Friday, October 26, 2007

Paying for Free Things

Free software is pretty much all I use on my computers, with the exception of the OS itself in the case of my Windows laptop. I use free services online. But sometimes I'm so pleased by some piece of software — it's so above-and-beyond what you'd expect from a free utility, or it's made my life much more simple/enjoyable — that I want to donate a bit of money to its creator to say "thank you" and "keep up the good work!"

Below are the programs (and one person) that I have given money to when I didn't have to:

Before there was GaimPidgin, there was Trillian. (Or at least, I knew only of Trillian in my pre-Linux days.) I was pleased enough with having multi-protocol chat capabilities to send them a few dollars. When they later came out with a Pro version, they grandfathered in anyone who had ever donated $1 or more as a "thank you" for early support.
This one isn't a donation, but rather a voluntary upgrade to premium service that was actually worth it. Once you hit 200 photos on Flickr, you can't browse to your older photos; you must have a direct link if you still want to access them. I hit the 200-photo limit pretty quickly, foresaw myself continuing to use Flickr heavily, liked the service, and thus gave them $25/year for unlimited photos.
Peter S. Beagle
Not software. :) Author of The Last Unicorn, which I was first introduced to in animated film format as a kid, then later in the original book form as a high schooler. (I've never seen it in hat form.) He's supposedly getting screwed out of quite a bit of money that his publisher's been making, thus the donation.
IPA Unicode "Keyboard"
Useful website for copy-pasting real Unicode characters when you're typing IPA pronunciations. 'Cause I know you're, like, always typing IPA pronunciations. ;)
If you do any sort of web development and you don't know what Firebug is, run, do not walk, to and get yourself some sweet, sweet Firebuggin'. You'll thank me later. (Note: I haven't actually donated to Joe Hewitt, the creator of Firebug, yet. He doesn't have a PayPal donations button on his site, so I'm emailing him directly asking if he'd like some money. :))
NPR (or more specifically, KUOW, my local affiliate)
I like listening to NPR and the local public radio shows when I'm driving. They have interesting discussions of fairly diverse topics (not just politics, but all sorts of stuff). When they interview people, they ask good questions — you know, the ones you're yelling at the radio. They ask those questions, but respectfully at the same time (rather than in a hostile know-it-all way, like some shows). So I figure I should support my local public radio station. (Added May 7th.)

So what things have you paid for, that you didn't have to (or could have gotten away with not)? What made it worthwhile?