I love holidays, and not just because they mean time off work. My family and I thoroughly enjoy the many traditions with which we celebrate (such as our chili dinner on Christmas Eve). I realized that I've written a holiday gift guide for Exchange Server administrators each year that I've been writing the UPDATE column, so I guess that makes it a tradition, too.

First, let me reiterate a popular pick from years past: Blair's Death Rain Habanero potato chips. I've probably received more mail about these chips than any other product or technology I've written about. (That proves my thesis that Exchange admins love spicy food more than the average IT professional does.) These fiery chips are hot enough to make you break out in a sweat, which makes them just right.

How about something free? I've been having a blast playing a free arcade-style game called Armagetron ( http://armagetron.sourceforge.net ), which replicates the lightcycle races from Disney's "Tron." The best thing about Armagetron is that you can have multiplayer battles on your LAN. Armagetron is nonviolent, easy to install, and fun. And best of all, the games are quick enough that you can squeeze them in between other more pressing activities, such as checking the shipping status of your Microsoft Xbox 360 order.

In the not-free-but-darn-close department, check out the bootable data-recovery utility CD-ROMs that you can fit onto a small USB flash drive. These CD-ROMs make terrific gifts, because they provide a last-ditch recovery mechanism that you can carry around on your keychain or in your purse. The UBCD4Win bootable CD-ROM ( http://www.ubcd4win.com ) is one good example, but plenty of others are available. Why do I say these devices aren't free? It takes time to assemble the necessary bits, because Microsoft frowns on selling prebuilt images of Windows. (Winternals Software also offers a terrific set of commercial recovery tools that you can buy, but they aren't cheap enough to qualify as good holiday gifts for most admins.)

What do you get the administrator who has everything? One potential solution is a seemingly unlimited supply of reading material, courtesy of a subscription to O'Reilly Media's Safari Bookshelf ( http://safari.oreilly.com ) service. The service has searchable, full-text versions of more than 3000 technical books that you can download to read offline. (I've written several books for O'Reilly, though the service also includes books from many other publishers.)

You can also make donations to many worthwhile charitable organizations in lieu of giving gifts. A few years ago, I was delighted when my sister gave me a duck. Actually, she made a donation to the Heifer Project International ( http://www.heifer.org ), which used the money to send a pair of ducks to a family in a developing nation. The family was able to breed more ducks to supplement its income. Instead of an impossibly dense fruitcake or a gift basket of crumbly cheese and mystery pseudo-sausage, why not give someone a bull, beehive, or water buffalo? Just think of the water-cooler gossip you can start!