Security

Free software: Can it be as good as products you pay for?


At home, on a lowly field engineer's income, I have to make the most of free software. OpenOffice is a good package for general home usage, AVG AntiVirus consistently outperforms Norton, and IOBit's Advanced Windows Care and SmartDefrag keep my laptop running smoothly. The open-source movement seems to go from strength to strength yet many companies still prefer to go down the expensive Microsoft road.

Most new viruses that are released are usually catered for by AVG within a few hours and should the worst happen you can usually find a tool to clean it up by visiting Symantec's Web site and downloading a free removal tool.

So why do people still shell out their hard earned money on expensive products like Microsoft Office, Norton Antivirus, expensive firewalls, and so on? The answer is that a lot of the free software is only free to home users, those in a commercial environment do not qualify for the free version and have to pay. With this in mind do you go for the most expensive software, using the old adage, "You only get what you pay for," or do you look around for a better value product and do some in-depth product testing?

My experience is that you can do better for free. My experience of AVG against Norton Antivirus speaks volumes. I used to use Norton, taking the view that, when it comes to antivirus precautions, you can't afford to take risks and that a ell thought of paid solution had to better than a freebie.

Removing Norton reduced the time taken to boot up by over 50%. AVG, at its first scan removed a couple of Trojans that were longstanding. It updates automatically each time I switch on and I have suffered no serious attacks.

OpenOffice, whilst it lacks the range of facilities of MS Office, still delivers the key aspects required from an office package and the price is still a favourite of mine, whether it be books, beer, or software, free, gratis and for nothing is a very attractive price.

Many local authorities in the UK are switching over to open source to make tight budgets stretch that little bit further.

My advice? Look at the alternatives. If you have a spare machine that can be used to evaluate software try out all the alternatives before making that purchasing decision.

74 comments
JeramieH
JeramieH

I've been expressly forbidden to use free software at some jobs because my employers wanted a legal entity to sue in the event of a problem. I've been told that multiple times. So they'll pay for an inferior product only because there's a corporation behind it. Go figure.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Show them the End User License Agreement you have to agree to as part of the installation process. They find it specifically says the software is not warranted, explicitly or implicitly, to do a stinking thing. In short, they can't sue.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

If they got a Paper Cut when the opened the Packet that the Software comes in. Or they got poisoned by the Plastic that it is Shrink Wrapped in, but that's about the limit of the Liability as far as the EULA goes. I wonder just how many people actually read those and of the few that do read them how many actually understand what it means. :D Col

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

wonder if they're worth working for. They're more concerned about suing people than if the software works well - hey, do you work at Microsoft or RIAA?

santeewelding
santeewelding

Understand, "deep pockets". You, apparently, don't.

seanferd
seanferd

these particular employers may not understand "EULA". At least in some cases. But they do like to take that occasional gamble.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

shows they haven't really studied the legal aspects properly, just assumed the normal consumer laws on responsibility of supply of good fit for service apply - but they apply to physical things you use, not to a service and software is classed as a service as it's not a physical thing used to do something else physical, the way a hammer is.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

it's still a pretty flimsy criteria for software selection.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

MS EULA either, and that REALLY pisses MS off too. You need to check the legislations of the jurisdictions involved. Technically a computer you buy and use in Texas will be under Texan laws, but, if you buy it over the Internet and it's put together and shipped from Washington state, then it's mostly covered under Washington law as that's where the contract will be seen as been made and delivered. - Not simple stuff.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

The only state that was once an independent country, but not the only one that was never Down Under.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

ninety percent of the MS EULA has no legal standing under Australian consumer law, and MS don't like that.

sbalmumin
sbalmumin

You don't need a spare machine to test anything. Download VirtualBox or VMWare and install an operating system from the free appliances from VMWare. Then, test what you want!

j-mart
j-mart

Comes down to individual cases, some are better, as good, or sometimes not as good. As some don't quite work the same as their closed source equivalents, often the relative merits of a particular item of FOSS comes down to a persons preference. It always though, amazes me the quality of some of the FOSS offerings that are produced by the masses of volunteer developers for the shear joy of doing so. The real benefit to all is that the competition they provide for the commercial product will drive these products to keep their standards up and be a source of new ideas.

docotis
docotis

I've kept a "mule" PC to test programs with for years. It's true that there are some questionable value programs to be had but the number of "keepers" is amazing. I can't agree with the MS on MS thing, my own PC uses XP as platform at this stage. I launch from it. The freeware apps that outperform the resident MS stuff has now taken over. My hat's off the writers of programs that excell and are more secure than MS.

merdemont
merdemont

Truly, totally 'free'? Possibly many who are attracted by freebies fear that they might included ads, cookies for intrusive ads, etc. Reviews of free sw which attest that the sw is not so encumbered would be welcome!

Jaqui
Jaqui

constantly improving free software that has zero spyware/adware or other bits of malware. the open source software, a huge number of applications which can be found by searching, on sourceforge.net, freshmeat.net, savannah.gnu.org and savannah.nongnu.org

Interested Amateur
Interested Amateur

Try using www.snapfiles.com/freeware to get the site's and users' estimates of the programs. The synopsis usually tells you if spyware/nags are included. Interested Amateur

mattslashdale
mattslashdale

The open source community has given us many useful alternatives to products we use every day from operating systems to word processing apps. Because of this wonderful community, I never have to see a Windows or Microsoft icon on my desktop. Maybe I'm not looking hard enough but the only thing I have not been able to find are suitable freeware alternatives to brand name media apps, like Adobe and Sony products. You get what you pay for there.

mvicente
mvicente

Ok I agree about free software, I have used AVG as antivirus, notepad ++ is better than windows notepad, and so on, I recommend the use of freeware to the people I know, there are so many good programs free, so I think that there is no problems with other people to use freeware if you show them how to use it and explain them the benefits and they can see the results that sometimes is a as good or better than the paid software. Really a good article.

Monty Palmer
Monty Palmer

As someone who used to develop software in a for-profit environment I would like to add one thought. People who are developing freeware are doing so out of love for developing software. Anything done as a result of one's passion (assuming all testing stages are performed) does it better than one who is being pushed by some VP who is more interested in their year-end bonus than anything else. I personally try to get all of my clients onto freeware, or open source apps, as soon as they can use it comfortably and have it allow them to accomplish what they need to accomplish. The list of quality apps that do not require a monetary investment is too long. To those of you out there who develop such apps, I send you a huge Thanks! Donations to the developers are always provided as a cordial 'thank you for the great product'. Cheers!

service
service

I've been sold on open source, freeware and even some "crippleware" for a long time. And...I've been pointing my customers at open source and other software for a long time. To date there haven't been many complaints about either the effectiveness or (obviously) the price. Even though I'm a capitalist at heart, I have to take my hat off to the open source developers, not to mention the commercial guys who offer their free versions (AVG et al). Thanks for a great article.

david_scott
david_scott

Yes it can. I use openfire server with spark clients for instant messaging on my lan. Its free and it is awesome. www.igniterealtime.org I also AVG's free AV at home and recommend it to others. I defintely think its worth looking into free/less expensive alternatives to big name products. Also logmein.com gives me free remote access to my home pc. Pins, (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/PINs_news) is a great free program to organize all your usernames/password, etc. I use it daily. The only problem in a business environment is alot of times you are constrained to using certain products. For example--our main agency managment system is only supported on windows and they only accept backups for disaster recovery from Symantec. And it integrates with ms word and outook.

quickcanary
quickcanary

I agree; Norton IS a system hog and failed miserably to remove trojan.vundo on a system that a co-worker asked me to repair. There are tons of great free programs and utilities, some of which are certainly as good or better than commercial software. Some recent and not-so-recent discoveries of mine: Anti-Virus: AVG, Avast!, Anti-Vir Firewalls: Comodo, Online Armor Zip/unzip utilities: 7-Zip, ZipGenius, ExtractNow, IZArc (I hate WinZip's nag screens!) Photo Editors: GIMP, Paint.net, PhotoFiltre, tons more but those three are great Adware/Spyware removal: Spybot, Ad-Aware, Spyware Blaster, SuperAntiSpyware, Windows Defender, etc. Audio editing: Audacity, to name one As you can see, there is a TON of great freeware out there. CD/DVD burning programs, remote access programs, network utilities, bootable CDs with dozens of utilities, media players, disk cloning software, file synchronization software, dvd ripping software, firewalls, etc. I just think it's important that people research the free solutions before shelling out the dough for commercial software that is in many cases inferior. I've weaned a few people off of Norton; they are happier because they are saving money and their system isn't as bogged down with processes. I'm not saying that all commercial software is bad -- that's nowhere near the point I'm trying to make. I'd much rather use Nero than CD Burner XP, for instance. But much of the time, freeware can accomplish the same thing as commercial software while saving the user money. And don't forget to consider donating a few bucks to the authors of your favorite freeware programs; it helps keep them motivated! :)

j-mart
j-mart

Take for example AVG. Free for private users, so we use it on our home machines see how good or bad it is, then if we are happy with it, we buy a site license and run it on our work machines.

Oktet
Oktet

That's one resilient virus- every now and then I bump into him- trojan.vundo on a clients PC and we have fun.

luisgalli
luisgalli

OpenOffice is more than just for home use. Ask the Bank of Brazil, which has implemented it across the whole company (more tha 50,000 PCs), displacing MS Office. And this is just an example as many other big companies and government instutions accross the world are using or have plans to use it.

service
service

AVG is great software. We install it on all the machines we repair in our shop. Any issue with the installation can easily be fixed with a simple reinstall or repair (beats having to use a special removal utility to get rid of Norton when the uninstall fails) -onCALL 25/8 Computer Repair (www.oncall258.com)

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

Windows may be iffy; but Office 2007, Flight Simulator X, Adobe Photoshop, and Bryce are not. ;)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I have to admit, FlightSim X is on my list since Janes is never going to release a Longbow 3 and I haven't yet found a flight sim with a good glider and feedback support yet. Now, if your not using 90%~100% of the features in Photoshop (most user's won't come close to 90% even), you may want to give GIMP a try. It runs on *nix/osX/Windows and there is a version with interface designed like Photoshop's. The OS platform is still limited by the industrial applications one needs to run for work but outside of high end software like Maya or AutoCAD and video games, the user has more choice than most people can concieve.

normhaga
normhaga

It depends on the product. I have several different products that I use. Some are open source and some are proprietary. I am converting one of my laptops to a Linux base. In this case I attempted to use Evolution as the mail client. It is strange because I can not set Evolution up to use the non standard ports that my mail server uses. With Outlook this was a non issue. With windows and this computer I had no problem with 3d graphics, however under Linux using XGL every time I enable the 3d graphics the Xserver crashes. This is strange because at one time I ran the JAS release of OS X on this computer. So, IMHO, it depends on the application and the purpose as to which is better. Some open source is better and some is worse than proprietary software.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Too many on both sides put effort into forgetting that you still have too choose the program that best fits the needs rather than choosing the solution before looking for the problem for it to fix. In some cases, closed source and/or For Cost software is the better fit.

bhanuprasad_pvv
bhanuprasad_pvv

Hey Jeff, Yeah free stuff is Cool, i always like opensource wares, but what i think is , using third party tools such as Firewalls , Disk Defragmenters, Registry editors is damaging to Windows it self, because windows already has a built in firewall and other services if u go for windows help i think it will show u all options on how to maintain a windows XP btw we can find many articles in this Tech Republic Forum itself. the only way i am going to corrupt my windows is by using Thirdparty Tools which uses some dependent windows services, so its a Big NO for users who want to download free stuff on windows, leave alone TOrrents and P2P.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

a pile of added on applications like firewalls, anti-virus software, etc. And that's the big problem with Windows, they want to include all the apps they can in the kernel, thus making it large and full of security holes.

jheaton
jheaton

Please tell me you're not seriously saying that you actually use the built-in Windows Firewall?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

There's no damage to Windows through the use of industry-recognized third-party tools, either purchased or free of charge. The key is to do a little research before installing, and even that doesn't require much effort. The free version of the ZoneAlarm firewall is superior to the one included in Windows, doesn't cause problems, and is recommended by at least two major trade publications (PC Mag and PC World). The Diskeeper defragment tool is the basis for the Windows defragger; Microsoft makes a habit of buying third-party tools and then incorporating them into the OS. Microsoft itself makes a variety of resource kits, admin kits, and power toys available that are non-disruptive. The Firefox web browser is far more secure than either Internet Explorer 6 or 7. In short, there are multiple third-party tools that won't damage Windows. Just be sure to do the proper research before install any software, regardless of the price. After all, you've got to install some third-party apps or all you'll have is Windows and Office.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

The use of "wares" caught my eye. I'm not used to seeing it spelled with a "s" or used in reference to legally optained software. In the specific case of "wares", cracked and repackaged software is not usually clean these days. The damage you attribute to proven system utilities, P2P and Torrents could easily be the from something in the software your not considering. I do have to ask for more detail on how third party software is damaging to the underlying OS. I myself don't trust most registry cleaners for Windows be they Microsoft's or someone elses. CCleaner does a good job but even then, I run it regularily against file crud but less rarely against the registery itself. That is my own baggage from seeing some of the first and second generation registry cleaners reduce the time before complete reinstalls from every six months to every two or three months. CCleaner has not given me any issues, I'm just mindfull is all. That's registry cleaners specifically though. In terms of firewalls, defrags, registry editors and the rest of the maintenance software it takes to keep Windows running well; I've only ever seen improvements in how the OS runs. The built in firewall that ships with Windows used to be a joke. It's gotten better but I believe it still lacks the ability to filter outbound traffic (unsure about Vista though). Previous to XPsp2, the first thing you did was disable the built in firewall and isntall a third party firewall. Microsoft is on limited budgets and have to focus on the whole OS including every new software category they try to stomp out by making it a "feature". A third party company that only focuses on firewall development is going to make a better program generally. The Defrag that ships with Windows is adiquate at best. Unless it's changed, it still can't defrag the swap file or files locked open by the system. Something like DiskKeeper does a better job of organizing the data on the platter including swap files and most other locked files. Again, it's a company focused on knowing the lowest level of the storage medium and specializing in how to organize the data for efficient access. Registry editor damages are usually the result of the user so I'll leave that one alone. Windows Help offers basic information but it's not the answer to everything or even everything Windows. I spend time in Excel's help file looking for specific function syntax. For Windows itself, the first place to look is your favourit search engine online. As for Tech Republic forums, I can't comment because I don't know specific cases listed there. I suspect it's more subjective based on the indavidual case though. I do run the included Disk Cleanup utility but only after CCleaner, Adaware and Spybot have had a chance to clean the crud. Disk Cleanup then has it's chance to find anything the other's missed (rare) and compresses unused files. You can use the built in tools that ship with windows; it's your choice and your system. This is like buying a new car and leaving the "good enough" windshield whipers on instead of replacing them with higher quality whiper blades. I can only tell you from years of experience; I've found that them to be lacking dearly. My real world example, I have to support a Windows2000 workstation (parents old machine).. the hardware is old.. pentium cpu and limited ram. The only thing the box has is hard drive space but files are not well kept and directory structure is a mess. The only thing that's keeping that thing usable is the hour I take during visits to hometown ontario; CCleaner, AdAware, Spyware, Disk Cleaner then Disk Keeper to defrag. I'm not slaming you for your opinion but I think you and your system would benifit greatly (ie. games and "warez" would run far better) if you reconsidered your possition.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

program is a striped down version of the Diskeeper program. (Version 6 or 7 I think) (I read this on their site a while back.). But the calls that diskeeper makes are built in to the kernel, so are the same calls that say, jkdefrag makes...

Oktet
Oktet

"The built in firewall that ships with Windows used to be a joke. It's gotten better but I believe it still lacks the ability to filter outbound traffic (unsure about Vista though)." Yeah, in the Business Edition of Vista you can control inbound and outbound traffic using the built in firewall. That's why my Vista box does not have PC Tools Firewall, or Zone Alarm, or any other free firewall software out there.

jimbo689
jimbo689

I agree with your article. However I must point out that there is a difference between freeware and open source software. AVG is proprietary software which offers a freeware version. OpenOffice is open source, which gives users and developers additional rights aside from being no cost. That being said, they are both excellent software alternatives to for-pay software.

jamie
jamie

One of the big reasons that businesses don't use freeware and open source products is the fact that Microsoft products, whilst being costly, integrate very well.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It is the corner stone of there business strategy. Nothing will ever run as well as Microsoft on Microsoft. I'd expect the same for any businesses product selection though really. What business in it's right mind (minds?) would produce two products that don't work well with each other. I'd like to see more standardization in protocols though. It shouldn't matter what brand is on either end of hte network medium yet we're just now starting to see Windows server and non-Windows clients playing nicely. Give me back the old Modem and BBs days when neither end cared about what brand was on the other end of the wire since they both spoke the same modulations.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Glad someone pointed out the difference between Freeware/Shareware and Free/Libre Open Source Software. The two are easily confused and usualy purposefully confused by the pundits.

royhayward
royhayward

I am one of those guys that keeps getting pulled in to do free tech support for family and friends. I make them come to me now, and they have to wait for me, but that is the price they pay (or don't pay depending on your perspective.) When this happens, I install the free virus and spyware and firewall tools to keep them from coming back too soon. I also setup some scheduled tasks to help them remember to update and run the stuff that doesn't automate itself. I can't count the number of people running a dell with the original, (useless) Norton anti virus that they never paid to update, that I have had to work on. I can uninstall Norton and install the free stuff almost in my sleep. (And that geek squad guy that wants to sell me the tweak package with the PC, you make me laugh all the way home.)

OldER Mycroft
OldER Mycroft

When a helluva lot of what users NOW pay for, started out as a free package. Then along comes a 'Mega-Global-Soft' company - and the next time you visit the site of your newly discovered 'Jewel of the Net', you get the all-too-familiar banner headline that 'This Product has now been bought by XXXYYYZZZ'. If it wasn't for the free stuff - the paid-for stuff wouldn't exist. I for one, prefer to hunt around and root-out the free alternative.

Tig2
Tig2

For many Microsoft users, the fear point and the pain point are the same. In one environment they understand what works and how it works, in a different environment, not so much. I'm dealing with that now, to an extent. I replaced my Windows based HP with a Mac. While I love the OS X interface and the hardware itself, I bought it because it is OS agnostic. I can put anything I like on this computer and it will work. The downside is the learning curve. I have had exposure to OS X but the work flow is different. Not bad different, just not what I am used to. So I bought a book. Problem mostly solved. Oh, I still have to re-teach my hands. There are things I am not entirely used to yet. But that mastery will come in time. End of the day, it is a change that not everyone wants to make. And I'm with you- why pay for a tool that is completely closed when you can get one that meets your needs... and be able to see the source for? Open development is a good thing in my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

Canuckster
Canuckster

I have used AVG with clients. Problem is, to people who are not tech literate, something that you can get free sounds too good to be true. I have had customers insist I move them from AVG to something like Norton. Its only $30.00 a year but suddenly they feel more confident about their security. C'est la vie - no make that c'est la entreprise.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

.

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

this is a home system. My Symantec license was up so I moved to AVG, and purchased the copy instead of using the download. My main point though was that even if it is offered for free, if nobody pays, it will not last or quality will suffer. So occasionally I will buy or donate to SW vendors when I feel it is worth it. To me, $30 for a 2 year license is much better than $60 for a 1 year. And I have the bonus of using less system resources as well.

jheaton
jheaton

I could be wrong, but I believe there is verbage on their website concerning use of the free version in an enterprise environment. I think you'd be violating the EULA or something if you did an enterprise level deployment of the free AVG.

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

The Pro version has a few more things to it. Plus, it helps out companies that offer free SW to upgrade to a paid version. That way they can continue offering things for free and still update everything. Personally, I picked up AVG 7.5 last week. Something like $30 for a 2 year license.

Canuckster
Canuckster

why pay for something that's free? I have and will continue to give them choices that include full versions of free software including AVG, Adaware and any other available program that makes sense. I don't make the final decision so I cannot always defend it.

The Listed 'G MAN'
The Listed 'G MAN'

You still have to pay for it, no?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

People are still choosing the non-free offerings out of brand recognition and the fear of change. As a techie, change is even harder for us because we instantly want to be able to do all the detailed low level stuff we can do with whatever we already know at that very technical level. This leads into TiggerTwo's point that she's recently switched to an Apple notebook and has been going through the growing pains of that change. User acceptance of change is always the hardest thing to overcome. Oddly, it's even harder to overcome that resistance when your dealing with a more computer literate user than with an average user. That's what I got from it anyhow but I could have read it completely wrong also.

Tig2
Tig2

I was not holding OS X as a "beacon of open source". My point was exactly as Neon stated- change is tough. As you don't seem to get it, I can elaborate. The hardware is completely agnostic. It doesn't care if I partition it up, use a Boot Camp like tool, and install Windows. Or Linux (Which is FOSS). The hardware does not drive the OS, the consumer does that. That is a major difference to virtually every other hardware platform out there. The resistance I see to FOSS is the pain of change. When the tool looks as feels familiar, the adoption rate will be greater than if a new workflow is introduced. And incidentally? My EULA for the Mac includes the GPL and exactly how much of the system is covered by it. So yes, the core of the OS X environment is FOSS. But because of what FOSS is, a closed system could be built around it. But my point was the impact of change. I only mentioned the Mac because that is my most recent example of coping with change.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I read the reference to apple purely in relation to the point of resistance to change so I'd not considered it to be a beacon of open source. Apple in dead is even more closed about there products than Microsoft. At least the MS five year strategy for world abom.. er.. domination includes having there code run on whatever consumer hardware you can put together (er.. mostly). Apple goes the other way and keeps the hardware and software tightly bound together. Now, MS has one business goal in mind (dominate all for money) and Apple, admittedly, has another goal in mind (great complete user exerience for money). There where a few valuable points in there though. One being that Apple hardware gives her the freedom to run Windows/Linux/BSD and osX on the hardware or through VM. The rest of us don't get the option of osX. Apple has never skimped on hardware though so it's good quality stuff. Personally, the thinkpad fits my needs better but I can appreciate other hardware. Thank you for correcting me regarding your intentions. I prefer discussion with some rational thought behind it over the usual fanboy arguments any day. Your comments have tended to be fairly short and undetailed so it was easy to misread the intention.

The Listed 'G MAN'
The Listed 'G MAN'

Holding Apple up as some beacon of open source is not really a valid point. In some cases they are the archetypes of closed source. Yes the release underlying BSD but than that is BSD in the first place! The run closed source over the BSD - there is my point.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I don't know if it's intentional or not or if your just nitpicking but you seem to be missing the point. First, I'm not Tigger Two so I can't speak for her. I only pointed out how I read her comment and interpreted the meaning of her mentioning osX. Second, If you really need my interpretation regarding the line you quoted; the comment from Tigger Two included multiple points. I first refered only to the osX point since that was all you seemed to be commenting in reference too. This quote is the second point and for osX, there are many Libre/Open Soure programs available there too so the underlying OS platform is irrelivant at best. I'd also point out that Yes; Apple did release some of the code. Not all, they kept the stuff related to there user interface (the part that makes osX.. well.. osX) but they have released the source for Darwin which is the underlying BSD platform they run there closed source programs over. If your asking serious questions then we have a conversation. If your just looking for attention, look elsewhere.. this thread is done.

The Listed 'G MAN'
The Listed 'G MAN'

As the post states: "Why pay for a tool that is completely closed when you can get one that meets your needs... and be able to see the source for?"

brian.mills
brian.mills

I know what you mean about adjusting to OS-X when used to Windows. Nearly every time I use my wife's iMac I hit CTRL-C or something like that instead of the APPLE key or whatever it's called that OS-X uses instead of CTRL. On the original topic of this discussion, I pretty much always go for the free/open-source stuff. If I can get the same functionality as something expensive without spending a dime, I'm all for it.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I can't complain about having another OS in the house top play with. My wife won't use anything but her powerbook and every time I pick it up, I get a little more comfortable with it. I still can't help but drop to the terminal when I really need to get around and see file layout though. The first time I saw that prompt stairing back at me it seemed like the whole machine had suddenly opened up. In our house it's my wife's osX and my *nix machines with whatever other OS I can get my hands on. There is an on topic point here too. I started back in the days of freeware and shareware and discovered that freeware can be just as good as the high cost stuff. That led to exploring FOSS and here I am. I'm finding the real benefit of FOSS is that most mainstream programs are cross platform. I can run GIMP on Linux, BSD, Windows or osX. VLC.. all four platforms supported. OpenOffice, thunderbird; there it is again on any platform I like. Not only is it great software but I can install the same user application on whatever backend I want. It's good stuff but like anything, user acceptance and resistance to change is the hardest part.

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