One of the ways of reducing cost of software is to make use of the software that is ``free'' or ``public domain''. The common feeling about such software is that it may be full of bugs and has little or no user support.
The former impression is a hangover from the days when such software was largely generated by hackers and in some cases was capable of damaging the users work through incompatibilities and virus invasions. This is no longer true. In fact the software produced by various user groups is now quickly acquiring the status of ``standard'' so much so that vendors are incorporating such software in the systems being set up by them. Moreover, the user groups are so large that bugs are very quickly tracked down and corrected. Since the users have access to the source it is not possible to have viruses and trapdoors in the packages. Additionally, bugs can be corrected conveniently by applying patches obtained from archives or via the network.
Customer support for such packages should probably be provided by some mechanism such as the one suggested in the conclusions at the end of this article. Of course, much of the configuration support is now part of the packages being discussed. This too has been provided by the large user groups which are constantly improving the packages.
We now discuss the various groups that are working at providing software. All the software discussed below is easily obtained for free over the Internet or UUCP networks and can also be purchased for nominal copying costs from the archives on different media like floppy disks, cartridges, tape etc.