The Download Blog

Mac Messenger still trying to find its voice

Updated at 10:35 a.m. to note that the product has been released.

Microsoft released the latest version of its instant-messaging program for the Mac on Tuesday, though it still continues to trail its Windows counterpart when it comes to features.

The biggest change in Messenger 7 for Mac is the ability for corporate users running Office Communications Server to engage in video and audio chats with one another. For non-corporate users, the biggest changes are the ability to give nicknames to contacts and search within one's list of contacts.

Microsoft declined to offer any update on when … Read more

XP update delayed over glitch

Microsoft on Tuesday said it is delaying the release of Windows XP Service Pack 3 because of a newly uncovered glitch.

The software maker said there is a "compatibility issue" between the XP service pack and Microsoft Dynamics Retail Management System, a retail chain management program for small and midsize businesses.

Microsoft finalized the code for Windows XP SP3 last week and had planned to make it broadly available starting Tuesday.

"In order to make sure customers have the best possible experience, we have decided to delay releasing Windows XP SP3 to Windows Update and Microsoft Download … Read more

First Look: FreeMobile411

There's no shortage of local search applications for cell phone users to rely on. In addition to Google Maps Mobile, Yahoo OneSearch (which is also bundled into Yahoo Go), and TellMe's BlackBerry app, is newcomer FreeMobile411, a simple, clean-looking WAP app that searches local business and residential listings for people, business names, and business types. While the publisher, V-Enable, works on distributing a more robust client through cell phone carriers starting with Sprint, FreeMobile411.com remains as reliable a lookup for people on low-end Internet phones as it is on high-end phones.

Featured Freeware: Lego Digital Designer

Lego Digital Designer for Windows and Mac gives users the chance to play with Legos without paying for Legos. Loaded with features, the drawbacks are minor and this program is a lot of fun to use. The program links to the Lego online store, but there's more going on here than corporate shilling.

The graphics-intensive program seamlessly zooms in and out, rotates your point-of-view 360 degrees, connects bricks to each other, rotates them, and moves any hinges they might have so you can explore how your pieces fit together. Parts include basic bricks, model jet engines, and infrared sensors. … Read more

Spicebird not quite ready to fly

Joining the growing list of remixed Mozilla applications such as Songbird and Flock is Spicebird. Besides keeping the avian theme in Firefox and Thunderbird, open-source Spicebird takes the core of Thunderbird, the calendaring power of the Thunderbird plug-in Lightning, and integrated contact list chatting capabilities, and ties them all together with a widget-based landing page.

Loaded with potential, but heavily in beta, India-based Spicebird has a long way to go before it's ready for general use. The bugs and challenges facing users are noticeable nearly from the moment you start up the program. The interface and most of the … Read more

Tip: Quickly search any site in Opera Mini

The drop-down menu in the upper right-hand corner of your browser window is indispensable for information hounds who regularly narrow their searches to specific databases. Some queries will yield more precise results if bounced around Amazon or Wikipedia instead of Yahoo or Google. CNET producer Randall Bennett demonstrates how you can achieve the same in Opera Mini 4 by adding custom search engines.

What to do when updates fail

I received an e-mail this morning from Pearl, the source of whose frustration is the failure of a prompted update. She writes:

I have been using LimeWire Basic for about four years with no problem. This morning I was using it and a box came up telling me to download an update, which I did. Then it all disappeared from my screen, and also took with it my original LimeWire, too. So I tried to download it again only to be told it was a corrupt file. I did this a couple of times with no joy.

I have been … Read more

Featured Freeware: AVG Free 8.0

Exceedingly popular, AVG Free offers rock-solid protection, but only the bare necessities. The security features include a real-time shield to prevent infections, antivirus and antimalware wrapped up in one engine, and a link scanner for Web surfing with care.

By default, AVG is set to search for new virus definitions daily, but you can always use the scheduling tool to change this. Should a virus create serious system problems, AVG creates a rescue disk to scan your computer in MS-DOS mode. The program doesn't tax your system when scanning or when running in the background, and it always proved … Read more

Featured Freeware: Gadwin PrintScreen

Excellent screen capture apps aren't hard to come by, but excellent free ones are. With sophisticated features at no cost, it's hard to reach higher than Gadwin's PrintScreen. An attractive, easily navigated interface opens up a customization wonderland for users to decide default settings for shortcut key associations, capture preferences, and output.

For our purposes, the clicking and dragging regions is the clear choice. Misjudge your region's dimensions and Gadwin PrintScreen lets you readjust them without having to start over, something many commercial competitors don't do. Setting the app to automatically open each screen capture … Read more

Featured Freeware: PortableApps

Taking an old-school tack to an ages-old computer problem, the PortableApps Suite approach to mobile computing feels more Web 0.5 than 2.0. Instead of hosting programs online, PortableApps is a comprehensive application suite that fits onto and runs from almost any thumbdrive with at least 512MB of space, and can be shrunk down even further if need be.

The suite's flexibility is impressive. It manages some of the best freeware applications from a taskbar menu that runs instantly when clicked on. User-favorites Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird are here, as well as the entire OpenOffice.org office suite, … Read more