Subtitle: “Buyer” Beware
This topic has been on my brain for several months. I am ready to expound.
Who works for free? Actually a lot of people. Well meaning volunteers. People like my fellow Lions Club members and people who work at my wife’s FAITH Food Pantry. Both organizations helping people in time of need. I could list other examples that would fill my hard drive…well, not really…but you get the idea
Who writes software for free? Anyone who does not have to pay the rent/mortgage or buy groceries from the effort. This means they have a source of income. Examples:
1 - People who have a “day job.” Professors and students being particularly good examples.
2 - People who have a working spouse/companion.
3 - People who have “cashed in” from a successful business,
4 - People, like me, who are retired.
Any of the above could have a passion for writing software and are generally safe sources for free software. Finding these programs can be a bit daunting. Type “free software” into Google and you get (as of this writing) 177,000,000 hits! As usual the top hits bore instant fruit, www.fsf.org and www.freewarefiles.com to name two. Avoid free-to-try sites, it is not the same as free software. Get a copy of PC Magazine (March 2008) where they list the 157 Best Free Software programs. You can trust this magazine.
The last source is:
5 - Volunteers who ban together to form an Open Source community which grew out of the vision of MIT’s Richard Stallman. Software like Linux, Apache, and the “dynamic duo” of MySQL and PHP are not only free they are industry standards in their own rights and offer alternatives from the Microsoft money machine.
There are also companies where software is a sideline and they simply want your eyeballs to always be on their Web site. Google is a classic example. They give away a good entry level 3D Computer Aided Design (CAD) package called SketchUp. You can get it at: http://www.google.com/sketchup/index.html. From what I can tell Google’s real motivation is to put this modeling tool in the hands of everyone as a means to add buildings and structures to Google Earth, also is also free at: http://earth.google.com/. If you want support and additional features you need to buy the Pro versions. Based on Google’s reputation this does not seem to be a bait and switch tactic, they have more money than they know what do with. Although I admit the smallish white Download button is not as attractive as the big green Download button for the Pro version. I guess they could not resist the temptation to get a few buck from me. I have been “playing” with the free version and like it.
……..to be continued in Part 2