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Thursday, 8 April 2010

The Free CD for Windows

Yesterday, I gave a talk about FOSS and music. I handed out modified copies of the Fossbox Free CD for windows. Here is the readme file that came with the CDs, along with links for where to download the software. For an additional resource, you should also check out Open Source Windows

Welcome to the Fossbox Free CD

The free CD gives you a taster of the free software options available for Windows. In this document, you'll find a brief description of the software and links to instructions for installing it. You can find free tutorials and books to help you get the best from the software on the Fossbox website.

Note that if you would like to buy Microsoft Office products, registered charities can buy discounted MS software from Charity Technology Exchange (CTX). Please note, this is available only to registered charities.

Anti-virus software and security

ClamWin is a free anti-virus programme. Download it here. This is free to any kind of user and it's a small application which won't slow your older PC down too much. It automatically scans email attachments in Outlook but not Thunderbird and it doesn't scan files on your hard-drive unless you do this manually.

If you want automatic scanning, there are several commercial anti-virus products on the market which are free for private individuals but not for registered charities or non-profits. You will need to register and pay on their site to use them if you are anything other than an individual home user. They're not included on the CD for copyright reasons.

Avira is one of the smallest (that is, it doesn't slow your PC much) and you can download Avira's free version for home use here. If you're an organisation, they offer discounts for non-profits so it's worth emailing them and asking for a discount.

Kaspersky Anti-Virus (KAV) is very highly rated for security (but it has no free version). Kaspersky offers a free one-off scan here or you can download a trial version or buy KAV here

There is already a simple firewall included with XP which will help protect your PC from invasion via the internet. If you are using a USB modem you might want something stronger. Zonealarm has a free version of their very effective firewall for non-commercial use (which includes all non-profits).

Is your PC really crawling along? When you are browsing with XP's own browser you will usually find that the browser gets slower and slower over time. This is because some corporations attach little bits of software to your browser to track you around the web. You can reduce this problem by using Firefox instead (see 'Browsing the internet' section below). You can 'clean' your browser by using a simple programme called Ad-aware. This can't be included on the CD for copyright reasons but you can download the free version of Adaware here. Adaware's makers, Lavasoft, also offer discounts to non-profits on their security software.

Office and project software

Open Office is a free alternative to MS Office. It's very similar and most people are able to get started and carry on as usual without any special training to use it. T has a word processor, a spreadsheet, presentation and data-base with wizards. Download it here. There is a checkbox on the download page that you should leave checked. To get you started using Open Office you'll find tutorials here and some flash tutorials here.

Foxit is a free viewer for .pdf files which is very light and won't slow your PC down. Foxit is copyrighted but you can download it here. This software will allow you to read pdf files and fill in interactive pdf forms. You can get tech support at their site.

Scribus is a free Desktop Publisher. Download it here. You'll find free Scribus video tutorials here

Open Workbench is a free project management application. Download it here. Open Workbench's community support is here


Thunderbird is a free email programme. Download it here. To get started using Thunderbird you will find illustrated tutorials here.

If you would like a calendar, this can be added to Thunderbird. Follow these illustrated instructions to add a calendar.

You will find Microsoft Outlook Express pre-installed with XP. This is a simple and basic email programme but is prone to viruses. Thunderbird is simple and has more features.

Browsing the internet

Windows XP has a web browser called Internet Explorer. You open it by clicking on the blue 'e' .icon on your desktop.

There's an alternative browser called Firefox. Firefox does not pick up as much 'malware' as you browse the internet and has stronger privacy and security controls. Download it here. You can also find illustrated instructions for installing Firefox here.

Website editor

To help you make simple websites, Kompozer is a visual HTML editor with formatting buttons. Download it here. You'll find free Kompozer tutorials here

These tutorials are for a previous version of Kompozer called NVU but Kompozer is almost identical so you should be able to get started:

To upload website files to the internet, you need an FTP client so check out Filezilla. Download it here. Your ISP will be able to give you the login information you need to set it up – ask the people you rent your website space from.


There are three graphics programmes included on the CD.

If you want to do serious photo-editing, you need the GIMP, a fully-featured graphics programme. Download it here. Free GIMP tutorials here

Inkscape is vector drawing software. Download it here. You'll find tutorials for Inkscape here

Paint.NET is another image editor. Download it here.

Note that Open Office also has a vector drawing application.


Multi-media player

VLC is a light and versatile alternative to Windows Media Player. Download it here.

Ripping DVDs

HandBrake is a DVD ripper. Download it here.

Video Editing

VirtualDub is a crude cut-and-paste video editor that takes interesting and unusual custom plug-ins. Download it here.

Processing is an open source programming language environment for people who want to program images, animation and interactions. Download it here./P>

Making CDs

If you have a CD ROM capable of burning disks, CDBurnerXP is free CD burning software which will create data, audio or disk image (ISO) CDs. Download it here. It's called CDBurnerXP but it works fine with Vista.



Audacity is a light-weight sound editor. There is a stable version and a beta version. The beta has more and better features, but you will need to save early and often. If that worries you, get the stable version instead. Download either version here.


Pd is a real-time graphical dataflow programming environment for audio, video and graphical processing. It is especially useful for rapid prototyping and can be used to write reactive music or the iPhone via the RjDj app. Download it here. If you want to write for iPhone, pick the vanilla version. Otherwise, get the extended version.

SuperCollider is an environment and programming language for real time audio synthesis and algorithmic composition. It has a bit of a learning curve, however, it is extremely powerful and useful. Download it here.



GNUCash is simple and basic accounting software designed for home and small-business use. Download it here and Free tutorials for GNUCash here


Turbocash is a professional accounting system including debtors, creditors, general ledger, full stock control, VAT accounting, invoicing, bank reconciliation, trial balance, balance sheet and income statements, full reporting and analysis, as well as mutli-company and multi-user capabilities.

Download it here. TurboCash is, apparently, easy to learn if you're an experienced bookkeeper or accountant but it's definitely not for beginners. If you're inexperienced use GNUCash.

Portable Apps

Potable apps is a great idea – if you move around a lot and use different PCs you've probably experienced the frustration that your bookmarks and emails etc aren't with you. If you have a USB stick or external HD you can install the Portable Apps Suite with a couple of clicks.

Portable apps puts a little icon in your system tray (down at the bottom-right on XP) and when you click on it a menu pops up allowing you to choose Firefox, Thunderbird and many other familiar free software applications.

This means you always have your bookmarks and your familiar software and when you use portable apps on someone else's PC it leaves no trace on their computer of your session – which is great for your privacy and you don't leave a mess behind you.

Download it here. Pick the "Suite Standard" if your USB stick is one gigabyte or bigger. Otherwise, pick the "Suite Light." Once you've downloaded it, To install portable apps, insert your USB stick or HD and make sure it has at least 200 MB of space free. Run the .exe program that you just downloaded. Make sure you install it to the root of the USB device (that is, not inside another folder). If you're not sure, there's a video tutorial here

Try Ubuntu without disturbing Windows

Wubi installs the Ubuntu operating system so that it runs like any other bit of software within Windows without messing up your Windows system in any way. If you decide you don't want it, you can also uninstall it from 'Add and Remove Programs' in the Windows Conrol Panel. Download it here.

There are step-by-step illustrated instructions on using the Wubi installer here and there's a video tutorial on YouTube which takes you through installing and using Ubuntu with Wubi here

There are instructions for installing and uninstalling Wubi here

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