The Download Blog

Upgrades for two, please: OpenOffice.org and Pidgin

Two popular open-source and extensible apps have come out with minor-point updates in the past few days, but some of the changes are worth noting. OpenOffice.org has gained a lot of traction and notice this year as a credible alternative to the Microsoft Office suite, and Pidgin, the program formerly known as GAIM, supports multi-protocol text chatting including Google Chat, Yahoo, AOL, ICQ and others.

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Handy e-mail helper: Xobni

The first demo at the TechCrunch 40 conference today is from Xobni ("inbox" backwards, oh how clever), which makes the "Insight" plug-in for Outlook that looks like it will be worth installing when it opens up to the public later this fall. When you highlight an e-mail, it gives you useful intelligence related to the sender: other messages from him or her, who the sender is connected to (via cc), and a graphic showing when the sender's previous e-mails have been received.

It also extracts phone numbers and other contact info from e-mail message bodies … Read more

This scene is all-inclusive

Exclusive online content is nothing new, but PalTalkScene gives you a forum to conduct real-time voice and chat interaction with whatever all-singing, all-dancing content has attracted your attention. How it works is so simple that users can create their own chat rooms, a great way to talk to friends or collaborate over long distances. Let's take a look:

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Now playing: New Paltalk Messenger screens original Web shows

Picking what to watch on TV from the crowd of new season premieres just got more complicated. Webtainment is ramping up in a big way, with content both created by and for the public now playing on various outlets across the Internet. One such notable is the migration of Paltalk from a social network congealed through an IM client, to an online media network.

One with edgy aspirations at that. This fall, Paltalk will show several original series that have been produced to fit the updated chat platform, now called PaltalkScene (download here.) The updated application expands on Paltalk Messenger's existing multimedia capabilities with Screening Rooms--private and public chat spaces of up to 5,000 viewers where users can watch, voice chat, and instant message about uploaded user videos and Paltalk's new shows.… Read more

Hate your friend's avatar? Redo it

The truth is, some people just don't have much style; and it's up to you to usher in the revelation.

That's one way to look at a Yahoo Messenger plug-in that helps you give your buddies' avatars a makeover (see special feature for more on avatars). Back in the old days, before plug-ins were invented, we had to coax and needle our contacts for permission to outfit them with some fancy new 'dos and duds. Now we can mount an indirect atta--suggestion--for avatar rebirth, all in the name of good chatting fun.… Read more

Yahoo Messenger for Mac adds archiving, smiley faces

Yahoo Messenger for Mac 3.0, which remains in beta testing, received new features today. Mac users now have a full set of emoticons to express their inner smiley, monkey, or other faces. In addition to allowing you to save chats to a hard drive, the IM client enables direct access to Yahoo Chat rooms. The Mac-friendly Messenger also organizes multiple conversations within a tabbed window.

And as with the Windows edition, the free Yahoo Messenger for Mac allows users to chat with contacts who use Windows Live Messenger. The application requires Mac OS 10.4 or later. Yahoo hopes … Read more

Killer Download: Top multiple-service chat clients

Chat clients are great for interoffice communication and sending quick messages to co-workers and friends. The only problem is once you've chosen a particular chat client--usually decided by what your friend uses--you can only communicate from within that particular client's network. In other words, Yahoo chat users can only talk to other Yahoo chat users. If you've spent any time using chat clients, you know that people use several different apps, making it difficult to talk to everyone without downloading each one.

Fortunately, clever software developers came up with chat programs that would play nice with all the major clients, so you only needed one program to talk to everyone. There are a lot of these programs available for download and most are free. But in addition to the ability to chat with people on several networks, these clients also offer features and options that make them great apps in their own right.… Read more

Yahoo Messenger's Webcam invites may cause trouble

There's a new zero-day attack in progress against Yahoo Messenger users. The instant messaging solicitation invites users to open their Webcam. However, the code used in this China-based exploit causes a heap overflow to be triggered when the target accepts a Webcam invitation. That means a remote attacker could execute malicious code on a compromised machine.

The McAfee security blog recommends the following: do not accept Webcam invites from untrusted sources until a patch is released, and block outgoing traffic on TCP port 5100 on your firewall until a patch is released.

Yahoo has been informed and says it … Read more

Two cheers and a hiss for Yahoo Go 2.0

iPhone has its touch Safari browser, ZenZui will have its tiles, and Yahoo has Yahoo Go 2.0 Beta, a free service that also seeks to give users a novel Internet experience--especially if the users in question are Yahoo groupies.

Essentially a buffed and polished vehicle for its products and services, Yahoo Go groups its search bar, calendar, e-mail, news feed, and Flickr photo services in a single, well-proportioned design. Rotating carousel icons launch each service and keep the interface snappy. The app stays on top of frequently refreshing the page.

Yahoo Go avoids the problem of overcrowding suffered by Yahoo's Web portal by limiting its quick-launch services to maps, e-mail, photos, entertainment, weather, news, sports, and finance headline feeds. It sounds like a hefty load until you skim Yahoo.com's landing page and realize the leagues of content left behind, including auto, auction, Answers, personals, travel, tech, groups, and games; not to mention the new OMG! gossip headlines leveled at teenage it-girls. … Read more