Thursday, November 06, 2008

Confession time

Hi my name is Jay.

And I'm addicted to freeware and Open Source software.

I used to think it wasn't a problem. That I was on a budget. That I was just being part of the counterculture against corporate software. That I was an adventurer, searching for the new and the exciting.

Then I looked at the file where I keep my downloaded files. The dozens of downloads that I had no idea what they even were any more. Then looking them up again on the Web and wondering why I'd decided to download THAT?!?!?

I looked at my program folder and discovered dozens more programs that I'd never used after that first time right after I'd unzipped the files. I discovered multiple versions of some and multiple programs that all do basically the same thing.

It became obvious that I had a problem.

Astoundingly there is no twelve step program for me. No support group to turn to in those darks hours when yet another graphics program sings its siren song through my monitor. I must face the legions of DTP software, the armies of registry utilities, the hordes of anti-virus programs alone.

But I shall prevail.

First anything that I couldn't identify immediately I simply deleted. If I really need it I'll find it again. Then a quick sweep through Program folder ruthlessly deleting programs that I never use.

I freed up a rather amazing amount of space on the ole hard drive.

Now I begin with just the best stuff. And I thought I'd share with you. I promise you're not enabling my problem.

Open Office - I've been using this Office replacement now for about 5 years and I'd never go back. This is a great freeware, open source and cross platform productivity suite. Which means it has a word processor, presentation, database, spreadsheet and graphics applications. I've found it very easy to use, it's updated regularly and it has a good looking and easy to use interface. Look at what Microsoft's Office costs then compare.

Irfanview - when it comes time to look at your graphics and photos and do very simple changes (optimize, convert, size changes, some other basic but common functions) I've never found anything I liked better than this. And I'm not alone. It's got a huge following.

Firefox and Thunderbird
These have become so mainstream it's almost strange to include them. I've tried most of the other web browsers and none impress me to the point of giving up on Firefox. I've used Thunderbird at home for two years and love it as well.

Audacity Freeware, open source, cross platform and just amazing. I haven't even scratched the surface of this audio recording and editing software. With all kinds of whiz bang effects available to download too. Everything you could need right up to professional usages.

Those are pretty well known ones. They show up on all the "Best..." lists every year. Here's a couple that may not be so well known:

Screen Monkey
- This is show and presentation control software out of England. The ability to run videos, graphics, song lyrics, live video all that seamlessly through your computer's second monitor option. The big name software costs hundreds if not over a thousand bucks. This one? Free. Still being updated and works very nicely. PC only.

Free Serif Software Discovering this site was almost too good to be true. Another European company they offer older versions of their software for free. The older versions are still quite excellent. DTP, graphics (photo and paint), web publishing and 3D. All free. All very good. I've used PagePlus and PhotoPlus the most.

Artweaver This one's from Germany I believe. A really outstanding graphics program with lots of options and capabilities.

Coffee Cup software This is another for profit software company (an exceedingly cool one in my estimation) that also offers some software for free. Some of it is pretty basic but they are fully functional and very useful. And usually have their very own quirky personality. My two favorites here are the Free Zip Wizard (I haven't used anything else for years) and the DHTML menu builder. Very nice.

Hmmm, I haven't even scratched the whole anti-virus/internet security field. Maybe next time.


StLouisJohn said...

A very impressive list, Jay...we use much of the same software.

OpenOffice -- I fully second your endorsement. I've been using it since the days of StarOffice 5.2. Like you, there's no going back for me either.

Infranview, Firefox, Audacity, CoffeeCup, yep, I agree as well.

However, you're still in the early stages so there is hope for you breaking this addiction. These are all "gateway packages." But the die is not yet cast.

But if you continue on this path, and frankly, I think you will, eventually you'll seek even more of an open source buzz, and be sucked down into the really hard core open source community. Yes, Jay, I am speaking of Linux.

In fact, I confess, I use all those programs of which you speak...and a whole lot more -- on an aging HP/Compaq running Kubuntu Linux 8. When you're running Kubuntu, the pushers make your accessibility to recreational open source software even easier by use of online "repositories." A program called Adept fetches the software, installs it and you're ready to go. If an upgrade becomes available, it let's you know and asks if you want to install it. So there's no need to download your fix to a special directory and click through setup options, Adept does it all for you.

I can quit at any time. I just don't want to right now.


DaYouthGuy said...

The concept of the Adept (which really triggers all my old fantasy novel memories too) has me drooling.

Have to admit I came within millimeters of jumping down the Linux rabbit hole. We had an old computer at work that was set to go to the junk yard and I was going to load up some Linux and play with it. Turned out the computer was in worse shape than I thought and I just didn't have the time or patience to see if it could be revived.

Walked right to edge of that cliff, I did....


Anonymous said...

What? When did you start blogging in a foreign language, because this is all Greek to me. I'm still working on the typewriter function of my computer.