All "free" stuff is not created equal. If you walk into a convenience store, take a candy bar when no one is looking, and walk out without paying, then you could technically claim to have gotten the candy bar "free." You didn't pay for it, after all. Most people, of course, would use a different word or words to describe that transaction, and most of those words, if applied in a court of law, would result in your "free" candy bar becoming the first line item on your official criminal record.
To cite a real-world example, a writer for Vogue magazine drafted a lengthy article, published online earlier today, about his experience going to see the new Scarlett Johansson sci-fi crime thriller Ghost in the Shell. Cloaking his actions in a facade of noble artistic suffering, the writer sneaked into a theater near his home without purchasing a ticket and saw the movie for "free." He had to steal the old-fashioned way, see, because nobody had managed to make the movie available via BitTorrent.
The internet in particular, and information technology in general, gets a bad name because of software like BitTorrent that lets entitled punks enjoy the finer things in movies and television "free." There's a bright side, however, to the ongoing web revolution that lets people connect and share online. Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, are like the anti-BitTorrent. They offer a legitimate forum where information and, perhaps more importantly, education can be made freely available to anyone with an interest in learning.
MOOCs are a fantastic new tool for forging a new IT education, or refreshing your existing knowledge. There are lots of places to look and many hundreds of legitimately free course offerings that can provide the next stepping stone in your journey to IT education or employment. For example, if you have an interest in Big Data, there's about to be a new free MOOC available to teach the basics of Apache Hadoop, a key building block in the data storage and data analysis realm.
Many MOOCs offer an excellent way to study for your next certification exam. If your training budget is a little thin, then be sure to look around online while lining up your study options. You might be able to give yourself a leg up free of charge — and you won't even have to worry about being tracked down by law enforcement officials later on.
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