Share content with your friends and fans!

Friday, July 26, 2013

20 Things You Should Know About Free Software

20 Things You Should Know About Free Software

Listen to the TechnoGrannyShow Here

            Especially with the continual rise of independent developers, free software downloads are a ubiquitous, online resource. They appear, whether sought out or not, and it can be difficult to tell which will enhance user experience, which are secretly harmful and which are too good to be true. However, following the next 20 tips will go a long way toward keeping you safe.

1.  Be familiar with the differences between freeware and shareware. A piece of software that’s truly free to download, one without limits or restrictions, is classified is freeware. Shareware, on the other hand, may appear to be free to use by either not prompting any payment until you open the downloaded file or by offering a limited, free trial period. Eventually, though, a shareware program will require payment (or maybe a donation) that will continue or unlock the program’s full functionality.
2.  Never trust internet ads that say you must download a piece of software. These designed-to-dupe ads come in several forms, from popups to distracting, flashing banners, but usually employ the premise that your current computer performance is somehow inadequate or at risk without the software the ad is peddling. Sure, sometimes these are deceptive ads for real, if unnecessary, software, but odds are equally good they link to malicious software that can mine your data, corrupt your existing files or otherwise render
your computer unsafe to use.
3.  Employ antivirus protection. Running an antivirus program guarantees the easiest defense against harmful downloads. If you happen to download something that could infect your computer, an antivirus program will (usually) catch it and give you the ability to quarantine and delete the dangerous file(s). Additionally, built in virus protection on sites like Yahoo! Mail ensure that attachments are safe before they’re downloaded.
4.  Keep antivirus programs up to date. An outdated antivirus program can leave your computer as vulnerable as having no protection at all. Updating antivirus software often helps to impede the savvy saboteurs looking for ways to beat security systems.
5.  You don’t have to pay for virus protection, but be careful. Gone are the days when tech giants like Norton and McAfee’s programs were seen as the only reliable antivirus downloads. Now, free programs, like Microsoft’s Security Essentials, are rich with features and well-regarded. That is not to say, however, that free antivirus programs are not popular fronts for spyware and malware, but that’s nothing a little Googling shouldn’t help. Speaking of which…
6.  Use a search engine to gather more information about software. A search will allow you to quickly vet software and determine if it is something you want. Any query that returns few results or primarily negative results should be a red flag.
7.  Check for compatibility. Before downloading any software, investigate the specifications its designed to run on. If the program is Mac or Windows only, you may be able to find a similar alternative by searching. Similarly, if your hardware is not quite up to date, you might be able to find an older, compatible version of the software.
8.  Search for lists of trustworthy software. Whether compiled by members of a website community or technology experts, locating lists of popular and useful freebies not only eliminates the guesswork of safety, but also saves time, as many of the lists can be organized by category.
9.  Only download from sites you trust. To ensure safety, don’t stray from sites with rigorous standards and helpful users. CNET’s, ZDNet and File Hippo are the sites I count on, and each boasts a large database of solid, free software.
10.         Find out who developed the software. Big-name providers like Google and Apple offer easy to trust downloads, but smaller developers with good track records can prove to be just as reliable. Exercise caution with unfamiliar developers.
11.         When possible, download directly from the source. Downloading from official websites guarantees peace of mind and can turn up results not available on third party downloaders.
12.          Look for verification. Companies like TRUSTe, GeoTrust and Verisign award seals  to software that complies with certain privacy and quality standards.
13.          Read a bunch of reviews. Whichever site you download from will likely have an integrated system
for reviews. These can be particularly useful if a CNET, for example, assigns a high star rating, but user comments should be taken with a grain of salt. Sifting through the ratings to find the reviews that thoroughly review the pros and cons of software pays off in the long run.
14.          Tap into social media. Monitor your feeds for the programs your friends or other opinion leaders rave about. Or type the name of the software into Twitter’s search engine to see what a large, random sample of users is saying.
15.          Be wary of torrents. Aside from the dubious legality of many of the files they offer, torrent programs are rife with deliberately mislabeled files that can range from harmless pranks to dangerous malware.
16.          Use a sandbox. Available in a variety of formats, sandboxes let you run a downloaded file in isolation from the rest of your computer. This way, you can test out the program without risking the security of the rest of your files.
17.          Click the right download button. Though the concept seems simple, popups and advertisements on download hosts can make it difficult to find the “real” download button by cluttering the screen with many of them. Take a second to scan around and select the correct link.
18.          Be sure you’re only installing what you want. Many pieces of software, even from reliable developers, will opt you in to downloading add-ons during the install process. Though they may be as innocuous as an extra toolbar, they are taking up space on your screen and hard drive that you haven’t accounted for.
19.          Check sites like Youtube for tutorials and reviews. The visual medium makes it easy to learn how to get the most out of software use. Video reviews can easily illustrate why an evaluator likes or dislikes a product.

20.          Stay continually shrewd. Be a skeptical downloader, and always exercise common sense. There are plenty of good, free downloads out there, but to take proper advantage of them, aim to stay far ahead of any deception.

This blog post can be reproduced in its entirety with the following information:
© Joanne Quinn-Smith, Techno Granny Show™ 2013,
Dreamweaver Marketing Associates, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15230, 412-628-5048
Or on its unique radio channel at:
Additional blog posts at:
Joanne Quinn-Smith is the Creative Energy Officer of Dreamweaver Marketing Associates in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and an expert on Web 2.0 Branding.
2009 SBA Small Business Journalist of the Year, Author of “Folly of Marketing Plan in Your Head, 101 Compelling Reasons to Write One”

No comments: