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Off to College….

It’s that time of year when students all across the land are getting ready to go to college or university, some for the first time.

Almost every student will have a PC or Laptop for college work and if my memory serves me right, many of them will be running pirate software downloaded from the internet. Using pirate software is obviously not only illegal, but also has many risks. Will the software be stable after the pirates have hacked it to run? Have the pirates added any extra surprises to the software in the form of viruses, malware or backdoors? Is it really worth the hassle and trouble when many applications can be got for low prices or in some cases free?

One of the most pirated pieces of software out there is Microsoft Office. Microsoft Office Home and Student can be purchased for about €100. Alternatively, you can download Open Office for free. Open Office will happily read and write Word, Excel and Powerpoint files.

Next on the list of pirated applications are the range of Autodesk products. If you are a student, there is no need to run pirated versions of these applications. AutoCAD, Revit, 3ds Max, Inventor and many many more are all available for free download if you are eligble to join the Autodesk Education Community. If for some reason you find that you are not eligible to join the community, take a look at Draftsight, a fantastic free alternative to AutoCAD, it reads and writes DWG files natively.

Photoshop is a fantastic application. Like AutoCAD above, as it is expensive, pirate versions are quite common. As an alternative, why not check out GIMP. OK, I’ll be the first to admit that it has a slightly strange name, but GIMP actually stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is an excellent package that offers many of the same functions that Photoshop offers, but unlike Photoshop, it is free.

Something many students forget about is AntiVirus software. It seems that ll laptops come with some form of AntiVirus software pre-installed these days, but given the choice between paying €30 to renew the licence or spending that €30 on a night out, I think most students will choose the night out. Not to worry though, pop over to Microsoft and download Microsoft Security Essentials for free. No need to pay for updates or renewals any more.

Finally, we all know the benefits of USB Keys, massive storage capacity that we can carry around and use whenever we need them. We also know that they can be lost rather easily, generally the night before a project has to be submitted… If you need somewhere to securely back up your college work, take a look at a service like Dropbox or Box.net where you can get several Gigabytes of secure online storage for free.

AutoCAD, Draftsight, Open Office and GIMP are all available on both PC and Mac. Draftsight, Open Office and GIMP are also available on Linux.