The Download Blog

Futzing with features: Firefox add-ons in 2008

As performance reasserts its prominence and features become less of the driving force behind browsers, I find myself looking at the list of inactive extensions in Firefox with jaundiced eyes. It's been months since I've added a new extension, but the ones I still have I use regularly, and several are actually new to me for this year.

Part of the problem with add-ons is that they're such a personal, subjective thing. What do you need? Why do you need it? One of my favorites is a minor, tiny thing, but it saves me so much time … Read more

Mac Starter Kit

Now that your new Mac is set up and you have the Internet hooked up, how about some software? Out of the box, your Mac is loaded with cool apps to get you started on stuff like uploading and organizing your digital images, creating a music library, making your own movies, and surfing the Web. But it doesn't come with everything.

New Macs come with a ton of goodies already, but there are several cool apps Mac users count on every day that aren't included in the initial setup. To get you started, we've rounded up our … Read more

Best in iPhone entertainment 2008

If you've read my iPhone Apps of the Week posts, you know that I mostly download games and entertainment applications. I also like to check out music apps, because I play a few instruments and am continually interested in what developers are able to come up with musically for the iPhone. Since my coworker, Jessica Dolcourt, wrote the iPhone Starter Kit based around must-have apps of the practical variety, I can really get down to business--the business of fun iPhone apps!

So, what makes a great game or music app? Certainly graphics and sound are important for games, but with a platform as unique as the iPhone or iPod Touch, it's important to consider how it utilizes the accelerometer, touch screen, and other aspects of the device. For musical instruments and drum machines, it's important to note whether the sounds are realistic and how intuitive it is to play the instrument. Finally, it's important to note whether a game or instrument is a good fit for the medium. You probably wouldn't want to spend hours playing an MMO on a tiny device that needs recharging, and, similarly, you're probably not going to be writing concertos on your iPhone. The point is that it should be a good app by itself in addition to being a good app for the iPhone.

Some of the apps I'm including for this end-of-the-year roundup have been in previous posts, but several are new apps to my iPhone. I'm including both free apps and apps for purchase, and sometimes I have a good free version of a genre you can try if you don't want to spend the money. Without further ado, read on to see my favorite fun apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch.… Read more

Puzzle extension turns any Web image into a game

Here's a fun extension from the experimental section of Mozilla's Firefox add-ons site. It's called Puzzle, and once installed lets you turn any image from a page you're on into a sectional puzzle with pieces that can be moved around. Upon completion you have the option to ramp up the difficulty, which goes all the way up to a 15x15 grid. It's also able to resize larger images into smaller, laptop-friendly versions.

To toggle it on you simply right click on an image and select which difficulty you want. It then opens up the image (… Read more

Mint.com brings personal finance to the iPhone

Mint.com released a new and free iPhone application early Monday. Similar to PageOnce's mobile efforts, Mint's lets you monitor your credit card and bank accounts from your phone. It also throws in things like your monthly budget, incoming cash flow and expenses, along with any investment accounts you have synced up to Mint.com.

For security, Mint seems to have taken a page from PageOnce in letting you enable or disable mobile access from Mint.com. If your phone gets lost or stolen, you can simply cut off its access to your account, keeping any would-be identity … Read more

Voice, video chat coming to Mac Messenger

In some great news from Mac Mojo, the Office for Mac team blog, it looks like Windows Live Messenger for Mac will receive a major update sometime early next year. The biggest new feature update will be AV support for the personal client, which means users will be able to participate in cross-platform audio and video chat using the personal version of Microsoft Messenger for Mac. They are also working on additional features for the personal Windows Live Messenger client and are on track to preview some of the new implementations at Macworld in January at the MacBU booth. The … Read more

Ambrosia games bundle for Mac

Our friends at Ambrosia Software just told us about their 15th Anniversary Games Bundle, and if you're looking for a great gift for the Mac gamer in your life, this is a great deal.

The $19 bundle includes six games from Ambrosia's stable of fun and creatively-written games for the Mac: Apeiron, Bubble Trouble, Redline, SketchFighter, Aki Mahjong, and Darwinia.

Apeiron and Bubble Trouble are arcade-style, friendly games with bright graphics and entertaining game play for kids and adults alike. Aki Mahjong is an elegant take on the tile-based Chinese Solitaire-type game.

SketchFighter is designed in a pen-and-ink … Read more

Yahoo shows ads in IM chat windows

Updated 4 p.m. PST with further Yahoo comment.

Yahoo Messenger (Windows | Mac) long has shown ads on its buddy list window, but the Internet pioneer is testing them in the instant-messaging chat windows as well.

The ads are part of a test that began in August and ends in December, Yahoo said in a statement. One example we saw here at CNET shows an ad for MasterCard.

"Ads in Yahoo Messenger will allow us to put even more resources behind developing and delivering valuable free features and services," Yahoo said. "Yahoo Messenger is a free service … Read more

Evernote now syncs your files across devices

Evernote, a tool Rafe Needleman and I both use regularly to take notes and archive scanned documents, put out a new and useful feature early Wednesday. Now, when attaching a file to a note it will be available everywhere else once it's been synced. If a change is made to that file, those changes get updated in all other locations shortly thereafter, mimicking the behavior of creating and syncing text notes on the service.

While not being an official hard drive in the cloud, this step brings Evernote a little closer. You still have to attach your files to … Read more

Turn Google, Yahoo search results into tag clouds

Search Cloudlet is a Firefox extension from the International Software and Productivity Engineering Institute (INTSPEI) that gives users a cloud of tags to help modify and focus searches on Google and Yahoo. Once installed it will show up on top of search results and provides a simple way to tweak the original query by offering up keywords pulled from the results.

Words that appear more often in the results appear as bigger, bolder tags that you can click on to re-start the query with that word tacked on. The creators recommend dialing up the number of default search results to … Read more