The Free Software Foundation

During the past few years a number of people have been caught out by the abrupt end of their free trial of Microsoft Office software.  Most have been blissfully ignorant of the messages that they only had a 60 day trial version, and once that ran out they lost access to all the documents they had saved.  One or two went on to buy Microsoft Office complaining about the cost of it, while others didn’t have the money to pay for it.  As someone who spends just about all day and night on computers I offered advice to those in this position to download OpenOffice – a free alternative to Microsoft Office, and one that would allow them to open at least some of the files they thought they had lost.  I did however download it for a couple of people who have used it many times since.

Recently the whole argument of free software has been brought to my attention as much of what is available has been developed into real alternatives to their paid counterparts.  I came across the Free Software Foundation which promotes both the use and development of free software.  In fact they state that the best way to support their not-for-profit organisation is to:

“…use free software on your own computer and advocate within your business or community for others to adopt it.”

Here in the UK and also in the USA where the recession still has somewhat of a stranglehold on business and commerce, free software could well be all many will be able to afford, if they can afford a computer in the first place.  The rise of the tablet computers, netbooks and smartphones has opened up access to the internet to many who would otherwise not be able to afford it, however, the importance of free software seems to be increasing as the cost of living takes away any spare money for paid alternatives.

Free Software

There are so many ways to get free software these days from open source to shareware and also trial software.  Probably the most comprehensive list I have ever come across is this one from Money Saving Expert, edited by Martin Lewis.  Included are a few office alternatives, audio packages, photo and image editing packages and more.  As I posted earlier if you are a student in a University that is signed up with Microsoft you can also access lots of free Microsoft packages.

Online storage is available from Dropbox, or use Googledocs, Windows Live, and more for free.

Learning XML Free

One of the modules I have opted to take this year at uni is Web Services.  Having had a hand in updating websites and creating a few, I figured this would be a good opportunity for me to look at ways I can learn more about one of the main voluntary work tasks that I “fell” into a few years back.  There are the usual requirements to do coursework, classwork, study for an exam etc etc.  As I have discovered the bulk of webservices all seem to centre around XML and applications.  Having done some digging around on YouTube I came across these videos from Adam Khoury.  If you get a chance they are well worth checking out.

I also did a bit of checking up on free xml editor programs and decided to go for CAM Editor, which I then downloaded to my computer so I can get on with the business of setting up XML files and validation files.  Hopefully I’ll even be able to write WSDL files which will work in the coursework that I am doing with a fellow student.  One thing is certain, I never dreamed I would end up doing any of this kind of stuff.  It never ceases to amaze me what God will do with our potential if we will overcome our fear and let Him.

Free Microsoft Software for IT Students

There are many perks to being a student including student discounts, access to expensive equipment for studying purposes, long holidays and more.  Possibly one of the best things is the cut price and even free software available from vendors such as Microsoft who like students to get to know their products.  One such website which offers free Microsoft Software is  All you need to do is create an account, verify you are a student and then download the products.

So, if you are studying full time or part time, don’t miss out on free software – it’s a unique opportunity to find out what products suit you best.

IT Techies and Would Be IT Techies – Don’t Miss This Fantastic Offer

If you are an IT Technician wanting to update your knowledge but can’t afford full price training – Wowcher are doing a great offer on an IT Technician Training Course covering Cisco, Microsoft, CompTIA and more for the fantastic price of £89 instead of £699.  This deal is only available for the next 24 hours and you need to sign up to receive Wowcher emails.
Having done Cisco and Microsoft stuff as part of my university degree, and if I wasn’t in my final year I would seriously consider this offer.   We all know how fast our training goes out of date so even if you just need a refresher course get it now while you can.  In the meantime I have to go meet someone for coffee.

Taking Control of Your Computer

These days when you buy a computer it tends to come with several programs installed.  Most popular programs include Norton AntiSpyware, MacAfee Security, Microsoft Works or a trial version of Microsoft Office, Links to various help manuals and more.  While a lot of the software needed to run your computer is free you find that after a while the 60 day trial version of Microsoft Office is up, but you have used it to create documents.  So your choice is to pay around £99 for the Home and Student version or lose your documents.  DON’T!!!!!

There is a free office suite called Openoffice which you can download for nothing and it should be able to allow you read those documents that you set up in Microsoft Office.

Norton is considered one of the top programs for fighting viruses and keeping your computer clean.  However, you have to renew your licence on an annual basis and again, if money is tight, there is usually at least one free program which will do as good a job as Norton.  There are a couple of free antivirus programs I like to use and recommend.  The first is Avast, which tends to work really well with slightly older computers, and the second is AVG.  Both Avast and AVG have free options though they state you must be a non-commercial user to use these.  So next time your license is up for your antivirus, consider downloading one of the freebies.

Next time I’ll share how I get rid of spyware adware and malware using a tool which I have used free for years!!!


Computing And Disability

Around eleven years ago I thought my life had as good as ended.  My Doctor had finally informed me that my back condition was not about to improve, in fact if anything it would deteriorate.  I was to prepare myself for a life of pain, medication and disability.  Shuffling around with the aid of two sticks I had to admit that the possibility of me being able to return to any job full time was totally unrealistic, but I didn’t really want to face the alternative – a lifetime on benefits.  Little did I know then that computers would open up possibilities to me that I couldn’t even think of.  I knew about Microsoft products and had used Microsoft Office to great effect for a few years, I also understood the basics of computer maintenance and could set up a computer system if I needed to.  However, I was not comfortable with much other than emails and doing web searches on the internet.

Voluntary work at the church I attended provided me with opportunities to update the website and learn web design “on the job”.  My Pastor – David Simpson – encouraged me to go to a night class on Web Development at Bell College in Hamilton to help me with my new role.  Once I had successfully completed the night class, I went on to study and succeed in gaining an HNC in Computing on a part time basis from Bell College.  Changes took place during my HNC years and Bell College merged with Paisley University to become the Hamilton Campus of University of the West of Scotland.  My original plan to continue studying an HND in Computing, also part time, changed to me studying a degree in Computer Networking on a part time basis.  I am currently at the beginning of my final year of part time study for the degree and must admit that I never thought I would ever have the confidence to research and set up all that I have done in these past few years.

To let you understand, many people have prayed and continue to pray for my healing, though I continue to suffer constantly with medication helping me to remain somewhat mobile.  However, the ironic thing is that even through my disability I find a whole new world has opened up before me through computing.  My life didn’t end when I thought it had all those years ago, in fact if anything it began!!!