. Backblaze has an easy gift option that will be perfect for that tech person who you have no idea what to get them.

Anker PowerCore MagSafe compatible battery

When the iPhone 12 lineup was first announced, I wasn’t that excited about MagSafe, but as time has gone on, it’s become one of my favorite things about the iPhone 12 and 13 lineups. One of my favorite accessories for an iPhone 12 and 13 is a MagSafe compatible external battery. Apple sells an official one, but I prefer Anker’s PoweCore Magnetic battery.

If you are buying a gift for a person who travels frequently or needs to do as much work from their iPhone when away from a Mac or iPad, this battery will be a gift they’ll keep in their laptop bag. The 5,000mAh will charge almost every iPhone from empty to a full charge.


These items are just a few I’ve enjoyed over the years. If I missed any of your favorite products that would make great Christmas gift ideas for IT professionals, let me know in the comments – I’ll take a look. Don’t forget to check out the rest of our gift guides.

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