Frugal Living Using Free Software

We all know the saying, “You get what you pay for,” when it comes to making any purchase large or small. The idea behind the saying dictates that the more we spend the better the quality, service or experience we’ll have. But this isn’t always the case and certainly not a rule. For I have discovered many, many years ago a great product that is simply amazing, awesome if you will, reliable and best of all… free! What could I have possibly discovered so long ago that is so great and costs nothing? I’ll give you a hint… I’m using it right now as I type this article: Linux and the entire open source movement.

 

What is Linux you might be asking for those non-techies out there. Quite simply, an operating system for your computer or other device that runs all your programs. Think of it as a free version of Microsoft Windows. As I type this article, I am using a relatively old laptop running Lubuntu (a light version of Linux) and using LibreOffice (an Office suite similar to Microsoft Office). OpenOffice is another great Office suite that includes popular word processing and spreadsheet programs. In other words, why pay for an expensive software bundle when you can use a free and perfectly capable alternative? Let me give some personal background.

 

When I started my first online business back in 1998, we had, as most start-ups do, a very small budget. We could not afford the expensive Windows NT (and later Windows 2000) operating system for our servers. The thousands of dollars it would have cost us to implement such software would have made it almost impossible to start, let alone stay in business. So we opted for a free version of Linux called RedHat. It was perfect. Free, reliable and open source. RedHat is also one of the few Linux based companies that are public.

 

Bottom line, I am here to tell you that as consumers you have many great choices for selecting a free, capable operating system for you computer. You can really save a lot of money because the Linux operating systems are very lightweight (think less lines of code) and thus can be run on older machines. I bought my very capable used laptop on Ebay for $276, installed Lubuntu on it and have been super happy ever since. No need to spend extra dollars for Windows licenses and software suites nor an expensive high end computer with all the bells and whistles.

 

If you are considering switching to a free Linux based operating system for your computer I might suggest the following, LinuxMint (best for newbies), Ubuntu and Lubuntu (super lightweight without all the frills).

 

When using these operating systems realize that 1) You’ll be able to use your computer longer since the operating system is so lightweight your hardware won’t strain under the bloat of extra lines of code 2) It’s safer, as almost all viruses out there are designed to and infect only Windows based machines, 3) You will have access to thousands and thousands of free software, from graphic design, to word processing, to spreadsheets, to common programs like Skype etc. See most software companies create a Linux version of their software so you really won’t be missing anything by switching to Linux except paying money for these things.

 

Let me give you one other real world example of a Linux switch. My father, several months ago, basically trashed his older Windows 7 laptop. Some virus took hold and rendered his laptop useless. He asked me to shop with him for a new laptop as he felt his was already getting too old and was basically useless since getting infected. I had suggested to him a switch to Linux. He gave me a quizzical look and thought it wasn’t for him. Nevertheless, I convinced him to give it a try since there was nothing to lose. So began my quest to find a user friendly version of Linux that “even my dad could use.” And so, I settled on LinuxMint as mentioned earlier and he has been using it ever since. I just saved him the cost of a new laptop and extended the life of his current one. Saving money… you have to love it.

 

See for me, frugal living entails many facets and one of those facets is not having to pay for expensive operating systems or software. We usually hear how people save money with regard to many other items but rarely do we hear about the cost saving grace of Linux.

 

What are your thoughts about switching over to Linux for your home computer?

13 thoughts on “Frugal Living Using Free Software

  1. Hi DivHut,

    While I agree that switching to Linux is a potential cost saving, I do not think it is for everyone. I consider myself to be quite tech savvy (working as a technical forensic analyst, it would be sad if I wasn’t), but still I find myself fighting at times with basically any of the linux distributions. While I haven’t used the latest release of Ubuntu, nor the Linux Mint distro you mentioned, in the past it has always been a challenge for me just to get all my peripherals working properly. In the end I kept on spending more time troubleshooting than I was willing to in my free time. And of course there is always the challenge of getting all the software you want. I am a enthusiastic amateur photographer and for that make use of the defacto standard for photo development: Adobe Lightroom. This is one of the programs I can’t live without and is not available for Linux.

    As such I bought a small MacBook 4 years ago, and it is still working like a charm. The advantages here are that 1) MacOs is free as well now 2) the full aluminium bodies are sturdy, I expect mine to keep on running for the foreseeable future. 3) Even if I was to sell my notebook right now, after four years of use it still, it still has quite some value. 4) When comparing to Windows Machine the chances of getting viruses is much smaller.

    So yes I think that Linux can be a potential cost saving, just not for everyone.

    Best,

    DW

    • Hi DW,

      You do make some great points and I agree that Linux is not ready for prime time for some people, but I have to say that for most people who blog, check email, stock quotes, bank, Facebook, Netflix, etc., in other words, for general everyday basic computing Linux and specifically LinuxMint is an excellent alternative. Obviously, if you need some specialized software such as what you use it may not be a great option but for what 99% of the people out there do with their computers Linux is a definite real alternative. Thanks for commenting.

  2. For me there is not enough value (cost savings) added by spending the time to learn a new more limited operating system. Best of luck to anyone that wants to make the change though.

    • Hi Turtlevestor,

      I would definitely agree with you if this was 5 – 10 years ago but Linux today, in terms of user-friendliness and ability is really something that can rival any Windows or MacOS. The point of my article was to inform people of possible alternatives to the Windows/Mac duopoly. LinuxMint is a very good alternative for newbies and if my dad can work with it I’m sure a lot of other people can as well. As I replied to DW, for what most people do, which is email, news, banking, Facebook, blogging, etc., any flavor of Linux is more than capable of handling those tasks. Personally, I am using Lubuntu which is my preference for a nice graphic and very light OS. Thank you for your comment.

  3. I’ve experimented using Ubuntu before, and actually had my laptop dual booting with Windows 7/Unbuntu at one point just to try and learn a new operating system. It’s a lot more user friendly than I expected it to be, and anything that I wasn’t able to solve was a quick Google away.

    The one thing that kept me away from fully switching was because I do enjoy computer games, and the Linux support was/is still lacking. Steam is trying to change that but we will see. I think the problem is that Windows is so entrenched in offices and homes it always seems like Linux is going to gain some momentum but never does, people would rather pay for a new license instead of the training.

    I am lucky that my school provides an MSDN account, so I haven’t had to pay for Windows!

    • Hi DH,

      Well, you might have a point with the games factor. But for most people who use their computers for email, FB, Twitter, blogging, weather, banking, you know, the everyday stuff, Linux alternatives are really great. I personally love LinuxMint for total newbies as I found it easier for my dad to use than Ubuntu. As mentioned, I prefer the lighter Lubuntu instead. Still, it’s good to know that there are alternatives to the Win/Mac duopoly. Thanks for commenting.

  4. 100% Linux for 13 years, and have been using it since 1995. I even ran two photography businesses all on Linux; for the backend imaging processing servers, frontend viewing stations while in the field, workstations, imaging editing, order submission, billing, tracking, etc.

    The end user applications out there today are quite fantastic and very well integrated, and the upgrade process is quite painless. I even have 15 laptops, picked up on eBay for $50 each, all running Linux for my dart league that I operate. No way that would work with Windows, the cost would be too much, and with these being 8 year old computers, having a more efficient OS is the perfect thing.

    • Hi Brian,

      I love hearing about other Linux users. I have been using RedHat since 1998 for our servers at one of my previous start ups and never looked back. To be honest, from a server standpoint Linux is second to none when you look at how robust the OS is versus cost. To be honest, I have been a dual boot workstation guy for many years thereafter but made the 100% Linux switch a little over a year ago and haven’t looked back either. Like you I bought a used laptop on eBay and slapped on Lubuntu which is what I am using now as I type. I love the lightness of Lubuntu and it allows older hardware to be usable for many, many years. Plus, Libre Office and Open Office are pretty sweet and free! I’m not sure why more people don’t make the switch and leave expensive Apple or bloated Windows. As mentioned, I even put my 67 year old father on LinuxMint and he’s using it without any problems. Linux distributions have come a long, long way in the last 10 years and are more user friendly than ever. Happy to hear you are a happy Linux user. By the way, what distribution do you use?

        • Hi DH,

          Wow! Happy to hear of another Linux user out there. We started with Red Hat back in 1998 for our servers and haven’t looked back. I used a dual boot at home for several years after that using Red Hat and Win XP. Finally, I made the switch to Lubuntu and have been 100% on Linux at home too. Thanks for sharing your Linux experience.

  5. I used redhat on my first year of college writing programs. But after that, it is a blur to me. Apple products start crashing more and more. My ipad crashes every day at lease 10 times. I’m not buying another apple product unless they cut the slowness crap after you update to a new ios version. Which is now I’m refusing to update to the new ios version. There are tons of virus that specializing apple products.

    Other competitors are either catching up or better, therefore in a couple years, it’s just like window, crashing all the time, buggy, and everybody already own a piece.
    Vivianne recently posted…How to Control Lifestyle Inflation Without Feeling Deprived?My Profile

    • Hi Vivianne,

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with Linux and RedHat. It’s not often you meet other people who currently use or have used Linux in the past. I guess anyone that uses a Linux operating system can be considered a person that does not follow the trends or at the very least the Apple or Microsoft hype. I love using Lubuntu as a free and stable operating system with Open Office or Libre Office as my free productivity suite. For the money ($0), stability and relative security you cannot beat Linux and open source products. I appreciate your comment.

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