Free Software

freeChristmas is two days from the day this is being written and the holiday tradition is to give, give, and then give some more. So, being a traditionalist, let me jump in with both feet and join in  the giving. And, as a cheapskate extraordinaire, let me offer each and every reader a heaping pile fine, free software. It didn’t cost me anything and it won’t cost you anything. It’s the best kind of giving.

It’s not hard to find free software. Unfortunately, some of the older and more familiar sites have gone into adware supported software in a big way. Even some of the programs you will find on the sites listed below will try to load junkware on your system. Unless you choose the custom install option and carefully read each page, many will succeed.

Two free programs are good at removing the nuisance-ware that sneaks in.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free is a pit bull at detecting the worst of what may filter through. A manual scan after installing a new program will probably uncover any droppings that have been hidden in a corner. Revo Uninstaller will remove bits and pieces that the the default uninstaller may ignore. Both companies offer free and paid for versions. The free versions work pretty well.

In no particular order, unleash the free stuff ….

FileHippo.com

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FileHippo.com lists new titles daily and sometimes you’ll see one a day before it’s available at the publisher’s site. It includes free software, shareware, and commercial trials. I have no idea how they decided on the website name. The selection is limited compared to other sites but the quality factor is high. This is not to say they include all of the best, but if this is the only free software site you look at, you’ll be doing OK.

SharewareOnSale.com

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Yes, I said free and this look like a site that requires folding money. If you register and give them your email address, they will send you emails daily informing you of the software Giveaway of the Day. You generally have about 24 hours, more or less, to take advantage of the giveaway for that day, but another one will arrive in your email tomorrow for something different. Alongside the giveaway, they usually offer a version that costs something but includes a huge discount. A lot of the software must be downloaded, installed, and registered within the giveaway period, but some can be downloaded and set aside for later. All of the screen prints at Advanced Home Server came from Ashampoo Snap V6, which was acquired for free from this site.

fileforum.betanews.com

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I only recently discovered fileforum.betanews.com and found it impressive. The freeware titles it presents are recognizable and in common use. The review pages allow you to select freeware, shareware, and more from a dropdown list and it filters quickly.

sourceforge.net

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Sourceforge is the granddaddy of free software sites. It includes some of the best software on Earth. All open source and all free. It also includes a lot of titles you never heard of. Some programs considered to be top shelf in their categories. Some are just projects that the author felt good enough to make available to the world.  The download count is a good clue about popularity, which may be a good proxy for quality if you’re just looking around.

[Update August 10, 2015: Reconsider Sourceforge for now. I’m still including it in the list because it was once a great place. Today, that opinion is questionable, based on the writings of others. InfoWorld has taken an about-face. Ars Technica provides another cautionary tale. The How-To Geek is blunt in his opinion to stay away. Even uBlock Origin, my browser ad blocker, warns me about continuing to the site. What a disappointment. In fairness, I have recently been routed to Sourceforge as a download site for a specific program or two. I had no problems of any kind.]

dotTech.org

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They classify it, describe their thought process and testing procedures, rank it, review it, and offer download links. Some less common titles appear here along with common favorites. SharewareOnSale.com links to this site; that’s how I found it. The main page is also an interesting blog site.

Microsoft DreamSpark Standard

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If you’re a college student then, according to Microsoft, “Every student, educator, and lab in your entire institution can take advantage of DreamSpark Standard software for developers and designers, with a single subscription.” Titles include Visual Studio Professional 2013,  Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2, SQL Server 2012, Windows Server 2008 R2 and more.  The software is for educational purposes only and the licenses don’t expire. All free. You have to register with Microsoft and provide proof of eligibility, such as a valid school email address. Some of the downloads can be multi-gigabyte in size.

Microsoft DreamSpark Premium

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This is the big enchilada if you’re enrolled in technology coursework at college.

The screen print above is from one school that currently offers Microsoft DreamSpark Premium. The link provides a listing on Google for Dreamspark Premium. Some schools that offer it are included, including this one. Each appears to provide the same software titles. Each school must sign up for DreamSpark Premium and only students enrolled in selected coursework may be given access. All software is free and the licenses don’t expire. It’s intended for educational purposes only. Your school may have to sign you up individually after you fill out an application for access. Downloaded file sizes are commonly mult-gigabyte.

This blog site is a direct result of having access to DreamSpark Premium (and a copy of free Oracle VirtualBox). I wouldn’t have attempted it with trial versions of server software since the 6 month expiration is just too short of a time period, and running sysprep frequently to reset it is a nuisance. For study purposes, trial versions are excellent, however, since I guaranty you will load and reload Windows Server 2012 several times on the way to figuring  it out.

Microsoft BizSpark

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If you’re a software entrepreneur, but lacking the resources to invest in the development tools needed to get you where you want to go, Microsoft offers BizSpark. I’m not a member since, at this time, my software development days are behind me,  but take a look for yourself. It’s free. You have to apply and describe your business and plans. If accepted, you get three years of free access to a mountain of programming. Microsoft states it’s equivalent to an MSDN Ultimate subscription. Take a look to see if you match their profile.

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8 Comments on “Free Software”

  1. Good day! Do you know if they make any plugins to safeguard against hackers?
    I’m kinda paranoid about losing everything I’ve worked hard on.
    Any recommendations?

    • Carl Rinker says:

      Zemana offers a free version of their anti-keylogger program. The paid for version offers more protections beyond anti-keylogging. The full version isn’t expensive and protects you from camera hijacks and more.

      Ad blockers that can install in your browsers offer protection plus make your browsing faster and more enjoyable. Most ad blockers need to be disabled for some sites so that you can get to parts you actually want to see. It usually involves clicking the ad blocker icon in the browser and ‘allow’. All browsers offer additional privacy oriented extensions.

      Good antivirus protections are a necessity. Google some review sites to pick one out. Comodo offers a free internet suite that’s said to be quite good. Comodo offers a free license for Server Endpoint Protection for small systems. The whole internet protection route is better, in my opinion, than just an antivirus. Microsoft EMET is free and provides protection that works with whatever you select. It’s a special product that runs below the standard antivirus. It’s said to be quite effective. Malwarebytes Free is a scan on demand product that is a pit bull at finding malware and removing it. Be careful combining antivirus products as some will conflict with others and some won’t.

      Free CCleaner run daily gets rid of lots of junk that sneaks in.

      Sandboxie puts programs you select in a sandbox which is isolated from the rest of the computer. I run my browser and email client in one all the time just in case something breaks in. The sandbox offers a layer of isolation. I keep the sandbox in a ram disk which is cleared every time I close my browser. The malware will ‘think’ it is in the main PC when it is really in a folder that looks like a full computer.

      If you really want to get busy, load VirtualBox, VmWare Player, or Hyper-V if you have Windows 8 professional and do the majority of your work in a virtual system. You’ll need an operating system to load in the hypervisor you select. Linux is free. Don’t let the virtual environment share disk resources with the host so nothing accidentally sneaks through. Taking snapshots periodically will allow you to safely return to a prior point even if you do get infected. VirtualBox is probably the most flexible although Hyper-V is industrial strength.

      Your router is keeping a lot of internet hackers out by default. The article about DDNS explains much of this. Never open up any port or feature you aren’t using. PPTP is risky as stated to the point of nausea in the blog.

      Get in the habit of making regular full system backups so you can restore everything if you need to. Macrium and Easeus offers free versions of their software.

      If you’re running a Windows server, group policy can lock down client PCs in a domain. (I chose to minimize this aspect in the blog because not many people will have a full server with a domain in in their home. It can get complicated and anyone who builds one out of curiosity will wonder why they did it after they see it’s a lot more than a bigger version of Windows desktop. Pluralsight provides excellent videos for $29 / month on Windows Server 2012 and much more.)

      Security is an attitude. I hate to say it this way but assume someone IS out to get you and make a habit of learning how to keep them away. Good education is the first line of defense. The blog offers a lot of that.

  2. Sharyn says:

    Its like you read my mind! You seem too know a lot about this, like you wrote tthe bokk in it or something.
    I think that youu can do with a few pics too drive the
    message home a bit, but instead of that, this is great blog.
    A fantastic read. I’ll definitgely be back.

  3. Magnificent site. Plenty of useful information here.
    I’m sending it to a ffew friends ans additionally sharing iin delicious.
    Andd of course, thanks for your sweat!

    • Carl Rinker says:

      Well. you made it past the spam filters without commenting on the actual content of the page. I would prefer a mention concerning the topic at hand, even if it is only to mention a spelling error. Good luck with your business cards.

  4. Martin Rubenstein says:

    Many thanks for such a helpful article. It’s been a long time since we could download software without a second thought, and the change has been gradual and insidious, but this article is an excellent reference guide for people like me who know there’s a problem but don’t have the knowledge to distill out the essentials. Thanks.

    • Carl Rinker says:

      Thanks. DreamSpark programs are the big enchilada. Having access to software of the highest quality for free if one meets the conditions for download is a tremendous resource. It can change someone’s life.


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