The Download Blog

Hands-on with the new Joost: Software still required

Joost on Friday finally took an important step forward by announcing that its desktop software would be getting phased out to make way for a Web watching experience. The only problem is that special software is in fact still required--and we're not talking Adobe Flash.

Whether you're on a Mac or a Windows machine, you'll still need to install an executable file on your computer to view videos. The new plug-in sits on your desktop taskbar even when you're not viewing the site, and apparently only begins to pipe data back and forth to other users when you're watching Joost videos.

The new version of the site will be available for beta testers in about two weeks time, although I've had the chance to nose around and watch a few videos on it today. Despite the need for software, it's impressive. Videos start playing in just a few seconds and when toggled for full-screen, the quality scales up nicely.

Like before, there are pre-roll ads, although I found them less intrusive and disjointed than Hulu's experience. The only anti-user ad interference I stumbled across was when a pre-roll ad kept me from being able to scroll through content on a playlist. I had to wait about five seconds for the ad to run before I could get back to finding something to watch. Not cool.

The biggest thing missing from the new Joost is the feeling of immersion. The Joost application, for all it's faults, took you away from your desktop and everything else you were doing. Like up and comer Boxee, which runs off the core of Xbox Media Center, it's something that had personality and a really marvelous UI. The new version feels a tad sterile, although when it comes to browsing through episodes and series, there's noticeably less lag, and hey, you can continue to get work done on your computer at the same time.

Noticeably gone from the new Joost (at least for now) is the user chat. You can still comment on a video and favorite it, but the feeling of a real-time experience has gone out the door. There's also a feature called "shout it out" that lets you flag the video with various pop culture acronyms like LOL, HOT, PUKE, and the generally useful WTF. Clicking on any of these will play a canned sound clip and alert you of your flag, although it has no noticeable effect.

Ultimately the Joost experience comes down to the content and the various ways to dig through it to find something good. While the existing playlists are very good for this, when you're searching by TV network or content provider it's still difficult to simply browse by shows. For instance, clicking on MTV took me to a player that randomly began playing Laguna Beach. Ideally, it would jump me to a list of shows where I could drill down a little deeper--like what was available before.

Software aside, I'm excited to see Joost hop onto the Web. There's a lot of good content on there that you can't find elsewhere, and experiencing it in your browser will seem like second nature for newcomers--that is as long as they're willing to jump through a software hoop.

More screens after the jump.… Read more

About time: Joost to launch browser-based player

Finally, Joost is going to correct the error that badly hobbled the Web video service many once considered to be a serious YouTube competitor.

Currently available for Windows and Mac, Joost is planning to launch a test version of its new site later this month that will feature a browser-based plug-in and will no longer require users to watch via the company's much maligned desktop client. In a not so surprising move, users will be able to embed Joost's videos.

CEO Mike Volpi acknowledged in an interview with CNET that the desktop client was one of the company'… Read more

Stellarium reaches for the stars

The way things have gone this week, you'd be hard-pressed to find a mention of anything not related to Google Chrome.

Now that we've gotten the obligatory nod out of the way, it turns out that cross-platform Stellarium is one of the coolest apps around.

It won't report on your Web surfing habits, either.

Open-source and currently in use by planetarium projectors run by Digitalis Education, it brings astronomer-level features to star-gazers of all levels of interest. It's not quite as robust as Google Earth or Microsoft's WorldWide Telescope, but it's also a much … Read more

CheckUp is your Mac's first-aid kit

Most of the time our Macs run smoothly due to the well-designed Mac OS X (choose your big cat) operating system. But over time, as you download more applications, visit more Web sites, and begin to use up space on your hard drive, your Mac won't run as quickly and smoothly as it did out of the box. Some users reason that it must be a RAM or hard-drive issue, but more often than not it's a question of maintenance rather than inadequate hardware.

I've talked about programs for uninstalling old or unused apps in an earlier post, … Read more

Timelope makes your browser history public, social

I had a funny moment earlier this week when I showed Google's Chrome to one of my friends. She was floored that one of the top nine most visited sites featured on the browser's start page was Woot.com. Given how much browsing I do as part of this job I suppose it was surprising even to me, but it's also a hint of how intriguing your browsing history can be to others.

A service called Timelope is banking on that idea, letting users share their browsing history (or at least selected parts of it) with the … Read more

What Chrome means for Microsoft

Aiming to react quickly to Google's Chrome announcement, Microsoft focused on how Chrome stacks up against Internet Explorer.

"The browser landscape is highly competitive, but people will choose Internet Explorer 8 for the way it puts the services they want right at their fingertips, respects their personal choices about how they want to browse and, more than any other browsing technology, puts them in control of their personal data online," Internet Explorer General Manager Dean Hachamovitch said in a statement.

Hopefully for Redmond, though, it recognizes this as far more than an attack on Internet Explorer 8. … Read more

Google 'starting from scratch' with own browser, Chrome

Update at 2:36 p.m. PDT: It's official: Google Chrome will be available Tuesday.

Word surfaced Monday of a Web "comic book" introducing Google Chrome, the search giant's long-rumored open-source browser project. While the illustrations, created by cartoonist Scott McCloud, were not announced by Google, they do contain the quotes and likenesses of 19 Google developers.

The detailed, 38-page comic appeared on Google Blogoscoped, an unofficial Google blog. Update: The comic is now available on Google Book Search. The book is broken down into five main sections covering stability; speed; search and the user experience, … Read more

iPhone apps of the week

Apple's iPhone App Store grows every day with new free and paid offerings. The lion's share of apps (and clearly the most popular) have been games, now with 626 digital time wasters at the time of this writing. I check the App Store almost every day for new stuff--mostly in the free category, but I've also bought my share of iPhone apps, too.

What do I look for? To be honest, I like it all--from the completely useless, but funny programs to the legitimately useful everyday apps. When I sift through the various lists of apps on … Read more

Earn your bandwidth black belt

Comcast has thrown down the bandwidth gauntlet. Starting in October, Comcast broadband users will be restricted to 250GB worth of downloads per month. When asked whether the cable company was planning on offering a bandwidth meter to customers, a Comcast representative stated that it hopes to, eventually, but until then Google would be a nice place to find one.

So, I've come up with a list of free bandwidth monitoring software for Windows and Mac that should tide you over until Verizon brings some Fios action to your hood.

First off, let's look at BitMeter. When running, it … Read more

Featured Freeware: WebMynd

This Firefox extension takes a stab at solving a common Web problem: finding again that which you had found before. WebMynd adds two very useful functions to your browsing: site-by-site recording of where you've been, and integrating your history and Delicious bookmarks into specific Google searches. It's the Back button with brains.

The site-by-site recording creates a timeline view of your browsing and a photo browser-like display. Want the site you found Friday after lunch? Rewind using the Reel view. Looking for the site with the purple logo thing? The Grid view is good for your visual memory. … Read more