The Download Blog

Get to know Skype 4.0 beta

It's been a while since a major Skype release, and on Wednesday, the eBay-owned VoIP communication service will issue the first of several planned version 4.0 beta builds for Windows that are anticipated to drop over the next few months.

The biggest changes to come with Skype 4.0 beta (download) are visual and organizational. For the first time, the program contains complete prompts for running sound and Webcam checks within the program set-up. After two failed tests buffered by common troubleshooting suggestions, Skype will recommend hardware--like headsets and a Webcam--to reverse incompatibility errors.

Redesigned interface Skype 4.… Read more

12 must-have add-ons for Firefox 3

Extensions, plug-ins, add-ons, whatever you want to call 'em, Firefox 3 has 'em. In fact, though it may seem that many of your favorites haven't yet updated, you might be in luck. By visiting the home pages of several of the plug-ins I use, I found that most of them had either a functional, stable beta or a full update ready to use with Firefox 3. This collection of add-ons I use both at home and in the office, and can be used for the Windows, Mac, and Windows Portable versions of the browser.

You wouldn't think that … Read more

Video: Disable Firefox 3's 'awesome bar'

Delighting some Firefox browsing loyalists and distressing others is the so-called "awesome bar" in Firefox 3 (download for Windows and Mac).

Officially known as the Smart Location Bar, it has earned a mixed reputation by suggesting 12 bookmarks and URLs of previously visited sites as the user types keywords into the URL field. If you're one of those users clamoring for an option to silence the 'helpful' new feature in Firefox 3, released on Tuesday, look no further than this Quick Tip video. CNET Editor Tom Merritt, working off a user tip, demonstrates how it's done.… Read more

iTunes mobile media syncing: Unlock and load

Jon Lech Johansen doesn't like DRM. His first public success at breaking it awarded him an indictment orchestrated by Norwegian and U.S. entertainment big-wigs. Though landing him in hot water with the authorities, it also landed him a job. "DVD Jon," who now works with doubleTwist Ventures, has turned his attention to iTunes (for Windows and Mac), and to a freeware application that wrests songs from iTunes control for delivery on a range of high-end mobile devices.

DoubleTwist desktop 1.0, released this week, does double and triple duty by converting any purchased iTunes tracks to … Read more

First Look video: Firefox 3

There's no doubt that the browser wars are back in full swing, with updates in the past week to Opera, Songbird, and a new Flock beta.

The training wheels are finally off Firefox 3, too. If you haven't checked out the five beta versions and three release candidates because you were worried about stability, security, and the all-important extension compatibility, take a look at the new Download.com review for the world's most popular open-source browser, for Windows and Mac.

Want something a bit more visual? Hot off the presses, this Firefox 3 First Look video showcases … Read more

Problems delay Firefox 3 launch

Web site problems held up the launch of Firefox 3 on Tuesday.

The Get Firefox site went down near the 10 a.m. PDT launch time. Mozilla, the for-profit subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation that oversees Firefox development, said it was having technical difficulties with the site.

Mozilla hopes to set a 24-hour record for most downloads with Firefox 3, but the delay shouldn't affect that much. "The 24-hour period starts when the site goes live," spokeswoman Melissa Shapiro said.

Update 10:51 a.m. PDT: Mozilla said in a blog posting that the site should be … Read more

Firefox 3: New front in the browser war

Update 12:23 p.m. PDT: The official Firefox 3 download site is live; the record-setting attempt began at 11:16 a.m. PDT. Update 10:53 a.m PDT: See this separate blog post on the Mozilla download site troubles. Update 10:02 a.m. PDT: Mozilla is having some technical issues with the site but expects the download to be available shortly. Update 6:43 a.m. PDT: I added the scheduled launch time, 10 a.m. PDT.

Mozilla plans to release Firefox 3 on Tuesday, and the open-source project is opening a new front in the browser … Read more

Suites are the safe, simple route to PC security

When the free trial of the security software that shipped with my Vista PC expired, I decided to uninstall it and give the free versions of competing antivirus and firewall programs a try. For some reason, this caused my Internet connection to drop intermittently.

When I uninstalled the new programs and ponied up for the full version of the security suite, the network outages ceased. I never did figure out why my system didn't take to the new security apps, but the hassles I avoided by taking the suite approach to security justified the cost of the program.

The … Read more

Featured Freeware: Vista Start Menu

If you're looking for a smarter Start menu for Windows Vista, check out the subtly named Vista Start Menu. The program does away with Vista's translucent aero theme, making it opaque, and builds it out with several levels of features and customization. It prevents programs from jumping around, as is their wont sometimes in the standard menu, and it throws in a basic zoom feature accessible. It creates hot-key support for every item on the menu, clearly labeling folders and programs with numbers and letters.

Making cosmetic changes and surfacing directories is much easier with this app, too, … Read more

Azureus is dead, long live... Vuze?

The torrent client Azureus changed its name and added some nifty social-networking features with the release of its latest upgrade. Now called Vuze, after the name of desktop video player it launched last year, the new client bundles the two together and throws in some new features.

The two most notable things about Vuze 3.1 are the search engine and the social networking. It's rejiggered but still open source; users can spider across multiple torrent-tracking Web sites such as MiniNova while looking for content. The social-networking features let you share your favorite torrents directly with friends and create … Read more