The Download Blog

ReadAir delivers GoogleReader newsfeeds to the desktop

I've been looking at quite a few good desktop applications built on Adobe AIR (such as eBay Desktop and Twhirl), and am pleased to report that ReadAir, a spin-off of Google Reader that was released on Thursday and is coded to run on Adobe's cross-platform solution, ranks among them.

ReadAir mirrors Google Reader's functionality with a cleaner interface and the deliberate adoption of the Mac OS X look. The left sidebar sorts items by the total harvest, starred favorites, and shared stories, with your tags directly below. In the top-right pane, elements such as story titles, sources, … Read more

Hands on the BlackBerry Wallet

I must admit, my interlude with the new BlackBerry Wallet in the quiet, early morning hours has been a bit of a letdown. That's because I'm comparing it with eWallet Professional and CodeWallet Pro, neither of which is available for BlackBerry (they patrol Windows Mobile territory, and in eWallet's case, Palm's,) and both of which guard much more information than credit card, gift card, password, and loyalty card numbers and details.

What I like about the other two wallets (reviewed side-by-side here) is their wide definition of sensitive data. If you're reaching for your smartphone … Read more

Featured Freeware: Launchy

Just a simple hotkey combo away, Launchy is a handy tool that lets you open nearly any program, file, folder, or Web site on your system with just a few keystrokes.

Enter the first few letters of a file or program, and Launchy's small, skinnable interface automatically displays the rest of the name. You simply press Enter to open or launch it. If the displayed name isn't the item you want, a few seconds later the tool displays a drop-down list with other likely candidates from which you can choose. Configuring Launchy is as easy as using the … Read more

Adobe set to test new Flash Player

Adobe on Thursday is expected to launch a beta test program for the latest version of its Flash Player software.

Flash Player 10, developed under the code name Astro, includes better support for 3D animation and video hardware acceleration, among other improvements.

Adobe said that Flash Player 10 will now support custom visual effects, created with Adobe's free Pixel Bender tools. Developers can write code to create effects that can be rendered by Flash Player at runtime.

Developers can also now target code to render through graphics processors, speeding up performance and freeing CPU bandwidth, Adobe says.

The beta … Read more

The future of the Firefox address bar

I had an interesting discussion today about Firefox with Mozilla's Mike Schroepfer and Mike Beltzner. One of the things we drilled into a bit was the address bar in Firefox 3 (download). It's being called the "awesome bar" at Mozilla, and while it will end up with an official name eventually (the "smart location bar"), what it does for users can fairly be described as awesome. And as it's probably the most important touchpoint in the browser, it's worth exploring not just what it means for users but for Mozilla as well. … Read more

Simplify Media adds chat

As the self-imposed deadline of June approaches, Simplify Media remains in beta for Windows, Mac, and mobile users. The iTunes and Winamp plug-in that lets you share your music with friends has, however, added three new features: chat, a "now playing" message that displays what your friends are listening to from your collection, and a built-in password reset for the forgetful among us.

The chat feature is the strongest, allowing you to directly communicate with friends, family, and even enemies with whom you've shared your music. It's a great way to give and get some direct … Read more

First Look video: ToneThis ringtone creator

ToneThis hails from the school of personalized cell phone content that errs on the side of simplicity. Not everyone wants or needs dozens of settings to produce a functional ringtone or wallpaper photo, and to that end, ToneThis is the perfect entree for casual customizers.

It's got a few basic enhancements for editing ringtone length and adding fades, but it could stand to gain a few more. Even novice users might like to reduce red-eye in a favorite photo. Still, for many, ToneThis will be the hassle-free vehicle of choice for getting their videos, music, and photos onto their … Read more

Featured Freeware: MediaMonkey

Mac users may have it easy with iTunes, but Windows fans should look elsewhere for solid features, a customizable interface, and device syncing support that doesn't devour resources. That's why there's MediaMonkey, which juggles excellent library-management tools with skins, plug-ins, autotagging, links to the Amazon.com MP3 store, track encoding, podcast catching, and more.

Upon first launch, the program scans your drive for supported digital media files to add to the library. Files are sorted based on their ID3 tags, and the helpful Auto-Rename and Auto-Tag From Filename features keep untagged tracks from falling through the cracks. … Read more

Sega Mobile offers a handful of games for free

Sonic the Hedgehog has seen a platform or four.

The spikey-furred rodent first brought to life by Sega in 1991 for proprietary consoles rolled with technology's punches onto TV, Xbox, PS3, and recently, onto mobile phones. April saw the spawning of Sega Mobile, when several flagship games, including Sonic the Hedgehog, were ported to mobile phone format and offered to cell phone gamers for subscription or sale through their carrier's Web portals. Now Sega Mobile is offering Sonic Jump, Afterburner II, and Golden Axe free of charge for U.S. residents.

The catch, as you may have guessed, … Read more

First Look video: BitComet

Taking a slightly different approach to solving the multimedia lover's dilemma of how best to download torrents is BitComet, which goes to great lengths to integrate familiar features like bookmarking with torrent management and discovery.

Although the program has moved on from the scandals of its past, it's still heavily reliant on advertising. Join me in this First Look at BitComet to help you decide if it's worth the download.