patrick connor

patrickc.phatcode.net

Software Replacements - 30 April 2009 - #1

Throughout all of my computer endeavors, I constantly find myself looking for a piece of software to serve a new purpose. Most of the time you can find such programs on the internet, sometimes costing you $10-$200 depending on what kind of program it is you're looking for. Fortunately, the internet is full of cheap programmers that feel that you should be able to run a fully functional computer system without having to pay for a single piece of software, ever. Here's a few of my favorite such software packages.


Office Suite

The commercial product: Microsoft Office
Everyone's heard of Microsoft Office, whether you're on a PC or a Mac. Microsoft has had their own office suite on the market for a while, and has jam-packed it with their own proprietary software. As such, Microsoft has the ability to shoot the price of a single copy of their office suite up to about $150 for a single license. Of course, you can download a trial version of Microsoft's latest software from their website for 60 days.

The free product: OpenOffice.org
If you are like most people, your computer contains software from Sun Microsystems already. Sun is most famous for their development of Java, which is used most often in making portable programs. This is often taken advantage of over the internet, in the form of applets. However, OpenOffice.org is a much different program. OO.o can replace most any major office suite for no cost. It has its own equivalents to programs you may be familiar with from Microsoft. For example, Mircosoft Word translates over into OpenOffice.org Writer. The feel of most OpenOffice programs are just like Microsoft Office 2003 and earlier, most items are in similar locations and other simlarities. Almost any file type you can find for office related documents is supported by OpenOffice (including Microsoft formats), and many you probably haven't heard of. It's worth a look, even if you already have Microsoft Office. And, of course, it's free. What have you got to lose?

Savings: Appromimately $150.


Web Browser

The commercial product: Microsoft Internet Explorer
Sure, Internet Explorer comes installed on your Windows computer when you get it. Sure, it's easy just to click on that big old blue E and just start going on your way. But is it safe? Companies such as Secunia don't seem to think so, with at least 9 unpatched security flaws plaguing the internet's most popular browser. Add the fact that IE is slow, unreliable, and may not even render your web sites they were meant to be seen, Internet Explorer just doesn't seem like a logical choice to keep as a web browser. So, where do you turn?

The free product: Opera
Opera is a fast, multi-platform (running on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux), and reliable web browser. Opera prides itself on being the most standards compliant web browser out there, meaning that if there's a single web browser out there likely to display a web page correctly it's going to be Opera. Opera tends to perform faster than most other web browsers, too. And, according to Secunia, Opera has 0 unpatched security flaws meaning that your web browsing experience is quite safe. On an unrelated note, Opera is also one of the most portable web browsers. Opera is compatible with most Java-enabled mobile phones and smartphones, bringing a great browsing experience to your phone. They've also got browsers on both the Nintendo Wii and the Nintendo DS. Opera's most recent browser in testing has scored 100% in the web's most rigourous browser test.

Savings: None, 99% of web browsers out there have become free software. However, changing to a new web browser is more of a matter of personal choice.


Operating System

The commercial product: Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac OS X
Both Windows and Mac OS X are the most popular operating systems for their respective platforms. However, due to this popularity, most people automatically assume that each person with a Mac is running Mac OS X (which I would also be expecting, due to the extremely high costs of the novelty of the Apple hardware) and that each person with a PC is running Windows. Unfortunately, pepole don't really know what's available for their computers simply due to lack of education.

The free product: Linux (Link is for Fedora Linux, a single variant out of the hundreds out there)
Linux is a product most people associate with the commercial sector, and they wouldn't be entirely wrong with that either. Linux is the one of the (if not, the) most used OSes in commercial sectors, such as the computers that host the websites that you visit everyday. Linux is a highly secure platform, virtually virus-free as compared to our other two big players in this field. Performance is also much greater on older systems, and there are much lower system requirements. High-end computers also benefit, as new technology is taken advantage of as well. Should you decide that you just can't part with your precious Windows or Mac, you can choose to dual-boot your system (that is, have both Linux and Windows/Mac on there at the same time, with a menu prompting you on your OS choice on boot). I can't list off all the benefits off here, but if the prospect of exploring a new operating system appeals to you, you can download a Live CD and test Linux out for yourself without overwriting anything on your computer.

Savings: Appromimately $100-200.

Disclaimer: Patrick Connor has no affiliation with any of the above software or any such companies. I cannot be held accountable for any damages that may be done to your system through installation or use of any such software.