The gifts you didn't get: 2011 geek gadget guide

No matter what was on your list, there's always room for a few more techno-toys

There's still time to get the tech toys Santa didn't bring

Christmas is over, but the glow of time with friends and family remains, as does the joy from those special gifts given and received. But chances are you had your eye on something you didn't get. In that spirit, InfoWorld.com presents its picks for the coolest gadgets for Christmas 2011 that you can still get.

Our guide includes a few "crown jewel" items, but many are gifts you won't likely find at a Best Buy, so you know they're special. They range from inexpensive stocking stuffers to pricier centerpiece gifts.

Be sure to check out our previous years' recommendations in case you missed anything cool then:

This slideshow, "2011 InfoWorld geek gadget gift guide," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Amuse yourself with the ongoing shenanigans of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field newsletter.

PlugBug charging adapter for MacBooks

If you own an Apple MacBook, chances are you also own an iPad or iPhone. And if you travel, you're probably carrying a separate wall charger for your iOS device. TwelveSouth has a better way: an add-on for the MacBook charger that provides a USB charging port capable of the 10 watts an iPad needs, while providing whatever power the MacBook needs as well. (It charges other USB devices, of course, not just the iPad and not just devices from Apple.) The $35 PlugBug snaps onto the MacBook charger, so not only do you no longer have to carry two independent chargers, but you use only one wall outlet -- a big advantage in many hotel rooms.

Be sure to check out our previous years' recommendations in case you missed anything cool:

Wireless stereos: Apple TV and Soundfreaq

One of the really cool capabilities in an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch is AirPlay, which lets you stream music and more to wireless speakers or an HDTV. But AirPlay speakers are usually very expensive. One good option for your home entertainment center is the $99 Apple TV, especially if you use iOS devices and a higher-end stereo system with HDMI or optical inputs.

But for the rest of the house, you want something simpler that still sounds good. Soundfreaq has two impressive wireless stereos with good sound, stylish looks, and broad compatibility. The $180 Sound Platform SFQ-01 is compact but doesn't have the tinny sound found in most compact stereos. You can wirelessly transmit music over Bluetooth to it from iOS, Android, and BlackBerry devices, as well as dock an iPhone or iPod Touch directly into it. It also has an auxiliary port for connecting pretty much any audio device via cable, and it has a built-in FM radio tuner. My only gripe is that the remote's shiny black finish and small button text makes it hard to figure out what to press; you'll likely want to use its iOS remote control app instead on your mobile device.

For even better sound, check out Soundfreaq's larger $400 Sound Stack, which could replace a traditional stereo in many homes and lets you dock an iPad in it. Plus, it has a remote control app for both Android and iOS. But skip the midsize $150 Sound Step: Although it can dock an iPad, its sound quality is disappointing.

Be sure to check out our previous years' recommendations in case you missed anything cool:

Wireless stereos: Apple TV and Soundfreaq (continued)

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Bheestie Bag water remover

Liquids and electronics are a bad combination, usually resulting in a short-circuit that can fry the device. But spills and rain downpours happen, so you might want to have a $20 Bheestie Bag handy. Remove the battery from your waterlogged device and put the device in the bag overnight. The bag's water-absorbent material will draw out all the moisture it can -- and perhaps dry out your device before it's damaged. No guarantees, but it's worth a shot. Plus, it can be used repeatedly until its water-absorbing beads lose their blue color, which the company says takes about a year under normal circumstances.

Be sure to check out our previous years' recommendations in case you missed anything cool:

Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 robot kit

For the budding geek, check out Lego's robot kit, the $240 Mindstorms NXT 2.0. Lego kits have long been great toys for the engineering-inclined creative kid, and the Mindstorms kit takes this creative play further by including a microprocessor, sensors, and both Bluetooth and USB connectivity so your favorite kids can not only create robots, but actually make them function.

Be sure to check out our previous years' recommendations in case you missed anything cool:

Apple iPad 2 or Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Last year, the original iPad was on our geek gadget must-have list. Since then, it's become more amazing in its slimmer, lighter new iPad 2 version, and the recent iOS 5 update takes the iPad 2 to an even higher level. It's now more of a must-have than ever: The iPad 2 is a wonder -- a lightweight business computer, portable gaming system, and personal media center -- and it makes a great gift from a geek who already has one to someone they love. Prices start at $500 for the 16GB Wi-Fi-only model and $630 for the 16GB Wi-Fi + 3G model (available for both the AT&T and Verizon Wireless networks), but you'll probably want the 32GB models for $100 more. Also be sure to get Apple's beautifully designed, innovative $40 polyurethane or $60 leather magnetic Smart Cover. And if you're new to the iPad 2, check out my $10 guidebook "Exploring iPad 2 For Dummies"; its iOS 5-updated edition should be available in December.

If you just can't bear buying an Apple product -- a species of geek just can't go there -- the best alternative is the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, which runs the Android 3.0 operating system. And Samsung promises that the Galaxy Tab 10.1 will get the Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" update. Plus, you get a choice of white or metallic gray bezels. The Wi-Fi-only 16GB model costs $500 and the Wi-Fi-only 32GB model costs $600. Models that work on the Verizon Wireless 3G network cost just $30 more, and if you're a T-Mobile customer you can get 3G models at a subsidized price in exchange for a two-year data-plan contract. Note: The forthcoming Asus Transformer Prime TF201 looks to be even better.

Be sure to check out our previous years' recommendations in case you missed anything cool:

Tablets (continued)

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Tablets (continued)

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Soft Kitty singing plush toy

If you watch the geek sitcom "Big Bang Theory," you know that Sheldon -- the neurotic scientist with the emotions of a 10-year-old -- consoles himself with the "Soft Kitty" song his mother used to sing to him as a child. Well, you can now get the $30 Soft Kitty plush toy -- it sings the song, of course, when you squeeze its paw -- for geeks of all ages who need a little TLC. And you don't need to be neurotic to want one.

Be sure to check out our previous years' recommendations in case you missed anything cool:

Robot tea infuser

Here's a stocking stuffer for a geek who likes to relax with a cup of tea: Kikkerland's $10 Robot Tea Infuser and Drip Tray. No, the robot doesn't move or make noise -- you wouldn't want to submerge a real robot in hot water. The robot-shaped infuser works the old-fashioned analog way: It holds the tea leaves as you immerse it in the hot water.

Be sure to check out our previous years' recommendations in case you missed anything cool:

'Code Monkey' T-shirt

You're a developer and proud of it. That's what the $19 "Code Monkey" T-shirt from ThinkGeek.com proclaims in a clear but tasteful way. Only those in the know would realize the term comes from Jonathan Coulton's hilarious but hardly politically correct "Code Monkey" anthem celebrating the unappreciated programmer.

Be sure to check out our previous years' recommendations in case you missed anything cool:

Power2U USB wall power outlet

Now that USB is the de facto standard for charging smartphones, tablets, and more, wouldn't it be nice if you didn't have to have USB chargers taking up your wall outlets' receptacles? Newer Technology's $30 Power2U outlets give you two grounded three-prong U.S.-style outlets plus two USB outlets so you can power both standard and USB devices without using adapters. And the USB ports provide enough power even for an iPad. Unlike other such USB-port-equipped wall outlets on the market, these are UL-certified as meeting household electrical safety requirements.

Be sure to check out our previous years' recommendations in case you missed anything cool:

Kindle Touch 3G

For that avid book reader, Amazon.com's Kindle Touch 3G should be high on the geek gift list. The $189 Kindle Touch 3G does away with all those ungainly buttons from previous Kindles and features the same E-Ink high-contrast, grayscale screen that works great in sunlight and other bright conditions. Plus, you can download books from anywhere via Wi-Fi or no-charge 3G. Even if you have an iPad or Android tablet, the Touch 3G is a great companion for use outside or when someone else is hogging the iPad.

Although I can't recommend it, those who want more than just books on a media tablet will likely consider the $199 Kindle Fire, a Wi-Fi-only, 7-inch tablet with a color screen (so use outdoors and near windows is iffy) for book reading, music playing, video watching, and game playing. Note that for videos, you're restricted to Amazon.com's TV and movie offerings, which are limited but growing. For games and other apps, the Fire's nonstandard version of Android means its selection is also limited. Most reviews have also criticized the slow hardware and erratic forked Android OS, as well as its pokey Silk browser. The $249 Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet has slightly beefier hardware but more limited content options, so it's not really a strong option either. The fact is that neither the Kindle Fire nor Nook is an iPad or even a true Android tablet -- their 7-inch screen is too small for most websites, blockbuster movies, and e-magazines, for example -- so if you want a full-on tablet that's also great for media, get the iPad 2 instead.

Be sure to check out our previous years' recommendations in case you missed anything cool:

Kindle Touch 3G (continued)

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Touch-capable Isotoner gloves

When it's cold outside and you're sporting a pair of gloves to keep your hands warm, you also lose the ability to use that smartphone, because the gloves prevent the touch-sentive screen from detecting your fingers. Isotoner has a solution to that problem: the Smartouch gloves that include special filaments on the thumb and index finger that transmit from your fingers the electrical signal a touchscreen uses to identify a human finger. Thus, you can use gestures on your mobile device even when you're keeping your hands warm. Do note that the gloves won't let you use the new multifinger gestures in iOS 5 on an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, but you can use all the regular ones such as pinch, expand, rotate, and of course tap.

The Isotoner Smartouch gloves are available in both men's styles and women's styles, in a variety of materials, linings, colors, and sizes. Prices range from $15 to $40 a pair.

Be sure to check out our previous years' recommendations in case you missed anything cool:

Touch-capable Isotoner gloves (continued)

... The Isotoner Smartouch gloves are available in both men's styles and women's styles, in a variety of materials, linings, colors, and sizes. Prices range from $15 to $40 a pair.