I won’t publicly endorse a product unless I use it exclusively. My only official recommendations are U.S. Army-issued mustache trimmers, Morton’s salt, and the C.R. Lawrence Fein two inch axe-style scraper oscillating knife blade.
— Ron Swanson, NBC’s Parks and Recreation
People ask me for my opinions on products all the time, and I’m happy to give it to them. (The worst thing you can do is ask me for my opinion on controversies)
Without further delay, here’s my complete list of endorsements or product specifications
Last updated: February 10, 2013
- Video-on-demand service: Netflix
Netflix has the most reliable streaming network of any VOD provider in the world. They have the best content selection. At $8 a month, it’s a great value.
- Music: Spotify
I use Spotify all the time. It has a fantastic on-demand library, and it’s all free. If you want to play music on your mobile devices, or without internet access, you must upgrade to a Spotify Premium account. At $10 a month, Spotify Premium is terrific value.
- DVR: TiVo
TiVo is the name most synonymous with DVR for a very good reason. The DVR is reliable, easy to use, and it works like you’d expect. This seems like a no brainer, but a lot of DVR’s do not work like you’d expect ant that makes them too difficult to enjoy. Also, DVR service is expensive, TiVo’s is on par with the rest of the industry, and much better than most.
- Video Game Console: PlayStation 3
I don’t game a lot, and so the PlayStation is my console of choice. It games well when I want gaming, but it is still the best Blu-Ray Player you can buy, and is the only console that has supported 1080p output since day 1.
Please note: I have no official endorsements for mobile phones or devices, as I find each vendor almost equally annoying.
- Rain-X Window Treatments and Wipers
For someone who lives in extreme weather 90% of the year, Rain-X products make owning a car much, much more enjoyable in the winter months. The window treatments will make your windows easier to scrape, and also helps improve visibility during rain. The wipers, are incredibly aggressive. They wipe effectively, even during sleet and snow.
- Tide Pods
These make laundry easy, and they work extremely well. I have never been one to measure laundry detergent and I typically have no idea what constitutes “one load” so these are great.
- Cell phone carrier: Verizon Wireless
Verizon Wireless still has the best 3G network in the country, and they have the best 4G LTE network in the country as well. My geography is heavily involved in this decision–most cell phone carriers have never heard of Wyoming. Verizon has, and that makes a difference to me.
- Backup: Carbonite
This is an easy one. Carbonite works extremely well on modern machines (it will bog down single core computers when on “continuous backup mode”). By default, this will keep your files backed up in real time. It’s so easy, you never have to worry about it.
- Online Shopping: Amazon Prime
With limited exception, I attempt to use Amazon to buy everything. The Prime membership costs $79 a year, and adds price-club-style benefits and perks to using Amazon.com. Free Two-Day shipping on stuff shipped from Amazon, free Prime Instant Video, a free Kindle book per month, and more. (I do, however, still prefer Netflix over Amazon’s Prime Instant Video streaming solution)
- Online Shopping Exception #1–Textbooks: Chegg.com
Chegg is a great company, making it easier to save money on textbooks. Their website is super easy to use, and their customer service makes textbook-buying more pleasant. Their prices are typically better than Amazon’s, too.
- Online Shopping Exception #2–Cables: Monoprice.com
Monoprice makes great cables, and sells them at bargain basement prices. I rewired my entire home theater using Monoprice for around $30–which includes TWO 20 foot premium cables. Monoprice makes every type of cable in a full spectrum of colors, so if you want to color-code your theater system, Monoprice is the place to do it.
- Desktop: Your Choice
The only computer you’re going to enjoy is the one that fits your life. Continue reading to explore my other favorite preferences.
- Desktop Processor: Intel i7
This is the only processor worth buying. It’s extremely fast. Unbelievably powerful. Your desktop applications will perform so well that you’ll never be mad at your computer.
- Desktop Memory: minimum 12 GB; recommended 16 GB
This is plenty of memory for now, and enough memory to make your computer perform well for years.
- Desktop Hard Drive: 2 TB
Plenty of room for your life and media.
- Initial Setup: Ninite
Ninite will allow you to select your favorite software and automate the installations on new computers. This will “click through” your installers so that you don’t have to. This avoids installing toolbars and adware, and it is dozens of times faster than manually installing.
- Free (as in Beer and as in Speech) Operating System: Ubuntu
It’s powerful, and I highly recommend keeping a Ubuntu disk around. If your computer loses its mind, you’ll be able to boot and recover your files in a doomsday scenario. (but you really should be using Carbonite)
- Non-Free (as in Beer and as in Speech) Operating System: Windows 7
This operating system is solid, and if you have to keep a non-free operating system around, this is the best one. It has better window management than Mac OS
X, solid performance and better reliability compared to previous versions, and most of the familiar systems that you’ve been using for ages (the Start Button, for example).
Data Encryption: TrueCryptAs of 28 May 2014, the TrueCrypt project is defunct. I have removed the link, as there is suspicion that there are unfixed security vulnerabilities.
This software is made by genuinely-paranoid nerds that understand the mechanisms to keep your data safe from prying eyes. This is the only free (as in beer and as in speech) encryption system that will perform full-disk encryption (for Windows drives, anyway).
- Data Safety: SpinRite
Nothing keeps a hard drive healthier than using SpinRite. Also, if your hard disk won’t work at all, SpinRite will nurse it back to health. SpinRite will fix bit rot, and repair and move data from damaged sectors into healthy sectors.