Google has published official documentation detailing their plans to bring extensions to their beta web browser Chrome. When we asked you a few months back whether Chrome with extensions would convince you to switch, 28% said yes, while a whopping 22% of you said that as long as an Adblock extension never reached Chrome, you wouldn't use it. A previous announcement should have already satisfied the first group, but if you were in the Adblock crowd, you'll be happy to know that one of the highlighted uses for Google Chrome extensions is content filtering, including "Adblock, Flashblock, Privacy control, and Parental control." Sounds like Google's moving in the right direction if they want to snag more early adopters. Now we just need to see more progress for the Mac and Linux crowd.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Windows/Mac/Linux: The long-awaited cross-platform media player Songbird officially reaches its 1.0 release today. The open-source application—built on the same platform as Firefox—promises to bring exciting new innovations to a software jukebox market that has become arguably quite stale. Like Firefox, Songbird is extensible, meaning that users can customize the look, feel, and features of Songbird to their heart's content. We took you on a screenshot tour of Songbird last month, and from a feature standpoint, not much has changed. From a functionality standpoint, Songbird has gotten much, much better.
The first release candidate had a lot to be excited about, but unfortunately it was rife with errors in my tests. The official 1.0 release fixes most if not all of the bugs I came across in my initial review, which is very promising. The footprint is still a little unwieldy, weighing in at just over 100MB of RAM on the Windows PC I tested it on.
The default installation also suggests installing a new add-on (new in the sense that it wasn't suggested in the release candidate I tested) called QuickTime Playback that supports playing back music you've purchased from the iTunes Music Store—a killer feature that, in conjunction with the iPod sync add-on, would allow even the hardcore iTunes user to switch.
If you want a closer look at what you can do with Songbird and what sets it apart from your stock media player, check out our previous screenshot tour and Songbir! d's demo screencasts. Whether you're a regular Songbird user or you're trying it out for the first time today, share your Songbird experience in the comments.
Posted by Augustine at 3:47 PM
Last year we showed you a new, lightweight Linux-based operating system called gOS (aka Good OS) with an emphasis on integrating web-based applications with your desktop. gOS first gained notoriety as the operating system on Walmart's $199 PC, and now the good folks at gOS have put together a new, super-lightweight operating system for netbooks called gOS Cloud that runs entirely inside a web browser (which looks like it's probably a tweaked version of Google Chrome). Details are scant, and there doesn't seem to be an available download yet, but gOS Cloud looks like it could be the perfect OS for your netbook or aging computer. Until then, the original version of gOS is already available for download and works great.
Posted by Augustine at 3:47 PM
Mobile phone operating systems and a reheated web browser war: that's how we'll recall the year 2008 when it comes to software. From brand new to revamped browsers and mobile platforms and apps, 2008's been good to technophiles who like their data in the cloud and accessible wherever they are. Let's take a look back at this year in software, and some of the best new and improved applications, web services, and mobile platforms that were born in 2008. Looking back at the last 12 months, these are the apps that get a gold foil-wrapped chocolate coin from us this year. Photo by Gaetan Lee.
Not only did you swoon over the release of Firefox 3 because of the "AwesomeBar" and the rest of the "Had no idea I needed this but now I love it!" features it offers, but because the launch itself was a grass-roots community-driven effort towards making software history. Indeed, on June 17th of this year, the makers of Firefox set a new Guinness World Record for most software downloads in a given day, at more than eight million downloads of the new browser iteration in 24 hours. If you haven't dug into the advanced functionality Firefox has to offer, check out our power user's guide to Firefox 3.
iPhone 2.0 and the App Store
Yeah, yeah, the iPhone launched in 2007, but this year the iPhone 2.0 software and the new iPhone 3G model with a faster data plan and GPS came out to hype almost as big as the original iPhone launch. The combination of an operating system that finally ran third-party apps officially plus pinpointy GPS goodness set the bar for what users can expect to get from the next generation of smartphone with a fast internet connection, full-on browser, and spot-on location-awareness. Plus, dozens of the apps available for the phone are free. At first, we were in love. Later, we had! our dou bts. The iPhone 2.0 launch did start to show some of the cracks in the Apple armor—several of the earliest versions of the software were crash and freeze-prone, requiring many users to uninstall apps and reset their phone software to fix maddening keyboard delays and application crashes. Meanwhile, Apple's approval-only App Store left a few applications out in the cold. Still, the iPhone 2.0 software created a compelling mobile platform and app marketing campaign that made Aunt Bertha really want to try that Neil Diamond song out on Shazam.
iPhone 2.0 Jailbreak Utilities and Apps
What with the App Store limitations and Apple's insistence on ruling over what you can and cannot do on your phone, it's not surprising the enthusiastic "jailbreak" community soldiered on this year, continuing to offer installers and non-Apple-approved applications for your iPhone even in the face of the mainstream iTunes App Store. We take our hats off to these intrepid hackers, who offer such lovely functionality as the ability to SSH into, theme, and download video clips to your phone; if you haven't jailbroken your iPhone or iPod touch, here are a few of our picks of best iPhone 2.0 jailbreak apps you can't find in the iTunes Store.
Google's answer to Apple's proprietary iPhone hardware and software came in the form of their very own touch mobile phone operating system, Android, which launched this past October. Unlike the iPhone, this new mobile platform is open source and will run on various handsets going forward. Right now Android's first release is only available on the HTC G1 handset; you can see o! ur hands-on first look at Google Android running on the G1 here. As an iPhone user frustrated by limited apps, crashiness, and lack of copy and paste, Android is like a breath of fresh air. Even though the mobile OS is still very new, its open-source nature has led to hundreds of new apps. See our pick of best Android apps to boost your mobile productivity.
One of the few software apps on this list that's not open source or made by a ginormous company, new instant messenger client Digsby took chatters by storm with its ability to consolidate your IM, email, and social networking in one place. Even though the Digsby beta only went public in February, by April it was already one of our readers' top five favorite instant messaging tools.
XBMC and Forks
We were really late to the Xbox Media Center (XBMC) party when we showed up last year and installed it on our old classic Xbox, but since then we've been hooked on this rich, open-source media center. Luckily, just because those old black boxes are becoming obselete doesn't mean the XBMC software project has died off. Just the opposite: XBMC has forked into several neat branches that run on various hardware platforms so you can enjoy the same media center goodness without hacking an old Xb! ox. Chec k out a few launches from various factions of XBMC developers this past year that have warmed our hearts:
- XBMC 'Atlantis' Beta 1 Released for All Platforms
- Plex 7 for Mac Adds iTunes and iPhoto Support and More
- Boxee Is XBMC with Newer Look and Social Flair
Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex and Hardy Heron
Another year, another TWO Ubuntu releases, and they just keep getting better. You have to love the free, open source operating system that manages multiple releases within the span of a year—something Apple and Microsoft, companies you pay hundreds of dollars to for the privilege of using their software, can't pull off. If you've tried Linux on your desktop before and killed the partition in frustration only to slink back to Windows, it's time to give it another go. This year we thought version 8.04 Hardy Heron made Linux worth another look; the follow-up, version 8.10 Intrepid Ibex is even better.
Gmail Labs, Gadgets, and Themes
Our favorite web application on the internet, Gmail, continues to burn down barns and rip up the competition with continual iteration and feature adds. This year, Gmail added a "Labs" section to your account, a safe way for power ! users to enable "experimental" power features to their email while keeping everyone else's safe from harm. Truthfully, when I attended the Google press event announcing Gmail Labs back in June, I had my doubts about whether or not the featureset would ever expand beyond the initial 13, and if it would go beyond eye-candy games like Snakey to, you know, actually useful stuff. Turns out it did. Six months later, ten more Gmail Labs features are available in your account, including a super-useful Gadgets feature that lets third parties embed their apps into your inbox. (Like Bit.ly or Basecamp.) Later, Gmail launched themes as well as a Google Desktop gadget. In the midst of all this, the Gmail security team took the time to respond to a breach that several users had experienced and blogged about online. Clearly there's someone home at Gmail; this is a rapidly-evolving product that any webapp developer should use as an example on how to iterate quickly.
Making best-of-year lists is always difficult because you risk leaving off really deserving items. At least two that go in our honorable mentions bin are the Firefox keyboard interface prototype Ubiquity, and photo-sharing site Flickr's launch of short video c! lips in April.
Now, you tell us which one of these apps impressed you the most in the year two thousand and eight.
Anything you would have included on this list that we left out? Tell us about it in the comments.
Posted by Augustine at 3:46 PM
Windows only: Photology steps away from tag based searching and allows you to search through your pictures with a variety of filters. There are filter functions for colors, dates, times of day, photo orientation, exposure, text of captions/file names/folders, and even filters for things like plants, sky, faces, beaches, flowers, snow, sunset and water. The simpler filters like the color picker are a bit more accurate than the more advanced ones like clouds. In the screenshot above I had searched for the color blue and snow. Photology kicked out a ton of blue skied and snowy wallpapers I had saved earlier in the holiday season but it also returned a picture of Wonder Woman standing on a cloud. In the defense of Photology clouds and snowbanks are quite similar. Filters can be stacked, so if you need to find a picture from October, predominantly yellow, and taken in the morning you can use all three filters. In addition to helping you search through your photos, Photology has tools for photo adjustments like color correction, red eye removal, cropping, etc. You can also upload your pictures from the application to a site hosted by Enoetic, the parent company of Photology. Pictures will be stored there for 7 days to share with friends. For a more permanent upload, you can also use Photology to upload to Flickr. Photology is freeware, Windows only, requires .Net 3.0+ framework. Thanks GisellaPot!
Posted by Augustine at 3:46 PM
Windows only: Portable application Toucan backs up and syncs your data between two locations (like your hard drive and your USB drive). Weighing in at just over 4.10MB installed, Toucan offers several advanced backup and syncing settings, like incremental backup with compression (supporting 7-Zip format), portable drive variables, scripts and advanced rulesets. Similar to SyncBackSE but smaller and portable, Toucan is a nice option for making sure you've got everything on your thumb drive. Toucan is a free download for Windows only.
Posted by Augustine at 3:43 PM
Imaginary Foundation dresses and tops
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