Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Free! states that, among many other things, free is something that is "provided without, or not subject to, a charge or payment."

Without a doubt, I am a fan of "free." I am a free person, "enjoying personal rights or liberty(s)," and for the most part, "not held fast" to anything or situation. Free-dom is a great thing. It allows us to go where we please, do what we feel (within or without reason), and enjoy the fruits of our autonomy. I am a very fortunate person.

However, in the material world, free is usually associated with words such as "junk," "worthless," and "not really free." All too often, free comes with strings attached, like *'s. There are hidden fees or catches that bind you into more trouble than the initial freedom is worth. So it is quite rare that things of value are offered at no price. That is why I am surprised when I see something of value offered for free.

One thing that I have found (and it is nothing new) is free phone service. Just a few years ago, we had to pay loads of money to call someone across the country. We would compare different carriers, wait for nightfall, hesitate on calling during "peak" hours, or any number of things to reduce the cost of making a long distance call. That has all changed with VOIP servers such as Skype ( or Vonage. You can call anywhere in the world for free. Free? Free! (I love saying that word.) However, there are a few *'s attached. First, you'll need a computer, and if you're reading this, you've already got that covered. Second, you'll need several minutes to set up an account. Third, you'll need a microphone and speakers, things your computer probably already has. After these, all you need is someone to call in Denizli, Turkey, some free time, and you're set. Calling around the world hasn't been so free since the days of phreaking!

Another nugget that I've found is in the online trading arena. With the advent of the online discount brokerages, commissions have plummeted from hundreds of dollars per trade to the cheaper rates being below US$10. I myself have been using Scottrade ( for the past several years to make the occasional hobby trade. They offer relatively low rates at US$7/trade. TradeKing ( also offers very low rates starting at US$4.95/trade. These are great rates for market trades. But one company has changed all that.
As I was surfing the land of the free (the internet), I came across an ad for free trades. Intruiged I went to their website ( and found out what this nonsense of free trades was. Low and behold, they were offering free trades. Mind you that these are for your basic market orders. More advanced trades such as option and margin accounts have other fees. But before you being acting like a day trader, make sure Zecco offers what you are looking for in a (discount) broker. Because there's nothing worse than getting something for free that will end up costing you more later.

Hopefully these free things will allow me to "act without self-restraint or reserve" and "not (be)subject to rules (or) set forms" in the future. Until then, keep on the lookout for freedoms for all.

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