The Download Blog

Featured Freeware: WikiTaxi

The idea behind WikiTaxi is so simple that the utility of it should be obvious: take Wikipedia offline. How cool is that? The real question is, though, does it work? Is it even possible to take the massive online encyclopedia offline in a usable format?

Surprisingly, the answer is yes. WikiTaxi compresses all of Wikipedia into a database that's searchable, fully usable, and small enough to fit on an 8GB USB drive. It grabs the Wikipedia database dump every few weeks, keeping your offline entries up-to-date with the latest changes. There's also an option in the program to … Read more

An open-source approach to tracking stolen laptops

SEATTLE--Imagine your laptop is stolen.

Set aside for a second the likelihood that if it was you wouldn't be able to read this story and think instead about how you might go about tracking it down.

There are existing services, such as LoJack, that are designed to help find purloined laptops by identifying the IP addresses where they are subsequently used and through other assorted methods.

But according to a team of computer scientists at the University of Washington, the price you pay for utilizing such services is a loss of privacy--as well as a reliance on a corporate third party to take care of you.

That's why the team has come up with its own alternative, which it is calling Adeona, the name for the Roman goddess of safe returns.

The idea behind Adeona, according to Tadayoshi Kohno and Gabriel Maganis, who gave a talk about the project at the Gnomedex conference here Saturday, is to give people a method for safeguarding their laptops that relies neither on proprietary commercial software nor the centralized servers of the companies that provide such software.

Adeona, they said, is the world's first free, open-source laptop-tracking system, and one that can be installed by users themselves, and which doesn't require a corporate intermediary.

The team is also developing a version of its software for iPhones, though it isn't ready for public use yet.

To Kohno, the danger associated with commercial laptop-tracking services is that it's never possible to know for sure that someone at a company that makes such software wouldn't exploit the company's possession of your personal information--and access to what's on your laptop--for personal gain. Or, he said, that information could be subpoenaed in court cases. … Read more

Featured Freeware: Mp3tag

I was a bit surprised when I stumbled upon this batch MP3 tag editor. People seemed to love it. Not The Dark Knight love it, but perhaps X-Men 2 love it. In the words of a user, it's "simply indispensable." Turns out, you could do much, much worse than Mp3tag if you're looking for a freeware ID3 tag editor.

It comes with an effective single and batch auto-tagging feature, sourced from FreeDB, Amazon, or Discogs. The lightweight application also sports batch and single edits to effect such changes as case changing, auto-numbering, tag and track name … Read more

Featured Freeware: Advanced WindowsCare Personal

This isn't the most feature-packed Windows optimization utility but we found it one of the easiest to control. Advanced WindowsCare Personal's simple interface offers two main options: Repair and Repair And Optimize. The former fixes Registry entries and cleans out your operating system. The latter does the same thing and tweaks Windows for maximum performance.

If you run into trouble, the Restoration option can return your system to its original configuration. The Advanced menu provides fine control over repairs and optimizations. Afterward, I noticed only one improvement, a reduced amount of used RAM, but that's not insignificant. … Read more

Power Downloader never forgets a Wi-Fi password

Power Downloader often uses his friends' Wi-Fi hot spots all over the world, but he doesn't visit each friend as regularly as he'd like. Months or even years go by before he sees them again. Whether they use a WEP key or a WPA, he never has to worry about keeping a password database with WirelessKeyView.

WirelessKeyView is a simple utility. The main feature lets Power D view the passwords his Wi-Fi manager has stored, but it offers more than just that. The spreadsheet-style main window shows the properties on any stored network name. Users can view not … Read more

Search Craigslist from your desktop

If you've ever hunted for a job, housing, or furniture on, you'll appreciate the help of a devoted desktop reader to sift and sort through multiple listings. I've taken a look at two free Craigslist-helpers on CNET Reader Pro and CraigsList Reader. While neither one is perfect, we found Craigslist Reader Pro to be the stronger choice, though it would do well to learn from what CraigsList Reader has done right.

Craigslist Reader Pro, published by CraigsPal, isn't pretty to look at, but it does quickly hone your search to Craigslist'… Read more

Mozilla: Web apps faster with Firefox 3.1

Updated at 2:40 p.m. PDT with more details about Firefox 3.1 features.

Firefox 3.1 will run many Web-based applications such as Gmail faster through incorporation of a feature called TraceMonkey that dramatically speeds up programs written in JavaScript, Mozilla said Friday.

JavaScript has been very broadly used to add pizzazz or flexibility to Web pages over the years, but in recent years, it's also become the plumbing for many rich Internet applications. However, because JavaScript has been hobbled by pokey performance, Web-based applications often struggled to work as responsively as "native" software running … Read more

Rooms lets you IRC from your iPhone

Rooms is, so far anyway, the first and only IRC client for the iPhone. It's pretty stripped down as far as IRC clients go, but for simple chatting, it works really well. That said, it has quite a number of bugs, probably because it's only version 0.5. For the uninitiated, IRC stands for Internet Relay Chat, and involves real-time Internet communication on chat rooms called channels. There are hundreds of IRC servers located around the world, and is probably one of the oldest forms of Internet chat rooms.

When you first start Rooms up, you'll be … Read more

Featured Freeware: CDBurnerXP

Though this multifaceted burning tool won't win any beauty awards, it has almost everything Windows users need to create CDs and DVDs. One of the most glaring holes in Windows XP is a good DVD burner program, and CDBurnerXP Pro fits the bill well. Despite a slightly confusing interface, this freeware tool should not disappoint users who take the time to familiarize themselves with its functionality.

The core of the program's feature set consists of three main tasks, which are prompted via a wizard upon start-up: writing data CDs and DVDs, creating CDs for audio playback, and ripping … Read more

New review: OmniGraffle (Mac)

Need to make a flow chart, a family tree, a diagram, or just plan the layout of your new apartment? Check out OmniGraffle, from the folks who make the classy OmniWeb browser. OmniGraffle offers all the tools you need to make professional-looking diagrams for any presentation you might have. Whether you're just sketching out ideas for a business plan or even planning an elaborate presentation, OmniGraffle helps you create a nice-looking diagram everyone will appreciate.

Still not sure if OmniGraffle is right for you? Download OmniGraffle and read our review.