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February 27, 2009 4:52 PM PST
iPhone(Credit: CNET Networks)

Every week, I try to pick a game and some other useful utility for my iPhone apps post, but this week I can't help but write about two games. What can I say? They keep coming out with great games! The two games are from completely different genres so if you like games at all, I'm guessing at least one of them will find their way onto your iPhone.

This weeks apps include a well designed jet ski racing game and a unique word game that's challenging and makes you laugh while you play.

WordFu

Choose words quickly to get as many as possible for high scores

(Credit: CNET Networks)

WordFu (99 cents - introductory price) is a fun and challenging word game with a unique Kung Fu twist. You start with nine letter dice and you're allowed to shake your iPhone to get new letters or swipe a die to switch single letters. When you're ready (there's also a time limit on this phase), your round begins and you must use your letters to create as many words as possible until time runs out. To make a word, touch each of the letters, then flick your wrist to enter it. As you spell more words, you'll be given bonus tiles you can touch to get double word scores, freeze the timer, and more.

What makes WordFu both challenging and funny are the Kung Fu "Hi ya!" and slapping sounds as you complete words. Once you feel you've mastered the art of WordFu you can play against your friends over local WiFi or compare your scores with the high score list. Caution: this game is addictive.

Aqua Moto Racing

Tilt your iPhone to steer and get the best line around the buoys

(Credit: CNET Networks)

Aqua Moto Racing ($2.99) lets you jump on a personal watercraft (pwc) and race around beautifully rendered tracks. Start off on easy courses with soft turns to get a feel for your pwc. Go for the best time by following a tight line and using the boost to earn medals and open up new tracks. Later tracks include jumps and with a flick of your iPhone, you can pull off several different tricks of varying difficulty to earn more boost time.

When I first started playing this game it immediately reminded me of an old favorite on the Nintendo 64 called Wave Race. With several tracks, difficulty levels, and complex tricks to practice, this game will have a lot of replay value. The graphics are excellent in Aqua Moto Racing and a well thought-out gaming experience make this title a must-have for racing fans. If you want to try before you buy, check out Aqua Moto Racing Lite (link launches iTunes) at the iTunes Store.

What's your favorite new iPhone app? Got a game for me to try? Is Aqua Moto racing extemely hard once you get to the slalom courses (it is for me)? Let me know in the comments!

February 27, 2009 3:17 PM PST

If you've got to ask yourself why out of the teems of top-notch freeware image editors at your disposal, folks consistently choose IrfanView, then you don't know IrfanView.

It may not be the slickest-looking app by a long shot, or even the most complex. But its combination of simplicity and strength make the classic image viewer and editor a middleweight favorite. It doesn't hurt that the feature set has some unique extras in addition to the regular touch-up tools. Check out IrfanView in this First Look video.

Other great image-editing applications
-FastStone Image Viewer
-GIMP
-Paint.NET
-Picasa

February 27, 2009 2:12 PM PST

As those of you with older PCs may have noticed the hard way, some of the new features in Apple's Safari 4 beta for Windows require a graphics card with at least 64MB of on-board RAM that supports at least DirectX 9. This makes it the first browser I've heard of with an explicit graphics card requirement, but is this really a big deal?

Missing from next to the Bookmark icon is the toggle for Top Sites.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

DirectX 9 has been around since 2004, and you can pick up a card for your desktop that supports it for around 20 bucks. This isn't quite analogous to Windows requiring a massive hardware upgrade for Vista, although it is definitely annoying.

What is strange is that Cover Flow on iTunes will work on these older machines, including the main Windows XP computer I use at work. The graphics card is older, yet, as you can see in the screenshots, Cover Flow works in iTunes and doesn't in Safari 4. This leads to my other complaint about the beta: Safari offers no notification when your graphics card is not compliant. Top Sites and Cover Flow merely don't appear. So if the browser must require an upgrade, when iTunes doesn't, the least Apple could do is include some kind of warning.

Taken on the same Windows XP machine, Cover Flow in iTunes works fine.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

This isn't the biggest deal in the world, and Safari 4 is still in beta so there's plenty of time to work out the kinks. But this strikes me as a seriously annoying problem, if nothing else, when you consider that the graphics and design elements of Apple software are one of their big attractions.

Apple suggests that one solution could be to upgrade your graphics card drivers, which didn't work for me. Apple had not returned my call requesting comment at the time of publication.

If you have other problems or solutions to problems in Safari 4 beta, tell me about them in the comments.

February 27, 2009 12:07 PM PST

Mozilla Messaging released Thunderbird 3 beta 2 for Windows, Mac, and Linux on Thursday.

This test version includes numerous back-end improvements that users will probably notice only as performance enhancements, but there are two new major features worth noting.

There's a new activity manager that records all interactions between your e-mail provider and Thunderbird, making it far simpler to track down errors when you send or receive mail. There's also an entirely new system for archiving messages based on Gmail's "archive and forget it" method. The new beta offers the traditional multiple-folder-based solution, as well as the new dumping-ground style, which can be activated via the "A" hot key.

A key part of Gmail's success with its archive, though, has been its excellent searching ability. The newer, faster searching tool promised for Thunderbird is not yet ready, according to developers.

IMAP users now will see Thunderbird download their messages by default in the background. Mozilla hopes that this will improve offline operations and speed up message loading times, and the feature can be activated on a per-folder basis or for an entire account.

Mac users should see improved Growl notifications too.

One major setback to Thunderbird 3 was announced earlier in February: the Lightning plug-in, which adds calendaring options to the e-mail client, will not be baked into the next major release.

Citing numerous concerns, including continuing interface adjustments and internal debates about the importance of the calendar to e-mail, Mozilla has decided to let Thunderbird be more flexible for now. An updated Lightning extension will be available for Thunderbird 3.

For more details on Thunderbird 3 beta 2, you can read the release notes or peruse the full list of bug fixes.

February 27, 2009 7:00 AM PST

TuneUp Utilities(Credit: TuneUp)

Often, asking Windows do your bidding is like disciplining a two-year-old child. You'll get your way in the end, but only after some resistance.

These six top-rated Windows applications optimize XP and Vista--everything from managing the programs that launch on start-up to freeing up your RAM cycles, to plucking out broken links in your Registry.

February 26, 2009 6:37 PM PST

There's no question that comic books and magazines will eventually have a portable platform suited to them, just as the iPod took nearly four years to reach a saturation level as the de facto portable music player.

The Kindle 2 might have been that device, had Amazon found color e-ink to be cost-effective. For now, though, we're stuck with struggling innovations, and iVerse Media has made a big push to get theirs out.

A photo of the Hexed cover as it appears on the G1 screen.

(Credit: Seth Rosenblatt/CNET Networks)

Earlier this month, just in time for WonderCon 2009, the big comic book and media convention in San Francisco, iVerse launched its comic book-reading app for Android, following on the heels of its iPhone app that debuted in November of last year.

The thought of cramming the detail-rich comic book page onto the tiny touchscreen of a smartphone seems ridiculous, because it is. iVerse solved the problem by chopping comics into panel-size chunks.

On both Android and the iPhone, you slide your finger across the screen to move on to the next panel. Slide it in the other direction to move back. Reading the story is surprisingly clear and clean, and although it may seem counter-intuitive, there should be no concerns about eyestrain from squinting because it's one panel, presented in high resolution.

From there, the Android and iPhone apps diverge in functionality, though the features remain largely the same. I tested the Hexed No. 1 comic for both the iPhone and Android.

... Read more
February 26, 2009 4:50 PM PST

Though computer monitor technology has long since passed the days when you truly needed to "save your screen," screensavers are still a lot of fun and a great way to personalize your desktop when you're away from the computer. This collection features screensavers that are most popular with our users.



Free Fire Screensaver(Credit: CNET Networks)

Free Fire Screensaver sets your icons and windows ablaze. Watch as each item slowly catches fire and begins to smoke on your desktop. Crackling and popping sounds and a musical soundtrack complete the effect. Add your own MP3 to customize your desktop flare-up.











3D Fish School Screensaver(Credit: CNET Networks)

3D Fish School Screensaver lets you view up to 100 fish swimming peacefully on your desktop. Choose from a saltwater or freshwater virtual aquarium and tweak the settings to allow for more fish and bubbles. Use the settings to display a clock so you can check the time without waking your computer.









Sim Aquarium(Credit: CNET Networks)

Sim Aquarium reminds us more of a sea floor teaming with aquatic life. Watch your fish swim around a coral reef complete with live clams and swaying sea life. Choose from 41 species of fish.









The Matrix Screen Saver(Credit: CNET Networks)

The Matrix Screen Saver is a longtime favorite for many users and continues to mesmerize with its now classic falling digital code. Wait a second, I think I just spotted myself typing this in the falling code. Maybe we are part of the Matrix! Somehow, I doubt Keanu can save us.









Deep Space 3D Screensaver(Credit: CNET Networks)

Deep Space 3D Screensaver lets you take a trip to a distant galaxy and explore planetary systems and nebulae. As you watch, you may even encounter mysterious items and artifacts floating in the void. Are they manmade? Maybe not. Pleasant music accompanies your journey through space.











3D World Map(Credit: CNET Networks)

3D World Map lets you gaze upon our planet in full 3D and view detailed information on more than 30,000 cities. Compute the distance between any two points on Earth. Tweak settings to adjust color and saturation to customize your view of the globe. This screensaver comes with a built-in MP3 player so you can view the Earth and listen to your own soundtrack.

February 26, 2009 4:27 PM PST

If you're a demanding aesthete who insists on stamping your imprimatur all over your computer's interface, TweakXPlorer might be just what you've been looking for. If you're looking for a serious Explorer performance-enhancing drug, you're probably going to want to look elsewhere.

(Credit: Seth Rosenblatt/CNET Networks)

TweakXPlorer is a simple utility that lets you slap an image in Explorer's background, change font colors, and adjust background settings for the Explorer toolbar. Simple buttons with clean icons will help you navigate through the three main interface tabs.

There's TweakFolder for folder changes, TweakToolbar for toolbar adjustments, and TweakThumbnail to change thumbnail resolution and size. Importing an image into the toolbar automatically resizes it for the toolbar's rectangular dimensions, and the app makes use of sliders to avoid becoming visually stale.

It's portable, although the reasoning behind that decision is not exactly clear. Portable Firefox is something I understand, but for TweakXPlorer it just added several tedious steps before I could test it out.

You'll have to locate your images through the program's file browser, since drag and drop doesn't work here. Other than that, the biggest limitation the program faces is that it's kind of pointless beyond the skinning. If the visual customizations could be coupled with actual improvements for XP's Explorer, I'd be more willing to recommend the program enthusiastically.

February 26, 2009 2:59 PM PST
Insurrection Collection(Credit: CNET Networks)

Mac gamers: our friends over at Ambrosia Software just announced a great deal that will last until March 4. Three of the company's hit games--"DEFCON," "Darwinia," and "Uplink"--are all part of Ambrosia's Insurrection Collection; a package deal for just $19. To buy each of the games separately, you would spend $79, so this is definitely a deal worth looking into.

The Insurrection Collection is all part of the lead-up to the release of "Multiwinia" for Mac, the award-winning multiplayer strategy game that lets you take your armies online and battle it out with players from around the world. Click the title links above to demo each of the games in the collection, but I'm betting that once you try any of them out, you'll see why $19 is a great deal.

February 26, 2009 2:03 PM PST

Safari's currently the third-most popular browser for Windows, but is Apple aiming for number two? The Safari 4 beta debuts a completely reworked program, from the Nitro JavaScript engine to the Chrome-styled interface and Top Sites.

Some users are already swearing by the faster speeds in the beta, while others won't touch a browser without extension support. Let us know your favorite browser and why in the comments.

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