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The list includes Freeware, $0 Shareware and Public Domain software. These are programs and databases for which no fee is required for use by you as an individual. Freeware, Shareware and Public Domain are terms often misused. Since they matter to us, correct definitions are given below.
Most of the programs we listed in our published GUIDE were found on our BBS. We encouraged sysops everywhere to download them. Our Guide also encouraged readers to call their local Boards, not us. We still make available packets of Freeware so users and Sysops can grab a pile in one gulp. Those can be downloaded by FTP from here.
We also have available for download from this site two DOS versions of one of the best Bulletin Board platforms ever written, PCBoard. Everything is there to start your own BBS, everything except support for the program. Publisher Clark Development Company has been out of business for years. But there are plenty of former PCB sysops around to help the newcomer.
You can see and download that from our current FTP list.
For example, the excellent free version of Mustang Software's off-line reader Offline Express is named OLX-TD21.ZIP. A file -name- search for "Offline" even using wildcards won't find it. You have to hunt and peek through the Board's file index or ask the sysop what the latest version is named.
For example, you will not find Raymond Kaya's DIRX (a file manager for compressed files) listed in a file index. The index name for the archive packet is DRXxxx where xxx is the version number, and that changes with every update. But the Z command will find the program's name, DIRX, in the file description.
Copyright does not equate to a user fee, but it gives the owner a legal right to charge one. Freeware authors don't exercise that right, or they exercise it selectively. In some cases a program will be free for personal use but require a paid license if used in any other context. The FHOF includes these.
It is a curiosity of our copyright law that things placed in the Public Domain can later be taken back by the author and copyrighted. Bizarre but true. Intellectual property right law gets pretty strange.
Shareware began when two authors of freeware discovered that users would register with them in order to be advised of updates. The cost of that led to registration fees, and that grew into fees imposed if you continued to use a free program after trying it out. Most Shareware released today requires a fee for use.
The term Shareware is not a programming term. It is a marketing term. Using Shareware marketing, many superb programs are made available at far lower cost than software marketed in competing ways such through retail stores, on-line sales, or mail-order.
Demos guarantee a user must pay for the program if he wants to use it, which some authors find attractive. Every demo represents a product that might have been Shareware, but isn't. Demos are a threat to the Shareware concept and for that reason most Bulletin Board sysops refuse to carry them. Demos are commercial; there's no sharing involved. They should be (but aren't) a source of income to sysops who ought to be paid a marketing fee to carry them.
Aside from demos The Freeware Hall of Fame endorses ALL forms of Shareware because it makes good sense for software users and for software authors trying to earn a living. Here's why.
Production, flashy packaging so it can be seen on the shelves, advertising so we will hear of it, and direct mail marketing to get it included in the store inventory - those are major chunks of the sales price of commercial software even if the software is sold at deep discount. Everyone who adds something also adds to the cost of what the author produced. The end buyer pays for all of it.
No economies of scale, no mass production, can alter that. They cause bloated prices which only competition keeps in check. Since the competition also has those built-in costs it's not much of a check from the buyer side. No matter how deep the discount, merely the cost to sell through retail channels means they can never approach the value pricing of Shareware. Absolutely impossible.
With Shareware the only one paid is the author. There is no advertising, no packaging, no marketing. Distribution is donated free by file providers, by surfers passing uploads around, and by Shareware disk distributors through their catalogs. The savings translates to rock-bottom price for software that is commonly as good as or better than what's found in retail or on-line stores at higher cost.
Beyond that, retail and Internet stores today often do not offer equivalents to Shareware and Freeware programs because there aren't any commercial equivalents. The success on the Internet of Shareware and Freeware forced commercial publishers to retrench and stick to large, extensively promoted packages. And even for those programs there is Shareware and Freeware. Not uncommonly Shareware and Freeware is better than the most heavily promoted retail product but that's something you have to prove for yourself, as others did.
There are other advantages to distribution by Shareware. For example, the software can be updated and improved at any time, and distributed on short notice - overnight - and at no cost. This means shareware authors are usually the first to be in step with advances in new hardware, first to take advantage of new Windows updates, first to close security loopholes.
Software at retail and on-line stores with security issues is commonly sold at close-out prices for months after the security leak was publicized. The retailer bought it. He can't return it. He's not going to throw it away. He's going to discount it and sell it. That can never happen with Shareware.
Shareware works on an honor system in a world where there is more Shareware than honor. Not every author can handle that, and some respond by displaying their own personal failings.
Some Shareware gives you bonus features when you register which some people resent. They extend the term crippled to include Shareware that doesn't have all the author's bells and whistles. That's an extremist position. We think true bonuses that come with registration, such as adding extra functions as QWKMail creator Mark Herring of SparkWare did, are a legitimate business gimmick. Shareware IS business. Getting people to pay is no easy task.
Some Shareware authors have no head for business. We found one in Roanoke, VA, who offered a $100 reward for the name of anyone using his $10 program who didn't register it. We wonder how many people called to turn themselves in and claim the reward.
Perhaps the most damaging thing in Shareware's history were the few authors who were unreliable or dishonest. We've seen examples of each. You sent your registration money and they never responded, or responded months later.
Two well-known Shareware writers were legendary for not following through on registrations. Buyers threw good money after bad phoning their "support Boards" asking for a registration key and never hearing a thing. That's gone now. They were destroyed.
In fairness to their callers, BBSs carried cracking programs for that software to allow paid-up but unsupported buyers to crack registration codes and get the fully working program they paid for. Of course non-payers also used these crackers and the income of those two authors dropped to nothing, for which they can blame themselves.
Freeware authors often show a sense of humor. They also frequently provide the source code so other programmers can customize the program and build on it.
Many viruses and trojans can't be spread by a BBS. For example the Michelangelo virus once so prominent in the press is only spread by booting an infected diskette, and BBSs don't use diskettes. As insiders know, Michelangelo tended to spread through brand new shrink-wrapped retail store software.
Some viruses are introduced when disks go through mass duplication during manufacture. Open the shrink-wrap, run the program, infect the computer. Brand new pre-formatted disks can be infected that way, since even a "blank" formatted floppy contains hidden room for malicious code any programmer can learn all about. Disks sent out by businesses such as advertising agencies should always be virus checked before running them. These companies have no intent to harm. They don't know the master disk is infected. They don't check.
Because Bulletin Boards are nearly the ONLY industry to check everything for viruses and trojans they became the single safest source for software. We can protect callers from getting damaging downloads. Only the caller can guard himself against infected diskettes.
We recommend running a virus check on every floppy placed in a drive no matter where it came from. Anti-virus programs can do this automatically. Failing to can be a disaster.
It was a popular networking consultant who spread a virus in our town a few years ago, doing great harm to his clients. They turned on their computers March 6 when Michelangelo activates and promptly lost everything on their harddrives. Among his clients was the community's free medical clinic which lost its patient records. Afterwards, he STILL refused to scan his diskettes. This was revealed to his clients, his successful business evaporated overnight, and he left town.
There are thousands of recognized virus strains and new ones appear every week. Fighting them and the sociopaths who write and intentionally distribute them has created an international industry of virus fighters. The best anti-virus programs are equipped with retrovirus code to combat viruses designed to disable anti-virus programs. Some virus checkers have a heuristic mode which allows searching for code strings which act like virus code. These programs can find a new virus making an appearance for the first time.
It's all a massive waste of resources, as only mental defectives and war can waste resources. Fortunately, there are excellent Freeware anti-virus programs.
The only requirement is that the software or database be free for personal use and run on DOS or Windows (any version.) Program Demos and crippled programs are not eligible.
are made to the compiler of this list.
1. Author name
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Page last updated May 25, 2009