Free is Not Free

I frequently get questions from folks who download some free software only to find out that it’s not free at all, and they get quite upset at having been misled.

Except that they weren’t misled. Not really. Had they read more closely, they would have realized that “free” wasn’t really free at all.

That’s not to say there aren’t misleading advertisements out there – there are. But even the completely up-front and honest ones are sometimes easy to misunderstand.

So let’s look at some variations of “free” that aren’t really free at all.

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How do I get the old msn.com homepage back?

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The msn.com page has changed again and there seems to be no way to revert back to the original. Why does Microsoft impose this on people without giving a choice? Everyone just HATES the new version of msn.com. Is there a way to revert to the page as it was before?

As I update this article for the latest round of changes, I’ll show you what’s happening. I’ll also make some guesses as to why the changes were made, and what your options might be. The answer might very well be “not many”.

Read moreHow do I get the old msn.com homepage back?

Is requiring a Facebook or Google Account fair?

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Hi, Leo. I find many websites offer great free things to try but when I attempt to download the software, I’m told I can only download it if I have a Facebook account. Occasionally, I’m also restricted to downloading only if I have a Google account. In my mind, free should mean free, not free only if I use Facebook/Google. Since I refuse to use Facebook or Google, this doesn’t seem quite fair to me. I’m sure there must be others that feel this way too. I sense that this a money issue and that Facebook and Google are paying these websites to restrict their free usage only to customers that agree to Facebook’s and Google’s rules. Is this becoming more common and do you think it’s a fair practice?

First, I think it’s pretty clear that websites can do whatever the heck they want to, within legal limits. That’s how a free market works. If you don’t like the requirements that are placed on getting something, then don’t get that something. If enough people agree with you, then that site will not get whatever it was they were hoping to get by giving away whatever it was they were giving away.

Is it fair? Gosh, that’s an unanswerable question; I really don’t know.

Life isn’t fair, and particularly when it comes to the internet, I guess I just don’t look for fair. If it’s really a no-strings-attached kind of giveaway, fantastic. But if it isn’t, I make a decision and I get on with my life. Like I said, that puts you in control.

Read moreIs requiring a Facebook or Google Account fair?

Should I provide my credit card to sites that are free?

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Most of us know that there ain’t no Santa Claus, especially on the internet. However, there are numerous 100% free sites on the internet. All you have to do to access these sites is  provide your credit card information so that they may charge you at some point for your 100% free services. Any insights you might have about free services would be appreciated.

Personally, I don’t consider that free at all. My credit card information is valuable to me and I won’t give it out for something that purports to be free.

When in doubt, always assume anything that says free but requires a credit card is a scam.

Nonetheless, there are some semi-legitimate scenarios where giving your credit card information is the right thing to do.

Read moreShould I provide my credit card to sites that are free?