Free Computing is Here!

March 29, 2011, By Christian Cawley

Free computing is here, and it is ready for you.

You don’t have to be a servant to tax rises and austerity cuts if you’re planning on buying a new computer system – if you’re ready to make the change to free operating systems, free office software, free email clients and free web browsers, I’m here to show you how.

A cheap computer might set you back $300 or so. It might not be that powerful, but with the added cost of the latest Windows operating system ($100), some optional office software ($200) and the vital Internet security suite ($200) you are already looking at a potential spend of $800, and that is before you factor in the charge for going online and any electricity costs.

As people begin to feel the squeeze around North America and Europe, there is every reason to expect sales of computer hardware to fall. However this doesn’t mean that you should miss out on a new PC.

Free computing with Linux and open source solutions

OS Free PCs

You can save money on a PC by choosing one with Linux pre-installed or one with no operating system at all. As long as you have access to a computer that you can download an open source operating system (such as Linux) from or have already arranged this, you can save $100 straightaway.

Built into a typical Linux distribution such as Ubuntu you will find Firefox for browsing the web and Evolution for reading your emails. There is a version of Flash available for Linux PCs (this can be added by running an update) which will enable you to use pretty much every rich media site on the web with virtually no difference to running Windows.

Free Office Productivity Software

Whether you’re an accountant or a writer, or perhaps a habitual maker of presentations, there are several open source office solutions that will save you $200.

To begin with, if you plan on having your computer permanently connected to the Internet, you can take advantage of Google Docs, probably the widest-used online office software available. However you might prefer to use a solution with better support such as OpenOffice or one of its many forks.

OpenOffice enables you to write documents, spreadsheets and presentations as well as sketch images and compose formulas, and is an open source version of Microsoft Office. As such, it is completely free to use, and better still it uses file formats that are compatible with Microsoft Office so don’t worry about opening old documents with it.

Security Software

The best thing about Linux is that you probably don’t need any security software. Most threats that you would find affecting Windows computers won’t affect a Linux machine as the two operating systems are completely different.

However I would never endorse using no security. While Windows-targeted threats won’t do any damage to a Linux machine that doesn’t mean that they are immune to spyware and other online threats. Having a firewall installed is a very good idea.

Using IPCop you can add a free firewall to your Linux computer, while Avast and BitDefender both offer Linux versions that between them can protect your Linux computer from threats (for instance you might have a virus on a USB drive or other media – this can end up on you Linux machine and be spread to someone else’s Windows PC) and save you a neat $200!

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