It might be their Software, but it's your Social: making your technology (ac)count

6 awesome projects that could change the way you work.

you no longer have to pay for quality software.

When I tell people that I have worked as a full-service website/design shop without using even one software program I paid for, most folks think that I downloaded or am pirating software illegally. The truth is that we, as consumers, no longer need to pay to get good software.

I'll say it again: we no longer need to pay for good software.

We just need to know where to look for it. There are free substitutes for Adobe Photoshop (GIMP:, Adobe Illustrator (Inkscape:, Microsoft Office (LibreOffice: and Windows (Ubuntu:, just to name a few. I use free software to build fonts from scratch, build websites, create and work with graphics, and fight viruses (Clamwin: They are not any harder to use, and they work in formats readable to all. Trust me. It doesn't seem possible that Adobe and Microsoft are making as much money as they are when there are free alternatives around that are equally as good, but I promise it is. You do not need to be a genius. You just need to look for and download it at .

a network bridging meaningful projects, geeky people, and money.

It is rare that a technologist with a conscience (like myself) can find a project that satisfies her geeky ideals in every sense. NetSquared (beta) is a social network that hooks organizations, activists, and geeky folks up with one another and with money for the projects they dream up together.

Again, it might seem too good to be true, but it isn't.

Check it out, sign up, and start getting the word out about the projects that you are working on. It's still in beta, but it's well worth getting in at the upstart - this thing is going to explode. Use the network to join with others and mobilize around the issues that are important to you and your work.

helping non-profit organizations not get screwed by technology.

Allen Gunn, affectionately called 'Gunner' is the non-profit technology version of the Sickest Buddha meets Batman who started Aspiration Tech after witnessing one too many organizations getting screwed by technologists either trying to sell them something they do not need, or charging exorbitant prices for technology that comes out of the box free.

If you do not live in a place where you can use their services, you should definitely come to their conferences/events, and by all means also look through the site for valuable resources and tips. If you do, it will save you money, frustration, and resources. I promise.

a membership organization where activists can host websites inexpensively.

This is the solution/antidote to big-box-superstore-hosting companies that sell your data, nickel and dime you for services, and could not care less about who you are or what you are up to. Not only is Mayfirst/People Link cheaper than most hosting companies, they are much nicer to deal with than other hosting providers, their services are better than other hosting companies, and they will never ever sell your anything to anyone – ever.

a social network that will not sell you to the lowest bidder.

This is an exciting project that is still in it's very inception stage, but none-the-less something to keep an eye on. The idea behind the diaspora project is to create a social network as robust as facebook/twitter but that won't sell every little thing you do and post to any corporation, politician or crazy person with a couple bucks to rub together. When it launches into it's fullest self, it promises to have a privacy policy that is reliable and that will change even less often than our constitutional rights.

a search engine that won't strip-search you.

Want to be able to search for something without Google finding out and helping the relevant SPAM providers find you in the process? Ixquick is a search engine that does not store your IP address, does not care who you are, does not remember what you searched for, and will preserve your privacy on the web in a way that others do not. You can download a toolbar for your browser as well.

Think of it as a condom for your (virtual) curiosities.