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The Download Blog

Three for Thursday: Opera, Orb, LogMeIn updates

Three programs with big names have recently released some minor updates. Take a look at what's changed in the Opera Web browser, the remote access app LogMeIn, and Orb, which gives you the power to stream your music just about anywhere.

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Miro improves search and torrenting

The open-source, DRM-free video platform called Miro (download for Windows and Mac) has just released an upgrade with two small but useful improvements. A new search feature lets you search all available sites simultaneously, and torrent support has been greatly improved.

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Top 5 download updates from Macworld

With Macworld in full swing, throngs of people are flooding the streets of San Francisco to check out the latest offerings from Apple and all the other vendors exhibiting their wares at the expo. But some Mac-related stuff is only indirectly related to what's happening on the showroom floor or how thin the new MacBook Air is.

One thing I've noticed as a Mac software editor is how, when Apple has its biggest show of the year, the majority of Mac software developers figure it is the best time to release an update for their apps. I've … Read more

Do you have a license to drive that browser?

Published by Al, Port Alberni, Canada

I'm a 57-year-old retired truck driver with three stepdaughters, two of whom don't think the old man knows a thing about computers. Little do they know that I have a BA in computer science and can run circles around all of their friends. One time, the oldest girl's computer got so clogged up it would freeze, and the only way out was to hard-boot it. I cleaned it up, but there was so much damage done to the OS that I had to reformat the drive and do a fresh install … Read more

Flock adding e-mail and Picasa integration with next update

Flock's set to release its first big update since going 1.0 back in November (note: you can download that version here). The new version (1.1) will feature a handful of useful updates to some of the built-in services, along with integration for Web mail and Google's Picasa.

Between the two, I'm most interested in Web mail integration. For folks who aren't using a software e-mail client like Outlook, Thunderbird, or Apple Mail, the only other options are to keep a browser tab open and keep an eye on things or use a standalone software … Read more

uTipu's new screencasting tool takes on TechSmith's Jing Project

Screencasting is not for everyone. Most of the options out there are fairly full featured, but it's hard to find a good, free solution that can do as much as some of the pricey professional tools such as TechSmith's Camtasia Studio (download) or Adobe's Captivate (download). A new service that launched this week called uTipu (download TipCam for Windows) is stepping into the ring and offering up a Windows-only (for now) one-stop screencasting service that combines both a software tool to grab your onscreen action, along with an uploader that will send it off to uTipu's server farm for YouTube-like Web hosting. The hope is that anyone who wants to make a screencast or two will be able to download the app and get going without too much of a hassle, similar to what TechSmith's been up to with its Jing Project (download for Windows or Mac).

Like other software-based screencasting tools, uTipu's got a few tricks to get your screencasts looking right. You can set it to record your entire screen, or just a small section. It can also follow your cursor, and highlight what you're doing with a little translucent yellow circle. There are recording controls to pause and stop the action, as well as an annotation shortcut in case you feel like drawing on the screen John Madden-style. For audio and voiceovers, there's no post-production workspace, so you have to record your narration at the same time as the video and hope you don't make any mistakes.

Advanced users get some nice tweaks, such as VNC server setup to record screens on remote computers, and frame-rate quality controls to bump up how smooth your videos look. The one caveat is that higher frame rates also increase your file size, and uTipu's only serving up 250MB of free hosting for the time being, but about a minute of medium size video at 15 frames per second runs at about 3MB, which means you'll be able to create and send about 16 videos at the five-minute time cap. If you're close to running out of space, you can also skip the option to upload to uTipu's servers entirely by uploading them to any video hosting service that accepts the FLV Flash format.

On the whole, uTipu's off to a good start, but by not providing some post-processing tools to clean up your work, it's not offering a whole lot more than what you can get from its formidable competition, such as the zero-install Screencast-o-matic, and the cross-platform Jing from TechSmith.

I've embedded a sample of a user-created uTipu video after the break. As you can see, it's nice and big, and you can actually read the onscreen text. My less informative one can be found here.

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On Adobe's Lightroom radar: panoramas, HDR

Good news for photo enthusiasts who wish they could they could use Photoshop Lightroom for high dynamic range photography and panorama stitching: support is on Adobe Systems' radar screen, if not necessarily its roadmap.

That's the word from Kevin Connor, Adobe's senior director of professional digital imaging product management and the executive who oversees Lightroom, Photoshop, and the Digital Negative (DNG) format. I spoke with him Wednesday during the Macworld trade show here in San Francisco.

Connor is intimately familiar with these two fast-changing domains in digital photography. High dynamic range (HDR) photography combines multiple exposures of a … Read more

Microsoft releases tools to boost Web accessibility

Microsoft on Thursday is expected to release a new set of developer tools for products that improve the Internet's accessibility for people with disabilities. The tools, called UI Automation, can be used royalty-free, according to Microsoft's Windows Accessibility lead Norm Hodne, as long as the resulting applications are built to perform within all platforms, e.g. Windows or Linux.

Microsoft formally donated the UI (user interface) Automation developer tools to the Accessibility Interoperability Alliance (AIA), an engineering working group that the software giant helped form last November in partnership with tech companies like Oracle, Novell, Hewlett-Packard and Adobe … Read more

How-to: Use WinAmp with NewsGator to manage podcasts

The newly free NewsGator suite has a remarkably powerful set of tools for managing RSS feeds, and without a doubt one of the program's best features is its FeedStation podcast catcher. Fully synchronizable with the Webware version of NewsGator, the Windows version, FeedDemon, comes bundled with FeedStation and preset integration settings for iTunes and Windows Media Player, but not WinAmp.

Laugh all you want at the llama, but the latest WinAmp has an impressive feature set, and is far more flexible than the industry favorite iTunes. However, its podcast manager is clunky and only marginally better than iTunes' native podcatcher, and that's frustrating. Using WinAmp's smart view function, I'll show you how to set its Podcast folder to automatically check for podcasts managed by third-party software.

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Could the future of iTunes be digital software downloads?

One thing that struck me during Steve Jobs' keynote yesterday was this odd moment when Jobs was trying to rationalize many of the reasons MacBook Air owners would be happy not having an optical drive in their laptop. He was going down a list of things we need optical media for and replacing them one by one with various Apple creations. Apple's perceived solution for not having a drive would be to buy all your media through iTunes and play it on your iPod, delegate the task of reading discs to another computer in your house, or simplify things with a new and proprietary $99 external drive. Sounds simple, right?

It's commonly been referred to as the "Steve Jobs reality distortion field" and there hasn't really been a clearer example of it since Apple launched the "simpler" version of its one-button mouse that actually had five. In this case, it's the importance of optical media and the role it still plays in our lives. While I applaud Jobs and Apple trying to get rid of what's admittedly become a weak and cumbersome format, I'm a little disappointed that Apple hasn't decided to offer a real solution to the problem they're creating for novice computer users and road warriors who want to avoid optical media altogether--at least not yet.

What I'm getting at is that Apple's in the perfect position to start offering digital software downloads to the masses, and tie it into a software system that millions of people are comfortable with giving their credit card information to on a daily basis. I'm speaking of course, about iTunes.

Apple's got all the pieces in place to start offering people computer software the same way Valve's been doing with video games with its hugely successful Steam service for the last six years. I love Steam for many reasons, but primarily for its built-in updating tools and easy-to-navigate digital storefront that make it easy to buy software with one click and not have to worry about it again. If I could get the same performance from an app that's admittedly become a little bloated but already has a decent updating system, I'd be happy as a pig in mud.

Two things stick out in my mind as being good signs such a service is in the works via iTunes:

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