What's hot? What's not?
Below is my list of recommended companies to do business with and those whom you should avoid like the plague. As a developer, you need computer equipment and software that simply works. I am always looking out for newer and more interesting technologies to add to my core recommended list. If you are a hardcore gamer, these recommendations are not for you. If you are searching for a good PC that won't break down, these can be for you but may be slightly out of your budget.
Recommended PC and/or hardware manufacturers:
Dell. I have yet to have a problem with Dell. Good solid hardware, but not the best for gaming. Spending less than $500 on a PC will get you in trouble, though (you get what you pay for).
IBM. Good hardware. Unfortunately, they shut down their PC division, so parts will be hard to find. Expensive.
Micron. Their memory chips are still top notch for those who need an upgrade to existing hardware.
ATI. NVidia has simply lost their edge - ATI is the way to go.
Intel. If it is AMD, you are asking for burned out motherboards and other trouble all the way. I know AMD has made strides to improve (and some people are fine with the possibility), but Intel chips have extra stuff on board to make sure that if it burns out it doesn't take the motherboard with it. It also has extra stuff on board to make sure the CPU doesn't burn out either. If the CPU goes, you'll have days of downtime where you can't write code. Time = money.
Blacklisted PC/hardware manufacturers:
HP. Poor technical support. Lousy hardware. Not nearly as bad as Sony, though.
Gateway. Off the permanent blacklist since 2004 and onto the regular blacklist. Amazing they are still in business.
eMachines. These guys have never been good at putting together a clean system that lasts more than 3 or 4 years...but they are cheap.
Microsoft mice. Microsoft used to make a really great mouse (the Intellimouse 3.0 USB dark grey on the sides). The newer version of the same mouse is manufactured poorly (buttons don't click, not as ergonomic, etc.). It is obvious that Microsoft is getting sloppy with making mice. Go with Logitech or some other company. Visit your local OfficeMax or Staples to try out a few.
AMD. AMD is still notorious for burning out multiple motherboards and creating frustrated users.
Permanent blacklisted PC/hardware manufacturer (10 year ban):
Sony - 10 year ban started in 2002 for absolutely abysmal Indian technical support outsourcing and unable to replace obviously busted hardware (CPU went bad). Ban will be reviewed in 2012, no exceptions. Sony...you feeling the pressure yet?
Recommended software vendors:
Microsoft - Office 2003 with Service Pack 1, Visual Studio .NET 2003 Professional/Enterprise, Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2.
Whole Tomato - Their Visual Assist .NET product rocks. Being without it is like being naked.
Scooter software - BeyondCompare. Very useful little utility.
Qualcomm - Eudora Light v3.0.6 - This little beauty is still the only e-mail client that can handle the influx of spam and is still free. It may be old, but it won't autoreply to spammers like Outlook will and I can create black hole accounts with it. This software is always being considered for replacement, but so far I haven't found anything (not even newer versions of Eudora). (And, yes, I have tried Thunderbird...when it can strip HTML from inbound messages and display flat, plain-text and only do bottom-posting, then I'll consider using it).
Notespad - A good solid text editor that can handle fairly large files. Has the Notepad look-and-feel, but geared for software developers. Good for making quick-and-dirty test programs where starting a new project to try an idea out would be way too difficult. 80% of my coding is done here, but most developers say they "need" syntax highlighting, which this doesn't offer. A good alternative at that point is Crimson Editor, but it can't handle huge 100MB+ files.
Borland - Builder X is actually intriguing. It has a bunch of different compilers they bundle together in a single package. The price is just about right too. Too bad they aren't offering the Intel compiler at their low-end range. Most developers have heard that Intel's compiler is blindingly good (including me), but have no budget to try it out.
Blacklisted software vendors:
LeadTools - Miserable product line for what it does. Most of their products have serious flaws that you have to work around by writing the routines correctly yourself.
The people who make BoundsChecker - They want to sell you their "complete solution" package. BoundsChecker is nice when it works, which it doesn't most of the time.
Permanent blacklisted software vendors (10 year ban):
Anyone distributing spyware and/or adware with their products. This includes, but not limited to, all major P2P vendors and a number of pop-up blocker development firms.