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A layman guide on free ware and low cost software, introductory guide to Inexpensive Serious Software

ST Fan's Guide to Inexpensive Serious Software





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Introduction

Dump Penguin one of the Linux mascot copyright lewing@isc.tamu.edu created with the GIMP free graphics software A friend asked "How did you afford all those software?" So that question originated the idea to write this workshop and guide on ST Fan's Guide to Inexpensive Serious Software. Software can be affordable and you don't need expensive software installed in your PC to make your PC work wonders! Many people thought you needed expensive software from the million-dollar cash rich software giants to do just some simple tasks. To make the issue worse, the BSA or Business Software Alliance put expensive advertisements in the local newspapers and work with the local authorities to intimidate consumers into believing that it is true. Furthermore, some million-dollar cash rich corporations even terrify users with the idea that if you don't buy expensive software, you are doomed! This really is no help in the war against piracy and at the same time trying to uplift the level of IT knowledge of the people in this country!

What we want to share with you here is you actually don't need expensive software from these companies to do simple things like building a web site, touching up your photos, etc. Now don't even think - we are not talking about illegal software copying or buying those illegal pirated software from night market. We are talking about free software that are readily and freely available on the Internet for download, or you may just pay a nominal fee for a set of CD-ROM with packaging as provided by some distributors of the free software. You may ask, "Well, you just said it was free and now you said we have to pay?" The software in this case is free if you download it from the Internet. However the packaging and the CD-ROM and the costs that goes into manufacturing of the packaging is not free. The amount you pay for these packages start from as low as RM20.00 which is free in terms of the software you receive. Some of these distributors are sponsoring the software makers; so you see you are actually contributing to many good courses.

Some big time commercial software companies also offer some of their products as freeware. As a community service these companies sometimes repackage a version of the software with some of the advanced features removed or disabled and rename them the "LITE", "Limited Edition", "Personal Edition" or "Non-Commercial" version on their web site for download. As long as you use these software within the limit of the licensing agreement such as home and personal use and not use it to make money you can have it for free. There is yet another type of free software called the adware. This is the free version of the shareware type software. Shareware is software that allows you to download from the net for free and normally has a limited trial period. When the trial period is over it will terminate itself or it will frequently pop up a nag screen urging you to pay. You can opt not to pay for the adware version of the shareware but it will permanently run an advertisement from their sponsor on the software when you use it. The adware software are normally Internet utility programs and usually have limited scope of usage.

One long forgotten type of free software by many computer users is the public domain software. This is the software that belongs to the Public Domain Library. The definition for Public Domain according to Grolier Encyclopaedia is "the legal term that refers to products or processes unprotected or no longer protected by copyright or patent and therefore freely available for appropriation or use by the public at large". Most free software in the market today are free to use and free to distribute but the ownership and copyright remain with the authors of the software so these are technically not Public Domain software. Public Domain software belongs to the Public Domain Library.  Some of these software were donated by the software creator to the Public Domain. (Yes, once upon a time there were these immortal sages and saints, elves and wizards of software programmers who reigned this world long before the great almighty Microsoft rules!) Most of the software you find in Public Domain usually run on UNIX and DOS. You may come across some images on the Internet that belong to Public Domain used by many web sites. However, when you want to use any images or graphics from the Internet make sure you are not using copyrighted materials from someone else.

BSA also makes you believe that free software is inferior to the pay versions. The Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack on New York City has unfolded the truth about the power of free software. The terrorists had used free software downloaded from the Internet for their communications and terrorist activities that even expensive computer and software from the FBI and CIA were unable to crack at that time! Of course, our intent is not to talk about those software used by the terrorists, but rather to put across the fact that free software are at par with the commercial version, thereby making your computing life simple and inexpensive.

Yahoo! - Anyone who has logged on to the Internet knows Yahoo! But do you know that Yahoo! runs on a free software platform which is a version of the UNIX operating system called FreeBSD? A local Malaysian e-commerce site Pasarborong.com runs on another free software platform – Linux! The special effects in the movie Titanic was created with a cluster of special effect computers based on Linux. The movie Lord of the Rings created their special effects with a cluster consisiting of 800 or so PC runing on Linux. Amazon.com cut technology cost by 24% on third quarter of 2001 by migrating some of its e-commerce server to Linux. Here are some figures from IDC - 27% of the high-end corporate network servers are running on the free Linux Operating system; 64% of the Internet server is running on the free Apache web server. These are just a few examples to wet your appetite as we don't have the time and web space to list them out here.

We would like to clarify a point here and also what we believe. Expensive commercial software have a place and a purpose in the market. However for most home users and small start-up SOHO's who don't have a rich uncle with a deep pocket, what are you going to do? Use illegal software or forget about computing all together because you can't afford it? All is not lost - there are plenty of free goodies on the Internet.Animated Penguin - Linux mascot copyright lewing@isc.tamu.edu, Created with free graphics software - The GIMP It is just a matter of what you know and if you dare to be different! The purpose of this article is simply to try to convert those illegal software users to free software users and try to cover the range of really useful free software available and hopefully help to reduce software piracy. While many of the software we cover here are free, free means free to use and free to distribute but there is still nominal cost involved. Hence we said inexpensive software in our heading and not free software.



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