It's not often you see the phrases "coffee-table book" and "data center" in the same sentence. But its softcover notwithstanding, this 368-page tome comes as close as I've ever seen. (There's also an e-book version for those who prefer that format.)
Douglas Alger, newspaper reporter turned data center manager, knows -- and clearly loves -- his subject matter. The Art of the Data Center: A Look Inside the World's Most Innovative and Compelling Computing Environments (Prentice Hall/InformIT/Pearson Education, 2012) pays homage to 18 of the world's most interesting data centers, including a former chapel at the Barcelona Supercomputer Center and the server headquarters of Yahoo, eBay, IBM, Citi, Intel, Terremark, NetApp and others.
My personal favorite: Bahnhof's way-cool "James Bond" data center, situated mostly underground in Stockholm and complete with saltwater aquarium, artificial daylight and greenhouses. No piranha, though.
But this book goes far beyond the requisite beautiful photos. Alger interviewed the architects and engineers responsible for the buildings and asked them questions -- many detailed questions -- about their choices for energy efficiency, the site itself, project management, their use of cooling techniques and pretty much anything else a data center maven would want to know. Readers are bound to get great ideas for their own pieces of paradise.
A minor quibble: There are no page numbers in the table of contents, so unless you're reading cover-to-cover, you need to scan to find what you want to read, chapter-wise. Nevertheless, with both beauty and brains, this book represents geek love at its finest.
-- Johanna Ambrosio
For the environmentally conscious on your gift list, consider Bluelounge's Eco-Friendly Bags for laptops, tablets and more. Available in rust or black, the bags are made out of recycled PET plastic bottles that are shredded, melted and extruded into filaments. The result is a tough material that feels more like cloth than plastic. Bluelounge further applies a water-resistant coating to the fabric, both interior and exterior.
The company doesn't skimp on construction, either. The shoulder straps have custom aluminum buckles with quick-release levers that make it easy to find a comfortable fit. The bags have multiple extra pockets for chargers, phones and so on, and some have carabiners to hang water bottles and such off the outside.
Prices start at $45 for a sleeve to fit an iPad (the sleeve is also available for 13-, 15-, and 17-in. laptops) and range up to $159 for a backpack that can hold a 17-in. laptop along with lots of books and papers; it also has a zippered security pocket on the side that lies against your back.
You might also like: Bold thieves are prepared to cut your laptop bag's straps or slice it open to get at the goodies inside. Travelon's Anti-Theft React bags ($50 - $110 for a range of styles) feature chain-link mesh in the body and cut-proof shoulder straps to foil such attempts.
-- Jake Widman
Friend's got a new iPhone 5? Help them keep it safe with the CandyShell Flip case from longtime iPod and iPhone case manufacturer Speck. The CandyShell Flip is a two-layer case, with a shock-absorbing inner layer covered with a shiny hard shell.
The rubbery inside layer covers the phone's buttons (there are holes in the outer case so you can still press the buttons), and it projects slightly around the screen to keep the glass away from scratchy surfaces. Depending on the model, the inside layer and the hard-shell cover are different colors, providing a pleasant two-tone effect.
But the real kicker is the reason for the word "Flip" in the name. The case has cutouts on the bottom for the headphone jack and Lightning connector, of course. But it's also hinged at the back, letting you move it out of the way completely to place the phone on a dock. There aren't many iPhone 5 docks available yet, but your friend will be prepared -- and grateful -- when there are.
The CandyShell Flip lists for $35 but sells for as little $20 from online retailers.
You might also like: Available in four colors, Kensington's Portafolio Duo Wallet for iPhone 5 ($40) holds all the necessities: credit cards, ID, cash and, of course, that precious iPhone 5. It even folds into a stand that holds the phone in vertical or landscape mode.
-- Jake Widman
Bet you know someone who's getting a 7-in. tablet this year. CaseCrown's Bold Standby line of tablet cases offers a clean, professional look as well as strong protection for the shiny new device. The cases are designed specifically for the Google Nexus 7, the Apple iPad Mini, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7-in. and several other devices.
Each case has synthetic leather outside and a soft, lined pocket; the tablet is secured inside with a velcro flap. The pocket has cutouts that provide access to all the device's ports and other features. The case wakes up the tablet upon opening, and it folds back to make a horizontal viewing stand.
The Bold Standby case is available in a variety of colors ranging from sober black to festive pink and lime green. It lists for around $40, but is currently on sale for $26 to $31, depending on the model, and can be found at online outlets for considerably less.
You might also like: ReAuthored tablet cases ($49 - $59) cleverly combine a secure place for a tablet or e-reader with the tactile satisfaction of paper and fabric, by carving out a space for the device within the pages of an actual book.
-- Jake Widman
This pocket-sized disk duplicator is a must have for the do-it-yourself geek.
There's no software to install: All you need to do is plug the duplicator into your computer's USB port or into the SATA connection of any hard drive or solid state drive. Then plug it into the SATA connection of the target hard drive or SSD, and it duplicates the drive -- OS and all. Drop the new drive into your computer and away you go. It's the best path to a drive upgrade I've ever experienced.
The single drive duplicator retails for $69, but it can be had for about $40 from various online retailers.
-- Lucas Mearian
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