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The Computer Log #5 for December 2, 2009

Today I want to talk about some free software that can replace a number of paid software products that would be available on the PC, Mac and Linux and for Geeks on a web server.

My first pick is Open Office and is available on all 3 platforms. Open Office will open and make Microsoft Office documents and in fact “The Computer Log” is written using Open Office on a Linux platform. The url is The only drawback it will not make or open Publisher files from Microsoft. Open Office will open and make Spread Sheets, Slide Shows and Data Base or Access files.

Another word processor that is free is AbiWord and can be found at and can be used to read and import Wordperfect files. It also has a number of other plug-ins available to do many other tasks. AbiWord is not available for the Mac, but it is available for Windows and Linux.

An online word processor is Google Docs and has a big following. This is an on-line editor so no software is needed so this is not limited to what Operating System you have. I have not tried it to any extent but it appears to be a winner in Cloud Computing. It can be found at The big drawback is you have to register to use it.

My next free software package for “Propeller heads” or “Geeks” out there is Ubuntu. It is not software, it is a complete operating system that can be used on a newer Mac or PC as a windows replacement or work in conjunction with windows. On a Mac it can be used with Boot Camp. I personally use it as my primary OS on my laptop and I love it. You can also use it on a windows base computer as a dual boot. The ISO based software can be downloaded to burn your CD at and comes in 2 flavors, 32 bit and 64 bit. I use 64 bit because my laptop is 64 bit compatible. You can also run it from the CD to try Ubuntu. Remember if you install Ubuntu without backing up your software and do not know how, you can loose all your data if Ubuntu is not installed right.

The software package Virtual Box is a virtual machine and will work in Windows, Mac and Linux, and is available at I use it myself to run Windows, Solaris and other OS's.

My web-base free software is PmWiki and is available from and will work on any web server that allows PHP files. This software is a bit “Geeky” but it does not need to configure MySQL on the web server. Only 1 file needs to be edited to your needs. I used it for and it only took me 1 hour to get it up and working.

My final free software packages are used to backup your stuff online and the first one is and will give you 2 gigs of space free. And will work as a easy way to view docs from your iPhone or iPod Touch using the free companion software. My second one is SpiderOak at and has 2 gigs free storage, and is the one I paid for for 100 gigs for $10 a month. Both Drop Box and Spider Oak will run on Mac OSX, Windows and Linux. Drop Box make a storage folder to drop and share files and is more expensive at 50 gigs at $9.99 and 100 gigs at $19.99 a month. Spider Oak makes a nice user interface to back folders and files. Both will allow more than 1 computer to use the same account, and both will allow external hard drives to back up. I personally decided to use Spider Oak Paid due to the automatically backing up files and more space available even though I cannot use my iPhone with SpiderOak. The workaround is using the free Dropbox for viewing files needed in the field on my iPhone, and 2 gigs of space is plenty. I will also mention Carbonite at , They do have a limited time trial offer, but it will only work with Windows and Mac OSX. It has a nice interface and unlimited space but will only work with one computer and has a a 1 year at $60. I was using this until I switch to Ubuntu as my main OS, so that is why I found the other nice backup utilities.

Just remember, with the right info, some things are free in life.

Franklin S Werren is a computer technician and runs Chautauqua Lake Hosting and Franks Radio in Sherman NY.And can be found on the web at and and via e-mail at

Disclaimer: Neither “Franklin S Werren” or the “Chautauqua Star” have not received any money or promotional items in anything talked about in this column.

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Page last modified on December 07, 2009, at 04:25 PM EST