technology on a budget (part ii)

This is Part II in a series (Part I was posted yesterday, so scroll down for that). Thanks go to to my colleague Mark Schneider here at UK for this informative piece (below) on finding open source and freeware software to support your user habit. (Computer user habit, of course.) Thanks, Mark!

Video and audio conversion are crucial for my work. There are too many software out there to list, pricing and abilities running the gamut. Super (http://www.erightsoft.com/SUPER.html), by eRightSoft, is a free full functioning software that converts multimedia files to other formats without having to download extra codecs. There are several options for more advanced users, yet simple enough to use for novices. You definitely want to add this to your toolbox. MediaCoder is not bad as another free alternative (http://mediacoder.sourceforge.net/).

Photoshop is the lingua franca of image manipulation with a nice price tag to boot. Paintshop Pro was the cheap alternative to fall back on, but they have improved greatly in features and price. What is a person on a budget supposed to do? No worries! GIMP (www.gimp.org) is a very nice image manipulation program complete with plug-ins and a user’s group. It’s free, part of the GNU project, and will run on multiple operating systems. A nice free supplemental program is XnView (http://www.xnview.com/). It can import 400 graphics formats and export 50. Perfect for viewing and converting graphic files, it is supported on a host of operating systems. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention podcasting. Propaganda and EPodcast Creator are two nice programs for editing, recording, publishing, creating RSS submissions, and so forth. A free alternative is the open source Audacity (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/). While Audacity can’t do everything mentioned above, it probably is the best for actual recording and editing. This is another of those “must have” programs.

Viruses. Don’t want ‘em, don’t need ‘em. McAfee and Norton are two decent anti-virus programs. If you’re short on cash and need an excellent anti-virus program, you would be mistaken not to check out AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition (http://free.avg.com/ww.download-avg-anti-virus-free-edition). It also provides protection from spyware and adware. Speaking of spyware and adware, until recently I was entirely sold (as sold as you can be for free) on Ad-Aware. They upgraded it and, in doing so, have created a bloated ungainly piece of software. Much better is my new free favorite, Spybot – Search & Destroy (http://safer-networking.org/en/index.html). I’m a fan. Please don’t confuse viruses with spyware and adware. You need to make sure you are protected from all of these threats.

Burning CDs used to be an art. I personally have created more useless “coasters” than I’d like to admit to. Nero was (and still is) the perfect software for burning ISO images and the like. An excellent free burner that deserves serious consideration is BurnAware Free (http://www.burnaware.com/burnaware_free.html). This program works with CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray, creating data, audio and image discs. Highly recommended.

I’m intentionally omitting the review of IM clients, as the majority of them are free (e.g., Skype, Pidgin, AIM, Miranda, Yahoo, Meebo, and Google Talk, to name just a few).

The bottom line is you don’t have to be Bill Gates to afford decent software. In fact, you don’t even need to use Microsoft Windows (Ubuntu makes a nice free Linux operating system).It is not only required, but also desirable to obey copyright laws and still have excellent software to accomplish many computing tasks. And while you are at it, please take the time to support initiatives such as open source (http://www.opensource.org/) and GNU (http://www.gnu.org/). They’re bringing great software to you.

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