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.

Rumor: Apple To Switch On Sleeping FM Radio in iPhone, iPod Touch

I found this a bit interesting, being a bit of an Apple fan myself but rumor site 9to5Mac reports that Apple is on the cusp of releasing an FM radio application for the iPhone and iPod Touch. And get this: it will be for the current models, not for some new hardware revision. According to the rumor, Apple will awaken the slumbering FM transceiver already dormant within the devices, currently only used to talk to the Nike+ widget.

This speculation seems to fit in with Apple’s switching on of the Bluetooth functionality inside the second-gen iPod Touch with the 3.0 software update, but the rumor then gets a little weird:

The holdup on this app is that Apple is trying to integrate the Mobile iTunes Store purchases into the functionality of the program.

Yes. Apple, which has already managed to put tune-tagging into the iPod Nano, is apparently having trouble doing it with the way-more-powerful iPhone platform. This sounds like nonsense, but it doesn’t mean we won’t see a radio app. What great news. Now there will be, along with the stocks application, yet another app that I will never use yet cannot remove from my iPod.

In-house Radio.app in the works for iPhone and iPod touch [9to5Mac]

Image credit: 9to5Mac

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

10 FREE Online Services: Free E-mail, File Storage, and File Sharing for Students on a Budget

If you’re a college student on a pretty tight budget, you’ve probably already mastered the gourmet Ramen-noodle dinner and the art of interior decorating with crate-box and garage-sale furniture.

But while you’re limiting how much your offline lifestyle eats into your budget, make sure you’re not spending your precious food or rent dollars on online services like e-mail, file storage, or file sharing. You can get every single one of these services for free, with features comparable to or even better than the paid versions.

With all these free options, you should be able to satisfy your online communication and file sharing needs without ever dipping into your wallet. Heck, with the money you’ll save, you might even be able to upgrade to macaroni and cheese.

Top 5 Free E-mail Services

Sure, free e-mail has been available for years, but not with the kind of storage, features, and security you can get these days.

Every one of these five major e-mail providers offers really decent basic service that won’t cost you a single penny. Some of them also feature POP3 or IMAP capability (or both) so you can access and organize your webmail using your favorite desktop e-mail application, like Outlook or Mail.

1.  Gmail

Google’s webmail service, this is probably the best free e-mail out there. It’s super-easy to use, offers good technical support, and comes with great features, awesome spam control, tons of inbox space, and a lot of extras.

  • Inbox Storage: Virtually unlimited (6+ GB and growing every day)
  • File Attachment Max Size: 10 MB
  • POP3/IMAP: Both
  • Extras: Calendar, mobile access, built-in IM/chat with Google Talk, message notifier, language support, no pop-ups or banner ads

2.  AOL Mail

Long the butt of jokes for mass-mailing CDs offering their online service, AOL actually offers pretty decent free e-mail, with super spam protection. But beware: Customer support can be difficult to contact.

  • Inbox Storage: Unlimited
  • File Attachment Max Size: 16 MB
  • POP3/IMAP: Both
  • Extras: Calendar, notes, mobile access, built-in IM/chat with AIM, integrated text messaging, message notifier, language support, personalized domain, games

3.  Yahoo! Mail

A great user interface and e-mail organization make this a strong choice, but no POP3 or IMAP access will be a problem if you want to use your own e-mail application instead of your Web browser.

  • Inbox Storage: Unlimited
  • File Attachment Max Size: 10 MB
  • POP3/IMAP: None
  • Extras: Calendar, news, notes, mobile access, built-in IM/chat with Yahoo! Messenger, integrated text messaging, message notifier, games

4.  Inbox.com

Inbox.com has some pretty standard features, but lacks a phishing filter, which might bother some people.

  • Inbox Storage: 5 GB, or 2 GB if you want POP3 Access
  • File Attachment Max Size: 20 MB
  • POP3/IMAP: POP3
  • Extras: Calendar, news, notes, message notifier, 5GB online data storage, photo sharing, games, e-cards

5.  Windows Live Hotmail

Microsoft’s new-and-improved free webmail (formerly MSN Hotmail) provides some nice integration with your operating system, especially if you’re running Windows Vista. This is a distinct improvement over the old Hotmail.

  • Inbox Storage: 5 GB
  • File Attachment Max Size: 10 MB
  • POP3/IMAP: None
  • Extras: Calendar, mobile access, built-in IM/chat with Windows Live Messenger, message notifier, games

Top 5 Free Online File Storage and Sharing Services

Instead of eating up your hard drive space, you can store some of your bigger files, like videos and MP3s, online with one of these five providers.

Some of these services come with unique interfaces to share specific things, like photos, and even to host videos, websites, blogs, and other stuff. But you’ll need to be running Windows to get all the benefits each provider has to offer — sorry, Mac-heads.

1.  MediaMax

Huge storage, plus lots of extras.

  • Online Storage: 25 GB
  • Extras: Sharing, hosting, backup and sync, browser access, Windows desktop software

2.  Xdrive

Provided by AOL. Small storage, but lots of extras.

  • Online Storage: 5 GB
  • Extras: Sharing, backup, browser access, Windows desktop software

3.  ripway

Lots of storage and good features, including lots of hosting options.

  • Online Storage: 30 GB
  • Extras: Sharing, hosting, backup and sync, browser access

4.  box

Limited storage, but neat extras and awesome Web 2.0 interface.

  • Online Storage: 1 GB
  • Extras: Sharing, browser access, mobile access, desktop widget

5.  OmniDrive

Limited storage, but smooth integration with Windows and the ability to edit spreadsheets and word processing docs.

  • Online Storage: 1 GB
  • Extras: Sharing, backup, browser access, Windows and Mac desktop software, integration with Windows OS and with Zoho office applications

Recover Your Stolen Notebook with Prey

Prey is a free and easy to use application that will help you track and find your laptop if it ever gets stolen. Prey works in all operating systems and not only is it Open Source but also completely free.

Recover what is rightfully yours
Prey helps you locate your missing laptop by sending timed reports with a bunch of information of its whereabouts. This includes the general status of the computer, a list of running programs and active connections, fully-detailed network and wifi information, a screenshot of the running desktop and — in case your laptop has an integrated webcam — a picture of the thief.

Silent but deadly
Prey uses a remote activation system which means the program sits silently in your computer until you actually want it to run. If so, it gathers all the information and sends it to your Prey web control panel or directly to your mailbox. The thief will never know his movements are being watched.

And because there’s always hope
You may be thinking “but what’s the point of this program if the guy will probably just format the thing right away?” and you’re completely right. However, experience shows that thieves tend to look in stolen computers for valuable information, so there’s actually a chance you can catch the guy (and there’s even some succesful cases!).

Besides, if by using Prey you can keep alive a tiny bit of hope that you’ll recover your computer, isn’t it already worth it?

Features:

Wifi autoconnect:
· Prey checks if there’s an active internet connection to send the information. If not, it will attempt to connect to the nearest open wifi access point available. This gives you a better chance to locate the device.

Geo-location aware:
· Prey uses wifi hotspots to locate devices geographically. This not only includes lat/lng coordinates, but also an altitude indicator — yes, that means you can also know (aprox.) in which floor the computer is.

Lightweight:
· Yes, this is a feature. Prey is written in bash which means it has virtually no dependencies, only what it different modules need to work. This also means Prey is portable and should run in just about any computer.

Modular arquitecture:
· You can add, remove and configure the different parts of Prey as you wish. Prey is composed by modules, each one performing a specific task, so you can have it as you like.

Powerful report system:
· Get the list of current running programs, the recently modified files, active connections, running uptime, take a screenshot of the running desktop or even a picture of the guy who’s using the computer.

Messaging/alert system:
· You can alert the user he’s being chased at by sending messages which’ll appear on screen. You can also trigger alarms to make the message clear not only to him but also to whomever is nearby. Be careful with this one!

Module auto-installer:
· You don’t have to reinstall Prey to keep up with the latest and greatest modules. We keep a repository from where Prey will fetch what it needs to get the job done.

Download Prey Here