It's no secret that free and open source software holds numerous advantages for business users. That, indeed, is one of the many reasons Ubuntu Linux has become such an attractive alternative for those faced with Windows 8 as the next step on their operating-system upgrade path.
Whether or not you choose to switch to Linux, however, you can still enjoy many of the benefits of open source software in other areas of your computing environment. After all, there are countless excellent open source alternatives for Microsoft Office and numerous other expensive favorites, and they're free to try, use, and modify as your needs dictate.
There's no shortage of lists of such apps to guide you in the right direction, but recently I learned about an easy, one-stop alternative: VALO-CD.
LibreOffice, GIMP, and more
Finnish VALO-CD has actually been distributing its curated collection of select open source apps in Finland for several years. In March, however, it came out with an English version of its downloadable app assortment.
Included on VALO-CD are apps for writing and drawing, Internet, recreation, and multimedia along with a set of tools and user guides.
LibreOffice, GIMP, Firefox, and Thunderbird are all among the many apps included, not surprisingly--I actually use all four of those every day--but so are lesser-known packages like the Evince PDF reader, the KeePass password manager, Audacity for sound, and the DIA Microsoft Visio alternative.
As required by the GPL license, VALO-CD also provides the source code for all the programs it distributes.
'There is a real need'
"I'm thrilled with the work that the VALO-CD project is doing getting Free Software into users' hands," said Michael Meeks, SUSE distinguished engineer and LibreOffice developer, in a press release earlier this year. "There is a real need to help people to get the latest and greatest Free Software on Windows."
Because all the software included is free and open source, the VALO-CD collection can be downloaded for free as a 689 MB disk image containing the whole collection, or on a program-by-program basis.
Though the latest version is currently sold out, a premade CD is also normally available for delivery by mail; those interested can sign up online to be notified when it's available again.
A few years back, I calculated that a business could save $2325 per desktop using open source software. By packaging such apps together in one place, VALO-CD puts those savings within closer reach than ever.