Free! College Software Guide

There is one thing college students don’t need when it comes to their software: another expense. With books, tuition and the million other expenses that come with going to college, the last thing you should have to pay for is some decent software.

Thankfully, there are many great free options to load up your computer with. While these might not be everyone’s personal preferences for the best free software for College students, I think that most people will find everything on this list useful, and being that the price is “free”, there is high value in all of this software.

OpenOffice.org

For those of you that can’t afford to pay the premium price in purchasing Microsoft Office, even with a generous student discount, you’ll want to look at OpenOffice.org. It is a free piece of software that works on any operating system, and includes access to software to write documents, create spreadsheets, presentations, and more.

For those of you using NeoOffice or other productivity software on your Apple Mac computers, you’ll now be happy to know that OpenOffice.org runs natively on Mac OS X, meaning that there is no need to load that strange X11 emulation software thus increasing the usability and usefulness of OpenOffice.org.

It also reads and writes Microsoft Office formats, meaning it is perfect for opening documents from school, or sending essays to your professors.

Download at OpenOffice.org.

GIMP

Don’t want to buy or use Photoshop illegally? No problem. GIMP is freely distributed image manipulation software that runs on all major operating systems (though with Macs you’ll need to install X11 emulation). GIMP is great for creating graphics and logos, photo tweaking, creating animated GIFs, etc.

While installing and running GIMP on Windows and Mac OSX are not as straightforward and easy as you may be used to, there are plenty of online tutorials that should make the process painless.

Download at GIMP.

Adium & Pidgin

If you have friends on MSN, Yahoo, AIM, and Google, you’ll want to find one piece of software to easily manage your conversations with all of them, and Adium and Pidgin will allow you to do that.

Both pieces of software allow you to combine your collection of friends and family into one long list, making it easy to communicate. Of course, you’ll be missing certain features that native applications have, like Google Talk’s video chat, but being able to be organized, and using fast and light pieces of software are worth any trade offs.

The choice on which multi-client instant messaging software to use is yours, and it really comes down to personal needs and tastes as well as which operating system you use. Adium is only for Mac OS X, while Pidgin works on nearly all operating systems. If you have a Mac though, both are free so give them both a try and stick with your favorite.

Download Pidgin and/or Adium.

Octave

Think Matlab is way overpriced? So do we. The good news is that there is a solid free replacement called Octave. Almost everything that can be done in Matlab can be done in Octave. Plus, if you used to have to go to a special computer lab to do your Matlab work, now you can do it on your own computer.

Just like Matlab, Octave is an ultra high-level programming language that is used to solve mathematical problems and plot their solutions. The nice thing about Octave is that it is modular and can easily be expanded to perform additional functions.

Download at GNU Octave.

Eclipse

For those of you who are computer science majors or just taking a few computer programming courses (which is becoming more and more common, especially for science majors) the good news is that you don’t have to buy an uber expensive C++ IDE package like Visual Studio. Instead, Eclipse gives you an amazing, fully featured development platform with all the plugins you could possibly want. Plus, Eclipse runs on Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux.

Download at Eclipse.org.

iTunes

Listen to music? Want to be able to download movies, television shows, podcasts, and your favorite songs? Well, iTunes pretty much corners the market when it comes to legal downloadable media and the software is free.

For students on a budget, the myriad of video and audio podcasts available for free on nearly any topic or interest is a great way to pass the time, and iTunes has a radio section that allows you to listen to an unlimited amount of streaming music on hundreds of different stations.

Download iTunes from Apple.

Firefox

If you are still browsing the web on Internet Explorer, then you need to get with the program. There are many other web browsers out there that are better, faster, more secure and easier to use than Internet Explorer. One of the best is Firefox.

Not only is it faster but it allows for extensions. Extensions allow you to add features to your web browsing experience, from adding the weather and your e-mail count to always display on the browser, to being able to look at the code of a website easily, there are a million different things extensions can do to make Firefox even better than it is “out of the box.”

Download Mozilla Firefox.

VLC

Trying to play video formats, and having issues? Check out VLC. An amazingly lightweight piece of free software that plays nearly any video that you ask it to. It can be used to play DVD movies as well.

It also is available for nearly any operating system, making it a great choice for everyone.

Download VLC.

Skype

If you are away from your family, or don’t want to pay crazy prices for a home phone line, take a look at Skype’s offerings. One of the highest quality voice over the Internet services available Skype has many great advantages over getting a traditional phone line in your dorm or apartment, and is easy to use.

Also, if your family and friends get Skype on their computers, you can have free chat, audio or even video conversations with your family and friends.

You can even purchase phone numbers through Skype so that people that don’t have Skype can call you. And if you buy SkypeOut credits, or service you can call regular phones from your your Skype account. Many people use this as a cheap long distance service, especially for overseas calling.

Download Skype.

Last.fm

Want another great way to listen to music, especially if you don’t know exactly which songs to buy or download, check out Last.fm.

Last.fm lets you create “stations” based on your search preferences, from things as simple as “alternative” to listing your favorite bands and having it try to find others that you may enjoy as well.

It is free, and totally worth using for parties and events where you want a wide variety of music.

Download Last.fm.

Vuze

Understand BitTorrent? Then you’ll want to get Vuze, a great way of managing torrent files in an easy to understand way. This will allow you to download movie trailers, open source software, and videos from sites like Revision3.com.

Vuze rounds out my list of the top free College software.

Download Vuze today.

13 Free Online Sources to Help You Through School

Whether you’re struggling with a particular class or just want to expand what you know, these 13 sites can give you a library’s worth of information right from your laptop.

1. U.C. Berkeley Webcasts

Get podcasts and webcasts of current and archived courses at the University of California, Berkeley, and both live and on-demand webcasts of notable appearances, campus events, and prominent speakers and lectures.

2. MIT Open Courseware

Choose from over 1,700 courses spanning MIT’s entire curriculum, and download free lecture notes, exams, problem sets, labs, video lectures, video demonstrations, and more.

3. Wikipedia

Almost every significant event, person, place and thing has a page on the Wiki. Just remember that Wikipedia is a user-generated and user-monitored site, so what you’re reading may not necessarily have passed a thorough review for accuracy. Wikipedia’s a great place to start when you want to know more about pretty much anything, but you may not want to rely on it as the main reference source for your term paper.

4. Podcast Alley

A directory of over 36,000 podcasts, Podcast Alley lets you search for podcasts by key words or by category. Find hundreds of language-learning choices in the Education section, Mac Attack weekly tips and tricks for your Mac in the Technology section, or The Naked Scientists’ plain-English answers to your science questions in the Science & Medicine section.

5. YouTube

Sure, you can kill time—and brain cells—watching Britney Spears going down in flames at this year’s VMAs, or witness what happens when you mix Diet Coke and Mentos. But you can also find an introduction to calculus functions, Arabic language lessons, and a series on how to create fire effects in Photoshop. Rely on other viewers’ ratings to help you filter out the YouTube junk from the truly useful.

6. Education Index

The Education Index puts a huge database of educational websites at your fingertips. Simply click on a subject like archaeology, political science, or military technologies, and instantly get a list of links to sites both general and specialized that hold a wealth of information.

7. HowStuffWorks

From the light bulb to a rocket engine, HowStuffWorks breaks down how almost anything works with diagrams and easy-to-follow explanations. Don’t have an engineering streak in you? Check out “How the Batmobile Works,” “11 Stupid Legal Warnings,” or “What if everybody in the United States flushed the toilet at the same time?” No matter what you’re wondering, HowStuffWorks probably has an answer.

8. The History Channel

Surf through video galleries, timelines, maps, celebrated speeches, significant moments, and “This Day in History.” Enter in your birthday, and learn what’s happened throughout the years on the month and day you were born.

9. Dr. Math’s Math Forum

The Dr. Math forum answers thousands of common math questions, from elementary school to college level problems. Users submit their questions to the forum, and Dr. Math will post a response. If you’re having trouble in math class or with a problem set, it can help to read through old posts on the subject—chances are someone else has had the exact same problem you’re having.

10. Science

Not just for science geeks, the online version of the popular Science magazine offers thought-provoking and easy-to-read articles on everything from advances in neuroscience and astronomy to the latest in HIV research to “did you know” conversation starters, like why it makes evolutionary sense for certain animals to eat their young or why broccoli rubbed on your skin can help prevent sunburn damage.

11. Google News

Why pick and choose between news websites when you can harness the power and variety of all of them? Google News is a news aggregator that pulls all the top stories from thousands of news sites. You can use the power of Google search to find specific news items, browse standard categories like Health, Entertainment, and Top Stories, or personalize your Google News homepage and add custom categories of your own based on key words you choose.

12. www.chemistry.about.com

Articles, diagrams, walkthroughs and Q&As at About.com cover both the chemistry basics for new students and more specialized questions for more advanced students.

13. Education Arcade

Home to educational video and trivia games suited for middle school to college students, Education Arcade is entertainment that works your brain. In one of their augmented reality games, you can use GPS-enabled handheld computers to interview virtual characters and conduct large-scale environmental analysis to try to uncover the source of a simulated toxic spill.

4 Cheap Brand-Name Laptops!

A new laptop for college doesn’t need to cost you $1,500. Don’t let the flashy ads and giant headlines fool you: You don’t need 4GB of RAM or a 2.4GHz dual-core processor to handle everything you need to do for class, even if you want to be able to download a video or blast your master playlist at the same time.

Save your money for food and rent; you can get all the college capability you need and all the digital entertainment center you want without the steep price tag.

Here’s a list of six relatively inexpensive yet powerful laptops from all the big-name manufacturers. Keep in mind that these come straight from the manufacturer’s website and can be found even cheaper elsewhere!

1) Dell Inspiron 15

Starting Price: $399*

click image for specific specs

This modest laptop packs all the processing power and entertainment capability most students will need all in an awesome outer shell! With an Intel® Celeron® 900 (1MB cache/2.20GHz/800Mhz FSB)processor,  2 GB RAM, 160 GB Hard Drive,  Windows Vista pre-installed, a 15-inch display, and a CD burner. With its integrated wireless network card, the Inspiron comes ready to jump on your school’s wireless network. Best of all, you can make this laptop yours for monthly payments as low as $15.

Avg Customer Rating 	4.3 of 5

Avg Customer Rating 4.3 of 5

2) Compaq Presario CQ60

Starting Price: $399.99*

Click image for more info

Click image for more info

Think of this bargain laptop as “the little computer that could.” It isn’t quite as powerful as its HP Pavilion cousin, but with a 2.1GHz Intel Pentium dual-core mobile processor, a healthy 3072MBMB RAM plus 250GB hard drive with built-in protection, and built-in wireless card and mic/webcam, this Presario is more than enough for the average student’s needs. And $15 a month is all you’ll need to take it home.

Avg Customer Rating 4 out of 5

Avg Customer Rating 4 out of 5

3) HP G60t

Starting Price: $499.99*

click image for more info

click image for more info

I am a proud owner of a HP laptop and I ooze nothing but praise for this brand, as I have put my laptop through the worst (coffee spills, drops, random coaster usage) and yet it has never failed me…not once! For a slightly higher price tag than the Presario, this laptop from HP offers an even better educational bang for your buck. With an Intel Pentium dual-core mobile processor cruising at a speed of 1.6GHz (with the option of upgrading up to a blazing 2.50GHz), a full 1GB RAM, a 15.4-inch display, built-in wireless, and a FireWire port plus 3 USB ports, built-in 5 digital media card reader, the Pavilion puts power and speed at your fingertips for about $20 a month.

Avg Customer Rating 4.6 out of 5

Avg Customer Rating 4.6 out of 5

4) Toshiba Satellite Pro A210-EZ2202X

Price: $670*

click image for more info

click image for more info

With the AMD Turion 64 X2 dual-core mobile processor on this Toshiba laptop, you’ll plow through your assignments at 1.9GHz. Your barrage of PowerPoint presentations, Excel spreadsheets, 20-page term papers, embedded videos, and multi-tab Internet research won’t stand a chance against the Satellite’s arsenal of 1GB RAM, 80GB hard drive, DVD burner, 4 USB ports, 15.4-inch display, and built-in wireless — all yours for about $24 a month.

Avg Customer Rating 4.5 out of 5

Avg Customer Rating 4.5 out of 5

* Manufacturer prices as of October 14, 2009

Spotlight: CareerBuilder.com

Sort of an unpaid endorsement but hey, I give props where props are due and I have found a gem among stones with Career Builder. Life is what you make of it, and so is a career. I guess this is a sort of review of the site, it’s basically my personal experience and I thought I would share with my fellow frugal pupils.

I signed up a few weeks ago, took a little while to fill out my profile and whip up a killer resume and generic cover letter. Anyway, I had signed up on snagajob, indeed, yahoo, hotjobs, everywhere and I was oh so skeptical of this career builder hullabaloo.

I don’t know how it all works but after I did all the formalities, I got a pretty nice list of prospective jobs and the hands-down, best thing about Career Builder was the fact that most jobs could be applied to with just the click of a button. At first I was thinking, yeah right, it probably wasn’t sent, but within minutes I received a confirmation email, and even beyond that, days later I get phone calls for interviews. Another nice thing is the even further customized “Quick Apply” list you get when you apply for a job; in other words, there are other jobs along that line where you can apply to all at the same time.

Another cool thing is that you can see how many searches and views your resume generates, and if you want, you could pay to upgrade your account for your resume to be moved further up the “stack” I guess. Either way, Career Builder is the BEST job site I’ve ever used, and I’ve been a full-time job seeker for months now! As always, this is not an obligatory message, I’m just passing on some useful info, which is, try it out…it’s worth your time!

DIY: Print-and-Fold iPhone and iPod touch Dock

Design site Dessine moi un objet (Google translates that to “Draw me something”) has shared an impressively attractive and simple iPhone and iPod touch dock. Oh yeah, and they’ve included an excellent printable template. The stand works as both a dock and a regular stand (say for when you want to lay your device on its side and enjoy some video on the plane). Check out the video below for a quick walkthrough of the creation, start to finish.

The author recommends using 270 g/m cardpaper, which most of us don’t necessarily have on hand, but even some thick-ish paper could probably do the trick in a pinch. (You could even double up or triple a few layers of paper—at least until you find some good cardpaper.)

Click the picture above to print it out.

Watch the video here.

iMake Money: Surveys (CashCrate)

Rating:rank6_gold

Well, here it is, Cash Crate-this was actually my first survey “program” I guess you could call it, and I was pleasantly surprised when I found out how it worked for myself. In case you’re wondering, CashCrate is a simple, easy way for broke college students to make some extra cash while putting off studying and homework, in fact I try and take a few surveys on my phone while waiting in lines, waiting in traffic, or waiting in general.

Before you move on, please read this as it is sort of an introductory lesson and it lays out a list of things you should do first so that you can take less time and effort into completing the surveys.

General Review

I signed up with CashCrate about three months ago, and since then I’ve earned a nice chunk of change to put into my loan fund. Like many others, I discovered CashCrate by coming across a glowing review about it on someone’s blog. They talk about how easy it is and how it’s their favorite way to make money online. I’m usually pretty skeptical about these things, but curiosity got the best of me this time. I decided that the only way really find out was to sign up and try it out myself. Could it really live up to all the rosy pictures people paint about it?

The Good

It’s not a scam. You really do get paid to do things. In this case, you complete offers. Some of them are free, and some of them aren’t. For some offers, you just have to complete a form with your contact info. For others you have to sign up for a free trial and remember to cancel it before it’s over, so you don’t get charged. With a $10 minimum monthly payout, it doesn’t take much effort to get there. If you have a credit card, completing two of the free trial offers is enough to put you over $10.

The Bad

It’s boring and tedious. Unless your lifelong dream is to become a professional offer completer, you’ll probably get really bored with completing these offers. There are ways to automate some of the repetitive tasks like filling in your contact info, but you’re still filling out form after form. For most people, this gets old really fast. Also, keep in mind that you have to be responsible enough to cancel the trial offers before they are over. Otherwise, you’ll get charged a fee which will most likely end up costing you a lot more money than you’ve earned.

The Ugly

Spam. You’re giving out your contact info to companies, so obviously, they’re going to be contacting you to try to sell stuff. As if we’re not already bombarded by enough solicitors, completing these offers will inevitably result in even more. Be prepared for it by using a separate email account to complete the offers.

These are just my impressions of CashCrate so far. I feel that they’re a lot more honest than the reviews I’ve found on other sites. The offers are easy to complete, but it’s tedious. Some people may be able to handle this, but others may not. I think the only way to find out is to try it out for yourself.

The Practical

Ok, so are you ready? If so, disregard the review above…well not totally but I’ll tell you why later.

Remember the stuff we did with Firefox in the last post? Well here’s where it comes in handy.

  1. Sign up with CashCrate using the above banner, remember to use real credentials as this is how you will get paid.
  2. Once you do that, you’ll be directed to a page where you complete offers:offers
  3. For example purposes, I’ll select the exxon mobile survey (I generally shy away from surveys that require my credit card.)

exxon mobile surveysxipper1

sxipper 2

-Remember the Web of Trust Addon? Well it’ll be triggered here, just ignore it (as a general rule for CashCrate, you can go ahead and ignore WOT warnings since you don’t add personal info)

-Remember the Sxipper addon? Well here’s where it comes into play. In the second image you see the blue squares throughout the form, that shows that Sxipper has info for that field (if it’s gray then it does not). As shown in the third image, select the appropriate persona and double check the information and you’ll be clear to hit submit.

-Once you submit, do not go any further! You do not need to do anything else to get credit for the survey (not always the case though).

-Head back to cashcrate and take a look at your pending earnings

pending earnings

In general, you’ll receive an email within the hour confirming your survey and the money will no longer be pending…this is not always the case and if it stays pending, your best bet will be to try another survey.

exxon mobile survey confirmed

That’s basically it. However, in order to really rake in some good money, you’ll need to work the referral system a bit, which is not too hard. For each person you refer to CashCrate, you’ll receive 20% of your referrals’ earnings, and a $3.00 bonus for each referral who earns at least $10.

if you have any concerns, questions, or comments, feel free to leave them below

iMake Money: Surveys

For the second post in the series, I”m going straight into one of the ways to make legitimate money online…surveys. These can be a bit time consuming, and your earnings won’t be “ballin!” but you could make enough to buy those new Jordans you’ve been eyeing.

Before we delve deeper into this highly volatile opportunity, there’s a few things I need to communicate with you.

  1. I will only post sites that I have personally used and reviewed.
  2. I will post my referral link in an effort to support TFP and so as to be able to relay member emails easier.
  3. I crosscheck my reviews and opinions with several scam buster sites as well as built-in Firefox Web of Trust.
  4. If there’s any site you want reviewed and I did not cover, please, PLEASE send me an email : thefrugalpupil@gmail.com.

Before we move on, I highly recommend that you get a few things

  1. Get Firefox.
  2. Once you get Firefox, it is highly important that you also get these add-ons here.

Just about all the add-ons don’t need any input from you once you install and restart firefox, they protect your privacy. The one addon you need to customize is Sxipper, which manages your personal information. Once in Firefox, go to Tools>Addons>Sxipper>Options and create a new profile/persona  called “Surveys.” Once done, fill in the information (it would be best not to put your real information, and definitely don’t fill out very personal info such as SS or bank info)-fyi you’d want to put a real address with matching area and zip codes because most surveys check for such consistencies. Play around with it and once you’re pleased we can move on.

Once you have all these things set, just sit back and wait patiently for the next post in the “iMake Money” Series (it will be later today for all you eager beavers) as I have some last minute references to work out.

next in the series: CashCrate.

Microsoft <3's Students

One thing that frustrates me with Microsoft is that so many great projects and services take place and are available but….. NO ONE EVER HEARS ABOUT THEM!!!  Our public facing PR sometimes, okay often leaves me shaking my head. I can not count the number of times I have been talking to someone about free services and such we have that address just the challenge they may be having yet they never heard of it. I sort of hit a I AM ABOUT TO SCREAM moment today when someone asked me if Microsoft had any resources for students as this particular client has a senior at home who is heading off to college next year, just like my own son. Well the answer was/is YES! As I sent them the link and then Twitted it as well I decided to quick put together a list of some great online products and services that are free. They can be a big help whether you are a student heading off to college, a small business owner looking to establish a credible online presence, a high school student looking to dive in to the world of programming or video game design. There is so much I won’t even scratch the surface and unfortunately there is not one central location you can go to find freebies from Microsoft….. well maybe there is but that would be another best kept secret.

Best Kept Secrets From Microsoft:
  • Live@EduThe Microsoft Live@edu program provides institutions of higher education and K-12 with a set of free hosted and co-branded collaboration and communication services for students, alumni, and applicants, leading with an offer of Windows Live™ Hotmail®, a hosted e-mail service, and Office Live Workspace, an online space to collaborate on Microsoft Office documents. Although Microsoft hosts the e-mail, the institution maintains control: you continue to create, delete, and store institution e-mail addresses for your constituents—as you do today
  • Microsoft DreamsparkOther than totally cool? Glad you asked. Here’s how it works: if you’re a current university or high school student, you can download professional Microsoft developer, designer, and gaming software through DreamSpark at no charge. Yes, students get to download software at no charge. DreamSpark enables students, like you, to download and use Microsoft tools to unlock your creative potential and set you on the path to academic and career success by advancing your learning in the areas of technical design, technology, math, science, and engineering! It doesn’t matter what classes you’re taking right now, just as long as you’re a current student in a verified, accredited School and use the tools in pursuit of advancing your education in one of these areas.”
  • Microsoft Office LiveMicrosoft Office Live Workspace beta is your online place to save, access, and share documents and files. Use it to group related information for work, school, or personal projects. No downloads are required—just sign up and go.”
  • Download Office SharePoint Designer “Office SharePoint Designer 2007 provides the powerful tools you need to deliver compelling and attractive SharePoint sites and quickly build workflow-enabled applications and reporting tools on the SharePoint platform, all in an IT-managed environment.”
  • Free MCTS Vouchers for College StudentsWe know that tech savvy students like you will be driving business and technology decisions for tomorrow’s companies. Microsoft will be there with you through every step of your career with career planning, training, certification, community and certification! It’s no secret that there is a shortage of qualified IT Professionals and Developers in today’s workforce. But did you know that:
    • 55% of hiring managers consider employee certification as a criterion for hiring
    • 46% of Hiring Managers consider employee certification as a criteria for promotion
    • 43% of individuals reported salary increases as a result of Microsoft certification
  • Get Live EssentialsNow in one installation, Windows Live Essentials gives you instant messaging, e-mail, blogging, photos, and more.”

Display Outlook tasks and calendar on desktop: Desktask

DeskTask will connect to MS Outlook and display your calendar and task items on the desktop. DeskTask is freeware. It can be freely used and distributed in commercial and private environments, provided the supplied Zip file is not in any way modified and there is no charge for it other than nominal handling fees. Desktask will periodically access Outlook and refresh its displayed data according to a user-defined time period.

Features:-

· Your tasks will always be visible, saving precious time to launch or switch to Outlook.
· Just minimize every window, and see what are the items due for today or tomorrow.
· DeskTask displays the whole week so you can be prepared to organize your work.
· Besides the calendar items, the Outlook to-do list (Folder Tasks) is also displayed. If you work with Outlook, DeskTask is for you

Download Desktask Here

Requirements:-

– Windows 2000 / XP / 2003 / Vista / Seven
– Microsoft Outlook 2000 / XP / 2003 / 2007