The Download Blog

VoxOx goes gunning for Skype, Digsby

What if Digsby and Skype merged into one seemingly all-powerful VoIP and messaging communications tool? It's a question which, according to San Diego-based telephone company TelCentris, can be answered by VoxOx.

VoxOx, currently for Windows and Intel-based Macs with plans for Linux and PowerPC Mac versions to be released within six months, incorporates features that have not yet been seen all rolled into one package. It's got multi-protocol chat abilities, bolstered by messaging support on the most popular social-networking sites and support for short Web mail reading and writing. It offers a telephony service that includes call encryption; … Read more

Featured Freeware: SMARTReporter

You can't predict every hard-drive failure. But when a drive goes down because certain hardware components are slowly degrading, then Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology, aka S.M.A.R.T., can help warn you of an impending crash so you have time to run a backup.

Mac OS X already uses S.M.A.R.T. to track the health of drives, but it only runs whenever you use Disk Utility to verify a disk. SMARTReporter is an open-source tool that checks the S.M.A.R.T. status of drives hourly, or at any interval you set. … Read more

Featured Freeware: AirRadar

AirRadar is a free utility that can help you scan for, track information on, and join wireless networks. Like similar apps, AirRadar provides much more information than you'd otherwise get through the Mac OS Airport status menu.

Whether you're testing your signal strength at home or trying to find free Wi-Fi on the road, AirRadar will list all open and closed networks in range, along with information such as signal strength (current, average, and max), type of encryption, MAC address, and channel. AirRadar can keep scanning at any interval you set, automatically join the best open network (or … Read more

iPhone apps of the week

You may have noticed a trend in my iPhone apps of the week posts: I mostly download games. To offer a little balance to my posts, this week I have a couple of useful iPhone apps that aren't just for when you want to waste some time. Both are free so you can take advantage of these useful tools right away.

Free Translator is a language translator that lets you send e-mails in different languages. The concept is fairly simple: choose a source language, choose a target language, and then hit translate. When you're finished, you can send … Read more

First Look video: Art Text

This low-cost graphics app makes creating Web buttons, banners, and stylized text easy. With tons of premade templates and samples to get you started, Art Text lets you spend your time fine-tuning your work instead of starting from scratch. When you're done, you can export your work in several formats, letting you put the final touches on your design in your favorite graphics or image-editing program.

Still not convinced? Then check out this First Look video of Art Text for Mac to get a quick overview.

The Filter returns with a wider net

We last took a look at the iTunes plug-in The Filter way back in 2006, so it's high time to see what this alternative to the Genius playlist is up to. Of course, when it first came out there was no Genius playlist, nor a Mac version--now that there's both, does it hold up?

Certainly the most obvious benefit is that although you do need to register to use the playlist, you don't need to hand over your credit card number to this Peter Gabriel-supported plug-in. These days many people probably don't care, but to … Read more

Explore the Web from China--without leaving home

It slows down your browsing. It makes some Web sites inaccessible for no discernible reason. It doesn't even offer you any xiao long bao or pu'er tea for your troubles. But if you want to know what life behind the Great Firewall of China is like, then the Firefox plug-in China Channel is the cheapest and fastest way to experience using the Internet in China without actually being there.

After installation, getting to experience Web surfing the way the Chinese do isn't hard at all. Users have three ways to activate China Channel: via the China Channel … Read more

Opera CEO: Chrome has been very good for us

Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner was in town today, so I spent a few minutes with him talking about the browser company he co-founded way back in 1995. With browser battles raging, I wanted to know how this almost historic company was holding up.

Von Tetzchner says the launch of Google's Chrome had the effect of reminding people that there were alternative browser choices, which has accelerated downloads of the desktop product. And on the mobile front, where Opera has two products, the free Opera Mini (a proxy-based browser) and the Opera Mobile app, the success of the iPhone … Read more

This Buddi needs to be friendlier

Buddi is a finance managing program that's poised with potential. Open source and free, it offers an extensible experience for both Windows and Mac users that's wrapped up in a simple tabbed interface. As they say in the money biz, it looks great on paper.

The application can create new accounts from four credit types--cash, checking, investment, and savings--and five debit types--credit card, liability, line of credit, loan, and prepaid account. Users can create their own account types, too, and take brief notes on an account. Strangely, the notes don't seem to surface anywhere besides the window … Read more

Yahoo and Google race to rebuild sites, lure coders

Note: this story was updated at 12:34 p.m. PDT with analysis and information about Google.

It's like watching a race between two glaciers.

Yahoo and Google are undeniably the two biggest powers on the Internet, each with a vast number of features and users. Each is trying to remake itself during a time when faster-moving start-ups show how hard it is for a massive site to transform itself.

But change is indeed in the works, and given the companies' scale, it's profound for both companies and for millions of people using the Internet.

On Tuesday, Yahoo … Read more