Origin is the place where all EA games come together

Eager to monetize each of their product in every possible way, EA launched a download platform similar to Steam but bearing only their homemade products. Known as Origin, the product is just another barrier for the player in his attempts of installing and playing a game.

We stumbled upon this manager when we wanted to get our hands on the Mass Effect 3 demo. It was required in order to run the free demo on our computer. I have nothing against exclusivity, but Origin is an annoying service.

If you wondered where EA Download Manager has disappeared to, you’ll be happy to know that it is now known as Origin. For any new EA release, Origin is the place where you should stop at, as it acts as a catalogue and store for their new titles. Sadly, older games are not always available, which is a bit of a missed mark on EAs part. If you are looking for deals you might want to go elsewhere, as pricing is usually the same as in retail stores, although there are occasionally bargains to be found.

In terms of functionality, the service is slower than Steam and it suffers from an unfinished interface which makes the user facing problems in browsing the service. One great feature is the ability to play some streaming demos in your web browser through the GaiKai service, so you can try before you buy. But forget the big titles.

If you only care about finding EA games then Origin is all you could wish for. While streaming demos are very convenient, Origin is far from a one-stop shop, even for EA’s catalogue, as older games are not always available. Origin is certainly good at what it does, but doesn’t do enough to be the only game manager you will ever need due to its forced exclusivity only on EA games.

read full review | download Origin

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Google Music Service will bypass the music labels

Google Music has publicly launched after lengthy beta testing, and inevitably some are already dubbing it the iTunes killer. That seems a little premature, but it does appear the service stands the best chance yet of being firmly established as a rival to Apple.

For the moment the service is US only, with expansion at the mercy of country-by-country licensing restrictions. While there’s no word on the schedule for adding more customers, there’s a good chance the UK will be among the first added markets to get the service.

The service is both similar to and different from the iTunes store. It stands out because users can automatically listen to their purchased music on any computer through a web browser. Users can also download mp3 files at 320kbps: that means comparatively good sound quality, though file sizes are larger. There are no technological restrictions on downloading purchased music, burning the songs to a CD, or copying to a portable device. However, there is a legal restriction, namely that the music is only for your own non-commercial use.

As well as purchased music, users can upload up to 20,000 tracks from their own computer and then access them over the web. However, unlike a similar service from Apple, every song must be individually uploaded, which could be an extremely lengthy process.

Google Music does allow a form of sharing, though it’s not unrestricted. It’s only available to members of the Google+ social networking service. The system is set up so that once a member buys a song, his or her online contacts each have the right to listed to that song once without charge.

It’s on mobile devices where Google Music may make the biggest splash. There’s not only a dedicated Android application, but the music catalogue is built directly into the Android Market, meaning you can buy with a simple click in the same way as buying an app. The idea seems to be to make music more of an impulse purchase with as little hassle as possible. Intriguingly one mobile phone network in the US has added an option to buy music and have the cost added to your monthly phone bill.

The music catalogue is the biggest weakness against iTunes at the moment. Warner Music, one of the three remaining major labels, has not yet agreed to have its music on the service. Between that and the fact that Google is only part of the way through signing up independent labels, the service “only” has 13 million tracks available, compared with around 18 million on iTunes.

There are a few exclusives though, with bands such as Coldplay, Pearl Jam and the Rolling Stones providing live albums that can’t be bought elsewhere. The service also offers a free Song of the Day.

Unsigned artists have the ability to add music to the service. To do so they pay a $25 (£16) fee to set up a dedicated page in the “New Music Hub.” They can then set their own prices for downloads, with Google taking 30 percent of the revenue.

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Kobo Deskop, the ebook client

Kobo Desktop is a free client application similar to iTunes, that offers ebooks for sale from its own database. You can browse and buy books from dozens of catalogues offered by the Kobo service sorted by genre, recent added, and top 50. They also offer a great collection of free ebooks from the classic literature.

Kobo comes with a minimal interface based on a Mac like design with a simple an clean menu on the left. From the menu you can view the content of your library and store, and your account info. Each ebook will be opened in a separate window which features its own menu. This menu is dynamic and can be hidden any time in order not to disturb your reading session. But in case you want to browse the book’s chapters, or view the book’s content, you can bring the command menu in front by a simple click. For the perfect reading experience you can choose the full-screen mode.

read full review download Kobo Desktop

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