Getting Started with Open Source Software

December 12, 2007

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Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been talking to a number of business owners about IT services. One of our principles is to use open source software whenever possible to help lower development and licensing costs. Although, I still find that many businesses are simply not aware of the free software.

As with anything, the best way to learn about something, is by example. So here are several good examples of Open Source Software that you can use within your business. But before we get started here is a quick explanation…

What is it Open Source Software?

In basic terms its free software that can be used in businesses and at home. Although unlike Freeware which is just free software, open source software doesn’t belong to anyone, which means you can have access to the inner works of the software, called the source code. So if your company doesn’t like how the software works, they can have it changed.

Creating PDF Documents

books

You don’t need to purchase expensive software to produce Portable Document Files or PDF’s. Instead download and install PDFCreator which creates a virtual PDF printer on your machine. Once installed, you can convert any file into a PDF documents simply by launching the relevant application and selecting the PDF printer when printing. PDFCreator will then ask you where you would like to save your newly created PDF.

Microsoft Office Alternative

office desk, computer coffee and mouse

Open Office is a full office suite which shares many of the features and styles found in Microsoft Office. What’s more, it can open and edit existing Microsoft Office documents. Open Office contains a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, database and drawing applications. So, if you have computers without Office and can’t quite justify the expenditure, why not give Open Office a bash.

Mapping Ideas

mind maps

I think mind map software is a great product for all types of businesses. Although you can create hieratical charts within Microsoft office, they are often to formal for creating ideas. FreeMind is piece of software where you start with a centralised idea (hub or trunk) and branch out ideas and as you formulate your project, the map grows. The idea is not be accurate or too formal, just a quickly way to get your ideas recorded.

- Plan your projects using Mind Mapping software

Photo and Graphical Editing

paint

Although Adobe Photoshop is an excellent piece of software, it comes with a heft price tag and is quite often over kill for most users needs. There are cheap alternatives, but if you still need something with advance features, then GIMP could be the ticket. Paint.Net is also worth considering as middle weight application and if you need a vector editing package, InkScape.

Compressing Files

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Back in the day when you wanted to compress a file or send a batch of files via email, you would use a program like WinZip. Since 2001 Windows has incorporated compression or file zipping as standard. Although you may still find the need for something more powerful that can split files, encrypt, password protect and open other compression formats such RAR files etc. Step in 7zip, which has all the features you will every need when it comes to compressing and un-compressing files.

Give me more

Want more?

Still not enough, check out Open Source Alternative.

What are your favourite open source products for the desktop?

Terinea Tags: open source software, , , ,

Author: Support @ 4:10 pm
Category: Open Source




Free Remote Support Software

October 10, 2007

remote control support

Many businesses benefit from remote support software which enables IT departments and computer support companies to resolve computer issues. For businesses that are big enough to have a central server, this can be achieved easily with little expenditure using software like VNC or Remote Desktop. Smaller businesses typically need to purchase software like Log Me In or Go To Assist. That was until CrossLoop came on the scene.

CrossLoop is an ideal solution for businesses:-

  • That don’t have a central server
  • Don’t want to mess around with router configurations
  • Require a secure connection
  • More than one PC in their network
  • Require remote support while out of the office
  • Don’t have a static IP address provided by their ISP (As a business you will benefit from having a static IP address)
  • or are not willing to purchase remote support software

CrossLoop does have a couple of disadvantages over other paid solutions. Such as, you can’t transfer files (now comes with file transfer!) and you need someone else to confirm access code at the other end. Although with one of my clients, I prefer this level of security because of the nature of the sensitive information they deal with.

How does remote support software work?

Here is a quick explanation of how remote control software works in businesses that have server and those that don’t.

how remote support software works with businesses that have a central server

Think of the server as a secretary that re-directs your telephone calls to the correct person (computer) within the business.

how remote support software works with businesses that don't have a central server

For businesses that don’t have a secretary (server), the computer support company needs a virtual secretary (CrossLoop, Logmein etc) to assist them with the location of the person (computer) to whom they are connecting to.

How to use CrossLoop

Here is Terinea’s quick guide to using CrossLoop.

  1. Download and install CrossLoop, from
    http://www.CrossLoop.com/download.html
  2. Run CrossLoop - requiring remote assistance. Alternatively if you’re joining a hosted CrossLoop session jump to step 3.
    1. If you’re requiring remote assistance, click on the HOST tab and provide the person connecting to you with the Access Code.
      crossloop host tab
    2. Once they have the access code, press “Connect” and wait for them to connect.
      waiting for connection, crossloop
    3. Once the connection has been made, you will need confirm by clicking on Yes.
      confirm connection crossloop
  3. Run CrossLoop - joining a hosted CrossLoop session - Providing support.
    1. Click on the JOIN tab and enter the access code provided by your friend (HOST).
      image
    2. Click connect and wait for the host to confirm connection (Step 3 Above)
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    3. After a couple of second the process should be complete, enabling you to control the remote computer
      Crossloop connected

File Transfers and more

Alternatively you can watch an eight minute video that explains the process in more detail, although I prefer Robert Scoble video below. It is also worth visiting CrossLoop’s excellent user guide page that explains the process in more detail, including how to transfer files. I have also made this page available as a PDF.

CrossLoop, Windows Vista and Windows Defender

Windows Defender and Crossloop

When using CrossLoop on Windows Vista, a screen a like above may appear, click on the Ignore button. Windows Defender seems to think its some type of spyware. I can re-assure you, it isn’t!

To stop this from happening again, click on Start bar (Windows logo) > Control Panel > Security > Windows Defender. Under Review potentially unwanted items, click on Review items detected by real-time protection. Once the screen below appears select Always Allow from Action and then Apply Actions.

crossloop window sdefender

What remote access software do you use?

Author: Support @ 6:21 pm