Saturday, November 17, 2007

Land Of The Free

Heard or read lately of any pernicious virus/Trojan Horse/etc going crazily viral in the Web lately?

Maybe not. Maybe because the devilish sprites in the virtual world have simmered down, or simply grew up and matured.

But still, it is best to be protected from them 24/7. Like those inscrutable jihadist/ terrorists, who knows when they will see fit to strike again?

It is easy to imagine why we could let our guards down. Most of the tools and measures we need to give us some sense of security still cost more than a pretty penny.

Take anti-virus software for example. True, companies like Comcast offer free anti-virus protection (McAfee) to their subscribers, but it still costs more than a pretty penny connecting to Comcast’s broadband Internet. Have you asked lately how much to get the latest of Norton’s anti-virus?

But for those desirous of owning their own free-standing anti-virus software, but one that could be had for FREE, that is still a reality. AVG Free offers one ample protection and has been popular with many users. Home users can download the software free and can use it in as many PCs at home that they have.

And there are still loads of free software out there for different purposes, with many of them being “open source” software.

Even the seemingly unchallenged but dearly-priced Microsoft Office suite has a rival that can be had for free – The Star Office. And this is not a new kid on the block. I still have on file the version that came in about 5 floppy disks which I downloaded for free many years ago. The proprietary owner, Sun Microsystems, had this available many, many years ago, and it has undergone countless revisions and/or enhancements. Now you can even get this as part of the Google Pack – as a free bonus. And guess what, it is not only compatible with Microsoft Office, it can do most anything MS Office can do, and more. It is open-source.

And there are many more freebies, as multi-media software, media players, and image editing software.

There is Picasa which comes with the Google Pack, one of many photo-editing software out there.

There is Audacity if one is into recording and editing sounds. And it works across many different platforms – Windows, Mac, Linux, etc. Much like the commercial software, this can record live audio and convert tapes into different formats like from .wav files to mp3s.

And if you want to try a media player other than Windows Media Player or QuickTime or Real, you may want to try another open-source, VideoLAN.

It seems there is a glut of freeware and shareware out there to satisfy the most discriminating computer users.

One just needs to be selective and cautious about the credibility and reliability of each one. Fortunately the web itself does provide the information necessary to learn about these free software.