My Personal Recommendations

Here are a few products, places, and websites I use and personally recommend.  In full disclosure some of the links here for products are affiliate links.  However, for the products I have listed as an affiliate of – I also use the product(s) on a regular basis if not daily because I believe in it.  I will not give my personal recommendation and put my name behind something just to make a buck.  That is not who I am.

Looking for any organic farm produce in the Grand Rapids, MI area?  I would recommend you check out my very good friend’s farm  – Chimney Creek Farm.  Deane and his wife, Linda, are working on raising vegetables, eggs, poultry  and pork as part of the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.  During the summer months – they deliver fresh vegetables and meat weekly.  You can contact Deane at 616-862-2973.  Check out their website or visit them on Facebook.

I’m a huge fan of cloud based storage.  Below (scroll down the page a bit) is a referral link for Dropbox if you want to sign up for that too.  Read my thoughts on OneDrive vs Dropbox and my experiences.  For years I’ve been a heavy Dropbox user.  I still am.  I still use it many many times a day.

Microsoft cloud storage is OneDrive.  When you sign up you get 7 GB of storage space for free compared to Dropbox’s 2GB.  If you download and install the OneDrive mobile app – you can set it up to backup your photos and you can get an additional 3 GB of storage space as well.  If you are shopping to buy additional space between the different providers – I can tell you Microsoft is the cheapest of them all.  You can purchase an additional 100 GB of space for $50.  You can’t honestly beat that price anywhere for cloud based storage.  Lastly, if I want to share any data with anyone – I will now always use OneDrive.  Previously, I would use Dropbox for everything.  I once shared additional resources with students when I was teaching.  I happened to be sitting at my computer months after a class when the Dropbox notification window started popping up notifying me that my files were getting deleted!  With Dropbox when you share content – it gives anyone you share that data with edit / modify permission which includes the ability to delete shared content.  Luckily, Dropbox has the ability to un-delete.  So, I restored my data and have never used Dropbox to share content again.  OneDrive allows me to share content and allows me to share data with recipients and then specify what access level they have (Read or Edit permission).  That for me is now a win!  Here is a link you can use to sign up for OneDrive if you haven’t done so already and it will give me an additional 0.5 GB.

Dropbox – Sync your files online and across computers with @Dropbox. 2GB account is free!

Interested in a good deal for Microsoft Office?  Check out one of the latest things Microsoft is doing.  Office 365 University.  $80 for 4 year subscription.  You can install Office 2013 on 2 devices (PCs or Mac) and mobile devices such as an Android or iOS device.  You also receive an additional 20 GB of storage on Skydrive.  Lastly, you get 60 world minutes each month.  For any family with students – this is a great deal!

PlayOn – PlayOn allows you to record streaming video content from a variety of sources.  I found this when I started looking at cutting the cord due to how expensive Cable TV is.  It took me a few years to finally cut the cord and even longer to start using this more and more frequently.  Now, PlayOn is a lot like VISA’s slogan of “Don’t Leave Home Without It!”.  PlayOn allows you to turn your computer into a DVR so you can watch programs on your schedule where you can record streaming movies and shows from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO and many other popular streaming sites so you can watch anytime, anywhere, and even skip the ads.

Direct TV Now – Dream of cutting the cord but still want access to content such as the Disney Channel, History Channel, National Geographic, among others that OTA doesn’t provide or where you can purchase an app for the channel a la carte?  Direct TV Now is a subscription streaming television service owned by AT&T where you can subscribe to a number of packages including premium movie channels without any commitments where programming is provided over the internet exactly like Netflix or Hulu.  As of December 2017 they support 2 simultaneous streams and from what I’ve read they plan to add additional streams in the future.  They are also in the process of beta testing their Cloud DVR service which I got an invitation to beta test if I’m selected in December 2017.

Ooma – Thought about cutting the cord?  I was paying between $30 – 35 a month for monthly phone service.  Add on another $10 or so in taxes.  “Cutting the cord” saved our family close to $45 every single month.  For me – it wasn’t so easy to do that.  Having that land line has always been there.  Change was hard.  However, running the numbers – NOT doing it was just as hard.  After paying the initial upfront $200 for the hardware my monthly phone bill is roughly $4 for taxes only.  See my blog post from December 2015 about our experience with Ooma and how much money we have saved to date.

dotPhoto is the wholesale club for printing and sharing. dotPhoto Club members get free shipping on every order of just $9.99 or more, plus everyday low prices on prints, posters, frames, and every kind of custom photo merchandise. At dotPhoto, you don’t have to wait for a sale: you get low prices, free shipping, unlimited storage, uploads of 20MB per image, a photo editing service, phone support, a web site, the ability to make money by selling your photos, video sharing and much more.  We’ve used dotPhoto for 15+ years if memory serves me correct and have a monthly club membership where we get nearly 70 photo prints and unlimited storage.  One of my favorite features is they can use the name of the photo or other details such as the date and time the photo was taken and print that on the back of the photo.

Mozy – Online backup software.  Backups are an absolute MUST.  Weekly in the USA over 40,000 hard drives go bad.  It’s not a matter of IF your drive goes bad but WHEN it goes bad.  On top of that drives can easily be corrupted, infected with malware or a virus, or in my case accidently deleting a critical file or folder.  Being that my backup is online if anything happens to my laptop or PC and I run out of the house with the kids in tow in a fire I still have my data online.  Data here is encrypted and if you’re a medical office – it’s also HIPAA compliant.

DidTheyReadIt – Ever wanna know if someone read one of your emails?  Twice?  From where?  How many times?  Etc.  I use this in my Ethical Hacking Class as one way of tracking email messages.

Smart PDF Converter – My newest piece of software in my arsenal.   Take any PDF file and convert it to a variety of formats including HTML, TXT, XLS, JPG, RTF, etc.  This tool has just recently saved my life after looking for over 2+ years for the right tool.

PerfectDisk – A must have tool I have used for years.  Disk fragmentation occurs naturally during the use of your computer and ultimately slows it down.  I’m not an affiliate here but you can get a discount.

Recuva – From the makers of Ccleaner (formerly Crap Cleaner) – Recuva is a fantastic tool that allows files to be recovered.  So, if you’ve ever deleted a file accidentally and need it back – get this tool.

CCleaner – Looking for a tool to wipe all kinds of data from your computer?  Use this.  Beats the built in Windows Disk Cleanup Tool.  Years ago when I was training we had a fun discussion in class.  One of my students swore by the Disk Cleanup Tool.  He didn’t believe CCleaner would actually clean (free up) more data from the disk.  That night he went home and ran Disk Cleanup multiple times.  Then he ran CCleaner.  CCleaner found an additional 1GB+ of data that could be deleted from the disk and freed up that additional disk space.

Offline ExplorerOffline Explorer Pro, or Portable Offline Explorer – I have used Offline Explorer (OE) since 2006.  It’s a product from MetaProducts.  This tool allows me to pretty much download any online content from any web resource.  One thing I have used OE from day 1 is to grab pictures embedded or linked within a post on forum sites as part of Photoshop contests.  Some sites have have just page after page after page where previously I would have to browse each page and manually save each page.  Now, I use OE /w a macro to download pages 1 – 15 with 1 URL in the project.  OE takes the URL and simply changes the page number in the URL from 1 – 15.  My original purpose back in 2006 was to find software that would allow me to record streaming radio programs.

Flash & Media Capture – Another product from Metaproducts.  Name says it all.

Hex Editor NEO Standard, Professional, or Ultimate – An awesome HEX editor.

Snag It – Anyone do a Print Screen to grab a copy of something on your screen?  Besides taking stills of the screen it also takes video of the screen too.  This tool that I have been using puts the Print Screen to a shame.  Snag it does all kinds of screen captures on big fat juicy monster steroids!  You can have it automatically start with your computer and when you hit the Print Screen key it jumps into action.  It can capture a window, full screen, drag the area with your mouse you want copied and viola!  That is one of the pieces of software that I use several times on a daily basis to capture content.

Camtasia – Video editing and recording tool all-in-one.  I have been doing a lot of simple quick and easy video editing.  This tool is phenomenal!  I use it all the time to record webinars or other online content.  Once I have captured that content I use Camtasia to edit that material and then produce content that I can host on my website or upload that to Youtube.

GoDaddy – Domain names much like mine here.  I buy domain names for my wife, each of my kids, family names, and of course names for clients.

Dollar Shave Club – I’ve heard their ads on the radio and listened to personal recommendations as well.  Decided after reading about it that I’d give it a shot.  I joined and the initial order was made.  Just after getting the confirmation email I remembered I wanted to get an additional razor for my wife.  Sent them an email and asked if it would be possible to modify the order and add and added I would have no issues with the charges.  I was surprised and thrilled they were going to send it (and razors) at no additional charge.  Now that’s service!

Kooistra Chiropractic – I’ve been to Dr. Kooistra’s office now for probably close to 15 years.  For me spinal health is very important and when I’m hurting bad – they have always been there for me.  They have very convenient scheduling from 6 in the morning a few days during the week, til a tad after 5 a few days, Saturday mornings, and Dr. Kooistra has even been kind to allow me to visit his home when I’m heading out of town for work and I’m really hurting.  Kudos to them – you can’t beat that kind of service.

South Kent Alignment and Frame – South Kent pretty much does it all.  Doug and Paul are very avid outdoorsman and we always have great conversations when I’m there for a quick tune up.