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5 free things you can enjoy today

Put your wallets away (for once) and check out these great freebies: a book, a movie, a game and more! Plus: two bonus deals (not free).

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
5 min read

CNET's Cheapskate scours the web for great deals on PCs, phones , gadgets and much more. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page. Find more great buys on the CNET Deals page and follow the Cheapskate on Facebook and Twitter!

Well, cheeps, after what I consider a pretty solid run of deals these past few weeks, the well totally ran dry today. (Actually, it kind of ran dry yesterday, hence the rather eclectic collection of bonus deals.)

I'm not saying there were no deals to be had, merely that nothing met my Cheapskate standards.

And you know what? I'm tired of spending money anyway. As I'm sure you are. So today I thought I'd bring you a selection of freebies I think are worth your time.

Free movie


A scene from Woody Allen's hilarious, underrated "Love and Death."

There are lots of ways to watch free movies online, and lots of free movies to choose from. These days I think we could all use a few laughs, which is why I recommend one of Woody Allen's best films, the woefully underrated "Love and Death." You can stream it free at TubiTV.

Who could possibly write a satire about Russian literature and make it funny? Early-1970s Woody Allen, that's who. This movie is chock full of smart jokes, hilarious sight gags and some surprisingly effective battlefield scenes. It's just silly from start to finish, but with some wonderful reflections on, well, love and death. (This is death-obsessed Allen, after all.)

My favorite line: Diane Keaton, musing on the simplistic beauty of a leaf, borrows a quote from Albert Camus: "I definitely think this is the best of all possible worlds." To which Allen responds: "It's certainly the most expensive."

Free book


Read this book and get a little perspective on life.

Time to dig out that library card and link it to Hoopla Digital, where you can score tons of free media -- books, audiobooks, comics, movies, music and so on -- same as you can at your actual library.

Once you've made that connection, check out (literally) one of my all-time favorite books: "The Good Earth," by Pearl S. Buck. It doesn't read like classic literature; it reads like modern historical fiction, telling the story of Wang Lung, a Chinese peasant who endures wrenching hardships but always returns to his most treasured possession: his land.

It's a sweet, uplifting, heartbreaking and totally engrossing book, one I really think you'll love. If your library doesn't offer Hoopla, check out whatever e-book service it does have -- you should be able to find a free-to-borrow copy of the book.

Free software

Ransomware freaks me out. I can cope with garden-variety viruses and malware, and I don't fall for phishing attempts. But ransomware is serious business, which is why I've broken my longstanding rule about skipping security software and installed Cybereason RansomFree

True to its name, it's a freeware anti-ransomware utility that, if nothing else, makes me feel better. Actually, it did catch and thwart a recent incursion on my laptop, though not before two files had been encrypted. (Thankfully, they weren't important.) So I can say firsthand that it works. (YMMV.)

Free software, part 2

Genie9 Corp.

Speaking of data loss, even though many of us sync our files to the cloud, there are countless reasons to make local backups at home as well.

What you need, though, is a set-it-and-forget-it solution that will make those backups automatically, on your schedule, to the destination of your choice (external drive, network drive, etc.)

For a limited time, SharewareOnSale has Genie Backup Manager Home 9 (Win) for free. Regular price: $50. As with many such giveaways, it's a 1-PC license that doesn't include updates or tech support. 

GBM Home 9 is an easy-to-use but robust backup utility, with only one real flaw: It can create emergency boot media, but only on optical discs, not flash drives. (If you know of a freebie backup utility better than this one, by all means mention it in the comments!)

Free game


When an enemy hero crosses the front lines in Dota 2, look out!

Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

How have I spent 10 years (this month!) writing about cheap deals and never once mentioned Dota 2? This free-to-play multiplayer game, available on Steam, is "complicated, exhausting, and sometimes cruel," according to GameSpot, but it's also some of the most fun you can have with friends -- and certainly the cheapest.

Here's the overview, again from GameSpot: "Two teams of five players spawn on corners of a map. Each team needs to work together with the goal of ultimately destroying a central structure -- in Dota 2's case, the Ancient -- in the opposing team's base. With most games lasting around the 40-minute mark, and occasionally edging past an hour, watching the enemy fortress dramatically crumble and sink to the ground feels like an exhilarating payoff."

Prefer something single-player? Check out Path of Exile, also free to play on Steam.

Bonus deal: Book time! Fellow sci-fi nerds, Amazon has the Kindle edition of "="" for="" just="" $1.99"="">"The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke" for just $1.99, a savings of $25. The huge tome includes every Clarke short story ever. Meanwhile, you can also pick up George R.R. Martin's "="" for="" $3.99"="">"A Clash of Kings" for $3.99 (normally $9.99). (Google Play has it for that price as well.) This is book two of Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series, which was made into a little TV show you might know?

Bonus deal No. 2: If you happen to be in the market for a new phone, consider buying it from Best Buy. For a limited time, when you purchase any unlocked GSM phone, you can get a free Mint SIM prepaid SIM kit that's good for three months of 2GB service. (That's a $45 value.) Just add both the phone and the the card will drop to $0.

So, for example, you could pick up the Motorola Moto G Plus (5th-gen) for $210 -- normally $230 -- and get free service for three months. (Browse all Best Buy's unlocked phones here.) You could then continue that same 2GB plan for $15 per month, though you need to prepay for three or 12 months to keep that rate. Mint SIM has other plan tiers as well, of course, but all require prepayment for 3-12 months.