The Download Blog

Chrome's new-tab page gets more interactive

Opening a new tab in a browser is a moment ripe with opportunity, and Google has begun testing a version of Chrome that can present new options when users do so.

Chrome's current new-tab interface, which also shows by default when the browser is first launched, displays a three-by-three array of thumbnails of the most commonly visited Web sites. It also sports a history search box, a list of recent bookmarks, and a list of recently closed tabs. That changes in Chrome, a developer preview version released Monday.

The new layout, though, features a thumbnail … Read more

Google Apps shed beta label

Google Apps have all grown up.

No longer must Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, and Google Talk carry the beta tag of shame; they are all now full-fledged members of the Google family of products. Google has been hinting this was coming over the past few months, but is finally ready to make the official announcement along with the news that Fairchild Semiconductor has decided to embrace Google's suite of Web-based office productivity applications.

In truth, it's hard to tell exactly what technical advancements may have prompted the decision to lift the products out of beta. Matt Glotzbach, … Read more

VideoLAN releases VLC 1.0.0: Your media will never be the same

VideoLAN's VLC media player, arguably the world's best media player, hit version 0.9.9 in early April. Three months and more than 78 million downloads later, VideoLAN has announced VLC 1.0.0, or "Goldeneye."

Your media will never be the same.

In fact, with VideoLAN's VLC media player for Windows, Mac, and Linux, it doesn't have to be. One of the amazing things about VLC is that it can play anything that you've ever even thought about playing. That random media format that one site in Ecuador requires--VLC likely plays it, … Read more

Firefox 3.5 and the potential of Web typography

In addition to new features such as support for HTML 5, geo-location, and a noticeably faster engine, Firefox 3.5 added a new CSS rule that makes Web typography much more attractive.

@font-face is a CSS rule that allows Web designers to reference fonts not installed on end-user machines. Just as you would have a pointer to a server-based stylesheet or JavaScript file in your Web page code, you can now make reference to a hosted typeface.

You'll note that news sites such as CNET News and are optimized to make Web type more readable and as stylish as possible, but there are many design possibilities via additional downloadable typefaces. (As with any linked asset, there is some level of security risk if a hacker gets their hands on the font file.)

Mozilla's John Daggett explains: Within a stylesheet, each @font-face rule defines a family name to be used, the font resource to be loaded, and the style characteristics of a given face such as whether it's bold or italic. Firefox 3.5 only downloads the fonts as needed, so a stylesheet can list a whole set of fonts of which only a select few will actually be used.

This function is something I would have expected to be commonplace by now (Safari began supporting it in Version 3.1 and Opera in Version 10) but neither have the market share to drive usage the way Firefox and Internet Explorer do. (Note: this function doesn't work in IE.)

Generally speaking, the Web browser has done a terrible job with type. We've been stuck with old standbys such as Helvetica or Times New Roman, and don't forget the oft-loathed Comic-Sans and other delightful Microsoft fonts that are often easy to read but lack any real style (Verdana, for example.) … Read more

Easy-to-read news and squad-based battle: iPhone apps of the week

How long does it take you to sync your iPhone? I have the 16GB 3G, about 9GB of music, almost 2GB of apps, and about 60 photos. My "Other" category shows up as more than 2GB (!) in iTunes, but that might be worthy of a separate post. In any case, from start to finish, syncing my iPhone on my Windows PC (it's where my music library is) takes almost an hour. A lot of that time is spent backing up or transferring purchases, but it just doesn't seem right that it should take that long.

A … Read more

Yahoo's Delicious proves Chrome extensions real

Yahoo has released a test version of a Delicious social bookmarking extension for Chrome, one of the strongest indications so far that the technology foundation is coming to fruition in Google's browser.

Extensions still must be specifically enabled through a command-line switch on the developer version of Chrome, and Google recently broke extensions compatibility through an update, so the technology clearly is immature. But Google is steadily addressing the concern that its browser lacks one of Firefox's notable features--called add-ons in the Mozilla browser.

"Delicious extension (alpha version) for Google Chrome is now available," said Amit Papnai of the Delicious team in a mailing list posting Tuesday. "This is a light version of the extension and allows you to sign in and post bookmarks to your Delicious account." … Read more

VirtualBox receives major update

It's no secret you can run various flavors of Windows on Intel Macs using Apple's Bootcamp or other popular virtualization software options like Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion. Any of these work great if you need to run Windows software on your Mac or even test beta software worry free, but a fairly recent discovery of mine might be a better choice. VirtualBox is the free, cross-platform, open-source virtualization software I used to get the Windows 7 beta running on a Mac, and it just received a major update.

VirtualBox 3.0 (Windows or Mac) lets you create … Read more

Opera widgets for the math and science whiz

I really like Opera (Windows | Mac) widgets. They all offer something unique. But I especially like the browser's science and math widgets.

If you're someone who just can't get enough of planets, you love building mathematical graphs, or you enjoy science, these widgets are for you.

Science widgets

Astronomy Picture of the Day Each day, when you load Astronomy Picture of the Day, it displays a picture it gets from NASA. When you click on that image, it gives you an in-depth description of what's being depicted and why it's important. I found it to be extremely informative. Practically anyone who likes astronomy should be pleased with Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Chinese Abacus If you want to get some addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division work done, look no further than than the Chinese Abacus widget. Much like the real thing, you can move the blocks up and down to keep count. The abacus will show a tally at the bottom to help you.

Before you start using it, beware that the Chinese Abacus widget requires some knowledge of the abacus to get it to work. Once you get the hang of it, you'll find that it makes performing basic math functions quite simple.

Functions 3D Functions 3D isn't for the novice mathematician. The widget lets you create a 3D structure based on a mathematical equation that you devise.

Once you set the X, Y, and Z boundaries, you'll create an equation to develop the figure you want to depict. You can create simple archways or complex statues by changing the equation to fit your needs. Functions 3D is one of the more powerful Opera widgets I've ever used. It's also one of the most difficult to understand.… Read more

Postbox gets extensions

Considering that it's based on Mozilla Thunderbird, it was a bit of a surprise that add-ons weren't available for Postbox when it debuted. That's now been remedied in Postbox beta 13 for Windows and Mac. Given Postbox's emphasis on social-networking technology and Mozilla's own success with add-ons, this move puts the e-mail client in an excellent position to attract more users.

A Webware 100 winner, the list of supported extensions isn't long at the moment, and notably it doesn't include Thunderbird's calendaring tool Lightning. Since Postbox doesn't have its own supported … Read more