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FreeSkate with Strings

The Honorable Cheapskate: FreeSkate

Welcome to The Honorable Cheapskate, part of the Cook's Books web site. I, the aforementioned Cheapskate, am a relatively poor college student who's spent some time ferreting out honest-to-goodness free stuff. It took me some time to find these gems and I'd like to share them with you. Here, I'll provide you with the best ways I know to get free goods and services without getting scammed. Get around the loopholes and enjoy the best the Internet has to offer - for free!

This page, FreeSkate, is devoted to straightforwardly free goods and services. If you're like me, you're sick and tired of "free stuff" pages filled with offers that aren't actually free. I honestly, honorably promise that the goods and services described on this site can be obtained at no cost to you. Whenever there's a "catch" (usually just advertisements you have to tolerate, and never anything that costs you), I'll let you know. Just follow the links and instructions provided here and you're on your way!

Free Stuff: Categories

Free Phone Services
Free Fax Services
Free Internet Service
Free Internet File Storage
Free Internet Browsers

Free Phone Services

My Talk.Com
My Talk.Com offers four free and handy services. First, they give you free e-mail. Big whup, right? Well, just wait. You are given a toll-free number with your own extension that you can call from anywhere in the US. When you call this number you can access service #2, namely, having your e-mail read to you over the phone for free! This is very cool for business travelers who need to check messages but can't access a computer. Perhaps you'd like to check your voice mail at home or just quickly say "hi" to a friend or loved one? Well, try service #3, also through the handy toll-free number: FREE 2-minute long-distance calls. The newest service, #4, allows individuals to call your number and leave voice mail, which you can retrieve and hear the same way you hear your e-mail! This is a very nice suite of services.
The Catch: As usual, the disadvantage is that you're exposed to an advertisement or two. No obligation to buy, though, and if you're willing to sit through a quick ad, the service is definitely worth it.

Watch Out for this semi-scam. CoolMail bills itself as something like My Talk, in which you can call up a "toll free" number and hear your e-mails read to you at no charge.
The Catch: You'll find the catch here if you follow the asterisk from the phrase "toll free" down toward the bottom of CoolMail's secondary information page. There, you'll learn that "toll free" applies only to the first sixty minutes of the service per month (and you'd be amazed at how quickly that sixty minutes can pass). Thereafter, there's a ten cent per minute charge. CoolMail will also try to sell you a reply service by which you can send an e-mail back with dictation over the phone. The cost? 2 cents per word. If you're careful, you can use CoolMail for free. If you're not, you'll end up paying.

FreeWay offers up to 2 free hours of long distance calling a month. You use the FreeWay service just like a calling card. It's handy, quick and rather convenient. I use this often when I'm on the road far away from home, or when I'm out and about around town -- you can use the service at pay phones to make free local calls, so long as you include the local area code. Since I started Freeway, my monthly long-distance bills have gone down substantially.
The Catch: You've got to listen to a 15-second advertisement for every 2 minutes you want to talk. Personally, I take the time to wash dishes while cradling my cordless phone between my ear and shoulder. If you're a starving college student-type, this is a pretty good deal.

Free Fax Services

eFax offers one pretty neat free service: you can get a free phone number (long distance) that anyone can call to send you a fax. The faxes are sent to you free of charge as e-mail attachments. Voila! You're in business. Pretty spiffy.
The Catch: There are a couple of catches here. First of all, the free service is only one of many services. Make sure you select the eFax Free option. Second, you'll encounter ads when retrieving your fax. Third, while you can access your faxes via a toll-free number, those who want to fax you will have to use a long-distance number to send. In other words, free for you, but not yet free for your correspondents. Fourth, they've tried to imply that an additional service, eFax Voice with voicemail messaging, is free by saying it's packaged with eFax Free. What they don't tell you unless you visit their FAQ is that voicemail messaging costs $.10/message and $.20/minute even though you call a "toll-free" number for the messages. In sum, eFax tries to make $$ off this free deal by fooling you into purchasing additional services. If you're careful, however, you can get a great deal.

XoomFax offers the same service as eFax: you get free faxes by e-mail, your correspondents send faxes to a long-distance phone number that's yours alone but that doesn't cost you anything.
The Catch: There aren't as many catches with XoomFax as with eFax, mostly because XoomFax doesn't try to trip you up with offers that sound free but aren't. Of course, XoomFax does have premium services like Toll-Free numbers that your correspondents can call to send faxes, and of course they'd like to sell these services to you. Resist, move on, and you've got a handy service.

Fax4Free is similar to eFax and XoomFax, but offers an additional freebie: you can SEND faxes to the U.S., Canada and Australia for free as well. The setup should be familiar by now: electronic faxes sent directly from and to your PC at no charge to you. Fax4Free offers non-profit organizations an extra freebie: the option to "broadcast fax" (meaning mass-fax) to members in the same countries rather than send a single fax at a time.
The Catch: The Catch here is that in order to send faxes to places OUTSIDE the U.S., Canada and Australia, you must pay. Fortunately, Fax4Free makes this pretty clear. Fax4Free also offers a toll-free number for receiving faxes which costs $$$. Again, fortunately Fax4Free makes it crystal clear that this option costs money, even warning you on the signup page not to select the toll-free option unless you want to pay for it. Fax4Free seems to be the most ethically-minded of the bunch.

Free Internet Service

Altavista FreeAccess
Believe it or not, you don't have to pay any monthly fees for internet service. Altavista FreeAccess provides free, unlimited 56k modem internet access to folks all across the United States. After you download a small (600k) program and set up FreeAccess, you're ready to go.
The Catch:At the bottom of your screen, there's this thing about an inch tall called a MicroPortal that displays stock quotes, news headlines and other links to the AltaVista search engine's site. Every hour or so you have to click on a link taking you to the AltaVista page in order to keep going. Guess what else shows up on the MicroPortal? That's right, ads. Advertisements fund your internet access. Not a bad trade, in my opinion.

NetZero is a similar product to FreeAccess; you get free 56k internet access and a free e-mail account for life. After you download a program, you're ready to go here, too.
The Catch:No catch, except for a banner like the MicroPortal that displays ads. Sorry, no Mac Version right now, but they're working on it. The NetZero service is nice enough to offer free anti-spam programs to keep your e-mail account from being inundated by mass e-mail advertisements.

Free Internet File Storage

Driveway is a free, browser-based file storage system offered by a company named Atreiva. Driveway caters to computer users with a need to stay organized and access files from any web-based computer at anytime. For instance, if you went on a business trip and wanted to revise a report, you could go to Driveway, download the report file you'd previously stored, work on it, and print it. Best of all, you could stick the same report back on Driveway and rest assured that you wouldn't lose it on the flight home. Driveway offers 25 MegaBytes (MB) of free space; this isn't huge, but it's certainly enough to hold a good load of documents.
The Catch:There are two catches to consider, neither of which requires you to pay money to anyone. The first catch is that in order to sign up, you have to volunteer some demographic information which might in turn be sold to advertisers. The second catch is that Driveway would like to get you hooked on the 25 MB of space and sell you more; whether you buy more space is up to you.

Free Internet Browsers

Wotch Minibrowsers
Wotch minibrowsers are small, free desktop programs that help you navigate the web and your PC desktop faster. How? By streamlining their functions down to the bare minimum. Wotches enhance your favorite browser, making it easier to get to any web site or web search. At the same time, you can pick a style that matches your taste, not the taste of Bill Gates (Microsoft) or Steve Case (Netscape). Wotches appear in dozens of kooky multimedia designs, with special effects; like the desktop alarm; silly sounds and animations. Wotches are called wotches because each of them has some way to show the time, and some of them have alarms you can set.
The Catch:There are two catches. First, Wotch will try to sell you a customized browser. If you're into that, cool, but don't feel the pressure to go down that route. Second, there are "preferred sites" that show up on your wotch browser; in order to get full functionality, you'll have to visit ten sites, a task which should take you all of ten minutes. If this is tolerable to you, look forward to a cute, fun and sometimes useful addition to your internet experience.

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