The Download Blog

Comment tool Disqus launches v2.0 with automagic backup

On Tuesday, blog commenting add-on tool Disqus is launching version 2.0 of its free service. Many of the biggest changes are on the back end, but the user-facing elements have been given many small tweaks that should make it a faster, more approachable solution for the mass market.

I chatted with co-founder Daniel Ha about it on Monday, and he says one of the biggest changes blog owners are going to notice is the plug-in support. The plug-in with the most improvement is WordPress, which can now be moderated from inside of WordPress' admin area instead of on Disqus alone. (Download WordPress from CNET Download.com.) All comments are also synced up both locally and to Disqus' servers, so if Disqus goes down your comments won't. Likewise, you'll be able to copy over Disqus comments to your existing system if you decide to ditch it later on down the line.

For commenters, the experience has also been improved. Gone is the up and down voting system, which has been replaced with a simple up button to give a good comment a nod, and smarter tools to flag offensive or otherwise spammy comments. Commenters who write a veritable opus can now turn that nine-paragraph work into its own standalone blog post that lives right on Disqus' servers, where other users can comment and interact with it. Ha says he's not trying to take away from existing platforms, but give these really good, in-depth comments their own place to start another conversation without completely thread-jacking the conversation that's going on there. Think of it kind of like FriendFeed, but using the same engine people are used to.

These are just some of the improvements with the updated platform. Disqus comments are now SEO-friendly systemwide, so your blog posts will be indexed both by content and discussion. The administrative area of Disqus has also been tweaked slightly to be simpler to manage across multiple blogs, although there's still no way to mass delete messages via search query, or select multiple messages from a list like you can in some blogging tools' stock comment systems. After having used Disqus to power our Webware 100 2008 award pages, the lack of mass edits and deletes was one of the only weaknesses that really bugged me. Luckily it's something Ha says is working in testing and will be coming soon in another update.

Disqus is currently in use with about 30,000 blogs and competes with tools like SezWho, IntenseDebate, and JS-Kit to enhance the built-in functionality found in mass-market blogging platforms. To play around with the new system I've embedded it below. You can also check it out by visiting one of our Webware 100 2008 winner profile pages. … Read more

Kwiry puts Netflix, Amazon in your pocket

This morning, SMS reminder service Kwiry is adding a new tool to its repertoire called shortcuts. It goes beyond the original implementation of adding keywords and photos to look up later, and turns it into a tool that links up with various Web services you might be using.

The first implementation of that is with Netflix. If you're a subscriber of the DVD-by-mail service, you're now able to simply send an SMS to the service with "Netflix" and the movie title and it will automatically be added to your queue. This is one of those things … Read more

Movable Type, Wordpress becoming social platforms

Six Apart is announcing Tuesday night the launch of Movable Type 4.2 (download from CNET) and Movable Type Pro. The 4.2 platform gives blog publishers better performance, according to Six Apart. But the really interesting thing about this launch is the new social features in MT Pro.

Movable Type Pro will enable "social publishing," which is a fancy way of saying readers of MT blogs will now be able to do much more than just reply to posts in the comments. Readers will get profiles pages with "walls," and the capability to rate other … Read more

Featured Freeware: Driver Magician Lite

Driver Magician Lite lacks frills and showmanship, but the simple layout makes backing up your device drivers much easier than pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

A quick install and the small memory footprint would lead you to hope that the rest of the program runs the same way. That's no sleight-of-hand: backing up every driver on my computer, from Bluetooth and tablet controllers to Intel chipsets, took less than 5 minutes. Users can select drivers individually or hit the Select All button at the bottom of the spreadsheet-style layout. Hitting the Start Backup button opens a directory … Read more

First Look: Stitcher's iPhone app beta

Utilizing Apple's ad hoc distribution program, Stitcher let a beta version of their iPhone app loose on 100 testers today. While the app suffers from some stability issues, due to its unfinished nature, Stitcher provides a slick solution to those looking for customized audio programming.

Stitcher is trying to be to news and information what Pandora is to music. The service provides you with a variety of audio programming, broken down by topics, such as sports, technology, and world news. Sources for the app include CNN, CNET, ESPN, AP, WSJ, Reuters, and a variety of local sources. As you … Read more

VoIP comes to iPhone, gingerly

Global IP Solutions, a company well recognized for its media-processing expertise in IP communications, announced on Monday its SDK, which enables Voice over IP applications to be made for Apple's iPhone.

This means that developers can now use GIPS' VoiceEngine Mobile, to create real-time VoIP applications, such as games, social-networking applications, and, of course, applications for making calls to regular phone lines over the Internet. Soon enough, you will be able to use instant messenger to voice chat with friends on the iPhone, just like you've been doing on your computer for ages now.

Though this is exciting … Read more

Top 5 music discovery tips for the unhip, unmotivated

When you're young, new music is everywhere: radio, Facebook profiles, borrowed iPods, or even burned CDs. It's not hard to find tunes you love. The music appetites of 13- to 21-year-olds are voracious and the consequences of being musically unhip can be punishing.

Then something happens: you get older; work a full-time job; get married; have a mortgage; have children; adopt a particularly demanding parrot; and so on. You wake up one day and realize your taste in music hasn't budged since your early '20s and the prospect of discovering good, new music now seems like an overwhelming chore, fraught with disappointment. I know, I'm living proof.

We're all familiar with the long, depressing list of activities that seemed easy in youth that now take effort. Fortunately, finding good music isn't as tough as working off that middle-age gut. Since its inception, the Internet has helped us--mostly illegally--discover new music. Finally, tools for legal and efficient online music discovery are hitting their stride.

To help you help yourself, we've collected our favorite techniques to help the lazy, hurried, or unhip (or, face it, aging) connect with good, new music. … Read more

Flash, HTML, Ajax: Which will win the Web app war?

The days when Web pages were static collections of text and graphics are long past. But as the Web matures, there's a fierce competition over which technology will propel it into a medium for rich, interactive applications.

On one side of the battle lines is the original Web page description technology called HTML, or Hypertext Markup Language. Over the years, its abilities were augmented first with JavaScript, a basic programming language, and later a JavaScript-on-steroids technology called Ajax.

On the other side is Adobe Systems' Flash, which got its start as a method for graphic animations. It's grown into a much more powerful programming foundation over the years and has been joined more recently by a competitor: Microsoft's Silverlight.

All these technologies are advancing rapidly as Internet start-ups and giants such as Google race to transform personal computer software into services available on the Internet. These so-called rich Internet applications rarely match the performance and features of PC-based applications, at least today, but online applications can benefit from sharing, reliability, and access from multiple devices.

Consumers typically need not worry much about the programming plumbing beneath their online applications. But suppose you're the person on the hook for your company's online expense reporting tool or a start-up planning to build an online music mixer for anyone on the Internet. You'll have to place a bet on which technology is best and which programmers to hire or train.

Few expect the competition to have a winner any time soon.

"You'll continue to see a high degree of flux for probably the next several years," said Kevin Hoyt, an Adobe Systems technology evangelist for rich Internet applications.

People in the computer industry love to talk about competition, which indeed often does keep companies from growing complacent. But it's also awfully convenient when some foundational technology--Windows, JPEG, and USB spring to mind--dominates to the point where most engineers need not worry much about the messy chaos of multiple choices.

The HTML camp The HTML side of the battle has its roots in industry standards and in the task of displaying information. That's good and bad.

Industry standards can attract broad adoption, but they're typically slow to arrive. And though both JavaScript and HTML are standards, differences in how they're implemented in different browsers--and even different versions of the same browser--force programmers to accommodate all the possibilities.

Unlike during the browser wars of the 1990s, though, there's more convergence than divergence these days. Even the upcoming version 8 of the dominant browser, Microsoft's Internet Explorer, will ship in a standards-compliant mode by default.

Read more

Featured Freeware: Media Jukebox

The J. River Media Jukebox is a stripped-down but free version of the popular J. River Media Center. Popular in its own right, Media Jukebox uses the same interface as its big brother to deliver a feature set that's anything but little, but strictly limited to music support. Those in search of video and image compatibility will need to download the Media Center.

The program mimics the iTunes interface in a way that could benefit from more inspiration, but it doesn't stop the extras from shining through. You'll be able to burn and rip CDs, sync with … Read more

MiGhtyDocs puts offline Google Docs on your iPhone

If you're not satisfied with Google's cute but data-sucking incarnation of Google Docs through mobile Safari, you might want to download MiGhtyDocs. This free application on the app store will pull down all of your documents and spreadsheets from the service, making them available to read and access even when away from a data connection.

All you have to do to get any document cached for offline viewing is open it once. If there are any changes since the last time you accessed it, they'll be download the next time it syncs back up with Google's … Read more