Free Computing

Aaron Holmes

Column

Tuesday, January 12 2016

There is a wide availability of free - and completely legal - software and nearly free hardware barriers out there, if you take the time to look.

Free software: When in comes to software, free doesn’t mean cheap if you pick the good stuff. Open Source software is available that blows away code you could pay for. For example, Open Source Webservers like Apache run most websites.

In the same way that Wikipedia is at least as useful as any encyclopedia, open source software has been built by keeners contributing where they can, writing things that they need and sharing them with others. Over time, that’s delivered reliable, robust, free software.

You could outfit an entire office pc with free alternatives for almost any software you would normally encounter.

Nearly free hardware: The RaspberryPi foundation released the PiZero, a computer on a chip, for $5. Even with the accessories you’ll need it’s still insanely affordable. Other more powerful versions are also available for equally reasonable price points.

With a little use of Google, you can find information on how to get started, and how to do just about anything.

Whether you want to run a desktop computer, build a webserver, or use its general purpose input/output (GPIO) pins to turn your lights on and off you can start bossing around your little electrical servants .

With a Raspberry Pi, you could also introduce youngsters to programming with the kid-friendly programming language Scratch. If that fails, the default installation also comes with a version of Minecraft.

Control your computers or be controlled by them.