00:00:32 MST Sunday 29 November 2020

Computer and Network Consulting

Services Provided by Michael Oatman
"Hey, Computer Man!"

Current Recommendations

Here's a smattering of some the best software, hardware, operating systems and internet sites and services out there right now.  Although this list is nowhere near complete in terms of incorporating all possible categories, I do hope you will find it accurate and useful.  Please review the About HCM! page for information about the software and resources which were used to build this website.

Jump to: Software | OS's | Hardware | Internet



Current Recommendation since 2006: COMODO Internet Security  COMODO Internet Security Suite is the free, multi-layered security application that keeps hackers out and personal information in.  Built from the ground upwards with your security in mind, Internet Security offers 360 protection by combining powerful Antivirus protection, an enterprise class packet filtering firewall, advanced host intrusion prevention and automatic sandboxing of unknown files.  Unlike the stripped down versions of commercial software that other software vendors offer for free, this is the full, completely functional version of the product.
Runner up: AVG Free
Honorable Mention: Sophos, Kaspersky (both annual fee based)
Do Not Use: Norton, McAfee, or anything else lacking heuristics


Current Recommendation since 2007: K-Meleon  K-Meleon (pronounced Chameleon like the lizard) is the most secure, versatile and configurable Internet Browser ever constructed, and it is absolutely free.  K-Meleon is an extremely fast, customizable, lightweight web browser based on the Gecko layout engine developed by Mozilla which is also used by Firefox.  K-Meleon is Free, Open Source software released under the GNU General Public License and is designed specifically for Microsoft Windows (Win32) operating systems, although source files are available for cross-platform compatability.
Runners up: Google Chrome, Safari
Do Not Use: Internet Explorer (IE), Firefox

CD/DVD/Blu-Ray Burning

Current Recommendation since 2009: Ashampoo Burning Studio Free  Ashampoo Burning Studio Free keeps all the advantages of its predecessor and adds multi-disc file backup, an integrated audio CD ripper and further improved support for the exciting new Blu-ray format with capacities of up to 25 gigabytes per layer.
Runner up: Nero Burning ROM (not free)
Do Not Use: Windows Explorer

Data Recovery

Current Recommendation since 2004: TestDisk  TestDisk is OpenSource software and is licensed under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL).  TestDisk is powerful free data recovery software! It was primarily designed to help recover lost FAT/FAT32/NTFS files and partitions and/or make non-booting disks bootable again when these symptoms are caused by faulty software, certain types of viruses or human error (such as accidentally deleting a Partition Table). MFT and Partition table recovery using TestDisk is really easy.
Do Not Use: Unerase, Undelete or similar programs


Current Recommendation since 2008: COMODO Internet Security  COMODO Internet Security Suite is the combination of COMODO's anti-virus/malware/spyware/pop-ups and a firewall, which had previously been packaged separately.  New features have been added and extended so that the firewall is fully configurable per IP address / port / protocol / network layer (no MAC pairings yet), and yet easily set up for simple internet application security.
Tie For First in Linux/Unix: IPTABLES
Honorable Mention: Zone Alarm

Home Office / Productivity

Current Recommendation since 2005: OpenOffice  OpenOffice is an open source, international community-developed office productivity suite that will run on all major platforms and provide access to all functionality and data through open-component based APIs and an XML-based file format.  It is available in many languages and works on all common computers.  It stores all your data in an international open standard format and can also read and write files from other common office software packages.  It can be downloaded and used completely free of charge for any purpose.
Do Not Pay For: Microsoft Office Suite

Image/Photo Editing

Current Recommendation since 2008: GIMP  GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program.  It is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring.  It has many capabilities.  It can be used as a simple paint program, an expert quality photo retouching program, an online batch processing system, a mass production image renderer, an image format converter, etc.  GIMP is expandable and extensible.  It is designed to be augmented with plug-ins and extensions to do just about anything.  The advanced scripting interface allows everything from the simplest task to the most complex image manipulation procedures to be easily scripted.  GIMP is written and developed under X11 on UNIX platforms, but basically the same code also runs on MS Windows and Mac OS X.
Honorable mention: Adobe Photoshop (not free)

Media/Music/Video Players

Current Recommendation since 2005: VLC Player  VLC Media Player is a free and open source cross-platform multimedia player and framework that plays most multimedia files as well as DVD, Audio CD, VCD, and various streaming protocols.  While the latest release incorporates most known codecs, on the rare occasion when a codes is needed the VLC player incorporates it and performs flawlessly.
Runner up: DivX Player (free)
Do Not Use: Windows Media Player

Network & Communications

Current Recommendation for Email (tie): Yahoo! & Gmail  For a full description and comparison of Yahoo! Mail and Gmail, please see the review below.
Do Not Use: Outlook Express or other non-web based email clients

Current Recommendation for FTP: FileZilla  FileZilla is a fast and reliable cross-platform FTP, FTPS and SFTP client with lots of useful features and an intuitive graphical user interface.
Runners up: CuteFTP, CoreFTP

Current Recommendation for IM/SMS/MMS/Chat: uTalk  uTalk is a universal IM/SMS/MMS/Chat client for instant messaging, text, voice or multimedia messages even when you are not at home or can not be near the computer.  uTalk runs on virtually all modern mobile phones, as well as operating systems such as Windows XP/2000 or Mac OS.  You can communicate with those who do not have utalk, and talk with IM clients such as ICQ, MSN, FaceBook Chat, ICQ, iChat, AIM, Google Talk, Yahoo! Messenger, Gadu Gadu, Jabber, Windows Live Messenger.
Honorable mention: Google Voice

Current Recommendation for VNC:   The Virtual Network Computing client VNC Free Edition is remote control software which allows you to view and fully interact with one computer desktop (the VNC server) using a simple program (the VNC viewer) on another computer desktop anywhere on the Internet.  The two computers don't even have to be the same type, so for example you can use VNC to view a Windows Vista desktop at the office on a Linux or Mac computer at home.  For ultimate simplicity, there is even a Java viewer, so that any desktop can be controlled remotely from within a browser without having to install software.
Do Not Use: GoToMyPC, Windows Remote Desktop

Current Recommendation for VoIP (tie): iCall, Google Voice & MagicJack  iCall, Google Voice and MagicJack are three different VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) telephone clients, which means you can use them to make free telephone calls over your computer to anywhere in the US and Canada.  Both iCall and Google Voice are completely free and software based, although you must use your computer microphone and speakers to make calls.  With iCall, but not Google Voice, you must first listen to a 15 second advertisement before your call is placed.  MagicJack is completely free to use, but you must purchase the USB dongle for $20 or so which serves as hardware to connect to your phone, and annual service costs about $19 (per year).  On iCall, you are assigned a mailbox number (currently 7 digits long), which serves as your phone number when someone first calls any of the nationwide iCall Access Numbers (people who want to call you must first dial a 7 to 10 digit number, then your 7 digit number to reach you).  Both MagicJack and Google Voice allow you to have your own phone number, and you can pick your area code and prefix (Google Voice has recently run out of available numbers in many markets, including in Tucson).  All have voicemail, although Google Voice allows you to forward your calls to any other verified phone number, including mobile phones so you can receive calls when not at your computer.  It ultimately depends upon how you will use the services (mostly inbound or outbound, whether you have another phone, how often you are at your computer, etc.) for you to decide which will work best for you.
Honorable mention: Skype
Do Not Use: Vonage

Text/File Editing

Current Recommendation since 2000: UltraEdit  UltraEdit is used across a diverse range of industries, from professional writers, researchers and journalists to advanced programmers, database managers and web developers.  Scores of individuals use UltraEdit as a powerful replacement for windows notepad and even more use it as a text editor because of its ability to handle multiple documents at once, large file handling, powerful search/find/replace functionality, spell checking versatility and much more.

Torrent / Download Managers

Current Recommendation since 2008: μTorrent   μTorrent (pronounced Micro-Torrent or "myoo-torrent") is a lightweight torrent client replete with features and configuration options customizable for any end user's needs.  It gets the "μ" in its name from the SI prefix "micro-", referring to the program's small memory footprint: the program is designed to use minimal computer resources while offering functionality comparable to larger BitTorrent clients such as Vuze or BitComet.  The program has received consistently good reviews for its feature set, performance, stability, and support for older hardware and versions of Windows.  A report showed that μTorrent is the second most popular BitTorrent client (after the Chinese Xunlei).
Runners up: Azureus Vuze, BitTorrent

Video Editing

Current Recommendation since 2002: Adobe Premiere  Adobe Premiere Pro video editing software lets you edit faster with true native format support.  Get breakthrough performance on workstations and laptops; streamline collaboration; and boost productivity with an efficient, robust, cross-platform editing workflow.  Premiere works better than the competition, but if you do not have the budget of an Executive Movie Producer, at a cost comparable to that of a small used car, this software may be out of your price range.
Runners up: Final Cut Pro, Lightwave 3D
Honorable mention: Windows Movie Maker (comes with Windows)
Soon to be released: Lightworks (free open source beta)

Jump to: Software | OS's | Hardware | Internet

Operating Systems


Current Recommendation since 2001: XP Corporate Professional  Windows XP Pro is an operating system that was produced by Microsoft for use on personal computers, including home and business desktops, laptops, and media centers.  It was first released to computer manufacturers on August 24, 2001, and is the most popular version of Windows, based on installed user base.  It is generally preferred since it can run on a bare minimum of 57MB RAM, and a typical installation can use around 100MB, compared to Vista or Windows 7, which use upwards of 300MB and 700MB RAM respectively.
Runners Up: Windows Server 2003 & 2008
Honorable mention: Windows 2000 series, Windows CE (handheld devices)
Do Not Use: Windows 95/98/SE/ME, Windows XP Home Edition, Vista, Windows 7


Current Recommendation since 1998: Red Hat / Fedora  Fedora, created in late 2003, when Red Hat Linux was discontinued, is an RPM-based, general purpose collection of software, including an operating system based on the Linux kernel, developed by the community-supported Fedora Project and sponsored by Red Hat.  The Fedora Project's mission is to lead the advancement of free and open source software and content as a collaborative community.
Runners up: FreeBSD, Ubuntu / Debian
Do Not Pay For: SCO Unix

Jump to: Software | OS's | Hardware | Internet



Current Recommendation since 1993: D.I.Y.  Yes, Do It Yourself has been my recommendation, since you receive the exact same computer (sans the logos) and you typically save about $400 this way.  Fortunately, you can still save money since I build your computer for you, custom made to your specifications.
Runner up: Pricewatch
Do Not Use: Dell, Gateway, HP/Compaq, Sony, etc.


Current Recommendation since 1996: AMD  Advanced Micro Devices is an American multinational semiconductor company based in Sunnyvale, California, that develops computer processors and related technologies for commercial and consumer markets.  Its main products include microprocessors, motherboard chipsets, embedded processors and graphics processors for servers, workstations and personal computers, and embedded systems applications.

Jump to: Software | OS's | Hardware | Internet

Internet Resources

Auction/Classified Sites

Current Recommendation since 2009: Craigslist  Okay, so Craigslist has received quite a bit of negative attention lately because of its dating area and its mature ads (now removed).  I strongly suggest that you see my recommendation below for Dating and Personals sites.  However, if you need to find an apartment rental, a new microwave or television, a car, boat, or any other thing you can purchase, then Craigslist is the way to go.  Unlike eBay, you do not pay to use the site if you are either the buyer or the seller.  Always arrange your sale in the daytime in public or with friends, just to be safe.
Do Not Use: eBay

Dating/Personals Sites

Current Recommendation since 2008: OK Cupid  OK Cupid has redefined the standard in what it takes to be a successful free personals or dating site.  Before OK Cupid, you could typically sign up for free but you were lucky if you could get a wink and a nod in before you were charged more than the cost of a dinner and a movie for sending a message to someone.  Now, with OK Cupid, you can send and receive unlimited messages and intra-site IMs for free, plus your searches incorporate an amazing degree of flexibility.  In addition, the matching algorithm is based on your answers to user-submitted questions, and there are thousands of them (not just 29) to guarantee a good match.  There are also fun things like games and tests to see what your personality is like.  OK Cupid is hands down the best dating site on the web.
Runner up: myYearbook (free searching and messages)
Do Not Use: eHarmony, Zoosk

DNS Hosting (Free)

Current Recommendation since 1998: AFRAID.ORG  The Free DNS Service at AFRAID.ORG (and Josh in particular) have been a proven resource for more than a decade and a half.  You can edit A, AAAA (IPv6), NS, CNAME, TXT, LOC, HINFO, RP, SRV, MX, and URL (HTTP 302 location forward or frameset) records; does that just about cover it?  I use it always.  No more needs to be said.  Why pay fees for DNS hosting when it is free?  Oh, and Josh would absolutely love it if you paid him.
Runners up: Hurricaine Electric (HE.NET), X-Name (XNAME.ORG)

DNS Hosting (Paid)

Current Recommendation since 1970: None  Why pay on a sunny day?  So much to do so why, why pay?  On a sunny day-aaay, why, why pay, hey?  Why pay?  Why, why pay?  See the free version just above.  Way back at the start of the internet, this part used to be free.  It still is.  I'd like to hear my options, so I would not have to pay them, whad'dya say?
Runners up: None

DNS Resolution

Current Recommendation since 2011: COMODO DNS  COMODO has been a provider of DNS resolution for a few years now, and I am pleased to state that they are now fully compliant with DNS resolvers of,, and  Enjoy!
Runner up: Google DNS, but not if you listen to Alex Jones!

Email Providers

Current Recommendation (tie): Yahoo! & Gmail  Yahoo! Mail and Gmail both offer unlimited free web-based email accounts to everyone, earning income from occasional advertisements placed on their sites.  The web-based email approach is widely seen as better due to its portability; you can access your email from anywhere the internet is present.  Both allow for multiple folder storage, email filters, Instant Messaging and a huge host of other features.  Since only Yahoo! allows outgoing email branding and only Gmail allows email forwarding, I usually set up the same email address on both sites, then forward my Gmail to my Yahoo! so it all can be read on one place.
Do Not Use: Hotmail, AOL

File Hosting / Sharing

Current Recommendation since 2009: Ziddu  Ziddu, while based in Hong Kong, enables you to backup your files online, and if you want, you can host downloads of those files and receive money for doing it.  Ziddu is a 100% free file hosting & sharing solution.  Ziddu features include All Free Accounts, Fast & Parallel downloads, Easy File Management and Sharing.

Hardware Purchasing

Current Recommendation since 2000: Pricewatch  Pricewatch has been around forever and has become simultaneously one of the best known sites and kept secrets of the internet.  Pricewatch itself does not actually sell anything, but it does allow anyone to post computer components (and now most department store items) to the site and then displays the current deals by category listed in order of ascending price.

Job Boards

Current Recommendation since 1970: None  Word of mouth is always the best way to go here, not to say that there are not plenty of job boards out there.  CareerBuilder, Monster, and all the others can list the openings, but having someone tell you personally rather than tell the entire internet is always the best recommendation.

Software Downloads

Current Recommendation since 1995: Download.com (CNet)  CNet's Download.com has been around serving free software, trialware, shareware and proprietary software since the first days of the internet.  You can search any phrase or category, and limit your results by operating system, license (cost of software), and other criteria.  Check it out!
Runner up: SourceForge (All Open Source, many products in alpha and beta testing, not as well searchable or organized, nor reliable)

Streaming Video

Current Recommendation since 2010: Vodo  Vodo (pronounced like the Dodo bird) helps promote and distribute new creative works all over the world & enables those enjoying shared media to make donations to creators.
Runner up: Hulu

Torrent/Magnet Sites

R.I.P. 2005-2012: btJunkie
Current Recommendation since 2012: The Pirate Bay (Sweeden)  Since the demise of btJunkie, I have been relegated to inferior sites, the best of which is this one.  Not a very strong rec, is it?  That's how it goes, I suppose.  And if your ISP is blocking you, check here or use my favorite TPB proxy.
Runners up: Demonoid (if you can get in), ISOhunt, mininova

Web Hosting Providers

Current Recommendation since 2010: HelioHost  HelioHost offers free web hosting for all.  With every account comes access to cPanel, ability to edit A, CNAME, TXT, and MX records, 250MB of disk space, unlimited email accounts, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited subdomains, unlimited parked domains, unlimited addon domains, unlimited FTP accounts, unlimited mailing lists, unlimited MySQL/PostgreSQL/SQLite databases, access to phpMyAdmin/phpPgAdmin, ability to add Perl modules, and easy installation of popular software (such as blogging and forum platforms) using Softaculous.  HelioHost accounts can use the following scripting languages, PHP, ASP.NET, Ruby/Ruby on Rails, Python & Django, Java/JSP, Perl and SSI.
Runner up: X10 Hosting

Jump to: Software | OS's | Hardware | Internet

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