The hidden cost of free software
We all love something for nothing. A bargain, especially if it's â€˜free' always catches our eye in that â€˜hey, I've got nothing to lose here, right?' way.
Free software is plentiful on the Internet - from business tools right through to packages for those taking up astronomy. For anyone on a limited
budget, free software gives them access to programs that would normally be well beyond their financial reach. They are also usually developed by
like-minded people with the same interests in a particular field, but with a little extra programming experience.
But what of the hidden costs? Free software is great - when it works right. The trouble with the wealth of free software available is that there is no
â€˜benchmark' standard. Anyone can put a piece of software out there for everyone else to use without having rigorously tested it for bugs,
compatibility or even just to see if the program actually does what it's supposed to. Free software is a â€˜lucky dip' situation - if you're lucky, you get a
real gem that can enrich your life, make tasks easier and even help run your business more successfully. If you're unlucky, you end up with a program
that can crash your hard drive every time you boot up, hang, mess up your operating system and possibly end up costing you money in the long run.
Despite that initial reaction, you could actually have a lot to lose with free software.
Another problem with freeware is that in the majority of cases, you are not getting the full version of the program. Most freeware is a â€˜cut-down'
version of the full package and can also have a limited lifespan (usually 30 days) before the user licence runs out. To get the full package you will then
have to pay to get the upgrade. This is particularly true for anti-virus packages such as AGV or ZoneAlarm. It also pays to read the terms and
conditions very carefully before you click on â€˜I agree' on your registration. What are you actually agreeing to? How are they going to use your data?
If you're not sure,