Computing on the Cheap
Buy a new computer and it seems you are only just beginning to lay out the money necessary for being fully functional. Along with the machine and its operating system, you need productivity software. Maybe you need several forms of specialty software to manipulate images and photographs or to write out music. Of course, you need virus protection. The professional version of each of these pieces of software can run several hundred dollars; depending on the computer you bought, you could easily double the amount of money you have in the whole thing. And then, when you buy the next computer you are probably going to have to buy more software due to changing operating systems or limits on the number of machines onto which you can load the software.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Open Source software, often created and maintained by people who have such a passion for programming that they create applications on the side, has become powerful enough to replace many proprietary programs. For example, there is a productivity program with a word processor, a spreadsheet, and a presentation creator that has the same functionality of proprietary software only it doesn’t cost anything to try it and if you like it, you could send a donation.
There are even high level specialized programs for creating animation, manipulating images, creating and writing music, keeping track of time, and so forth. You can create a fully functional computer environment without paying for any software except your operating system. If you are truly adventurous, you could try one of the many Linux systems that are also Open Source.
Now, there is a trade-off, as there is in everything. While Open Source software has gotten a lot more user friendly, it remains somewhat more computer geeky than software out of a box. Sometimes you have to download more than one file to make the software run. Sometimes figuring out the software can be challenging because it does not come in shrink wrap with a manual (although having a manual is not always helpful, either). Sometimes the software crashes or doesn’t work. But, you don’t have to take it back to a store and try to get your money back after opening the envelope with disks. Just uninstall it and try something else.
And you have to be careful to download software from reputable sources. There are large collections of Open Source software available and as you explore this world, you will see certain websites mentioned often. Those are likely to be the trustworthy ones.
If you have a problem and need a program, type what you want to do into a search engine. You may find programs you can try out on a thirty-day basis, but you may find a fully-functional Open Source program that solves your problem immediately.