The Download Blog

Sobees serves up skinnable, portable desktop widgets

I'm not a heavy user of widget engines. Besides OS X's Dashboard, I usually steer clear of having any more processes running on my machine and opt to go with a Web option instead. A new player called Sobees has piqued my interest though. Based out of Switzerland, Sobees is one of the neater ones I've seen, placing a heavy emphasis on style and first-party widgets over building out an open platform for people to develop on (which is coming later on).

There are all the usual widgets to play with, like weather, a clock, sticky notes, … Read more

Google SketchUp makes modeling easier

Long before I got into the business of writing about tech and Mac stuff, I worked with 3D graphics on Macs for my father's visual analysis firm. We were hired to create 3D models of architectural projects and superimpose them on photographs of a proposed site to study how a project would look before it was built and how it would affect its surroundings.

Some of our clients wanted to make the project look nice for city officials so it would get approved by city planning departments, while others wanted to prove that the new project would obstruct the … Read more

The software of spring

Spring is an exciting time for tech. A slew of products that have been hibernating in development cocoons are ready to emerge just in time for the flora to wake up, the the sun to turn on (at least here in the northern hemisphere,) and for techies to regain that bounce in their step. Here are eight downloads and Web applications we expect to see frolicking across computer screens this spring.

But why stop there? CNET editors have also slaved to bring you details galore on the season's top gadgets. Check out the latest in cameras, phones, laptops, and … Read more

Power Downloader uses CrossLoop to help his friends

As long-time fans know, Power Downloader is a gregarious guy. Modest to a fault, he just likes helping people. One of his favorite programs for helping computer users of all levels of experience is the freeware application CrossLoop. CrossLoop is a secure single-serving of remote access, but once it's given, the remote user has complete access until the connection is severed.

When PD runs the program, his PC is assigned a new 12-digit access code each time you start the program. The person he's helping also gets a new access code and then shares that with PD. Power … Read more

Songbird sings just a little louder

To paraphrase Buddy Holly, every day its a-gettin' closer--closer to Songbird leaving beta. The open source music/Web browser mashup has upgraded to version 0.5 and can be downloaded for Windows, Intel-based Macs, and PowerPC Macs. It's still in beta, so this bird's definitely got some bugs and development left to go before it's ready to take flight, but the latest build is more stable than ever and includes some key milestones.

The latest edition expands device compatibility with a new device API plug-in that comes with the browser. The new media transfer protocol supports Creative'… Read more

Fix for XP sessions that don't close properly

Earlier this week, I described some Registry tweaks that force Windows to shut down faster. Another weapon in the fight against interminable shutdowns in XP is Microsoft's User Profile Hive Cleanup service, a free download written by Robin Caron.

Some programs and services don't release their connections to Registry keys when a user logs off. This can cause problems when the person tries to log onto another PC connected to the same company network, but mainly it just adds to the time it takes XP to shut down.

Before you can download the program, you have to let … Read more

Spyware Horror Story: Debugging for newbies

Submitted by Chookkii; Willaston, Australia

After reading all the stories and blogs, I'm starting to think that maybe all the problems I'm having all of a sudden could be caused by the Norton Internet Suite I purchased this year. My computer is running slowly, programs are constantly "not responding," I'm getting error reports about programs that I didn't even know were running, let alone that they existed, and to make it worse, I am very basic on the computer. We did not have them when I went to school, so all I know is … Read more

Microsoft updates Windows desktop search

Desktop search is one of those really great things for people who have a lot of files and tend to forget where they all are.

From my experience, such engines can also be prone to glitches and slow performance. Microsoft is hoping to change some of those perceptions with an updated version of its desktop search product. Microsoft says Windows Search 4.0, of which a preview version was made public on Thursday, can speed query response time by a third as compared with the version of the search tool included in the initial release of Vista.

The software maker also saidRead more

A long wait for Skyfire's cell phone browser

There's nothing fun about being on a wait list, especially when you're told the wait just got longer.

Skyfire (video), a new cell phone browser demoed in February, hit such demand in its closed beta program, the company split participation into two rounds. According to a Skyfire statement, those lucky ducks who signed up before March 1 made the cut for Beta 1 and will receive the golden invitation to join the testing in phases from now until the end of April.

This first phalanx of users will also be invited to continue their testing as the second … Read more

Review: Adobe Photoshop Express beta

Adobe's VP of Hosted and Consumer Services refers to Photoshop Express as "the on-ramp to the Adobe digital-imaging franchise." Next exit Photoshop Elements? Construction delays? Slippery pavement ahead? The mind reels with metaphorical possibilities. With its familiar-looking organizational tools, slick Flash-based interface and robust retouching algorithms, Express embodies Adobe at its potential finest--this is a newborn beta, after all, and we should expect bugs. (If it should reach senior betahood, like Gmail, we will cease to forgive.) But there are also a few potholes in this on-ramp to beware.

Photoshop Express is two things: a photo-sharing site targeting the millions of snapshot photographers who think software such as Photoshop Elements is too difficult, too disconnected or just too much, and a platform from which Adobe will serve partner sites with editing tools. At beta launch, Facebook, Photobucket and Picasa comprise the short list of partners; Flickr will be next in line, though a date has not been announced.

As a sharing site it's simultaneously pretty and functional. And it succeeds as a proof-of-concept that Flash and Flex allow you to create robust online applications that look and feel like local ones. For sharing, the feature set is pretty typical: it lets you upload photos into albums (up to 2GB), organize them, make them public for sharing or share them privately via email links, and generate and email nice-looking self-contained Flash slideshows. There's lots of dragging and dropping to organize, and a free vanity URL.

For editing, it delivers a better-than-average experience. In addition to a more-than-sufficient set of tools for adjusting exposure, color and sharpness and touching up artifacts like red-eye and fixing blemishes, it also supplies a basic set of specifial effects that let you turn bad or boring pictures into something a bit more interesting. The application also displays a snapshot history of your edits, which is a nice touch missing even from Adobe's desktop products. Most of the tools operate relatively quickly; only Distort left me singing the not-so-realtime blues. (For a discussion of the interface, click through the slide show.)

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