Im not a programmer, or a geek, nor even particularly expert with a computer; all I want to do is to turn on my pc, load my photos and process or post them to the web. So, with this in mind I set out a few years ago to find the easiest and cheapest way to achieve my goals.
There was a time, not too many years ago when Open Source (free) software was next to useless, even to a 'hobby' photographer like myself. However, I can honestly say that I am happy with what I now use. Here are some names, links and brief descriptions.

Operating System.
The operating system I use
is the 4th most popular world wide, it's free, is regularly updated and I can have a NEW version every 6 months if I wish to. I don't have to worry about viruses, etc., I can re-install it as often as I wish - on as many computers as I want, and if I were capable (which I'm not), I can even re-write all or part of it to suit my needs. It's named Linux Mint, and I'm currently using the no. 13 release because it has a 3 year support cycle. You can find out more about it or download it here :-
www.linuxmint.com

Photo Organisation (database).
I use a program called digikam for this task. Using digikam I can view, organise, add tags or descriptions, download photos fom various cameras, etc.. I currently have over 75,000 photos in this database (over 500Gb) and its not even breathing hard. You can find out about digikam here :-
www.digikam.org

RAW Conversion and Photo Preparation.
I shoot mostly in RAW format nowadays and need a program that is easy to use, flexible and able to handle many different makes and models of camera. I tried quite a number of programmes before I finally settled with Photivo; even with three or four 'raw converters' available on my pc I found it quicker and more convenient, so I ditched the rest for (to me), the best:-
www.photivo.org

Photo Processing.
I have used my current software for many years
, changing versions as it has matured, you may have heard of it, it's called GIMP. I'll be honest with you, I don't use 1/10th of its power or functions, even after 8 years of experience; and there are still parts of the programme that frustrate me. However, perseverance and practice mean that I can carry out many complex photo fixes with GIMP quite quickly :-
www.gimp.org/downloads/

HDR imaging.
HDR imaging is something which has recently caught my imagination and fired up my enthusiasm, I just love the detail and colour depth of the images I can produce with it. I have tried out several programmes, but have now found one which I feel that I can work with; it's called Luminance HDR and you can find it here:-
www.qtpfsgui.sourceforge.net


Panorama Stitching.
Not a task that I carry out often, but my first choice of software for this job is called Hugin. It is possible to do other things with the programme too, but for the present my 'focus' is elsewhere. Find out more about Hugin here :-
www.hugin.sourceforge.net

Conclusion.
So there you have it folks; the results of a few years of learning - or possibly just the ramblings of a miserly old goat, but at least it means that I buy photographic equipment - not photographic software. Please feel free to have a browse through my photo collection, which I hope will show that you don't need to spend huge amounts of money on software just to achieve publishable photos.