Keep on Computing in the Free World!
In this day and age, if you aren’t one of those gotta-have-the-newest-version people, you can purchase a personal computer (PC) for relatively little. But, get one for free? I didn’t believe it at first either, until I read James MacLaren’s book about Free Computers. Mr. MacLaren’s book is very brief and light hearted with some good general tips about computers and computer assembly.
But the main point of Mr. MacLaren’s book is, “Don’t know how computers work? Can’t assemble them? Well, get one and give it a shot!” His book describes how, if you just make some friends and make sure that you tell them that you’ll take all their old computer stuff, you can get all the computer stuff you’ll ever need for free.
I took his advise two or three years ago. I had never built a computer, but was willing to give it a shot. Soon, the computer junk, an amazingly relative term, began coming in. But, I must admit, for every two or three pieces of brutally outdated hard ware that I got, I received one or two that was really pretty good stuff. Then other friends that were in the PC business started giving me their spare parts. Then suddenly I had a collection that I could work with. And now I run multiple computers with multiple dual core processors and high end ATI video cards, all free.
Does this happen overnight? No. But it can happen and it’s pretty amazing how many people will tell you, “Hey, I’ve got this old PC that I can’t get to work. If you get it to work, it’s yours.” I have received quite a few virus ridden systems that, after formatting the drive and putting on a new operating system, have worked perfectly well.
Which segues nicely into the next topic: which operating system to use. Once you’ve acquired this slightly used system of yours, you have to decide which operating system to put on it. Windows is the most popular operating system there is. So, if you have an extra copy of that lying around then perhaps you can put that on your system. If you do, then there are certain safeguards that you should apply to avoid viruses. These safeguards can frequently come in the form of freeware, or free software, and can easily be found if one searches the Internet thoroughly enough. A good example is www.snapfiles.com and their selection of freeware. There you can find freeware to quickly remove cookies and temp files, those little bits of information that automatically put themselves on your system if you are a Windows user. You can use quick cleaners such as “CCleaner,” or Crap Cleaner. Or you can, and probably should, use more extensive freeware such as “Adaware” and “Spybot” to remove elements that websites put on your Windows system to track how you are using their sites. You can also find an assortment of firewalls, such as “ZoneAlarm,” to prevent intrusion by those that would want to see what stuff you have on your computer. The very nature of Windows seems to permit these types of attacks, so it is a wise precaution to have this freeware on a Windows system to prevent premature donations to computer scroungers like myself.
One alternative is to install Linux as an operating system. Linux falls into a free category of software known as Open Source software. The motivation behind Open Source software is prestige among technological piers rather than monetary gain. For example, Joe Smith takes a copy of Linux, adds some educational software to it then declares, “Hey, everyone, what do you think of this? Not bad, huh?” And someone else says, “Yeah, Joe, this rocks! But have you thought about adding this?” And so the process continues, ever advancing the cause of Open Source software.
In the past, Linux systems have held the reputation that they are less user friendly than Windows and that they didn’t have the software that could be used with the operating system. But in this day and age, versions of Linux (and there are literally hundreds of versions to choose from) such as Ubuntu have brought a completely new level of usability to the operating systems battle. Like many other choices of Linux, Ubuntu has an extensive list of software available for use, all free. It has extensive online forum and search engine support. Also, Ubuntu has a great deal of adaptability and is as easy to install as Windows XP is, needing only one disk. Furthermore, now that OpenOffice has come out with it’s line of free office suite software, Linux has even greater marketability. And other software, like Mozilla FireFox, continue to give Open Source software a proverbial shot in the arm.
But clearly the top two “selling” points for Ubuntu and other Linux operating systems is that most are free and that no Window’s viruses/mallware/spyware/worms/trojans work on Linux systems. Now, anyone can download an operating system like Ubuntu off of the Internet, burn it to a cd, then use it on as many new computer systems as they want to. Linux is designed to run multiple processes at one time without bogging down and takes up less disk space than Windows so it can be used on older systems. Adding Linux to older computer parts can now produce a competitive system.
Tell your friends that you want their computer parts. Check out http://www.ubuntu.com/ and see what Ubuntu Linux is about. Check my blog at http://afreepc.blogspot.com . If you’re not careful, you might end up with a bunch of really good free computers.