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Where to find Free Music, Movies, TV and Games (Legally)
Where to find Free Music, Movies, TV and Games (Legally) - PCSTATS
Abstract: With the very-recently-announced demise of a large, legally dubious file-sharing website, and with an economy that's currently in the gutter, what better time to explore the world of online media.
Filed under: Editorial Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: PCSTATS Jul 09 2009   J. Apong  
Home > Reviews > Editorial > PCSTATS

With the very-recently-announced demise of a large, legally dubious file-sharing website, and with an economy that's currently in the gutter, what better time to explore the world of online media. With nothing but your internet connection, it's possible to get all kinds of free media and entertainment - and without breaking the law or risking lawsuits!

Free Music

Getting access to music online was perhaps the catalyst for the file-sharing revolution that brought broadband internet connections to many households. Back then it was done through the likes of programs like Napster, but over the past few years things have evolved in some exciting new directions.

Internet Radio has become a very convenient way of getting access to online music libraries. Instead of downloading MP3 files and storing them locally on your computer, the content is streamed from an online database directly to your machine. There are a number of sites that provide internet radio, and the quality varies greatly in terms of features available.

One of the most popular online music radios is Pandora, an online music recommendation system. It works by letting you choose an initial song to listen to, and then responds by recommending artists and songs that are similar to your initial choice. Pandora is currently limited to users in America only, and has several limitations as to how songs can be played. Control over songs is limited to skipping ahead to new tracks, but only so many track skips are allowed per account per day.

Last.FM is an alternative to Pandora, with a similar recommendation system, interface and control scheme. While Last.FM was at first both ad-free and available internationally, recent economic pressures have now changed the site to charge listener access fees to those outside of the US, UK and Germany. Last.FM can be freely integrated into several music players so as to provide new music recommendations as you listen to music.

Out of all the free online music websites that I've tried, my personal favorite is Grooveshark, a new start-up that blurs the line between traditional internet radio applications and desktop-based music players like Windows Media Player and iTunes. Grooveshark has a gigantic library of user-uploaded tunes that can be accessed online as individual tracks or as saved playlists. Unlike Pandora and Last.FM, it allows songs to be skipped and repeated, as well as giving signed-up users the ability to create and save custom playlists. Users can also upload their own music legally to played through the service, and there's a basic Autoplay recommendation service, although it doesn't quite measure to the quality of that found on Last.FM or Pandora. Of course, the downside to all of this is that Grooveshark at times will struggle to keep up with server demand, and is particularly prone to skipping and track unavailability on slower connections.

If you haven't used internet radio before or have been turned off by some of its limitations, Grooveshark is definitely a good place to start.

Free Movies and Free TV

For those couch potatoes that have been looking for new ways of getting your TV on-demand, Hulu has become the hot new thing. It's a free, ad-supported website that has access to both feature-length movies and TV shows, and has become one of the most popular TV-on-demand websites on the Internet. Unless, of course, you're not from America - in that case you're effectively blocked from accessing Hulu's content. While it's possible to work around these restrictions through clever use of proxies and IP spoofing, these methods have become decreasingly successful over the past year.

For Canucks, CTV online and Global online are easy ways to get access to prime-time TV shows such as Lost, The Daily Show, the Office and 24. There are some limitations on these services, the biggest one being that only the latest episodes are available online, past seasons typically aren't available.

For content that falls outside of prime time, streaming-video website Joost has both a large selection of full-length TV episodes, as well a collection of movies and music concerts available. Joost used to be available through a custom streaming application, but that's recently been dropped in favor of a browser-based flash player. A lot of Joost's content is restricted by country, so again those outside of the United States may have trouble accessing their favorite shows. Joost has a large collection of animation, and anime fans in particular will want to check out the website for access to popular sub-titled japanese cartoons.


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Free Games

Valve's Steam content delivery service isn't totally free, although there is some free content on it if you know where to look. There are demos for a variety of new, triple-A PC games that can be downloaded on demand. Steam also has periodic 'free weekends' for popular games like Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead, which give you a chance to try out a game before dropping your hard-earned money on it. Steam has become a very slick service that's getting a lot of the latest and best PC titles, and I'm sure there are many PCSTATS readers who have migrated to it as a replacement from brick-and-mortar videogame stores like EB and GameStop.

Good Old Games is similar to Steam, but it focuses on getting older, hard-to-find titles and putting them up online for download. There are a few free games on Good Old Games as well, including the excellent old-school adventure game Beneath a Steel Sky. The majority of the games on there do cost money, but fortunately they're priced very competitively - it's only $5 to $10 USD to get access to classics like Fallout, Duke Nukem 3D, and Unreal Tournament. The best part though is that there isn't any DRM on these titles, and they're all re-configured to be Windows XP and Vista compatible.

Of course, for those looking to game but have absolutely no money, there are still some completely-free alternatives out there, as long as you're willing to do some digging. Gnome's Lair has an excellent list of freeware games that are available for install on your computer, many of which are adaptations or re-releases of major titles from a few years ago.

Finally, if you're looking for browser-based games that you can play on any PC that has Adobe Flash installed, there a number of addictive ways to kill your time. Instead of trawling the web trying to figure out which flash game are hosted where, the OVguide has a directory that lists the top rated online flash game websites.

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