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.

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15 Podcasts That Will Make You Smarter

One of the more underrated benefits of the internet era has been access to quality radio style programming at any time of the day or night. Just like DVRs have freed us from having to adhere to rigid television program schedules, podcasting has enabled us to carry excellent radio with us for listening at any time. I struggle with not having enough hours in the day to listen to it all, because there is truly so much quality out there. Here are 15 podcasts in particular that will make you a smarter, more well rounded, and better informed person. Enjoy, and please leave your comments!

15. EconTalk

Econ-Talk

Duration: Roughly an hour

Hosted by professor Russel Roberts, EconTalk is the number one podcast for economics. With “clear and thoughtful conversations about economics”, the show brings the theory behind economics to situations and subjects that a wide variety of people can relate to. The show is usually a one on one discussion between Roberts and another guest.

Check out EconTalk HERE.

14. The Naked Scientists

The-Naked-Scientists

Duration: 60 mins

The Naked Scientists is an interactive podcast covering topical science news stories as well as answering audience questions. The show has featured several distinguished guests such as Alec Jeffreys (the discoverer of DNA fingerprints) and James D. Watson (the co-discoverer of DNA structure). The Naked Scientists have won several awards during their run, including the European Podcast Award.

Check out The Naked Scientists HERE.

13. Common Sense with Dan Carlin

Common-Sense-Dan-Carlin

Duration: Roughly 1 Hour

Dan Carlin is one of those people that has the amazing ability to present all side of an argument but remain non-partisan while doing so. Common Sense takes no prisoners, making all aspects of government and politics fair game for Carlin’s quick witted criticism. Known lovingly as “George Costanza on steroids”, Carlin’s podcast will keep you on your toes and your brain in shape!

Check out Common Sense with Dan Carlin HERE.

12. The Writer’s Block

The-Writers-Block

Duration: 30 Mins

This weekly reading series is targeted mainly at 25-40 year olds, appealing to young, intelligent, edgy listeners. Distributed through NPR, The Writer’s Block features stories, essays and poetry by all kinds of authors, and all kinds of genres, from non-fiction to plays!

Check out The Writer’s Block HERE.

11. The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe

The-Skeptics-Guide-To-The-Universe

Duration: 60 Mins

The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe is a podcast hosted by Steven Novella and his panel of “skeptical rogues”. The podcast discusses myths, conspiracy theories, pseudoscience and paranormal discoveries with a certain level of disbelief and, well, skepticism. Novella and his colleagues have been instrumental in debating with anti-vaccine activists, “homeopathy practitioners” and those who debate the connection between HIV and AIDS.

Check out The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe HERE.

10. Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!

Wait-wait-dont-tell-me

Duration: 60 Mins

This hour long “quiz game show” is hosted by playwright and actor, Peter Sagal. Every week, three panelists are chosen to compete on the show. Listeners are also encouraged to participate by phone or email, sometimes being chosen as contestants themselves. Prizes for winning often include Carl Kasell recording voicemail on contestants home machines!

Check out Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! HERE.

9. The Sound of Young America

the-sound-of-young-america

Duration: 30 Mins

Based in Los Angeles, The Sound of Young America is hosted by Jesse Thorn, who spends segments interviewing popular arts and cultural personalities. Guests have included Art Spiegelman, David Cross, Patton Oswalt and even Ira Glass. The Sound of Young America got it’s start as a college station back in 2000 and made the jump to podcast form in 2004. The show has been mentioned in TIME Magazine and Salon.com, who said, “If you’ve never heard of The Sound of Young America, The Sound of Young America is the greatest radio show you’ve never heard of”. Well, now you don’t have an excuse, you’ve heard of it, now you just have to listen to it!

Check out The Sound of Young America HERE.

8. Keith and The Girl Comedy Talk Show

Keith-and-the-girl

Duration: Roughly an Hour

Keith and the Girl is one of the most popular comedy podcasts to hit the airwaves in the past 5 years. Hosted by couple Keith Malley and his singer girlfriend Chemda Khalili, the show features the pair discussing the daily adventures of their lives as well as current events. The show has over 50,000 listeners and has been ranked in the Top Ten Podcasts by Podcast Alley.

Check out Keith and The Girl HERE.

7. NewsPod

Newspod

Duration: 35 Mins

This daily program presents highlights from other BBC news programs, including BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 5, BBC Asian Network and many more. NewsPod brings the quickest news updates with a wide variety of topics and informed speakers.

Check out NewsPod HERE.

6. All in the Mind

All-in-the-mind

Duration: 30 Mins

All in the Mind host Natasha Mitchell presents one of the most unique podcasts, delving deeply into the human mind, brain and behavior. Topics include depression, addiction, consciousness and free will. This podcast brings educated, although unexpected, voices and themes to challenge the listener to take a closer look at the mind.

Check out All in the Mind HERE.

5. Material World

Material-World

Duration: Roughly an hour

Each week on Material World, scientists discuss and describe their work and projects. The program is split into two sections, spending 15 minutes on each topic, and interviewing scientists and engineers. Although this is one of the most scientifically informative podcasts, it’s only downfall lies in the abundance of cheesy science jokes and puns.

Check out Material World HERE.

4. The Dave Ramsey Show Podcast

Dave-Ramsey-Show

Duration: 3 Hours

The Dave Ramsey Show is a self-syndicated program that takes live calls regarding personal finance. Ramsey offers step by step guidance to listeners experiencing financial difficulties. The defining factor between Ramsey’s show, and other financial podcasts, is Ramsey’s willingness to take more than just the mathematical/statistical aspects into account. Ramsey relates to his audience through a spiritual and emotional connection, making him more like a friend or mentor than just a financial adviser. There are many roads to financial security and stability, but listening to Ramsey’s common sense proclamations is a great motivation for keeping on track to anyone who struggled with debt or their finances.

Check out The Dave Ramsey Show HERE

3. TED Talks

ted-talks-ideas-worth-spreading

Duration: Varies

TED talks is one of those rare shows that spans a large quantity of topics, without sacrificing the quality of discussion. This series of lectures features some of the best concepts (”ideas worth spreading”) as well as amazing speakers. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Jane Goodall, Al Gore and Bill Gates have all been noted speakers. By April of 2009, the talks had been heard over 100 Million times by over 15 million people.

Check out TED Talks HERE.

2. NPR Intelligence Squared

NPR-Intelligence-Squared-US

Duration: 60 mins

This NPR podcast brings an “Oxford-style debating to America”, your basic motion, one moderator and 3 on 3 debating. NPR markets this podcast toward a wide range of people, it’s discussions including American religions, Hollywood, and even terrorist organizations. The topics are timed with world events, but this podcast tends to shine a light on events you might not be hearing about on the nightly news.

Check out NPR Intelligence Squared HERE.

1. This American Life

This-American-Life

Duration: 60 Minutes

This hour long program, hosted by Ira Glass, is a journalistic non-fiction program, featuring essays, memoirs, short fiction and much more. The show, which first aired on the radio in 1995, is one of the most listened podcasts of our generation. The show’s incredible value was recently on display when it tackled the housing crisis and economic collapse with two episodes entitled “The Giant Pool of Money” and “The Giant Pool of Money Part 2″. TAL excels at taking the esoteric and making them understandable – relatable even – to the average Joe. Each week’s episode tackles one issue or topic in a variety of ways, ensuring that you will come away each week with a deeper understanding of the world.

Check out This American Life HERE.

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.

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.