The Download Blog

Jarte injects form and function to WordPad

It's hard not to be a big fan of Notepad alternatives. Just a little extra effort brings some exceptionally useful tools to that utility, and what NoteTab Light and others do for Notepad, freeware Jarte does for WordPad.

Pronounced "JAR-tay", the first thing users will notice about it is the unusual interface. I liked it, although if I go the rest of my life without seeing a brushed-metal skin again, I'd somehow manage to live. Otherwise, it's a simple layout, and perhaps too minimalist for some. Where the Toolbar and Menubar would usually live, there'… Read more

iPhone apps of the week: Poker edition

With a continuous stream of cable TV Poker events, online Poker sites, and endless videos, books, and Web sites devoted to Poker strategy, it is no secret that Poker is incredibly popular all over the world. This week, I'm taking a look at Poker games for the iPhone. But instead of covering three similar games, I decided to give you some options for getting your poker fix, with three very different styles of Poker.

I should warn you in advance, only one of these games is free (with an optional paid version), but the other two are pretty affordable … Read more

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

Featured Freeware: Miranda

Miranda IM lacks the slick design of many instant-messaging programs, but makes up for it by supporting most IM clients in one fully customizable package. There's also a portable edition, designed for carrying around on a USB key. Like Pidgin or Trillian, it's easy to add your various IM accounts--including AIM, Yahoo, ICQ and MSN--and you'll have the same icons and status messages for each program. You can even manage the personal information for all your accounts from one central control panel.

Miranda IM's plain, gray instant-messaging window offers just the basics for typing and viewing … 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

10 things we'd like to see in Chrome

So far we're pretty smitten with Google's Chrome. It's certainly not without its faults, but for version 1.0 of a browser it's pretty sharp. We've compiled a list of 10 things we'd really like to see added or tweaked. Some come from other browsers, and some are just improvements on some of the existing features. Google, we hope you're listening.

1. Profile roaming between multiple browsers. This may be a pipe dream, but if Foxmarks for Firefox has proved anything, syncing up your bookmarks between multiple machines is awesome. Doing the same … 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

See Chrome's inner workings--and an Easter egg

Google's Chrome browser has as Spartan a user interface as possible, but the browser's Omnibox also turns out to be a window into a much more elaborate view of the browser.

That's because Chrome users can type several commands into the browser's address box to uncovers a wealth of nitty-gritty detail and an amusing Easter egg.

Firefox can be fine-tuned by typing "about:config" into its address bar, and other about: commands shed light on many details. Google followed suit.

Most folks won't care a whit, but the feature is notable for programmers--both … Read more