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12/16/2003 Archived Entry: "Free (gratuit) software"

If you're a Windows user and you haven't yet obtained firewall software, now would be a good time to download Zone Alarm. Check Point is buying Zone Labs, publisher of Zone Alarm, and I don't know if they'll keep the free version available. (Let's hope they do.)

I've also been told of another free program to detect and remove spyware from your Windows PC: Ad-aware from Lavasoft.

Speaking of free (gratuit) software, I'm happy to see that Sun Microsystems is now offering free downloads of the Solaris operating system for x86 computers. Solaris has a rep for being a really solid Unix system, so if you're dubious about Linux, this might interest you. (Be advised, it probably requires more technical expertise than Linux to install and administer.)

And I am greatly remiss in not mentioning OpenBSD, another free (libre/gratuit), open-source, Unix-like operating system for PCs (and several other computers). OpenBSD is one of the many derivatives of BSD Unix, and aspires to the reputation of the most secure open-source OS available. "Only one remote hole in the default install, in more than 7 years!" From what I've heard they have a fair claim to the title...their code is rigorously audited and they are passionate about privacy and security. I've bought a few CDs from them and plan to buy a few T-shirts. This would be a superb choice for a firewall computer. (Again, it's probably not for the novice user.)

For those still leaning toward Linux, but confused by the variety of distributions, the best resource I've found is DistroWatch. Their reviews of "Major Distributions" are particularly valuable for newcomers. If you have a high-speed Internet connection, you can find where most Linux distributions can be downloaded at LinuxIso.org. If you're stuck with dialup, and don't have a friend who can help, you might try one of the Linux CD services that will download and burn CDs for you. One such is LinuxCD.org, but please be advised that I have not tried their services myself so I can't vouch for them. (I'd be interested to hear from anyone with good or bad experiences.)

Of course, you might also consider buying a boxed set of a major Linux distribution. They're all quite reasonably priced; you get good quality CDs, a manual, and support; and you can feel good about supporting the Linux community. At present I've purchased five different Linux distros, not counting the ones that come with Linux books I've bought. (If there's interest I can relate some of my own experiences with, and suggestions for, Linux distributions.)


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