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May 6, 1996

Web site offers free software and CD-ROMs, games

A lot has been written about the Internet, the World Wide Web, and Windows users. (Due to the speed of some links, a friend of mine calls it the "World Wide Wait," but he is an impatient fellow.)

Sometimes it seems like the Web is just a place to buy things in a supermall gone wild. When you're watching the Home Shopping Channel on cable, at least the salespeople are selling only one thing at a time. On the Web, however, you can switch with a click to thousands of Web sites where something is for sale.

So I was pleased to hear about a site that concentrates on free software -- specifically, free CD-ROMs. This handy home page is maintained by the CD-ROM Users Group (P.O. Box 2400, Santa Barbara, Calif., 93120). The list starts at

I haven't tried all the CDs they list (there are, after all, only 24 hours in a day), but how bad could they be? You can't beat the price. Here's a selection of offers, with each one's Web site for you to check out.

Headbone Interactive gives away a CD-ROM sampler of multimedia software for kids. Some of the game demos included are AlphaBonk Farm, Elroy Goes Bugzerk, and Pantsylvania. (This CD is worth getting just for the names of the programs.) Headbone obviously hopes you'll come back and buy some of its full multimedia packages and makes it fairly painless for you to do so -- with the free CD, you get a coupon for $5 off any game it sells (

CMS Distributing Inc., a dealer of many CD-ROM titles, offers 200 Windows games (plus 564 DOS games) on its "free" CD ($5 for shipping and handling). The CD includes the CMS catalog, which may have some commercial CD products that interest you (

The Visual Sound Co., which generates Photo CDs and other products, has a promotion in which it will scan five 35mm slides or negatives for free. You receive a Master Photo CD to keep. Naturally, the company hopes you will use its commercial services later (

The Art Center offers a "free" CD ($5.95 for shipping and handling) with a 3,000-image sampler of clip art. Browse the CD, then get two free image-unlocking keys from the company's BBS to test a couple of your favorites (

NewsBase is a service that offers full- text searching of more than 1,500 publications worldwide, totaling about 300,000 news articles. The CD normally costs $24.95, but NewsBase has a free introductory offer for the libraries of qualified schools and universities (

The Stock Solution is a free stock photography catalog provided on CD-ROM in both Windows and Macintosh formats. More than 1,000 color photographs, averaging about 576 by 384 pixels, are included on the CD. Like those of most stock photography catalogs, the images are intended for in-house use or for use as a mock-up only. To include an image in a publication you distribute to the public, you must pay a license fee per use (

When you tire of ordering free stuff on the Web, the CD-ROM Users Group page features links to sites listing all kinds of free stuff you can order by phone. One site, called Next To Nothing, lists dozens of offers, from free business forms to free samples of baby formula (

Brian Livingston is the coauthor of the new Windows 95 Secrets and author of three other Windows books (IDG Books). Send tips to or fax: (206) 282-1248.

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