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2004 - 11
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Open source

Free / Open Source Software (OSS) support

Spinner Software supports the Open Source Software movement, and we are currently implementing support for some of the free alternatives to Microsoft solutions. We've taken a look at what's available, and we'll build in support for the one we think is the best free alternative in each category.

Recommended software

Microsoft or commercial package: Open Source / free equivalent. Click on the link to see our review and the reason for choosing it.

Microsoft Internet Explorer: Mozilla Firefox v0.8/0.9

Microsoft Outlook: Mozilla Thunderbird v0.6/0.7

Microsoft Office: Open Office v1.1.1

Microsoft Access/SQL Server: MySQL

Microsoft IIS (not recommended): Apache (world standard)

Microsoft MSN Messenger or AOL IM: Trillian

Microsoft Windows Media Player: CoolPlayer

We also highly recommend installing the following software for ANY Microsoft Windows system:

ZoneAlarm firewall (free)

Lavasoft AdAware 6.0 build 181 (free for personal use)

SpyBot Search and Destroy v1.2 (free)

Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer (free)

GriSoft AVG Antivirus 6.0 (free for personal use)

In our view, if you have a (secured) Windows 2000 system, there is no urgent need to switch to Linux. Just install and use the free alternatives listed on this page, and you Windows 2000 should be running smoothly. If you are on Windows 9x, ME, or NT 4 : switch to Windows 2000 or Linux. If you are on XP, please install XP SP2 the moment it arrives, or go back to Windows 2000.

Mozilla Firefox web browser

This is the best web-browser currently available, and beats IE by a wide margin. Built-in Google toolbar, keyword support for your favorites, fast loading, nice user interface, and a built-in popup, ad and javascript stopper. You also avoid the security risks involved when using IE. This is the recommended web browser on all platforms (Windows, Linux, Mac).


Download from:->Mozilla download page

Mozilla ThunderBird email client

Although Outlook still has advantages in corporate environments, Thunderbird is quickly becoming the preferred email client for home users. Features everything you need for your emails, with built-in junk/spam email filters, html, script and image blocking. The hardest part of converting is the lack of outlook-compatible keyboard shortcuts (and some generic ones), so you have to learn new ones (or use WinMapper :-).


Download from:->Mozilla download page

To match Outlook, you need to download two extensions: one for a calendar, and one for the Notes (or Tasks if you prefer). There are plenty more, but with these you don't miss any Outlook functionality.

Website:->Mozilla projects

Download from:->Mozilla Calendar extension

Open Office v1.1.1 office suite

This is the latest version of Open Office, and is a complete office suite. Unless you require Microsoft Office macros, you can switch to OpenOffice easily. It looks like MS Office, and you have the same basic tools (word = text document, excel = spreadsheet, powerpoint = presentation, frontpage = HTML document, image editor = drawing). It also supports a wide variety of file formats, including Microsoft Office and Star Office.


Download from:->download.openoffice.org

MySQL database

Instead of using Microsoft Access, you can use MySQL. This is the open source equivalent, and although it lacks some more advanced features that SQL Server or Access has, you probably don't need them anyway.


Download from:->dev.mysql.com/downloads/


For webservers, Apache is the standard. If you are using ASP and ActiveX, start redesigning your site asap. You can use Perl or PHP instead of ASP, both are free and lots of sources and examples are available on the net. Both have easy access to XML and MySQL libraries.


Download from:->httpd.apache.org

Trillian Messenger

Trillian is a free alternative to MSN Messenger, and supports accounts on all the major chat networks (MSN, AOL, ICQ, etc).


Download from:->ceruleanstudios.com/downloads/


CoolPlayer is a free and open source media player which supports most formats (the ones you need anyway :), and have a variety of skins (user interface designs) available.


Download from:->coolplayer.sourceforge.net/?download


ZoneAlarm is a free firewall, which means it is the gatekeeper between your PC and the network. If you do not have a firewall, you are pushing your luck. There are numerous worms on the internet that will attempt to connect to your PC using known faults in the Microsoft Windows operating system. ZoneAlarm is free, and will practically guarantee your safety while connected.


Download from:->Zonelabs

AdAware 6.0

Lavasoft provides AdAware 6 for free for personal use. This software will scan your computer for a variety of malicious programs and settings. You can either run it on a schedule, or have it run every time you boot your PC. It will remove most known spyware, tracking cookies, and all the other stuff you get infected with when using Internet Explorer.


Download from:->lavasoftusa.com

Spybot Search and Destroy

Spybot Search and Destroy scans your computer for malicious programs and settings, and also has a neat option to make you immune to most of the standard attacks on your privacy. It finds and removes more software than AdAware. We scan with AdAware at every login, and run Spybot on a weekly schedule to clear out the rest. Both can autoupdate.


Download from:->safer-networking.org

Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer v1.2

This neat little analyzer from Microsoft will check your Windows PC for the most basic security issues and give you advise on how to fix it. It can also verify against Windows Update and help you keep up to date on Microsoft security patches. It can be downloaded for free. You can also use the Automatic Updates control panel extension to keep up to date.


Download from:->microsoft.com

Basic Windows security

Your Microsoft Windows systems needs some additional software installed before you even connect the network cable. If you did not follow a strict installation procedure, you are most likely already infected with a virus, worm or trojan. It's not too late to remedy the situation, but if you can, back up your data and reformat + reinstall as described here.

You need a firewall, and preferably a privacy advisor as well. We can highly recommend ZoneAlarm Pro 5.x for your firewall and privacy advisor, but if you're not willing to pay for the product, we highly recommend using the free ZoneAlarm.

You also need some anti-virus software. We tested 8 of the major antivirus software packages, and the only acceptable one we found was GriSoft AVG Antivirus 6.0 - which also happens to be free for personal use :). A short synopsis of our antivirus test is included below.

Once a month (for example the 2nd wednesday of the month, which is just after the monthly windows patches has been released) you should check your PC thoroughly. You can use the following recommended software packages to check your system for malware:

Lavasoft AdAware 6.0 build 181 (free for personal use)

SpyBot Search and Destroy v1.2 (free)

Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer (free)

Anti-virus software

We went looking for an anti-virus software package after having used McAfee Antivirus for many years. We ended up recommending Grisoft's AVG Antivirus after the test results were out:

McAfee v7: works Ok for 11 months, then bugs you endlessly for 30 days. It is no longer available, and you are expected to upgrade to version 8.

McAfee v8: huge security risk (unacceptable). Refunded. You cannot install and use this package on a properly secured Windows 2000 system.

Symantec: different versions required depending on windows version and edition. Automatically signs you up to spam (no notification or opt-out option until spam starts). Requires internet product activation. Cannot be reached via email.

F-secure: requires you sign up to spam.

Trend Micro: requires you sign up to spam. Free cd ordered (without spam), but never received.

Panda Titanium 2004: Ok signup for download (just remember to uncheck everything and move radio option to "I do not want to ..") - nice site, medium prices - downloaded - unacceptable license terms - may require activation - DISABLED ZONEALARM AND SENT INFORMATION TO ITSELF - uninstalled - crashed PC - restartet - adaware found new items - deleted everything related to panda and ran spybot to clear the rest.

Kaspersky: major troubles downloading it. Requires different versions depending on your windows version and edition. Very expensive.

Sophos: very intrusive registration, and download hangs. Ignored. Their support team is nice though.

It has been noted that Microsoft is entering the antivirus market ; we DO NOT recommend using a Microsoft antivirus solution based on this view:

1) If MS cannot secure the OS, what makes you think they can protect you this time ?

2) If succesful, there is no incentive to patch security holes - it's much better for Microsoft to force you to renew your antivirus license to stay secure. Remember, Windows Update is free (for valid MS Windows licenses). This is not.

3) Complexity in configurations. Expect MS Windows with MS antivirus to become the primary target for script kiddies and criminals (fraudsters, spammers, spyware vendors, etc). By using multiple vendors you minimize the risk of a succesful attack.

GriSoft AVG Antivirus 6.0

Grisoft AVG is an antivirus program for both Microsoft Windows and Linux, but it requires different versions depending on your Windows version and edition. You have to sign up (but there's no spam) and activate the software, and from then on it can autoupdate to stay secure. We recommend setting the default update schedule to every 1 or 2 days. For corporate use the prices are ok (medium).


Download from:->grisoft.com

Azureus BitTorrent P2P Client

Most major Linux vendors (and trance sites) provide a BitTorrent P2P link. This enables you to download a file using a distributed P2P network, sharing it to others while you download. We can highly recommend the Azureus client, which is open source and can be downloaded from ->SourceForge.net. It requires a Java Runtime Environment, which can be downloaded for free from Sun's site ( ->Sun Java RTE), or ->www.java.com.

For BitTorrent to work properly you should enable port 6881 on your router/firewall. You should also download and install the ->SafePeer plugin (sourceforge.net) - this will download a huge list of IP addresses (updated from PeerGuardian) that you do not wish to deal with.