The Download Blog

Firefox crosses 500 million download mark

Sometime last night, Firefox downloads crossed the 500 million threshold.

It's an arbitrary but interesting milestone for the open-source Web browser, whose development is overseen by Mozilla but that's also developed and extended by a large number of outside programmers. In September 2007, Firefox crossed the 400 million download mark, indicating an average rate a bit shy of 20 million per month at present.

According to the Spread Firefox site, there had been 500,168,448 downloads as of 6:15 a.m. PST. About 12 hours earlier, there had been more than 499,900,000.

Firefox has … Read more

Shout Out Louds, "Tonight I Have to Leave It": Free MP3 of the Day

On second disc "Our Ill Wills," the Swedish crew proves it's lost none of the raw indie spirit that made 2005's "Howl Howl Gaff Gaff" sparkle. The record plays like a frenzied coda to '60s jangle-pop and '70s smile-rock, with string-popping guitars, glissy strings, and wounded vocals.

Fast and simple browser performance tweaks

Browsers just naturally seem to slow down over time. Maybe it's because the add-ons start to accumulate, or because you forget to clear their cache and perform other standard maintenance via Windows Disk Cleanup app. But there are also some simple settings changes you can make to keep Internet Explorer and Firefox running at top speed.

Increase the number of simultaneous connections in Internet Explorer: This tip has been around for a while, but if you haven't implemented it yet, you can see a real boost to your browsing speed. It entails a Registry edit, so create a … Read more

Beat back that Trojan horse

Editor's note: This article was updated on February 21, 2008. The original was published on February 28, 2007.

Like its mythical namesake (dramatized in Lego), whatever crawls out of a digital Trojan horse will be a nasty surprise. A Trojan horse usually takes the form of an innocuous software program that unleashes a flood of malware or viruses after it's installed and run. Since attacks and ease of removal vary--an ad generator is easier to remove than a stealth rootkit--there's no one-size-fits-all solution. However, there are some common spyware removal techniques that can help you pick your way through the wreckage.

Reboot Windows in Safe Mode

What is Safe Mode? Safe Mode is a diet version of the Standard Mode of Windows that your computer ordinarily runs. Rebooting in Safe Mode loads minimal programs and disables most device drivers that manage hardware like CD drives and printers. The result is a more stable iteration of the Windows operating system that's better suited for disabling malware while you perform a system scan.

How do you use it? If you can, follow the necessary steps for a safe shutdown process and then reboot. When you restart Windows, as the screen begins to load, press F8 repeatedly until the Windows booting options appear. Select "Boot in Safe Mode" from the menu of options. Once in Safe Mode, you should be able to run your installed antispyware software with less interference from the malicious software that the Trojan brought onto your system.

System Restore

What is System Restore? System Restore strings out a safety net if everything goes kaput. Under default Window settings, System Restore saves a snapshot of your computer configuration once a day and on major upgrades that can be used to replace corrupted files. In the event of a Trojan attack, System Restore can revert Windows to a previous, uninfected state. It won't restore everything, like changes to your user profile, but it does reinstate biggies like your Registry and DLL cache.

When do you use it? When purging your computer of spyware, System Restore has an optimal time and place. You wouldn't want your computer including corrupted files as the reference point of the day, so it's important to disable System Restore before you start cleaning. You can reactivate it once your system is spick-and-span.

How do you use it? The paths for accessing System Restore differ by operating system. In Windows XP, disable System Restore by right-clicking My Computer and selecting Properties. Under the Performance tab, select File System, then the Troubleshooting tab, and finally check Disable System Restore. You'll be prompted to reboot. Follow these steps to uncheck the box before restoring your system.

To use System Restore after scrubbing your computer, choose Accessories from the program list in the Start menu. You'll find System Restore under System Tools.

This comprehensive article from TechRepublic demonstrates how to create and use System Restore in Windows Vista.

Scan with antivirus/antispyware apps Downloading diagnostic and removal tools with an infected computer is a huge time sink--spyware can cripple your speed and Internet access. The Trojan's payload could prevent EXE files from downloading or launching. Also, malware can affect the performance of installed security software on your PC. If you store your antivirus/antispyware programs on a CD or flash drive, however, those malware-busting apps can commence their swashbuckling unhindered.… Read more

Save your quick reads for later

Read It Later is a Firefox extension that should appeal to anybody trying to minimize bookmark and open tab clutter. As you peruse links sent from friends and RSS feeds that deposit little nuggets of truth that you just don't have time for right now, Read It Later gives you a one-click option for saving the links and keeping track of which ones have been read.

When you restart Firefox after loading the extension, it will automatically prompt you to install the two Toolbar buttons that are used to control the extension and manage your reading list. Users can also control adding bookmarks to their reading list via the context menu, the Bookmarks menu itself, or with hotkeys, making access to your daily detritus fast and painless.

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Mash Facebook, MySpace into one application

As Meebo, Pidgin, and Trillian are to instant messaging, Sociagami is to social networking.

Enter your passwords into the brand new Windows application to manage your Facebook and MySpace accounts from the single, nonskinnable interface. Friends are represented by thumbnail images in two columns by default, but a slider enlarges them to fit single file or reduces them to three or four abreast.

There's some nice functionality here--you can retrieve and submit comments and messages, manage friend requests, view buddies' buddies, and flip through photos in a separate slide show pane. You can add contacts too, if you encounter … Read more

Ben Benjamin, 'Selective Periphera': Free MP3 of the Day

Ben Mullins' new project might be a vision of bedroom pop's future. Built of choppy drum loops and shiny synth leads, it nonetheless feels soulful in spirit, showing how, with the right melodies and mixing, a "sterile" vocabulary can make music that's far from it.

Killer Download: Organize, tag music collections

I get my music from several places. Over time I've ripped most of the CDs in my collection and have also bought songs on iTunes. Though file sharing is tempting--and fairly popular judging by our Most Popular list--I've only used those applications a couple of times over the years for long lost remixes. I guess I try to stay legal out of respect for the musicians, but this article isn't about the legality of file sharing.

The problem is, when you get your music from a lot of different sources, you end up with strangely tagged tracks … Read more

Cell phone users: Get pitas, haircuts for less

I like Cellfire, a mobile coupons app that's optimized for BlackBerry, Symbian, and Windows Mobile, and has a WAP site for cell phones ( from your phone's browser.) They've got a smart business plan, good partnerships, and wide accessibility to users through support for multiple carriers and platforms.

Too bad some of the national offerings are so pedestrian, such as Cellfire's partnerships with Supercuts and Extreme Pita, announced Wednesday. That's only mundane if you're a snob like me. If you're most people, Cellfire's deals with local, regional, and national retailers … Read more

Dwight Yoakam, "Just Passin' Time": Free MP3 of the Day

Mixing uptempo quasi-rockabilly songs with introspective ballads that are heartfelt but never saccharine, Yoakam's got a rare ability to move both Nashville stalwarts and alt-country scenesters alike. This song's from his his stellar 2005 album "Blame the Vain."