The Download Blog

New Opera beta sports e-mail, feed changes

For right now, the future of Opera--the browsing alternative to the browsing alternative--doesn't look a whole lot different from the present. Keeping in mind that this isn't a stable release, Opera 9.60 beta 1 for Windows and Mac looks to add a few feature tweaks and claims to be faster.

The most intriguing improvement looks to be a "low bandwidth mode" for Opera Mail. In a not-so-subtle attempt to attract users who are concerned about bandwidth restrictions, especially those who use Comcast in the United States for their ISP, this mode offers different things to … Read more

Google grab bag: Chrome skins and Gmail tweaks

Time for our semi-irregular roundup of Google items:

• Gmail Labs has produced three new features that people can try, according to Google's Gmail blog. One is a keyboard shortcut, "G" then "L," that brings people to a list of labels so they can show a specific category of messages. Another is the ability to move the Gmail control elements around on the left-side navigation bar, so users can reorder instant-messaging contacts, labels, and other items to put their preferred controls at the top. Last is the ability to pick your own colors for labels, … Read more

WinZip 12 adds lossless JPEG compression

Although it's ancient in Internet years, WinZip is still up and kicking. Among the various improvements and tweaks, the latest upgrade to Version 12 includes one massive reinvigorating feature: the WinZip folks have figured out how to compress JPEGs without sacrificing image quality.

The details on exactly how this is done remain a secret for now, although WinZip has promised to open up its compression algorithms as they've done in the past. On the user end of things, this means that ZIP files containing JPEGs will be more than just bundles of your photos--the archives will actually be … Read more

Atmosphir blends Lego, 'Super Mario' for DIY platforming

Atmosphir is a software-based game building tool for PC and Mac users that lets users put together their own gaming levels. Like many consumer-facing game creators you're only limited by the tools that have been given to you. In this case the tools provided are split up into packages of "blocks" that are both interchangeable and feature simple gameplay devices like moving platforms, and various themed texture elements that let you build worlds with grass, dirt, and sand.

The builder actually reminders me a lot of Cubescape, a product I looked at back in May. In Atmosphir'… Read more

Top Fantasy Football downloads

With the NFL season under way many football fans are just getting started with another great season of Fantasy Football. If you're a Fantasy sports fan, you've probably already mapped out who your favorites are at each position and right now you're hoping your picks will reap big rewards as the numbers start rolling in. If you're looking to join a late-starting league, you know that every pick counts and any help with organizing your team is what could push you to the top of your league.

Here at CNET Downloads we know that being successful … Read more

Featured Freeware: SurplusMeter

SurplusMeter does precisely what we need it to: it watches your bandwidth traffic, keeping an eye on it like an eagle watching her brood. SurplusMeter gives users the capability to set a bandwidth limit, a start day of the month, and the connection type--PPP Modem or Network Card, for example.

SurplusMeter also calculates a daily allowance, and reconfigures that depending on how much you've actually used for the month. It lacks the not-quite-fancy graphs that many of its PC counterparts sport, but SurplusMeter also lacks something they have: an alarm or notification that would tell you when you were … Read more

Postbox brings more Webmail flavor to your software in-box

Postbox is a new cross platform e-mail client for Windows and Mac computers. It's an alternative to Microsoft Outlook, and manages to bring some of the benefits of Web e-mail to a desktop application.

Things like a conversation view, tagging, and search that indexes both mail and attachments are all features Gmail users have been enjoying for years. The problem is, those features and several others have not gone over to the desktop side of things without additional software plug-ins from third-party providers.

Postbox answers that by taking many of these single features sought after by other third-party developers and blending them into a standalone client. For example, if it sees an address it will pull up a quick map link complete with business information. When you're offline you still get this information.

As some of the session judges at the TechCrunch50 conference noted, some of the things this product does would be much better suited as an extension to the software e-mail client you're already using. I'd certainly love the photo browsing client and conversation view in my Outlook, but I definitely can't ditch it until this product gets rock solid Microsoft Exchange support with a built-in calendar (a feature the product does not have).

Postbox currently works with IMAP, POP, and SMTP protocols, letting you tie in your Web mail accounts. Unless your business is running off Google apps this probably won't be a good companion for anything besides your personal accounts. That said, compared with something like Apple's Mail application, it looks like a nice step up.

Update: Postbox will be available for download in "a few weeks" time. Only the sign-ups were opened up today. I've also thrown in another screenshot after the jump.… Read more

iTunes 8: Slick Genius, still sluggish

Apple's improvements to iTunes today have garnered the music and video jukebox a full-point jump, although longtime users will only find one major new feature and a few interesting smaller ones. As for addressing the bloat factor, fuggedaboudit. iTunes is the big bad, and it's not about to get any thinner.

Available for Windows and Mac, the best and most useful new feature is the Genius playlist. This analyzes your music collection with an algorithm that compares the structure and the sound of your songs to create playlists that it thinks you'll like. In practice, it works … Read more

iPhone apps a major trend at DemoFall

SAN DIEGO--At Demo and DemoFall, there are always easily identifiable trends among the dozens of companies chosen to present their products.

In previous iterations of the events that I've attended, those trends have been photo-sharing services, online video hosting, Web 2.0, and the like.

This week, the trend--at least as I've seen it--has been the number of companies here with iPhone applications. Not every one of them is talking prominently about the applications they have, but Demo lead organizer Chris Shipley told me informally that she thinks that there must be at least a couple dozen companies with iPhone applications here out of the 72 total presenters.

I'll be the first to admit that I was slow to understand the value of iPhone apps, and I suppose that's because it took me awhile to buy one of the devices, and even longer after I did before I started trolling the Apple App Store looking for the best and brightest of what was out there.

My major introduction to the applications was a day I spent last month in Seattle, basically letting a series of them control my life for a day. And more recently, I have found myself blown away by some of the most simple applications imaginable. For example, Showtimes determines where you are and then comes up with a list of movie theaters--sorted by proximity to you--and shows the films showing at each and the times for each film.

As I said, it's totally simple, and pure genius.

Ultimately, while other mobile phones have many of the features of the iPhone, I don't think that there will be any others in the near future that combine GPS, a great interface, the power of an operating system like OS X, and a network of developers eager to reach out to an audience of users as devoted to their devices as iPhone owners.

Back here at DemoFall, there is definitely no shortage of companies that have developed applications for the device, and some of them seem very promising to me, even though most have yet to appear in the App Store.

I have my own ideas, as I stated above, why I think iPhone apps are the future of software, but I thought these developers would have opinions even more valuable than mine, since they're building businesses around the platform.

Among the companies incorporating the iPhone into their Demo products are WebDiet, Telnic, SkyData, The Echo Nest, and Rudder.

"Right now, (the iPhone is) the platform with the most immediacy," said Richard Bryce, CEO of Mapflow, a company here with a product centered around an iPhone app. "Especially for the consumer market."

It's easy to see why Bryce would think so.

Mapflow is a very interesting product designed around the idea of helping drivers offset the high costs of gas by finding people who need rides to pay to fill empty seats in their cars.

"Most of our lives are ad hoc," Bryce said. "We're trying to apply the iPhone's smart technology to give that ad hoc, on-demand capability to carpooling."

The Mapflow system works by letting drivers define routes--either one-time, or repeat--they're following and the number of seats they have available to fill. The iPhone makes it simple to do this through lists that can be easily displayed and because the phone's GPS chip quickly determines where the driver is in proximity to anyone looking for a ride.

It might sound weird to pick up strangers in this manner, but Mapflow requires that all users register with their name, a photo, and a credit card, and that means that drivers can feel confident that whomever they pick up is probably going to be safe. And when they arrive to pick up the rider, the iPhone displays the rider's picture so the driver can be sure the person is who he or she is supposed to be.

In addition, drivers and riders alike can choose preferences for the type of person with whom they want to travel. This means, for example, that women can choose to ride only with other women.

Further, the service has a quick and easy rating system--again, enabled by the iPhone's elegant interface--that allows everyone to weigh in on the people with whom they've traveled.

Riders pay about 30 cents a mile to use the system, and Mapflow makes its money from a 15 percent commission on the transactions. Drivers pocket the rest.

Clearly, there are many questions the company must answer before the product becomes profitable--and of course, it must first release the application, which it plans to do in about four weeks. But this seems to me to be a very good use of the device, especially given the growing emphasis on getting people to stop driving one to a car. … Read more

Tingz offers up cross-platform widgets that share data

Tingz is a new widget engine whose big feature is cross platform data sharing. At the TechCrunch50 conference it was shown off on a Mac, iPhone and Windows Media Center PC, with various widgets pulling together the same data set.

The example given was a recipe widget on your computer that tells you how to make something, and if you don't have one of the ingredients you can bookmark it. This information gets ported over to a shopping list widget, which you can then access on-the-go via the iPhone application.

Presumably users would have it installed on both platforms … Read more