Saturday, August 26, 2006

TANSTAAFL (There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch)

Greetings once again! I wanted to share some great free software with you. Whether you run Windows, Unix/Linux, or Mac OS X, there are still high-caliber free applications that are available for everyone. I have no patience with software pirates, since I write programs, but with the applications that you can download and use for free, there's no excuse for stealing software.

What's that? You can't afford Photoshop but you really need to use it? Why not download The GIMP instead? "GIMP" stands for "Gnu Image Manipulation Program" and it's been around for quite some time. It supports all 3 of the major OS's and has most of the same functions as Photoshop. I've used The GIMP for some time now and recently a new version for Mac OS X was released that has all of its menus re-arranged for those that are familiar with Photoshop. This special version is called "GIMPshop" and runs only on the Mac, as far as I know. It runs in X-Windows (X11) but has an OS X icon and launches from the Finder. It's a very good version and I've used it to create icons for some time now. I have an old Classic version of Photoshop and I literally haven't launched it since I got GIMPshop.

But let's say you don't do photo editing, what you need is a program like Illustrator. Try Inkscape (also available for the 3 big-time OS's). It's loaded with many of the same features as Illustrator, but is free and is still being added to by the developers. I suspect it, like GIMP, will be around for a long time. I've found it very easy to use and have used it recently to create icons for a new application I'm creating. You can do gradients, beziers, and lots of path manipulations (joins, etc.) that make this a great substitute for Illustrator.

There are also some great games available for free on the web. One that I enjoy is ArmegeTron Advanced, a Tron-style lightcycles game that you play on servers around the world against other gamers. It's a lot of fun, except when you crash into a path or a wall and OOPS you're gone...

There are a bunch more...NetHack (a D&D game), Critical Mass (space shoot-em-up) and more. Not to mention that if you run Unix, Linux, or Mac OS X, you also have a host of games that will run in X-Windows that are clones of other, better known games. There's LinCity, the SimCity clone, xInvaders, the Space Invaders clone, xGalaga, etc. And the old classics of Chess, Backgammon, card games, Othello, Go and Checkers.

OH, and while we're on the subject, let's not forget the best freeware, like Firefox/Thunderbird/Mozilla and Open Office. These things are some of the best programs of all time, and that's saying a lot. Firefox is, without doubt, the best browser in the world. No shit. And Open Office does everything Microsoft Office does, but does it for free and without you having to pollute your system with Microsoft software (sorry, I'm a Mac/Unix guy...).

My point is, if you're on a budget and you can't afford to purchase software, get adventurous and DIG! There's a lot of great stuff available if you take the time to find it. And it takes about as long to find a good one as it does to find a good torrent of some brand-name piece of software that you want to rip-off.

Robert Heinlein used to say, "TANSTAAFL," or "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch." But there IS free software, and some of it is damned good.

Oh, and if you find something good, be sure to take the time to give it a good rating on the download site, or send a note to the author(s) telling them you like the software. Those of us that write freeware need the encouragement, it seems folks are more willing to write bad reviews than good.

TINSTAFS! (There Is Such Things As Free Software)

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