Cleaning a closet the other day, I went through a pile of books when I came across an “oldie” published in 1995, “Straight Talk about the Superhighway” by Reid Goldsborough.

Cleaning a closet the other day, I went through a pile of books when I came across an “oldie” published in 1995, “Straight Talk about the Superhighway” by Reid Goldsborough.

In the computer world, 1995 is old. Just think of all the new computer devices that have been manufactured since then. 

What caught my eye were his comments about the best things in life are free – air, sunsets, hugs, but what about freeware for computers?



Freeware, payware?

For those that are not too computer literate, freeware is a compound word derived from “free” and “software” and is available for use usually at no cost. For the most part, freeware is fully functional. The author or owner usually restricts one or more rights to copy, distribute, and makes derivative works of the software. There may be a software license with the freeware restriction, that might say, “free for personal, non-commercial use.” 

Software that serves commercial purposes is occasionally referred to as “payware” and is produced for sale.  

Get this, the Free Software Foundation cautions users to avoid calling “freeware” free software.  The difference being that free software can be used, studied and modified without restriction while with freeware you can’t legally change the program. 

Now don’t get this confused with “shareware” where the user pays after some trial period or add on some function. (I am not going into any discussion about the Free Software Foundation; you can go online and decide for yourself.)



Where are we going? 

If you get through all the “ware”  terms, then you should ask how valuable can something be if it doesn’t cost anything? The best freeware programs are good tools, but remember the aged consumer term, “caveat emptor,” let the buyer beware. Bad guys have been known to write and distribute programs with computer viruses, doing terrible things to your computer like destroying your data or locking up your programs. I shudder when I think of this. 

You also have to watch that these bad guys don’t keep continually charging your credit card for some of their freeware. Just don’t give them the credit card information.

It’s easy to eliminate some of these potential risks. Download freeware only from reliable sites that have previously screened programs and make sure your antispyware and antivirus tools are up to date.

Here are some sites for you.

1. Freewaregenius.com, Offers 43 freeware Windows enhancements and tweaks including a new AVG Antivirus 9.0, boost your PC speed, Malware Download, more.

2. Firefox Mozilla.com. This is a fast Web browser and forecast fax addons.mozilla.org/firefox that puts up-to-date weather information. 

3. Linux.org.  This is a free software operating system that serves the same purpose as Microsoft Windows 

4. OpenOffice.org. This is an office suite, similar to Microsoft Office, consisting of a word processor, a spreadsheet program, drawing program with versions for Windows, Mac and Linux.

Don’t take my word; free can be good sometimes.  Be smart when looking for free and enlist your IT doctor … and get a second opinion.