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Backup Solution:

CRASHPLAN

Is your computer backed up? If it died right now, what would you loose? If you have a Apple Macintosh and are not running Time Machine, then you need to turn it on now! If your running Microsoft Windows and are not running Windows Backup, then you need to turn it on now! Backup, Backup, Backup!!

Don't have an extra hard drive? Worried about a tornado/hurricane hitting your house? Then Crashplan is a cloud based backup provider that I personally use in addition to the above mentions. It is extremely flexible, so if you have satellite internet with "unlimited" bandwidth timeframes, Crashplan can be scheduled to run only during that timeframe. If your have a limited bandwidth internet plan, this may not be the solution for you! (How much data you need to backup a month vs. your normal usage vs. your limit) Look to the above options, or ask!


Display:

Caffeine

Do you own a Macintosh? Is it sometimes annoying to be working productively only to stop just long enough for the screensaver to come on or fall asleep? Your Mac needs some Caffeine! Caffeine is an app found either online or on the App store. Just click the icon in the system tray and keep your Mac awake for hours!


F.LUX

F.LUX is a software that is designed to help ease the effects of the blue tint that your computer monitor naturally has. It automatically adjusts depending on your location and the sun's position. I use it on all of my computers, Windows and Mac.


Hard Drive Monitoring:

Volitans SMART Utility

Have a Macintosh computer? Wan't to be sure the hard drive isn't just going to croak on you? Then SMART Utility is the program for you. It checks the drives internally built in SMART diagnostics for any signs of premature failure and even enables you to manually run the short and long tests. Even better is if you install the "SAT SMART Driver" you will also be able to check the status and run tests on external drives as well. As a Mac owner myself, I highly recommend this product!

HD TUNE

Never fear Microsoft Windows users, I have a SMART utility for you. HD TUNE has been around for ages, it is well liked by many and does a great job. It also includes some drive benchmarking features along with the SMART monitoring and testing capabilities.


Password Management:

1PASSWORD

Are you using the same password for every website? Is the password for you bank the same as your Facebook or email? Does your password include you name or date of birth or personally identifiable information? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you are at risk! All it takes is for one of those accounts passwords to be cracked and now hackers have the password for all of your most important logins. Thats why I HIGHLY recommend a good password manager. 1Password by Agilebits is my manager of choice and has worked very well. Best of all it works for PC, Mac, IOS and Android. It gives you the ability to create a different and very complex password for each individual website without ever needing to actually remember it. All you need to remember is one master password that will unlock them all, after that it simple auto fills the username and password for you. You can also sync all of your password between you devices using cloud services like dropbox or iCloud. 


Recipe Manager:

PAPRIKA

Are you still using paper recipes? Get into the digital era with Paprika and you will be able to access all of your recipes from your iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle, Nook or Macintosh (Sorry, no Windows).


Remote Access:

TeamViewer

Teamviewer is hands down my favorite remote access software. If you've every given me a call and I was able to fix you computer right then and there. TeamViewer is my go to way to connect across the internet and best of all, IT'S FREE! (Well for personal use that is). 


Security Software:

AVAST for Mac

Avast makes a free antivirus software for Apple Macintosh that is without a doubt the lightest on systems resources. In my testing OSX never felt slow or have its occasional pauses (Possibly an effect of CPU coalescing) like it does with other Mac based antivirus solutions do. AVAST for Mac makes no claims to detect windows viruses, but then again thats why they have their own antivirus. So whats the catch you asking? No catch, and best of all.....IT'S FREE! So why should you use it? Well, honestly if your a home user and not downloading illegal software or shared files from sketchy websites, then I wouldn't worry about it. But if you are a little bit more of a risk taker or a business user who is required to run AV then this should be your first stop.

Transient

 

ESET (For Windows or Mac!)

ESET NOD32 Antivirus and Smart Security are my goto Windows AV and security products that I have recommended time and again with no regrets. I like it so much I put it on my grandmothers computer!

For my fellow Mac users ESET Cyber Security and Cyber Security Pro has you covered. Unlike Avast, ESET aims to provide more of a comprehensive security suite that aims to provide Antivirus protection for Mac and Windows viruses as well as phishing, spam and advanced firewall capabilities. Just like Avast I only recommend running this only if downloading illegal software (Which is ILLEGAL and you shouldn't be doing!) or shared files from sketchy websites, or if you're a business user that is required to some some form of AV. 

MALWAREBYTES

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is possible the best software out there for removing malware from an infected PC. It has worked fantastically for me over the years and is the main reason I have been able to remove "viruses" (malware) from most peoples computers when they come to me. There is a FREE and a paid for version, neither a bad product but if you don't want to spend the money grab the free version and run it occasionally.

Now there is also a new version of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware for Mac! It is completely built for Mac based malware so it doesn't waste time looking for Windows malware that can't effect your Mac. Scan times are less then a minute and repairs are as simple as one click. No matter what kind of user you are I suggest you download and run this every once in a blue moon. Best of all, its FREE!

Norton ConnectSafe

Norton ConnectSafe brings a lot of security to your entire home network for the low price of FREE! It does this by changing the DNS servers from your local Internet Service Provider's (ISP) DNS to Norton's own ConnectSafe DNS system. At this point your probably wondering what a DNS is. DNS or Domain Name System as its known is the equivalent to a phone book for the internet. That way when you type "www.dandytechguy.com" you get routed to the correct address that contains my page! Norton ConnectSafe brings and added layer of security to your home network by blocking three types of addresses: Group A-Malware, Phising & Scam sites; Group B- everything from group A & Pornography; and lastly Group C- everything from groups A & B plus mature content, abortion, drug, alcohol, gambling, suicide, etc.. The real power in this is that with by using this with your home router you can control the type of internet content that every internet connected device in your house can have access to. For those of you with children that have tablets or iPods you can now protect them from pornography on every device not just the PC anymore. The downside is that you have to be a little technical to setup your home router with the new DNS servers and there is no granular control over what gets blocked or allowed. Overall its an easy way to protect yourself from a wide range of internet threats on any device in your home!  


Virtualization Software:

Have a Mac but need to run Windows? Have Windows but need to run Linux or Android or another Windows desktop? Then virtualization software is what you need. 

Oracle VM Virtualbox

Virtualbox is an excellent virtual machine software package that has a boat load of capability and all for the awesome price of FREE! For those of you in the IT realm, I've actually used virtualbox to create a full Solaris Cluster with HA Containers on a laptop for a client engagement. It works on Windows, Mac, Linux and Solaris, just remember to also download and install the extension pack as well.

Parallels Desktop

Do you have a Mac? Want to play Windows video games? Well you have two choices. Your first option fire up Apple's builtin solution called "Bootcamp" which will require you to reboot you Mac whenever you want to play your games. Your second option is the one that I personally use, Parallels Desktop. Parallels is very similar to virtualbox in how it operates, but has the nice addition of being simpler to use for most people. It also does a fantastic job of handling 3D accelerated graphics inside the virtual machine itself. Best of all no reboot required. Just start the Windows desktop and play away. You can pause they game and checkout anything on the Mac side just like normal. 


Web Browsers:

On every Windows computer I own I automatically remove Internet explorer and install Google Chrome. Now I don't use a lot of Googles stuff, but Chrome on Windows is my goto browser.

For Mac I usually myself stick with Safari, but if I need to use another browser then Firefox is my other option.



Did I mention, Backup, Backup, Backup? (See above)