Cheap or Free

Always on the lookout for a good deal, I've found many excellent tools and resources; quite useful for those of us with extremely small or non-existent technical budgets.

Backup and Recovery

CrashPlan for Home by Code 42 at was shut down in 2018, moving to a business-only product.

Backblaze at is $5 per month per computer, and has no limit on how much data you can back up. I've had the privilege to use their USB hard drive restore service, and it was painless. For a sizable refundable deposit, Backblaze send you a USB hard drive with your encrypted backup. Sure beats downloading hundreds of GB.

Windows Backup is already built into most PCs, and can either back up files or a full backup of absolutely everything on the PC. It's particularly useful for recovery from a complete disaster. It's not quite as schedule friendly as CrashPlan. See for a guide.

Redo Backup and Recovery at is a bare-metal full system backup tool. You boot from a CD ROM or USB flash drive, and Redo makes a complete snapshot of the entire PC hard drive--absolutely everything! The main advantage is Redo can restore the entire PC very quickly, especially if the backup was put on a very fast external drive. Geek note: it's a fully operational Linux live CD, so you can do basic data recovery, drive partitioning, and other low-level things if you need to.

Pro-Tip: Full System Protection

If you want real protection, I'd make a Redo backup to an external hard drive every month, and put that drive in a safety deposit box. Then use a file back tool (Windows Backup, Backblaze, etc) to back up the files during the month to a second external hard drive you keep at home.

Desktop Tools for converting between video formats with a nice GUI.


Coming soon.

Mobile Phone

Republic Wireless at has been very good for me. I joined their beta program late in 2012. The phone was a lackluster Motorola Defy XT, but the price--$18 a month for everything--was tough to beat! Most phone calls try to go over WiFi whenever possible. That's how they keep prices down. As of 2014, the official phone is the very capable Moto X, and their no-contract plans range from $5 to $40 a month, depending on your usage style.

FreedomPop at provides a reasonable amount (500MB per month) of data in a little hotspot. Free! Just buy the hotspot, and you're all set. Very useful if you need to check email or your social networking while traveling and don't otherwise have WiFi. Not very useful if you want to watch YouTube for hours. 500MB is a lot of data for email; it's very little if you plan to stream music or video.

Google Voice at will provide a mobile phone number that you can manage from your Google account web site. You can forward it, screen calls, text from it, pretty much anything you'd do with a normal phone number... except there's no phone attached to it. Make phone calls for free from your PC or tablet via Google Voice and Google Hangouts. You can even get a vanity number. is a "pay for what you actually use" cell phone plan. We got a few old iPhone 6, popped in Ting SIM cards, and off we go. For 2 iPhones with "boring" use (ie, no streaming video eating the data), we're paying on average $45 per month. This is on the T-Mobile network, which is pretty decent for where we go.