Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Dr. Joe Has Become A "Frugal" (Cheap) New Englander: He Likes Free Software

Okay, I'm still a New York boy at heart, but 15 years in New England has affected my spending habits. The quality of free software today is just incredible. In the long run, computing is actually free from a total economic perspective, if you really look hard at the time savings and other things that you can automate that you could never do before. But free software makes it all the more pleasing.

Highly recommended is the new book Free Software for Dummies by Mary Leete, which has a list price of $21.99 but is available from amazon.com for $14.95. It highlights numerous high quality programs, like OpenOffice, image editor GIMP, and many more.

I've been playing around with Internet “phone software” Skype, and I have to say that I'm just stunned at the sound quality. It's far better than audio found in some instant messaging software; sound quality is better than cell phone, in my opinion. Strangely enough, Skype's instant messaging is just as impressive. “Calls” are free to other Skype users, and for a small fee you can use it to call other phones. All of the reviews I have read indicate that the phone service is quite good, as well as very inexpensive. http://www.skype.com/

The OpenOffice beta is almost ready for full release, but these developer versions work just fine. Why buy MS Office anymore? This has been one of the most uneventful beta releases I can ever remember; it's been virtually stable since the start. I stopped using the old "stable version" months ago. The built-in PDF and Flash file capabilities make this a must-have. http://download.openoffice.org/680/index.html

When it's finally released (supposedly on September 12), buy it as Sun Microsystems StarOffice 8 and get all kinds of bells and whistles and templates and a generous site licensing program. Or just keep OpenOffice around for its PDF-making. The official version of OpenOffice 2.0 will be out a couple of weeks after StarOffice. The price is right. StarOffice 8 will have a free 90-day evaluation download.

Need to show the responsibilities and timetable of a project? A GANTT chart always helps, and keeps the bureaucrats at bay. Download GANTTProject at http://ganttproject.sourceforge.net/

Surfing the Internet leaves all kinds of unwanted files that just clog up your hard drive. Crap Cleaner is a good program to deal with these and other unneeded files. www.ccleaner.com

Here's my recap of some of my other favorite free software, previously mentioned on this blog...

AbiWord, a nice word processor www.abiword.com

AvantBrowser works "on top" of MS Internet Explorer with built-in ad blockers, popup blockers, many other features; asks for free-will donation; can be set to automatically clean up cookies and temporary files. www.avantbrowser.com

Audio recording and editing is just plain easy with Audacity http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

Instant messaging GAIM is just superb, consolidating my AIM and Yahoo Messenger addresses, and can also be used with ICQ, Windows Messenger, and others. Stops all those annoying AIM ads and popups. http://gaim.sourceforge.net/

PowerDesk 5 replaces Windows explorer; if you're an old DOS user and remember Lotus Magellan or XTree or Symantec's Norton Navigator for Windows95, this is is for you. PowerDesk just does things Explorer can't. The full version is PowerDesk 6; if you have the full version of 5, there are no really good reasons to upgrading. For most users, the free version PowerDesk 5 will do just fine http://www.v-com.com/product/PowerDesk_Free_Trial.html

PDF making is easy with if you don't want to use OpenOffice and don't want to buy Acrobat. Just get PDF Creator http://sourceforge.net/projects/pdfcreator (PDF making is also part of the WordPerfect Office, and works quite well, but that's not free).

Stop spyware! Get Spybot Search & Destroy http://www.safer-networking.org/en/index.html

Get your own fax number and receive faxes on your computer for free with eFax https://www.efax.com/en/efax/twa/signupFree

Not everything in computing life is free. Some things are definitely worth paying for...

Highly recommended is V-Com's SystemSuite6 which replaces the dreadfully annoying and life-complicating Norton SystemWorks. It belongs on every computer, and is $60. http://www.v-com.com/product/SystemSuite_Home.html Site licenses are quite inexpensive. I put it on 5 computers for just $120. If you want a site license, e-mail me and I'll get you the sales contact info.

>In the long run, computing is actually free from a total economic perspective, if you really look hard at the time savings and other things that you can automate that you could never do before>

This is true. I was told a while ago that a computer can cut my workload in half. That's why I bought two.

And using any Microsoft product is a great way to experience all the benefits of primal scream therapy without having to pay for sessions.
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