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Welcome to the new DownloadSquad

new dls
When I helped launch DownloadSquad into cyberspace five years ago, our goal was to make the site a one-stop shop for news and reviews about applications you can download on your computer. Since then we've seen the rise of "web 2.0" applications -- or apps that run in your browser -- and the rise of mobile computing and apps on smartphones. In short, the tech landscape has changed quite a bit! Back in 2005 there was no Chrome, no iPhone, and web apps were only beginning to come into their own.

Today we're proud to announce a merge with Switched, AOL's go-to source for all sorts of tech news, from games to social networking to software. DownloadSquad will remain a source of news and reviews, and you'll still be able to find coverage on your favorite platforms. We're also ramping up coverage on mobile platforms, browser-based features and more. Stay tuned as we continue to roll out features and new series designed to keep you on top of tech every day.

As part of this merge let me personally thank the new editor-in-chief of DLS, Thomas Houston, without whose tireless efforts we simply could not have done this before 2011. If you've noticed increasingly better posting lately, it's because Thomas is dedicated to the highest quality reporting and DLS will continue to improve under his stewardship. Also, thanks to the people behind the scenes, including Brad Hill, Joshua Fruhlinger, Justin Glow, Richard Garner, Brett Terpstra and Erik Sagen. And, of course, a big thanks to all our hard-working Download Squad bloggers, both past and present.

The best is yet to come, with more video, news and reviews plus features and tools on the site. For now, enjoy the improved featured stories at the top of the page, better tools on the right side of the page, and a fresh, clean look on every page. New stuff to check out: a revised Share & Discuss module for sharing posts via e-mail and major social networks, new sourcing tools, redesigned video and gallery experiences, site-wide calendar-based archives and several new sidebar modules highlighting the best DLS has to offer. Once the dust has settled and the migration is complete, we'll have a full run-down of the features on the new DownloadSquad.

Finally, a huge thanks to all our fans at DownloadSquad -- we think you'll find even more to love as we go forward.

Foursquare 2.0 for iPhone now available, emphasizes To-Dos and Tips

Foursquare has announced a 2.0 update for the iPhone version of the app, with Blackberry and Android versions soon to follow (the company doesn't make a webOS version, but I'm sure those devs will update soon). The first thing you'll likely notice is that Tips and To-Dos are now separate menu items. According to their blog, "When we started foursquare, we dreamed it would be much more than check-ins. We really wanted to build tools that would help people collect and share their real-world experiences." The tips and to-dos are also more integrated throughout the app, providing (we hope) a more useful experience than just "checking in."

Indeed, as Mashable reminds us, after Facebook unveiled Places, the CEO of foursquare promised a new version of the app would be like "Instapaper for the real world." So, Places is designed to be a location-aware scrapbook or memories, and I guess foursquare is going to do the same thing, except with more practical advice from your friends and with to-dos, which will be location-aware (as opposed to most to-do lists and apps which are not always given any context). Tips also sport a counter, so you can see how popular they are.

One huge new item: foursquare now allows websites to add a to-do directly on a web page. This Instapaper-like service shows up immediately on your mobile device and provides useful information for a location. I can see how this will add tremendous value for anyone who manages a physical location, let alone the review and discovery sites like Eater and Racked who have already added them. The foursquare blog mentions some heavy hitters who are adding these buttons in the near future.

Microsoft Street Slide makes more sense than hopping around Google's bubbles


As the video above explains, moving around panoramic views of a street is great if you can go "bubble to bubble" of a panorama, looking for what you want. That is, a panorama with up and down info is much like a bubble. But if you want to "slide" down the street, you want a more linear view of that street, and what's in the sky or on the ground really isn't that important.

Microsoft Research is really onto something here, allowing you to zoom out of a street view and enter a linear representation of that street, complete with signage for businesses and street names, etc. As with all competition (in this case obviously Microsoft is going after Google Street View), the battle for online supremacy is going to be awesome for the consumer. I can't wait for this to be available! For now it's just a presentation at SIGGRAPH.

[via Switched]
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Google sync issue for iPhone sends you to web dead end


How much does Google hate the iPhone? Well, I can count two ways. One is in the pisspoor shape of the Google Mobile app for iPhone. I begrudgingly use it because of the insta-local searches. Yeah, Google on Safari is supposed to work this way as well, but more often than not I have to add a click to get local results. But seriously, have you used the Google Mobile app lately? Gotta love that jump from previous searches to search bar, often causing a misfire when you really wanted to search for something recent again. Back in March there was a nasty push notification issue as well.

Then today I ran into a particularly nasty thing using Google Calendar. In theory you can sync more than one calendar with the iPhone using Google Sync. Of course, on the iPhone it isn't an app itself, so you go to m.google.com/sync in mobile Safari and set which calendars you wish to sync (by default only your "primary" calendar is included). So that's great except this particular page, for iPhone users and iPad users alike are being routed to the dead-end pages (see photo above). There's a link for "How to setup Google Sync on iPhone" which comically then refers you to go to m.google.com/sync. That, my friends, is what we call a loop or dead-end and is very, very bad web design. Not to mention it effectively breaks Google Calendar sync for anything but your primary calendar.

What makes me think this is a bug? Well, I don't have an Apps account, so I don't know how the other half lives, but in the "Setup" guide I get it refers to my device as "null." I realize Google has little love left for the iPhone, but has it really come to this craptacular performance? Must we mice be trampled as elephants joust? Pipe up in the comments if you see a fix or are having the same issues.

UPDATE: It's a frickin' documentation error. Google changed the URL but didn't document it. Here's the proper URL for adding calendars to sync with iPhone: https://www.google.com/calendar/iphoneselect
This still doesn't eliminate the loop I documented, but maybe their intern in charge of this will stop playing Pac-Man one day and fix it.

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Steve Jobs to Adobe: Get with the times

When Steve Jobs fires off a missive on the Apple site he's usually making a specific statement around a larger issue that we've all been discussing for months. Remember his rant against DRM when all the world called foul on FairPlay? Today Steve dropped a big ol' bomb into the Flash pool by stating Apple's frustrations with Adobe, Flash and their view of the mobile space.

In the letter, Steve points out Flash is a closed system, there are H.264 alternatives to Flash video and HTML5 and JavaScript are true open standards that Apple has embraced, while Adobe has continued to pour the juice into their proprietary systems. Yes, Steve points out that OS X is a proprietary OS. But despite Adobe's claims to have a proper, non-battery-sucking version of Flash on mobiles by 2009, they have yet to deliver and Steve calls them on it.

In a nutshell, Apple chastises Adobe for clinging to the past. In many ways they are right -- remember when Flash was a simple animation tool that created animations that were lighter than GIF animations?

Yes, at one point Flash was a simple, streamlined tool designed to bring balance to the Force. Instead, it has grown into a full platform when you factor in AIR, and I doubt Adobe has any intention to back down after spending a decade and billions on its continued development and success.

No matter how crufty the tool becomes, I'm sure Adobe will find a market for it for many years, like VRML or the Beatnik player. Either way it'll be interesting to watch these two elephants dance.

A taste of Netflix on Wii (video)

As I was on my way out the door today the friendly postman drove by and shoved a familiar red envelope in my mailbox. Knowing what was coming, I skipped back to the house with the Netflix streaming disc for Wii... My video missed the startup chime, but it kinda sounds like a THX startup sound, low and dramatic.

Browsing on the Wii is pretty basic, but at least more functional than a Samsung I had been using. You can add movies, browse by category, play individual episodes, and enjoy most of what you get on the Xbox but with less resolution. Having seen the 360 version, it's a bit of a bummer to see the fuzziness on my HDTV, but hey, unlike my Samsung (the WiFi dongle died) it works. Yes, you have to keep the disc in while you run Netflix, but that's not really a big deal unless you mistreat the disc.

The video below is a quick taste of our first experience with Netflix on Wii.

DLS @ SXSW - BrewaTalk and SnapPages

BrewaTalk is a form of ad hoc conversation platform where you make a blog around a topic, then invite others to come have a conversation around that topic on your blog. What's different than starting something on Blogger, WordPress, or what-have-you? The BrewaTalk conversations are more akin to Twitter or Facebook conversations, as they are short (typically a sentence or two, maybe just a question). However, they are categorized, public, and shareable on Facebook and Twitter. So, if you're looking to have a focused conversation in a semi-public way, BrewaTalk may be for you.

Here's the quick video intro to their service:


SnapPages is for the impatient web page builder. A web-based (and Flash-powered) WYSIWYG page builder, SnapPages does offer some attractive options and a very slick interface.

Video with SnapPages after the click...

Read more »

DLS @ SXSW - MutualMind


There was almost no end to companies looking to track your social media efforts at this year's SXSW, and MutualMind is another runner in the race. MutualMind adds some CRM flavors to the mix, providing you with specific data on campaigns and accounts and some metrics that, in theory, allow you to make adjustments to your strategy. As any marketer will tell you, social media marketing is a fluid beast, and metrics are a good thing. Whether or not MutualMind stands out from the rest of the crowd? Well, I see a lot of the same features: track shortened URLs, alerts, comparative tools, etc. MutualMind does have an API and a white label version, however, so as a web app it can be tuned to your heart's content. Or your companies' content. See what I did there?

DLS @ SXSW - Glass


Glass is a cool Firefox add-on that allows you to "write" on any website, sharing "slides" (notes) with anyone you wish (and anyone willing to install the add-on and set up an account). I've seen a few attempts at this in various incarnations (one particularly useful one to me is Wired Marker, which allows you to highlight stuff on a page) but Glass looks quite easy to use and provides a real benefit to web designers, or marketers or anyone who frequently needs to add context to a link in an email.

Glass slides can be stored locally but are also kept online, and much in the way Buzz tries to be helpful by reminding you of how many unread items you have, Glass has a feed with comments left by anyone you invited to share your slides with. The feed is a list of your conversations, and the slides are those conversations left on specific URLs. It's a terrific service that is currently in a semi-private beta. We'll have a more in-depth look at it later, but for now here's the Glass marketing director explaining the service.
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DLS @ SXSW - MobbStream


Ever wanted Hulu on your iPhone? MobbStream is one attempt to put Flash content on the iPhone. If you run a website with Flash content MobbStream will allow you to convert that content in real time to an MJPEG stream, complete with interactivity, and play it on the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. While the 8 frames-per-second won't really have you watching Hulu, the on-screen mouse system will at least allow you to interact with sites just as you would with a keyboard, mouse and Flash plug-in. Shrunk down and streamed into your hot little iDevice.

DLS @ SXSW - Brown Paper Tickets

I happened to use Brown Paper Tickets a couple of months ago to buy tickets for a local comedy show. It was just as simple and easy as any other ticketing system I've used, certainly simpler (and faster) than Ticketmaster. But the real magic happens if you are putting a show together. Brown Paper Tickets has the lowest transaction fees and doesn't collect a dime if you don't sell any tickets. It... Read more »

DLS @ SXSW - Sliderocket

Sliderocket is a super-powered slide machine for you PowerPoint junkies in the audience. Not only does Sliderocket build shows, the site allows you to share those slides with viewers or collaborators, buy assets for your slides on their site, and add plug-ins to make your presentations full of live data. Add onto this some metrics (you can see how your slides are performing) and a hosted meeting... Read more »

DLS @ SXSW - Lugiron

Lugiron is one of the many companies I found at SXSW hitting the social media space with metrics and analysis for their clients. Currently they are in private beta with some undisclosed companies, but I'm eager to see how their solution plays out when the public beta goes live later this year. It sounds compelling: tie together your social media profiles (Twitter page, Facebook page, etc.) with ... Read more »

DLS @ SXSW - Crowd Fusion

I spoke to Brian Alvey, co-founder of Weblogs, Inc. and the guy who built Blogsmith -- the same engine Download Squad, TUAW, Engadget and our other blogs use) about his newest creation: Crowd Fusion. There are quite a few CMS products to choose from out there, but Crowd Fusion is built to perform at scale while boasting an impressive feature set. That's because Brian knows a thing or two about ... Read more »

DLS @ SXSW - Lifeyo

Erez dove into Lifeyo recently, so I won't duplicate his efforts here. But I should say that Lifeyo makes building snazzy websites exceptionally easy and it does it for free. If you want your own domain name on your site, it's just $30 a year. That's a great bargain considering the quality of the pages it creates and the ease with which it creates them. Try them out yourself and see.... Read more »