The Download Blog

Relax with a winter break

It's that time of year in the U.S. when frenzied Christmas shoppers flood the malls, winter storms wreak havoc throughout the country, and singles fret about finding the perfect date for New Year's Eve.

Like you, the staffers at CNET aren't immune to our own year-end holiday distractions, but we hope to lighten your seasonal load with helpful gift ideas, winter desktop treats, and do-it-yourself tech projects perfect for family gatherings.

First off, there's only one week left until Christmas, but whatever you do, don't panic! If you've got someone on … Read more

Beta of XP update made public

Microsoft on Tuesday said it will make publicly available a beta version of Windows XP Service Pack 3. But, like a car salesman pitching the new Corvette over the old jalopy, Microsoft argued that a switch to Vista is the better move.

"While Windows Vista provides the most advanced security and management capabilities of any Windows operating system, Windows XP SP3 will ensure PCs running Windows XP will have the latest updates, as well as compatibility with the Network Access Protection functionality of Windows Server 2008," Microsoft said in a statement.

Lest anyone misread that as an endorsement, … Read more

Winter wonderland screensavers

In the lane, snow is definitely glistening. 'Tis the time of the year to make your PC look like a snow globe, or at least that's what my Great-Uncle Boomer used to say. (At least it's true for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere.)

It's fine to add a little pizazz to your desktop with a seasonal screensavers, but be warned: Some of the holiday screensavers are oozing with cheese...and not the good kind. Those disco-dancing snowmen will haunt your dreams!

To avoid your computer (and you) looking like a corn dog in a cubicle … Read more

NoteTab Light's a heavyweight

Once you explore the power of NoteTab Light, you may find this text editor beautiful despite its hectic interface. At its core, NoteTab Light is to Windows' Notepad as a smart phone is to a rotary phone. The program incorporates top-level tabs similar to most Web browsers, so that you can manage several different projects at once, and it can automatically replace Notepad so that Notepad's icon opens NoteTab instead.

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Gift guide: What Web addicts want

We bet you know someone who does everything online, from banking to making friends, to kicking back. If you're stuck trying to find great gifts for the constant blogger, video vulture, or online socialite in your life, take a look at this virtual gift guide that shows you get it, and you care.

Camfrog takes a leap forward

Looking at previous iterations of Camfrog, the popular and free video chatting software, it was hard to deny that it offered a wide range of options and experiences for video chat aficionados. It was also hard to deny that the user interface was a disastrous mess of modular windows that made maneuvering through the program a frustrating and sometimes confusing journey. The new version of Camfrog has fixed that.

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Power Downloader makes free calls

With the holidays in full swing, Power Downloader knows he'll be making a lot of phone calls to wish family and friends happy holidays. The only problem is that calling all of his contacts in several different countries would end up costing him a fortune. Fortunately, as a software superhero, Power knows ways to contact his friends and family without paying a penny.

To get in touch with anyone around the world on Mac or PC, Power Downloader uses Skype. With Skype installed on his and his friends' computers, Power can contact anyone he wants to without paying any … Read more