Free Apps & Software for Non-Profits

Jul 17 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

According to the National Day Calendar, February is Free & Open Source Software (FOSS) Month. Open source (OS) software can be a fantastic resource for non-profit organizations that need technology, just as a for-profit business does, but often have fewer resources to pay for expensive solutions.

So, what is an open source software? You probably already use some of the most popular open source packages without even realizing it.

  • WordPress (blogging and website design)
  • Firefox (internet browser)
  • Android (mobile device operating system)

These are all open source software. OS software developers (aka the copyright holders) make the source code available to anyone to view or edit. The software or app is also free for anyone to use, copy, or give away. OS software is often developed in a public collaboration. For example, if you click on About Firefox in the browser’s Help menu, you will see that the Firefox internet browser “is designed by Mozilla, a global community working to keep the Web open, public and accessible to all.”

The idea behind this way of creating software is the theory that programmers, who work for a for-profit business and the business itself, are focusing on protecting their ownership and profit in addition to, or instead of, making the software the highest quality it can be. OS advocates believe that a larger group of programmers, who rely on peers to find and eliminate problems in the code, will create a more useful and higher quality product for everyone.

The big advantage of open source software, of course, is that it’s free. The fact that the code is public means that hundreds or even thousands of programmers and users may test, evaluate, debug, and enhance the app you eventually use. Here are the top 5 reasons open source advocates give for the benefits of open source software, in addition to the zero-dollar price tag:

  • Security: the more people who can see and test a set of code, the more likely security flaws will be found and fixed.
  • Reliability: it’s peer reviewed, with bugs fixed immediately rather than in far-future versions.
  • Identity: it can be customized.
  • Low-resource intensity: open source software can frequently be run on the older computers common in non-profit offices.
  • Freedom of choice: No commitment until you are sure (try as many different packages as you want-they’re free!)

There are downsides, however. The most common, in my experience, is that there probably isn’t a help desk or tech support phone number for users to call. The help desk for an OS software system may be the same blog or website where programmers and testers download code and discuss bugs that they find.

Below is a list of some OS apps and software, which many non-profit organizations will find useful. They are all widely used, award-winning packages. Just remember, that doesn’t mean they are all automatically right for YOUR non-profit. Consider who on your staff (whether in-office or consultants) will

  • install the software
  • maintain the software and any data
  • train new users
  • use the software on a regular basis

Consider also whether this software needs to “talk to” other software in your organization. Will the packages be compatible? If you have existing data that will need to be converted to the new package, who will do that?

Now that we’ve cautioned you about the risks, here are our favorite open source software packages:

  • LibreOffice: office productivity suite including word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, database, etc. based on, and successor to OpenOffice. Awarded Best Free Office Suite by CNET Magazine
  • GIMP: GNU Image Manipulation Program photo and image editor. Works on GNU/Linux, OS X, Windows, and more. Named a Top Free Software Pick for 2013 by PC Magazine
  • Audacity: digital audio editor created by a professor and a student at Carnegie Mellon University. Chosen as one of PC World Magazine’s 100 Best Products of 2008
  • Shotcut: cross-platform video editor and encoder. Named a TechRadar Download of the Day
  • Thunderbird: email and chat client developed by Mozilla (maker of Firefox). PC World Magazine’s Best 100 Products in 2005 and 2008
  • KeePass: password manager. Recommended password manager by the German Federal Office for Information Security and the French Network and Information Security Agency. KeePass has the highest score in the password management grid of G2 Crowd
  • Rocket.Chat: multi-platform web chat, video conferencing, and team communications. InfoWorld Magazine BOSSIE 2016 Award

One of the biggest non-profit needs is for a constituent relationship management (CRM) system that allows the organization to keep track of donors, prospects, volunteers, and other constituents as well as communications with constituents. Here are the free and open source CRMs you might investigate when it’s time for a new CRM at your non-profit.

  • Suite CRM (formerly Sugar CRM) is one of the most popular, although it is not specific to non-profit
  • CiviCRM has been developed specifically for non-profit organizations

If you want to learn more, many non-profit and charitable organizations promote the open source software movement. Here are a few of the largest and longest-lived:

  • Apache Software Foundation: provides support for the community of Apache open-source software products
  • The Document Foundation: German charitable foundation created by a large group of free software advocates
  • The Eclipse Foundation: an independent non-profit funded by member dues to allow a vendor-neutral and open community to steward the IBM-created Eclipse Project
  • Free Software Foundation: works to ensure freedom for computer users worldwide, particularly by promoting the GNU free operating system
  • Linux Foundation: supports many open source projects, including the 25-year-old Linux operating system
  • OpenCourseWare Consortium: worldwide network of educational institutions, organizations, and people who promote openness in education, including collective development and use of open educational materials
  • OpenHatch: matches prospective open source software programmers with communities, tools, and education
  • OpenSourceMatters: offers financial, legal, and organizational support for the Joomla! content management system for websites
  • Open Source Initiative: represents the open source community, maintains the Open Source Definition, and creates open-source licenses

The label “open source” is said to have been coined at a strategy session held in 1998 shortly after the announcement of the release of the Netscape web browser source code. In the almost 20 years since then, the Free and Open Source Software market and products have matured. Non-profits can take advantage of the high-quality, free* software available for productivity, constituent management, and other essential tasks.

*Just remember, not all free software is free or safe to use.

Comments are off for this post

Free Recovery Software Options For Resolving a Hard Drive Failure

Jul 16 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

When your computer throws up an error message stating there has been an ‘error reading fixed disk’ or ‘hard drive failure’ then do not panic that your computer and all its data are completely lost just yet. Before you send your computer off to be repaired there are some free recovery software tools that can assist you.

The starting point for troubleshooting a hard drive failure is to think of any new hardware you just added. These can cause system conflicts with your drive (effectively making it disappear to the BIOS) that can be resolved by removing the hardware.

Next, if your computer is failing to start properly then try booting up in safe-mode. If this works then the issue is software related, rather than being a hardware issue, which is a positive sign. Make copies of all your crucial data before attempting any repairs.

Your disk may simply have faults with the partition table and master boot record system files. There is a great free tool called Test Disk by CG Security that can automate repairs to these files for you quite effectively.

It is also possible your Windows registry has been corrupted. You can use Windows System Restore tool (in programs > accessories > system tools) to revert your system files back to a set checkpoint. While this will roll back any recent registry damage, it will also affect any programs installed/updated from the version date. This can be remedied though by reinstalling the applications.

Finally, if you feel your data has been lost, deleted or formatted then free recovery software such as Recuva or PC Inspectors Smart Recover can help identify files still left on the the hard drive.

If these steps do not help or you feel there is a mechanical fault in the hard drive (bearings/reading heads seized, etc.) then data recovery experts have the requisite disk reading tools and specialist recovery software to read even broken disks.

Comments are off for this post

Free GPS Software

Jul 12 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

I took a look at some of the online offers for free GPS software and found, like many “free” offers there were often limits and provisos involved. Often the freeware is a scaled–down version of purchasable products. Sometimes the free product has restricted functionality with features disabled, other products are trial–based and are disabled after a certain time (hours or days or use).

An example of limited free GPS software can be found at GPS Utility. The downloadable freeware is limited 100 waypoints and 500 track points. (There are 65,000 of each in the registered version of their program.) The free program gives you a good opportunity to try before you buy, and this is the benefit of most free programs.

There are online sites that list various free GPS software and describe how to use the programs after you download them. Often individuals who have used the programs themselves develop the sites. These are great because they give you an unbiased interpretation of the benefits and disadvantages of the programs before you use them.

Using free GPS software you can download programs that allow you to retrieve and display aerial photos, topographical maps, USGS landmarks. There are programs available that allow you import scanned images and add latitude and longitude points and other data.

Free GPS software downloads are available for PDA units that are capable of communication with GPS receivers. With these downloads you can have a useful navigation assistant, location database manager, and GPS data converter.

Programs to manage GPS waypoint and route files are available for both PC and Mac users. The waypoints and route files can be saved or converted to various formats used by other mapping programs.

If you need to transfer information to and from your GPS receiver and your home computer or laptop there are several free programs that allow you to do so. There are also programs that allow Garmin GPS receivers to “talk” to one another.

Many of the programs listed here are directed at the hiking/trekker community, but there are also free programs available for auto GPS systems and marine navigational systems. I found a couple of marine navigation programs that allow you to download nautical charts and plotters.

There are free GPS software programs that allow you to download street maps that might not be included in your auto–navigation system. If you intend downloading in–vehicle software, make sure that it has audio capacity, an essential safety factor for motorists. One such program offers data for several countries with voice guidance in twelve languages.

Free GPS software is also available for downloading to your cell phone. This is mostly tracking software and can be phone specific. You might want to check with your carrier before downloading anything to your cell phone to make sure that it does not incur extra charges.

As satellites are constantly moving, it is helpful to know the optimal time for data collection in your area. There is free GPS software that includes an almanac to let you know the availability of satellites at any given time.

Some of the free GPS software is brand specific. Programs designed for a Garmin receiver may not work for a Magellan, so check out the specifications carefully, especially if you intend purchasing a registered version after your trial period. Other software works with most brands.

Comments are off for this post