Empowered by the word “Free”

Other than yelling out the word “fire” there are few words that envoke a response in humans in an economy driven society. The highest of these that can be said in mixed company is the word “free.” As pleasant as this word is to hear when offered a sample at your local store or as anticipated after the words “buy one, get one” this word does bare a negative burden. I must always be proven innocent or assumed to be guilty of a trick. Why else would someone give away something that they could just as easily have gotten paid for it? Where is the catch after I take this deal?  Let’s strip away the stigma attached to the word and show you how this word can help your business and personal life.

Almost everything out there has a free counterpart when computer software is concerned. That’s a pretty big claim but I intend to back it up.  Let me get this out of the way though. There is one string attached. You don’t just get anything that’s free just like you don’t get any car that has the same price that you want to spend. Have a little bit of a critical eye to key terms such as: Freeware and open source. Freeware is a product that is free but may be watered down compared to the pay version or expire after a certain date leaving you like Cinderella’s pumpkin when you need a ride home. Open source if software that is freely available and made by a collaboration of people around the world for the single purpose of freeing you of software licenses.

Ok, I know you’re already wondering where and how? Free! Free! Free! However, let me give it a little credibility first. You and the companies you use are already using open source software right now.  Google runs on Openbsd. Most of the sites on the internet run on Apache server. Firefox might be what you’re reading this with. Tivo, the Amazon Kindle, Sony Playstation 3 and most animated movies are made on Linux run hardware. All are free and open source products that the big companies have realized cut their costs by millions if they hide what’s below. Even your precious Apple computer and iPhone hide the free software below. If they know it. So should you.

As an old commercial used to say, “I’m not just the president, I’m a client.” Whereas I may not be the president I realized back in 1993 that I practice what I preach. Firefox is my web browser of choice. I dumped Microsoft Outlook in favor of Mozilla Thunderbird as my email client. I use Open Office on some of my PC’s instead of the way over priced and bloated Microsoft Office for all of my work. I use the very resourceful Video Lan Client (VLC) for all of my video and audio and I use Pidgin (or Adium on Macs) for all my instant messaging. I even use Ubuntu Linux as my primary desktop (note: It does have a little bit of a learning curve or help to setup than Mac or Windows but you have to remember they come installed when you buy the PC). These only scratch the surface. My internet hosting companies are running products like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, SugarCRM, PHP and OScommerce and I’m sure yours are or will too.

I’m not going to lead you astray or have you believe that I don’t use Microsoft, Apple, or Adobe products. Dreamweaver is unparalleled at present for designing websites. Microsoft Access is not touched by it’s freeware and open source competitors and video games on the PC just aren’t at the level of the ones you pay for if you’re a serious gamer. However, every serious business or cost conscious individual should pay a little closer attention to their pocketbooks and give serious consideration to some of the FREE software that is out there to help you.

Prices may vary but once you compare the cost of a Mac or Linux computer running the standard application alternatives: Open Office, VLC, Firefox, and Thunderbird, or a Windows computer running the same with the addition of AVG free antivirus as compared to a computer with all the things you need for your computer that have license fees you may be swayed.

Go ye and spread the word of Free to all your friends. Email them sites like Download.com and sourceforge.net to search the thousands and thousands of programs that are free. For now free doesn’t mean being handed the paper cup sample of your favorite drink. Consider yourself handed the whole bottle.

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