Friday, June 20, 2008

The Best Freeware List

For those, like me, who love free software (who doesn't?), it can be hard sometimes finding a good piece of software that does a certain task, especially since these freeware products appear and disappear all the time. This is one scenario that has happened to me personally too many times: I find a nice freeware program, and I use it for a long time. Then at some point, I recommend it to someone, only to find that it has now become a commercial software (and not free anymore), so I have to go and try to find a good freeware product to replace it. If this has ever happened to you, then you know what I mean.

That's why I was very glad when I found Gizmo's Tech Support Alert. This site offers a list of the top freeware products out there. It is classified into categories like:

  • Security / Privacy / Encryption

  • Internet: Email / IM / FTP / File sharing / Download managements

  • Enhancements to Windows / Desktop

  • Computer maintenance / Performance

  • System utilities / Backup / Data recovery

  • Audio / Video / CD / DVD

  • ... and more.

Each category is further divided into subcategories for easy navigation. Each sub-category usually features 3 or 4 products, with a full review showing the pros and cons of each product, so that the reader can make an informed decision of which product to use. The list is also updated constantly, removing products that are not freeware anymore, and adding new software that just proved itself to be worth mentioning. The website also provides a free monthly newsletter (with a paid version that has more stuff in it), and a forum where visitors discuss freeware programs and computer problems.

This site used to be a lone effort by Ian "Gizmo" Richards, who created and maintained a highly popular list of the "46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities", but over time that list grew well beyond 46 and reached the point where it could not be maintained by one person. So, now the website has changed to wiki-style, where it relies on the contribution of dozens of volunteer editors who edit and moderate suggestions from thousands of site visitors. As a result the range of software covered is ever increasing and quality of the reviews ever improving. In some sense, some might think of it as a Wikipedia for Freeware.

At this point, whenever I am looking for a software product in a certain category, this is the first place to check. I wonder how many others do the same. Again, the URL of the website is

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Google's New Favicon

When you are as famous and well-known as Google, the slightest changes in your identity will be noticed by millions. A couple of weeks ago, many people around the globe have noticed that the big capital "G" that was used as a favicon for the Google website was replaced with an unrecognizable lower-case "g" (which is the second "g" in "Google").

old favicon
Old Favicon
new favicon
New Favicon

Some people seem to like to new icon, while many others (including myself) seem to prefer the old one. I personally think that the old favicon was instantly recognizable as the initial "G" from "Google", while the new one does not have that quality. For a brand name like Google, I believe it is very important to have a logo (or even something as small as a favicon) that can be recognized.

Google's reason for this change (as mentioned on their blog) is the following:
..we wanted to develop a set of icons that would scale better to some new platforms like the iPhone and other mobile devices..

They also state that the selection process was not easy, since they had to chose from among more than 300 different permutations. Some of the other alternatives they came up with are:

Seeing these designs, personally I would have chosen one of the more colorful designs with the capital "G" in it, since these two features (the capital "G" and the colors) are what comes to mind when you think Google. However, they also say that this is not the final design, but rather a first step to a more unified set of icons. So, hopefully, they will come up with something better. They also welcome suggestions, so if anyone can come up with a idea for a design, they can submit it here.

So, what do you think about the new favicon? Do you like it or not? and why?

Firefox 3

Firefox 3 (Fx3 or FF3) is the third version of the popular Web browser released by the Mozilla Corporation. FF3 includes improvements to security, performance, support for developer add-ons and usability.

New features for this version of Firefox include:

  • One-click bookmarking, in which clicking a "star" button allows a user to quickly add bookmarks from the location bar, file and tag them.
  • Full zoom for Web pages, including the option to save zoom setting for individual websites.
  • A new API for microformats that developers can use to build add-ons.
  • Support for offline Web applications that will work within the browser and synchronize once connectivity is restored.
  • Resumable downloading, allowing users to continue downloads after interruptions, such as restarting the browser or resetting a network connection.
  • An add-on Manager that offers improved management of plug-ins and other third-party components.
  • Updated password management.
  • Improved graphics and font handling provides rendering improvements in CSS and support for images with embedded color profiles.

Firefox 3 also addresses malware and phishing protection in a number of ways, including:

  • Malware warnings, which alert users when they visit sites known to install viruses, spyware, trojans or other malicious software.
  • Web forgery protection, which prevents the content of pages suspected as Web forgeries from being shown.
  • Add-ons and plug-in version management, which automatically checks for and disables older, insecure versions.
  • Support for Vista parental controls, which can be set to disable file downloads.
  • Improved protection against cross-site scripting and JSON data links.
  • A site identification button that acts as a color-coded security indicator and displays information about a given site, including the presence of SSL.

Firefox uses the open source Gecko layout engine and is based on the Mozilla browser from which much of its code was originally derived. The source code for Firefox is free, open source software (FOSS) and is released under a tri-license GPL/LGPL/MPL. Mozilla has released Firefox 3 for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X in a variety of languages.

According to Mozilla's performance tests, Firefox 3 is twice as fast as Firefox 2 and nine times as fast as Internet Explorer 7. Mozilla's memory usage tests found Firefox 3 twice as efficient as Firefox 2 and more than four times as efficient as IE7.

> Mozilla is hosting a World Download day for Firefox 3, with hopes of setting a Guinness World Record for most downloaded software on a single day.
> Deb Richardson has posted an excellent Field Guide to Firefox 3.
> Mozilla also hosts a webpage for the Firefox 3 development community.
> Mozilla's Firefox blog features links, resources and commentary about the upcoming release.

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