Free Software for the William & Mary Community

Free software, git’cha free software here…a story of resource acquisition, distribution, and communication woes.

The Offer:

If you commit to reading this article, and are an employee of or student at the College of William and Mary, Information Technology can install, or help you install, free of charge, thousands of dollars worth of software on your College-owned or leased computer, and/or your personal computer. See details below.

The Background:

Several years ago I had the pleasure of organizing a committee that would review the College’s software holdings, apparent needs, and procurement procedures. As is normal with these groups, we gathered information, discussed department-specific as well as “global” needs, and identified some ideal targets within our limited resources. In the end, we made recommendations as to how software procurement decisions should be made. I would like to think that our committee’s work played at least some small part in the significant investments that the College has made in terms of campus-wide software licenses in the past few years.

Currently the most significant of our campus-licensed academic software packages include, but are not limited to:

  • SPSS – (aka) “Statistical Package for the Social Sciences.” Available for installation on all College-owned or leased machines, as well as faculty home computers.
  • Matlab – “a numerical computing environment and fourth- generation programming language.” Available for installation on all College-owned or leased machines, as well as faculty and student personal computers.
  • Wolfram Mathematica – “a computational software program used in scientific, engineering, and mathematical fields and other areas of technical computing.” Available for installation on all College-owned or leased machines, as well as faculty and student personal computers.
  • Esri ArcGIS – “a geographic information system (GIS) for working with maps and geographic information.” Available for installation on all College-owned or leased machines. One-year licenses available for student machines (if they meet certain conditions).

The Catch:

While these software packages are “free” to the end user (yes, you), they are not free to us as an institution. Fortunately, unlike many of the College’s resources, which we all know are limited, these software licenses have fixed costs regardless of the number of times they are installed, or how many people use them. Therefore if we wish to maximize our investment, it is in our best interest to make them as widely available as possible and to as many users as might be interested.

We’ve already made these software packages available in all of the PacLabs and classrooms on campus, as well as many of the smaller departmental labs. As much as possible we have tried to “advertise” the availability of this software to all end users on campus – with varying levels of success. As you may well be aware, it is often hard to communicate widely on campus, even when offering something that is free and desirable. Therefore it’s likely that many on campus still do not know that they qualify for this “free” software. In Academic Information Services, it has been our experience that it is generally easier for us to communicate these possibilities to faculty than to students, so the latter are much more likely to be unaware of these resources. So while we feel that we area already getting a “pretty good bang for the buck” with these software packages, it also seems that we could do a bit better still.

Free Sign

If you don’t already have this software on your computers, but would like to, all you have to do is ask. If you already have the software, but know of others that could benefit from it as well, be they faculty, students, or staff, please let them know that it is available for them. The catch? Really there is no catch, we’d simply like your help to get the word out about these valuable resources.

Come and Get it:

If you would like to have any of the above software installed on your College-owned computer or (when possible) on your personal home computer, follow the instructions provide below:

Matlab for Faculty

MatLab for Students

Mathematica

SPSS

Esri ArcGis

Or if you have any questions regarding specific software packages or your eligibility please contact me directly, or the Technology Support Center (TSC) at 757-221-HELP or at support@wm.edu.

About Pablo Yáñez

Pablo Yáñez is the Academic Technologist for the Sciences. He studied Geology at the University of Maryland (BS) and University of Arizona (MS), where he specialized in Geochemistry. He joined Information Technology at William and Mary in 2000, and has since worked with nearly all of the academic departments on campus in some capacity or another. Beyond his "normal" Academic Technologist duties, during these years he has been involved in several projects/initiatives including: the use of the College's Public Access Labs; the creation of the Center for Geospatial Analysis, the Swem Media Center, and many technology-enhanced classrooms; and in the review and planning of campus-wide software procurement.