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Archives for April, 2009

uTorrent 1.8.3

uTorrent is a powerful and efficient BitTorrent client for Windows. Most of the features present in other BitTorrent clients are present in uTorrent, including bandwidth prioritization, scheduling, RSS auto-downloading, and Mainline DHT. Additionally, uTorrent supports the protocol encryption joint specification and peer exchange. Unlike many torrent clients, it does not hog valuable system resources–typically using less than 6MB of memory, allowing you to use the computer as if it weren’t there at all.

Version 1.8.2 is a bug-fixing release.

Still not for the faint of heart, this torrent utility is one of the easiest to use. The uTorrent executable adds a directory and some option information to your PC, but it is still small enough to run off an old USB key. The memory footprint for uTorrent is very small, and system resources are barely touched. Our testers found that IP phones were difficult to use with a torrent, but uTorrent’s simple button interface makes it easy to pause downloading.

The most difficult aspect of using a torrent client is finding the torrents, but included are both a torrent search bar that links to MiniNova and a handy RSS feed download function. Subscribe to select feeds, and uTorrent automatically downloads files as they publish. Adding, starting, pausing, and listing torrents takes merely a click or two each. A speed guide helps you test your ports and adjust system settings for optimal performance.

Even though uTorrent is now owned by BitTorrent, there haven’t been many noticeable drawbacks, if any. Some tried-and-true BitTorrent options are available to uTorrent users, such as Local Peer Discovery and DHT Network. The latest version also includes Teredo and Ipv6 support, and patches a critical security error that has been discovered in all pre-1.8 builds, making this one of the secure torrent clients around. Throw in all the other features, and that should make it the torrent program of choice for novices, intermediate, and advanced users.

License: Free

Limitations: No limitations

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Internet Explorer 8

Internet Explorer 8 adds accelerators to provide instant access to information like maps, web searches, translations, email, blogging, and more; faster performance; a smart address bar; improved privacy protection; and Compatibility View for displaying websites designed for older browsers.

Internet Explorer 8 addresses just about all of the major concerns that users and critics have had with the world’s most used browser. Whether they get answered in a way you like is another matter.

There are several new and interesting features. Web Slices lets you save predefined sections of a Web page for at-a-glance viewing. Instead of going to a traffic Web site for updates, the latest commuting news comes to you. Similarly, Accelerators make repetitive tasks one-click behaviors, for instance finding directions or blogging. InPrivate browsing introduces a cache and history on-off switch, while related tabs are color-coded and automatically reorganized as you open them. There’s also tab sandboxing, which means that when a tab crashes, IE itself won’t, and it even tries to resurrect the page that crashed.

There’s a greater emphasis on Web standards and security than before. The SmartScreen and cross-site scripting filters throw up a red warning page when you’re about to visit an unsafe site. There’s also domain highlighting, which grays out the name of the URL you’re looking at except for the domain itself. This sounds simple, but effectively draws attention to spoofed site URLs. There’s also a compatibility button so that sites designed specifically for IE 7 and earlier can still be viewed.

IE 8 lacks a default "smart" location bar that many other browsers have, but you can search your history and most visited pages from there. Also, the installation process still requires a reboot–unimpressive, to say the least. Drawbacks aside, there’s no reason to not upgrade if you’re an old fan of IE, and there’s even a few things in IE 8 for new users.

CNET VIDEO REVIEW

 License: Free

Limitations: No limitations

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