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Free and Open Source software

For my work I support national parks services in developing countries and costs of equipment and legal software licenses is a very important issue. Therefore, the availability of FREE software is extremely important in conservation. We will give you a brief overview of some of the products that we consider most useful. Not all of the products listed are open source or free in all of its versions. Some products are free for the most basic applications but require payment for additional features, but they may still be very useful for you. This list is NOT exhaustive, on the contrary, it is a limited selection of available products, but we feel that these products are definitely worth looking at. A much larger list can be obtained from the several free software websites at the bottom of this page, but you will find out that it is difficult to chose from the large selection of products and decide what is useful for you. Therefore we share our experiences with you, but in the end, you must decide what works for you. Have fun!

Let me suggest you bookmark this page. From time to time, when I discover something new, I just add it. It does no hurt checking out once or twice per year. 

Software type Product Operating system Use restrictions
Operating systems Linux Kubuntu   None: open source and free; Automatic access to many free Linux application software.
Java Platform Java all None. Needed for a variety of software products.
Web browsers Mozilla Firefox Windows, Linux, Mac and others None: open source and free
Email management software Mozilla Thunderbird Windows, Linux, Mac and others None: open source and free
Office suites OpenOffice Windows, Linux, Mac and others None: open source and free
Photo management software GIMP Windows, Linux, Mac and others  
  IrfanView Windows  
Drawing software OpenOffice Windows, Linux, Mac and others None: open source and free
Pdf reader software Acrobat Reader Windows Free
  Foxit Reader Windows Free for its basic version
Pdf maker OpenOffice Windows, Linux, Mac and others None: open source and free
Project scheduling and management software Open Workbench Windows/Java Open source, Free
Project scheduling and management software Gantt Project Windows/Java and others? Open source, Free
Anti Virus software Antivir and AVG Windows, Linux Free for the most basic functionality
Geographical information systems, GIS ILWIS Windows None: open source and free Raster/vector GIS
Geographical information systems, GIS GRASS Windows, Linux, Mac and others None: open source and free. Raster/vector GIS
Geographical information systems, GIS PCRASTER Windows None: open source and free. Raster GIS for comlex modeling
The classical file compression software WINZIP WINZIP Windows Basic free version available from here
The new open source highly powerful 7-ZIP 7-ZIP Windows None: open source and free.
Application Name Runs in  
Protected areas system gap / representativeness evaluation, prioritization and financial modeling tool.  MICOSYS, stands for Minimum Conservation System Spread sheet (MS Excel, OpenOffice Calc)  
Vegetation / ecosystem classification tool LCCS Free standing application designed in Access  
Protected areas and ecosystem monitoring database Protected areas and ecosystem monitoring database MS Access  
Manamente effectiveness evaluation tool MEE MS Access  
Metadata generators MetLite Windows  

Instant messaging, internet voice communication, video conferencing and phone calls

Addresses, maps and satelite view of the earth which in some cases is sufficiently detailed to recognize vegetation structure. Google earth All operating systems.  


Operating systems Linux Xandros   Automatic access to many free Linux application software
Website management Frontpage,  Sharepoint Designer and NetObjects Fusion Windows Very userfriendly webpage designer programmes with full wysiwyg features. No complicated programming needed.


Computer support AuditMyPc browser based / java internet speed test, site map generator, advise, etc.
Free file conversions  load up file to be converted Converts text files and graphics and generates pdf documents.
Free software Freeware
Java Java scripts    
Domains and hosting Godaddy Registrar and hosting Domain registration, webhosting and emails with your own domain name

Free software became a major issue in 1998, when Netscape made the heart of its software, the "source code", publicly available. This allowed other people to work on the software and improve. Two pioneers, Bruce Perens and Eric S. Raymond initiated the Open Source Initiative, an organization dedicated to promoting open-source softwareOpen source is a set of principles and practices on how to write software, the most important of which is that the source code is openly available. The Open Source Definition, adds additional meaning to the term: one should not only get the source code but also have the right to use it. That means, that Open Source software is completely free of charge!. If the latter is denied the license is categorized as a shared source license. For conservation this is extremely important and nowadays, it is possible to run computers almost completely on Open Source software. On this page we will give you brief reviews and the links for downloading of completely free products that are essential for people working in conservation, and most other people in the world. Most free software is available for Linux operating systems, but there are very good free applications for Windows operating systems as well. 

OpenOffice Office Suite:

For a long time we were all dependent on the excessively expensive products of MICROSOFT, particularly the MS Office Suite. Several less expensive products were on the market, like World Perfect and Lotus 123, but there were always conversion issues and they gradually faded away, in a large part as a result of the aggressive commercial practices of Microsoft. In 2002, a free, open source office suite was offered to the public, free for downloading without any restrictions or conditions for the users. It has all the main elements that you find in the Microsoft Suite:


  • Wordprocessing;
  • Export of pdf files;
  • basic web pages (not really all that good for making websites with multiple pages);
  • Spreadsheet;
  • Database;
  • Powerpoint like presentations;
  • drawing. 

It is very compatible with the Microsoft Office suite and I continuously receive files prepared with the Microsoft Office Suite, make amendments using OpenOffice and send it back to other people who use the MS products. 


The OpenOffice websites are a labyrinth. Here are some additional links to get the most essential info to get started::  Great visual instructions without text  Find here the OpenOffice version in your language  Essential manual to get started  Essential manual for the OO word processor  Good manual for the OO "powerpoint"  Essential manual for the OO spreadsheet  Several more turorials


Linux Operating Systems

I have always been intrigued by the concept of the Linux operating systems, because its free and entirely built by people and companies donating their time to build free software for the world to enjoy. 

So, if you can severely reduce the costs of LEGALLY functioning computers, that really helps. But an operating system without high quality software to run on it, is rather pointless. So, Linux was not worth anything until there was an office suite that would run on a Linux operating system. By about 2003, OpenOffice started filling that gap, thereby making Linux a useful operating system for regular users. 

But all Linux distributions used to have a major flaw. One really needed to know a considerable amount of Linux gibberish (linux codes and programming to make the operating system do what you wanted it to do) to update and install user packages. As a result, they were basically useless for Jo and Jane Doe, my national parks people and myself.

A few years ago, Xandros (the Linux split off from Corel) came along and sold a very easy to install Linux distribution, that facilitated automatic installing and updating of software packages at prices between $40 (this version is rather useless, as it lacks essential software options) and $100 per complete license, depending on what you need.
But it has a major flaw:  It needs updating at least once a year to follow the new rapid developments in Linux land and I feel that paying something like $30 - $75 per year for staying up to speed is too much. 

Our computer wizard, Spencer Stirling, a mathematician and computer nerd (among other things :) maintains and runs the Birdlist servers and computers. He has been toying with Linux for over a decade now and is an authority on Linux applications. For Linux stuff see his website http:// with lots of instructions for Linux lovers, all developed and tested on the computers and servers) abandoned Xandros 

After a while, he decided to abandon Xandros and installed another distribution. But with that, I could no longer install any programme update (I just don't want to learn Linux gibberish) and became fully dependent. So that would not work for Jo and Jane Doe nor my national parks people.

Linux Kubuntu

Then, Spencer discovered  Linux Kubuntu (do those Linux nerds invent creative names!) and decided to give it a try on one of our computers. I am his test dude and let me tell you, I loved it from the start. It gives the choice of hundreds of programmes to be installed/uninstalled/updated by a simple click of the button. I use a lot of software for my natural resources management, our website and scientific work. There are only 2 things I can't do in Linux: my favourite GIS programme, ILWIS and Frontpage, but none of those are probably of any interest to Jo and Jane Doe. With a bag full of foreign languages I also need a suite of accents, that needed some fiddling in Linux gibberish, but again, no issue for Jo and Jane, as they only speak and write the most primitive European language anyway.

So, with the introduction Kubuntu, anybody familiar with computer basics, can download the completely free version of Kubuntu Feisty Fawn, image it on a CD and install it on their computer, after which they will be forever free from paid software licenses and updates. 

Now, if you still need a few programmes to run under Bill Gates operating system, there is a completely free programme VMware (a virtual machine) that allows you to run Windows 98 and XP on your computer. Now that takes quite a bit of Linux gibberish to install, but if you are capable of doing that, you are in business. Spenser installed that on my computer, and boy......, it runs faster and crisper than the old regular version I had on the same computer previously. With lots of work in Frontpage 2000, I work my computer in Linux and XP simultaneously continuously, switching instantly merely by either pushing the button for XP of for Linux, that makes me swap to my XP or my Linux window. So take a look at Kubuntu.

With reasonably straight forward installation and automatic installation of hundreds of software packages, including OpenOffice,  Kubuntu is the GNU/Linux distribution for everyone. Enjoy!

However, if you want an even more user-friedly Linux distribution, Xandros is a very good solution if you use the home-edition premium solution for $80. You can check it out at:

xandros linux 

For a magnificent linux information check out: 

Why is Linux important? Technically there are some advantages, like great resilience against virusses, but that is not the point. The point is that over time Microsoft has become so overwhelmingly dominant in the computing sector, that it started showing many monopolist's trades:

  • Its products were extremely expensive
  • New products had a difficulty coming on to the market
  • Creativity seemed waning, etc. 

But more importantly, the world at large had become dependent on one single corporation for the world of computing. That simply is not good. It suppresses competition and such corporation risks becoming a political force. The managers/largest shareholders of Microsoft are by and large decent hard-working people, but we simply don't want their vision of the world being imposed on us through their products, whether we agree with their political vision or not. That is dangerous. 

The OpenOffice office suite is remarkably compatible with the Microsoft files and for all practical purposes, you no longer need the Microsoft office suite. We have been using it now for 4 years, and when OpenOffice 2 came out the beginning of 2006, we found it sufficiently operational to replace the MS suite for daily use. It runs on several operating systems: Windows, Linux, MAC and a few others. It comes automatically with Kubuntu.

With the availability of OpenOffice, a computer can now become a fully functional machine, without dependence on Microsoft. That is a great achievement! 

Equally important is that OO has industry agreed formats that are not dictated by MS. Over time these formats will become the new standard, and in OO one can chose between the MS and the new industrial formats.

We like to be fair, MS is still a a bit more slick than OO, and I personally think that the MS suite looks prettier. But that is mostly appearance and it does not justify spending so much more money on it and from the documents that you put out: you can't see the difference, while they open equally well in both programmes. Moreover, once your document is finished, you can export it as a pdf file. That saves you another $250 for not having to buy  Adobe Acrobat. So, compared to the market leader MSOffice ($340 full lisence and $250 for upgrade) + Adobe Acrobat (I paid $250 and after a few years it stopped functioning), you can safe yourself a value of somewhere between $500 and $600 PER COMPUTER. Remember, it is illegal to install a programme on several computers, and Microsoft has begun monitoring if your licenses are legal! Don't fool, yourself, Microsoft monitors exactly what you have on your computers through their operating system (remember those wonderful periodic updates? Big brother Microsoft keeps track of all of us!). Rumors have it that corporations are now being sued for having inappropriate installations on (some of) their computers. 


Think of Java as an operating system within your operating system. You need it for a variety of uses, including the viewing of many websites. Among other things, Java installs itself in your browser, but also other programmes need the presence of Java on your computer. It is available for all operating systems.


Frontpage / SharePoint Designer

The MS suite has one product however, that I have used not-stop for more than a decade: Frontpage. For more than a decade, if you needed to design a mega- multipage (our combined pages number well over 2000) and well structured website, Frontpage seems to have the most userfriendly answer for organizing the site structure in a graphical programme. Front page offers a wysiwyg utility, called "navigation" in which you can graphically structure your pages by adding new pages under another and dragging it from wherever you want and hang it or a complete tree of related webpages under any other page of your choice. It shows you the entire collection of pages in a structured diagram tree. For me this is a must. I am simply NOT interested in typing out htm commands. Software is there to make my life simple, and if it doesn't I don't want it. 


This screenshot (of our windows in the VMware modulator) shows what I mean: in one window you can see all your pages and their relationships to each other. When zoomed in, each page shows its name, and you can change them if you like. Moreover, you can see all the files and directories on your left. On the left it is possible to drag a file to another directory, copy paste one into it the website and then drag it to the location that you want in the page structure tree. If you want to delete a file, you do it in from the structure tree (right click) and as this is a graphic presentation, you are sure you don't delete any underlying pages by mistake. 

Except NetOjects Fusion, no other programme that I ever found has this facility. OO and Mozilla lack such facility and therefore their web-design capability is useless for me, and probably any other person that wants to maintain his/her mega-multipage wegsite. I whish those guys and galls in OpenOffice and Mozilla and/or other Linux programmers would read this page, so that they can see what people - professionals that maintain websites as their own form of communication with the rest of the world. I wish something like this running in Linux would be out there. We want solid WYSIWYG software that facilitates easy graphic management of the page-structure and the file structure in one view.

 MS has not replaced Frontpage with Sharepoint Designer and Expression.  I downloaded both, but in Expression I could not find the navigation facility, while in Sharepoint Designer, I could. so I started testing Sharepoint Designer. Like always with new versions of MS, one loses lots of time trying to find out where these creative young software developers have hidden all the stuff you are familiar with. After days of testing, on my existing webistes, I really did not find great stuff that would significantly improve my websites. (For those that know about that sort of stuff: I don't want to redesign my website to cascading style sheets, css. The themes in Frontpage do something very similar and with a bit of creativily you can adjust them and then implement them universally on the entire website as well as all the other ones if you want that. 


NetObjects Fusion 

The great disadvantage of Frontpage and Sharepoint are that they work in a format called ASP. This is not supported by many servers, and particularly not by the Apache server that we are using. So I looked for an alternative and fund NetObjects Fusion 10which can produce webpages in both PHP and ASP, which I consider a major advantage. At $200, the price is stiff, but doable, and while I write this they offer a 50% discount. I downloaded a trial version and started playing in it. Like new MS software, I needed to find where the buttons were, but after a while I learned my way in it. It imported one of my smaller websites ( without any difficulty, although what frontpage call "borders" needed to be deleted and redesigned. But it was no big deal. So I thought I had a great replacement for Frontpage, and started to import That is where things went wrong. For many pages in birdlist, the software reported that they were too large to be converted. I tries another site with the same result. I let the software work for 36 hours, accepting the loss of many large pages, and it still only had managed 75%. I decided that this was not going to work for me. Our webpages are too many and too old in their design, so we are stuck with Frontpage and we will continue using it. We did learn however, that for new users, NetObjects Fusion (10) is the best solution if you want to work in a user-friendly WYSIWYG environment. There are some features in MS that I like better, but the advantage of PHP format facilitated by NetObjects Fusion out ways those benefits. So for new users, or for users that can successfully import their existing website or who don't mind spending the extra time to re-design them, we strongly recommend NetObject Fusion.

 For our almost 2000 web pages, it appears to be the only programme that allows us to do so in a WYSIWYG environment. I would not dream of having to do this through htm commands! Thanks Bill Gates, for a fabulous product! Too bad you discontinued its distribution, but for, we continue using your 2000 version. The replacing product is MS Sharepoint Designer with the same great WYSIWYG navigation design capabilities. Great programme, but it requires special modalities from your webhost for full functionality. This can be a headache.



Another need on a computer is the browser. Without it you can't go on the internet. consists of yet another group of digital mavericks that designed an alternative for a browser and an email server: Firefox and Thunderbird. as well as a great personal agenda manager, Sunbird. Seamonkey ist the all-in-one internet suite of Mozilla. Mozilla recommends to use Firefox and Thunderbird as seperate applications, unless there is a good reason to have them integrated. They made rather lean versions of the software and that made Firefox a faster server than Internet Explorer and Thunderbird seems to be somewhat less vulnerable to viruses. It also allows you to open different webpages in taps within the same window. Very convenient when you do a web search, so that you can combine related pages in one window. But such differences are minimal and the essence is that these guys and galls completed the required elements for a fully functional computer, completely independent of Microsoft. The Mozilla web programmes are included of course in Kubuntu. 

We use Firefox for browsing the web. It is faster than Internet explorer and it has built-in web-safety features that you can programme to your liking. If warns for malicious sites and has a antiphishing feature. 

We use Thunderbird for managing our email accounts. It has a spam filter, which we have programmed to send to the junk folder. Nevertheless, it is wise to frequently check that junkbox, because from time to time a valid email ends up in that box. 

The interesting thing of these free programmes, is that they function in most other operating systems: Windows, linux, Apple. We feel that that is important. We should have freedom of choice  to decide what operating system to use and software programmes should be able to work on all of them. So what about Apple? Well, they had the same monopolist desires that Microsoft has shown. So we stayed away from them, beside their products tend to be expensive. After all, why pay more if you can get it for less? But if you want the state of the art on innovation and userfriedlyness, the few dollars extra you pay for an Apple are more than worth it.

On the other extreme end of costs, a fully functional desktop computer is now possible for about $100 per year with all software legally installed if you use Linux, OpenOffice, Firefox and Thunderbird. I can remember dashing out $2500 for just a computer in the 1990! And then some $700 for a legal MS office suite. 

Why is it so important to have alternatives to Microsoft? First of all, competition stimulates creativity and innovation. Do you remember that the only processors were from Intel? Then AMC came along with an equally fast processor, the Athlon. Within a year the price of the processors were cut in half, even though the market share of AMD remained rather small. At the same time, the speed of improvement became much faster. Secondly, it makes corporations more modest, because they know that customers have a choice. Both issue are important to us. The mere fact that there is a free office suite and operating system available, will eventually force Microsoft to reduce its prices.



GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Programme), is an open source photo manupulation programme that works on many operating systems. It is a very powerfull photo-management programme, although a bit difficult to handle. 



Irfan Skiljan developed a very light user-friendly photo-management programme that allows you to carry out quite a few basic photomanagement functions on the fly, like sharpening, colour management, stitching photos, together, etc. 


Picture Shark 

When posting a picture on line, everybody can copy that picture and use it without paying tribute or money to you. To stop that from happening, you can place a watermark in your photo. I have tried to do so in Gimp, but that is quite cumbersome and slow. In Irfan View one can place a text, but I could not find a way to make it transparent, so the text is very dominant. Moreover, I could not find a way to make it diagonal. A diagonal watermark is very effective as it makes it impossible to use any part of the picture without showing the watermark. Now, Picture Shark apparently has been developed just to make water marks and it is fast, it allows for making diagonal texts and the watermark can be made semi transparent, thus softening the effect of the watermark and still rendering your picture useless for illegal printing. 


Acrobat Reader 

Traditionally, .pdf files were opened with Acrobat Reader of ADOBE. However, over the years, the programme became loaded with more and more features, that made it very very slow, without providing noticeable benefits for the users. The programme does NOT facilitate the conversion of files of other programmes like text documents and spreadsheets to the pdf format. For that you actually need the very expensive Adobe Acrobat or the free OpenOffice suite. 


Foxit reader 

To deal with this problem, a commercial product has been created, the "Foxit reader". This is a very fast light programme, that opens inmediately. First download it and install in on your computer. In order to open it in Firefox you will have to do the following actions:

Open Firefox: tools> options. Open the "content" tab. About 2/3 down you will see a heading "File types" and a button "Manage". Click on "Manage", and it will open a list of file types. Look up PDF, highlight it and click the button "Change Action" underneath. Click "Browse" in the new window and go to C:\progamFiles\Foxitsoftware\FoxitReader\FoxitReader.exe. This will cause Firefox to use Foxit to open .pdf files with Foxit reader. You won't need this in Linux, which has several fast pdf readers installed. At a moderate price compared to Adobe software, you can buy additional abilities to create forms and edit existing pdf files. We have not tried that, since we word in OpenOffice and each time we modify our own OO files and then convert those to pdf files.  But sometimes it may come in handy to edit someone elses .PDF file. 



For a long time WINZIP was the commonly used file compression programme. The programme incorporates itself in Windows Explorer and you can compress files directly from Windows Explorer. But gradually the maker provided versions that would no longer function after 30 days. We still have an old Version 8 available for which payment after 30 days is voluntary. However, we recommend that you start using the open source 7-zip, which has a very high compression power.



This open source compression programme, 7-ZIP, compresses in many different compression formats. It seems to be open source and it is free. This may eventually become the standard compression format. What is really important, that in this programme, you can compress entire directories, and thus send them over in the same way as they are on your computer. We even use it to sent over entirely installed programmes, like an installed version of ILWIS. Click to download any of the 2 versions:


Open Workbench 

Open Workbench is an open source programme for project scheduling and management that runs on Windows . It is free for downloading. It has a different approach to project design from Microsoft project which you can read here. You need Java for its functioning. 

Gantt Project

Download file

Ganttproject is an open source programme for project scheduling and management. It is free for downloading. You need Java for its functioning.  It safes projects in .xlm and .gan files. We think it is a bit more intuitive than Open Workbench but probably less powerful. As these programmes take little space on your computer, you may want to install both. We found it very hard to find the download site, so we provide the actual file from our own server. In the help menu you will find a link for registering for software updates.  

GIS Reviews

Before you decide on getting a new GIS programme, please read our GIS Review page on GIS4BIOLOGISTS REVIEWS


And then a few words about Geographical Information Systems, GIS. The market leaders for GIS software are ESRI, ERDAS and IDRISI. The first, being a vector GIS and the  latter two raster GIS and remote sensing programs.  To operate GIS, one needs both a vector and a raster programme, meaning that if one is to use any of the market leaders, one needs at least two programmes. That make GIS an extremely costly discipline that requires somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000 dollars in professional licenses. 

The world's best alternative to the market leaders is ILWIS, both for its technical characteristics and it is also open source. It combines raster and vector in one programme, it is extremely user-friendly and is has been developed by a very respectable autonomous government institution, the ITC in the Netherlands! It is extremely powerful and performing almost any application for natural resources management more efficiently than the market leaders. And the amazing thing: From July 2007 ILWIS HAS COMPLETELY FREE! Why in the world are natural resources managers even considering the programmes from the market leaders if a more user-friendly product is free for downloading? See more about this on our ILWIS website 

Our ILWIS page


GRASS, Geographic Resources Analysis Support System, is a free open source GIS Raster and Vector programme. Like ILWIS, it is rather versatile, but it is much less userfriendly. 

Before you decide on getting a new GIS programme, please read our GIS Review page on GIS4BIOLOGISTS REVIEWS


PCRaster, Free environmental modeling software.

Simulating environmental processes with computer models is expanding rapidly in scientific and applied research in fields such as hydrology, ecology, process geomorphology , land degradation and crop yield studies. Computer models help us to understand better the characteristics of environmental processes and the impact of any changes made to them. Building environmental computer models is difficult because these models must describe both the space and time variation of natural phenomena and must be able to handle huge amounts of environmental data. PCRaster offers a unique solution to this problem. It is a system that brings together environmental modelling and GIS. It offers a powerful Dynamic Modelling language for building iterative spatio-temporal environmental models, which is fully integrated in the GIS. It includes functionality for data storage, manipulation and visualisation, without the burden of data exchange between model and GIS. PCRaster provides data interfaces to other packages for spatial data analysis ( GIS's, software for statistical analysis). This programme requires considerable knowledge and is not suitable for occasional GIS users. 

Before you decide on getting a new GIS programme, please read our GIS Review page on GIS4BIOLOGISTS REVIEWS


MICOSYS, stands for Minimum Conservation System

In 1992, the World Bank needed to evaluate the protected areas system of Costa Rica to evaluate the representativeness of the protected areas system of the country, identify the missing ecosystems (gaps) and to model the costing of the system and potentially necessary additions. The application ran in a spreadsheet and was called MICOSYS, which stands for "MInimum COservation SYStem". It became the first computer-based protected areas modelling system in the world and still is the only system in the world that combines a costing modeling module and a financing analysis module that can simulate when the system may reach financial sustainability. WICE provides the application free for downloading from  


The FAO/UNESCO Land Cover Classification System tool. This is rather specialized material for natural resources managers and biologists/ecologists, but it is quite good and want to make it available for you. Go to  


Protected areas and ecosystem monitoring database

The world's most comprehensive single-computer protected areas and ecosystems monitoring database can be found at: with manuals, fieldforms, etc.

Management effectiveness evaluation tool

Look here for a very effective management effectiveness evaluation tool

Metadata Generator

Here we facilitate 2 metadata generators

Terms and definitions

Terms and definitions from multiple sources as well as their translations you can find on The site is mainly English.



Outstanding tools and advice on your computer, internet vulnerability and other internet services you can find on AuditMyPc, like a cool internet speed test, a firewall test, free software, a top-notch sitemap generator and much more. Check it out! 

It also has a free typing course with not



Enormous collection of freeware, graphics, templates, etc. Check the graphics button. Lots of good free stuff there. 

FreewareArena is a fabulous website with all sorts of truly free software. Webmaster Scott personally screens if the software is indeed permanently free. 
Tucows offers both freeware and commercial ware. The advantage is that it offers a rating. 

FREEWARE-DOWNLOAD.COM This site provides and enormously large number of software programmes. Most are free, but not all. Very well organized. The site is German, but don't let this discourage you as many descriptions are in English (as well as most programmes) and it is certainly worth your while to look around, as the site is organized by categories in English. 
Yet another site with lots of free software. 

Download Shareware Yet another site with lots of free software. 

Freewarecorner Yet another site with lots of free software. This one is really only accessible for German speakers. 

Yet another site with lots of free software. This one is really only accessible for German speakers. 

Yet another site with lots of free software. This one is really only accessible for German speakers. Enormous collections of free software. 





For web administrators there are many small convenient java scripts on the internet. We have used several of them in our website. We found that provides a fabulous number of scripts that vary from very useful, to funny, cool but charmingly useless.


An enormous forum on managing Windows XP. Great resource for troubleshooting and finding solutions. Good luck. 


How to protect your Windows computer without ever paying anything?


I have personally completely moved away from the major Windows protection suites for two reasons: 

  • The slowed down my windows computers to unacceptable levels
  • You have to pay for a renewal every year; something that gets more costly every year. Moreover, if you don't have a credit card and live in a developing country, how can you pay for those services. 

So, I have started to run free services for some time, and so far it has been working for me. Both programmes are "light", meaning they don't slow down the computer noticeable. But you can combine them with other programmes as you can read further on.

Antivir is a commercial virus programme, but its basic version is free. It protects you from viruses, worms and Trojan horses. I use it for my windows modulator in Linux. You can find a copy from our download directory HERE When you install the programme, make sure you don't upgrade. The basic version has no email protection. Its firewall comes out very poorly. See: However, the firewall is just one component, and together with Windows own firewall, I personally take that risk. 

The version that protects your email costs 20 Euros, which has become rather costly since the fall of the dollar. So if you need protection from malicious emails. First of all: NEVER click on links in emails from people you don't know. Some are malicious emails that have links to sites that try to get private information from you. If you use Thunderbird, you can programme it to automatically delete spam. See also Thunderbird.  Moreover, AVIRA is rather annoying in the sense that it opens an unsolicited advertisement every day to try to sell you its product. So I have taken it off from my windows laptop and put up AVG in stead, but I keep AVIRA on my windows virtual machine in Linux. 

 AVG too is a commercial protection programme which has a free version. The free version includes an Anti Virus, Anti-Spyware, Email Protection, Link-Scanner, and a Resident Shield (whatever that is; probably a firewall). So AVG is more all-round than AVIRA. 

Every day a little signal goes up, telling you that it is scanning your computer, but it is not intrusive and you don't have to click it away. In fact, I like this as it confirms its working. I find this much nicer than the daily screen filling advertisement of AVIRA, but I don't have any idea which one gives better protection. DON'T USE THEM BOTH, as it takes up computing capacity and slows down your machine. 

When you use Firefox, it warns you for or protects you from phishing sites, potentially malicious add-ons and annoying pop-up windows. 


The free Windows Defender from Microsoft, which is built into Windows Vista, is supposed to be a very good watch dog against spyware and adware, according to Consumer Reports. You can download that HERE.  

Installing the programme is a bit annoying as Microsoft has you first install a little programme that checks if your Windows version is a legal copy or something, but if you have a legal copy, it certainly is worth it.

One last thing: When you have bought a computer with protective software, simply use it during the trial period and update it. After the free period expires, don't pay for an extension and remove it some time after, while you install a combination of the free tools mentioned here. 

These three programmes together with wise behaviour on the internet should give you a considerable amount of protection and with this, you can get by in relative safety on the internet. Why is this important? There are many many people who can't effort the expenditure of spending a yearly 30 - 50 dollar equivalents for internet protection, or who simply don't have a credit card with which to pay for the annual subscription fees of protective software. So, if you have problems paying for or simply don't want to pay for an internet exposure programme, take the full combination of aforementioned measures and according to Consumers Report, they will give you a surprisingly degree of protection. This may not always be quite as good as some of the best programmes, but which is a great deal better than no protection at all. And they sure don't slow down your machines the way the big commercial suites do. 


Windows 2000 and later comes with the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool, which scans your computer monthly automatically. There is no way of programming this. If you want a version that can vary the periodicity, you have to download a programmable free version HERE.

You can also have Microsoft scan your computer for malware from this link: .

It only works in Internet Explorer though, so you have to open IE and copy paste the link in. Oh, well, let Windows have its fun and use their sluggish miserable browser just for once. Make sure it does not trick you into making IE your default browser by clicking yes when it ask you to do so.  It may be a good idea to do that from time to time, particularly after your computer has been contaminated or if you suspect that you have something undesirable in the works. Careful, it does not work on illegal copies of WINDOWS. 

From that same link you can also carry out an online clean up and Downloads. Probably also a good idea to do from time to time, even with other protective software in place. 

Instant messaging

Skype Windows, Linux, Mac and others Single protocol chat, voice, video conferencing

Used as alternative to telephone. More popular among professionals. 

MSN Windows, Mac chat, voice, video conferencing

Primarily chatting among your people and family use.

AIM chat, voice, video conferencing

Primarily chatting among your people and family use.

Yahoo chat, voice, video conferencing

Primarily chatting among your people and family use.

ICQ A relatively small user base.
Kopete Linux Multiprotocol Not a chat facility itself, but it allows people from different clients (MSN, Yahoo, AIM, ICQ, etc.) to chat with each other. No voice or video
Piglin Windows + Linux Multiprotocol Not a chat facility itself, but it allows people from different clients to chat with each other. No voice or video
Google Talk chat, voice, video conferencing

Used as alternative to telephone. More popular among professionals. Very recent programme but expected to grow fast.

For total overview of Instant messenger programmes: 


Safe on your phone bill

More and more programmes are now providing Voice via Internet VOIP. For various reasons I prefer SKYPE, although it has some disadvantages as well. First of all it works fairly well in Linux, although better in Windows. It allows voice conferencing of up to 9 persons, it facilitates video conferencing and it is not so polluted with family users as MSN, which is used by mothers to watch over their children and as a children's communication tool. with internet connections over 1 mbps its voice service works well and it has calling facilities in most countries of the world. That means you can make calls to phones and the prices are quite reasonable, cheaper than from most telephone companies. I just bought a Philips VOIP321 and it works quite well. It is convenient to buy a SKYPE-In telephone number for about $4-$5 per month, because then people can call your SKYPE from their telephone or cell phone. With this service, your VOIP phone becomes a fully functioning telephone. The important thing to know is that in using SKYPE for making calls from SKYPE to regular phones, one must dial 00, country code (1 for the USA) the area code without the (0) and then press the "SKYPE" button. I also bought the SKYPE-Pro for $3 per month, which facilitates free calling in the USA and Canada. One major disadvantage of the Philips VOIP is that it does not work with Linux. There seem to be a few tricks with other models to make that work, but we will simply use our one Windows machine for these gadgets and hope that some day SKYPE comes with a Linux solution. 

Moreover, like so many of the websites of the large providers, it is very user-unfriendly. So be careful what you order and how many, because it is easy to place a wrong order. For multi-user business use, the website is too complicated and user unfriendly. We tried to set it up and after wasting a full day on trying to figure it out, we gave up. We asked Skype for telephone support, but they said the can't. That basically is a NO NO for enterprises. But for individual use, it most certainly is worth your while to sort through that unpleasant un-transparent website and set up your phone service. We safe a few thousand dollars per year. 

Domains and Hosting 

Most people won't have the knowledge to run a server for their website, so they need to get that from a provider. We have a server, so we don't need a web host. But we do need a company that registers or domain names, which is called a Registrar. We have had excellent experience with GODADDY. A rather funny name for a company that provides good service. They are at . Registering a website costs about $10, per year and the give a discount for registration for a longer period of time.And you do want to register for a longer period of time, because if you forget to pay on time, your domain name becomes de-registered and there are people with software that specialize in immediately re-registering unpaid domain names with the intention to sell it back to the previous owner for fabulous amounts of money. It has happened many years ago to out domain. So we registered all our domain names for 10 years, for which we paid $80 per domain.  

If you live in a developing country, you probably do better using the hosting service in another country with fast connections, so that you website provides a fast connection to your web visitors. Our experiences with GODADDY has been so good that we decided to recommend them. The reason is, that you can actually call them and they immediately answered the telephone and they are actually trying very hard to help you (No while I write this I have not contacted them and this is not a paid advertisement). Their fees for hosting are quite reasonable, starting at about $4 per month. This provides you also email with your own domain. That is a great service. Most beginning websites have plenty of disk space with this beginning service. If your organization is a government, I would recommend paying both a domain name and a hosting service for the duration of 10 years. That means that for 10 years, you won't have to worry again about paying the service, and when your funds are low, at least your website will stay up! There is one disadvantage using the services of GODADDY: the extensions of many countries, like .nl for the Netherlands, .br for Brazil, etc. are not available, and neither are the extensions .gov or .edu So you must work with the more common extensions like .org, .com, .net, .info, etc. But that is a small price to pay for fast connectivity for your visitors at very low prices, good phone support (use skype) and for stable long-term payment plans which can provide you internet presence security. 

Last but not least, and with great hesitation, we would share some good experiences with enterprises that sell equipment. Over time, we have learned that many enterprises change in quality and service, but 2 corporations with very large selections of products so far have never disappointed us while we have used them for our equipment since the early 1990s. What makes these firms stand out, more than anything else is that they have extremely knowledgeable sales agents, who don't try to push you into buying a product and for acceptable return policies.  

Tiger Direct for a large variety of computers, parts and other electronic equipment 
Eagle Optics for a very large selection of binoculars. 

We hope this was useful. Please make comments, suggestions and share experiences on our forum




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