Open Source software has really come of age as of 2009. You can find programs that do almost everything closed source software does. Here are some of my favorites...
Linux - An Operating System. Like Windoze. Ubuntu is the most popular Linux distribution, or "distro". Keep an eye on the popularity contest at DistroWatch.com.
Firefox - Web Browser
Thunderbird - email. Imports beautifully from Outlook 2000, so it's real easy to switch over. Scheduling can be had with the "Lightning" add-on. This should become a part of Thunderbird in a future release. Thunderbird + Lightning is like Outlook.
LibreOffice - Word Processor, Spreadsheet, Presentations, Database, etc... Like Office. Was OpenOffice.org, but Oracle has been rather hostile towards its open source holdings (e.g. OpenSolaris), so LibreOffice has been created by the community to be more open and free.
Clam Antivirus - For those who need such a thing. There's also a version for Windows.
Firewall? I use a hardware firewall, so I'm not sure what open source software firewalls are available. Linux has iptables built in, so it doesn't really need a firewall. A front-end like easyfwgen makes iptables easier to use. Windows, on the other hand, needs a firewall in some situations. WinXP and later have one built in, but it is limited. Win2k and prior do not have a firewall built in. I used to use ZoneAlarm, but it's not open source. How about Win2k IPSec? I've not tried it, but it looks like one could develop a small config file (.ipsec) that can be loaded up and a proper firewall is in place. I need to try playing with this as it could be quite nice. A google search might turn up that someone has already put together a decent one.
CDex - CD ripper for Windows.
LAME - MP3 encoder. At one time, this was really bad. It has come a long way and sounds fine now. There are patent issues with it, so while it is free to download, it isn't necessarily free to use in all situations.
BonkEnc - Audio file format converter for Windows. Converts ogg to/from mp3. Also converts several other formats. Will also rip CDs like CDex.
VLC Media Player - Unlike QuickTime, this runs great on a 1GHz Win2k machine. Highly recommended for both under-powered and over-powered machines. There are limits, though. Had trouble with skipping video and mp3s on a 600MHz machine. Plays almost everything from mp3s to movies to AAC+ streams. On Windows, this plays DVDs region-free, so you can watch DVDs from any region (don't tell the movie police!). Works in Linux too.
Ardour - Multitrack Audio. Also see Ubuntu Studio, a distro that includes Ardour. Need to look into projects like Qtractor, audacity?, Traverso, and Ecasound. There's a list here and another here.
aTunes - OK audio player. Sucks up tons of RAM as it is written in Java. Uses almost no CPU as it uses "mplayer" to play audio (5.7MB when running). Can probably also rip CDs like CDex. Couldn't figure out how to empty the "repository" to save RAM.
GIMP - Image manipulation program. Like Adobe Photoshop.
qtpfsgui - HDR imaging software.
Pidgin - Instant Messaging compatible with all popular protocols (AIM, ICQ, MSN, etc...). For LAN chat, use the Bonjour protocol. For Windows, you need to install Bonjour from Apple (During the Bonjour install, I got an error: ScriptingObjectModel.dll failed to register. HRESULT -2147024769. I pressed "Ignore" and all appears well. I'm running Win2k which might be the problem. This is 2009 after all.). For Linux, Pidgin offers support for Bonjour as long as it was built with it.
AChat - Windows LAN chat, lighter than Pidgin (above), but not cross platform. Old, but seems to work ok. Certainly better than "NET SEND"!
GnuCash - Accounting software. Like Quicken.
WordNet - Dictionary. No Internet required! I hate Internet connections, so this lets me have a nice dictionary without the pesky Internet connection.
YACAS - Computer Algebra System. Like Mathematica. A super-calculator, if you will. Solves equations. Does algebra homework. Calculus... It is a bit buggy, though, in my experience.
calc - Command line arbitrary precision calculator. While yacas is great for working with symbols, this one is great for working with numbers.
NetHack - Classic dungeon-crawling game.
PySolFC - PySol Fan Club edition solitaire game. Over 1000 solitaire games.
Notepad++ - Advanced text editor for Windows.
jEdit - Advanced text editor. Runs on all platforms that support Java. It's got a few minor flaws, but otherwise very good. Certainly worth a try if you are looking for a modern GUI text editor for coding.
Eclipse - IDE for developing Java software. It can also do C and C++.
FreeBasic - A compiler like QBASIC. Great learning language.
Ultimate Boot CD - This bootable Linux and FreeDOS CD contains many useful PC diagnostic and configuration utilities. I use it for wiping old hard drives and checking their sizes.
Wireshark - Packet sniffer.
nmap - Tests systems for vulnerabilities.
WinCalendarTime - Nifty upgrade to the clock in the system tray for Windows XP. I don't think this works with Win2k. Need to find something similar.
SourceForge weekly top downloads - Find more.
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