Free is not freeware!

“Free Download” is not all it is cracked up to be. Be very wary of proprietary (licensed) software vendors making their software available as a “Free Download” – this is a nifty trick to get some Internet surfers to download their software, thinking they have found the perfect piece of software that will just “do the trick”.

Not so – most of these “free downloads” are only “free” in the sense that payment is not demanded upfront BEFORE you download the software. Besides, if you are using paid internet access, you end up “paying” for this free download with your megabytes.

In a bid to sell their software, vendors have become aware of the power of the search engine. Type “free software download” in any of the major search engines and you’ll end up with hits galore. SOE (Search Engine Optimization) “experts” may argue that it’s  the power of Internet marketing at work, using the right keywords and phrases which are “popular” on the Internet and you are sure to get a lot of “hits” on your site. Be that as it may, punting proprietary software as if it is “free” is simply dishonest, to use polite language.

Be very alert when you look for free, OpenSource software on the Internet. A good rule of thumb is to only use websites which allow those who download their freeware to review the software and to post feedback on their sites. This is a good way to keep honest those who upload freeware and/or opensource versions of their software onto such sites. Websites which go through the trouble of putting their software through a “screening process” is also worth frequenting – they deserve a thumbs-up. Another “check” is to visit repositories dedicated to opensource and/or freeware software.

Another smart thing is to always read the fine print – usually tucked away somewhere on the site regarding End-User Licence Agreement(s) (EULAs). Sometimes the EULA regarding the software is so restrictive, it might not be worth your trouble to download it. Another irritation is the “limiting features” of some of the freeware out there. In some cases it amounts to selling a four-wheel car with only three wheels. Yes, if you are some escape artist-type, you might be able to drive the car around the first bend, but for the rest of humanity, it will just not be a smooth ride.

In conclusion, use your “websmarts” when looking for software and don’t spend your precious megabytes to download software which are of little, if any, use to you.

Long live the net!

Some online security tips..

Online Security

Browsing the internet is one of the most useful ways of searching, finding and accumulating data and information to suit your needs. Some spend more time than others surfing the internet to find that elusive nugget of information. As in most endeavours, the internet has spawned its own threats, orchestrated by those who make it their business to steal information and use it to their advantage (and your disadvantage).

In order to make this more difficult for them, there are two measures you must (not should!) take…

  • Anti-virus. Make sure you have an anti-virus software program installed. But don’t just install it, regularly update its virus database. Since new viruses, trojans and worms are created all the time, you need to update that part of you virus programme (database) that will recognise the threat. If the programme does not know about the threat, it won’t react – protect you from it.

    • There are two ways of getting hold of a good anti-virus program, namely buy it – or use one of the freeware programs out there. And just because it’s free, it does not mean “lacking in quality”. Freeware virus programs come with free virus database updates. A word of caution though – not all freeware virus programs are entirely free – you’ll have to give up your e-mail address as “payment”. And just because it’s free now, it might not remain so in the future.

    • Buying an anti-virus program can cost you quite a bundle. Once you have decided to take this route, do some careful research on the internet to find one that will suit your needs. Make sure you read the fineprint with regards to updates. Some sellers will offer a limited number of free updates, after which you will be required to pay for each “update”. Others will require that you pay a monthly (quarterly/annual) subscription for updates. These are just some of the options – the point is make sure that you know what you’re buying and what the future cost will be.

  • Firewall. Install a firewall on your computer. A firewall is a program that will assess which programs on your PC connect, or need to connect to the internet; whether they should (or shouldn’t) and will then make you aware of them, If you don’t want a program to connect to the internet, you can then instruct the firewall to block it (not allow access). It will either block it automatically or alert you that a program is trying to access your PC.
    • Once again you’ll face a choice of either buying a firewall program or use a freeware alternative. Windows XP comes with a built-in firewall, but judging from independent reviews, you’ll be far better off if you use an alternative. The XP version only provides the basic levels of protection. Again, be careful about what you choose. As with most software, read the fineprint to ensure what you are letting yourself in for.

Free mobile games scam

I bought a Nokia 6111 the other day and became bored with the three games which were pre-loaded onto the phone. Besides, they were not my type of games.

I them did a search for free games on the internet. One of the (hundreds of) links looked promising and took me to the mobile website with a .uk domain. There I was instructed to register (for free, of course) if I want access to their free games.

This I did but after clicking on the link in my e-mail to the free games, what should I encounter? I should have known it was a trick to notch up “registered users” – there were no free games for my phone! What a trick to draw visitors to your site!

Website turn-offs

I saw and advert for a service during one of my searches on the internet and clicked on the hyperlink to visit the site. After about 30 seconds of the “Welcome Page” telling me that it “is loading” I closed the browser window and put the site on my blacklist of “never to visit again”.

What were the web designers thinking? That I have broadband and it will take about two seconds for the flash page to load, forcing me to look at fancy graphics (the web designer’s creativity?) before I get to the real information? I don’t think so.

The number one rule clients must insist on when they are approached by web design companies is usability. This does not mean a drab website without any design flair, but it must strike the right balance between usability, translated as functionality.