There was a time when downloading promised a thrill, the grabbing of a new thing, either legally or otherwise. That you got the thing was on equal footing with the quality of the thing. But now, though our internet connections may have widened, our tastes have narrowed, and we make no room on our drives for bum downloads.
This month, in addition to asking our writers to give us their best internet finds, we asked our readers to weigh in as well. Thanks to all who contributed—we’ll announce a new topic in a couple of weeks.
Here, then, is the best of what we’ve been pulling from the tubes.
NetNewsWire is my favorite Mac application not actually produced by Apple. It’s how I get my batches of headlines done; how I track Craigslist rental properties in cities and towns I dream about; how I stay on top of the latest tennis scores; how I keep on top of Paris politics; how I keep tab on TMN contributors. It’s practically how I read the web, and if a site ain’t got an RSS feed, I’m practically not interested (cough cough, The Atlantic outside of its blogs). NNW is well designed and easy to use. And recently the pro version came out free. Blammo.—Rosecrans Baldwin
Remember the Doozers in Fraggle Rock? I so want one as a pet. It would ride around my apartment in a little forklift fixing stuff and then sit on my lap during its lunch breaks. I’m still mildly upset Doozers aren’t real. But British rock band the Kooks give me those same joyful, fuzzy feelings with the added advantage of being real. Granted, none of them will ever sit on my lap (they’re not welcome to, thanks very much), but their music is a happy trade-off. I recently downloaded their album Inside In/Inside Out and am regularly grooving—Doozing, even—to it.—Lauren Frey
One of my favorite sources for mp3s, Spine Magazine, linked to this hip-hop antique. It’s an episode of the Kool DJ Red Alert show (streamed and zipped here) on NYC’s 98.7 Kiss FM, originally broadcast in August 1989. It’s hip-hop’s magic hour—the Native Tongues sound, Cold Chillin’ Records, Boogie Down Productions—presented in its original context, without all the annoyingly righteous entreaties to “respect hip-hop’s history!” that would accompany an old-school mix of this caliber today. Added bonus: a shout-out from a young, pre-face-tattoo Mike Tyson.—Todd Levin
I am about to lose all credibility I might have ever had, but the last great thing I downloaded was the original Broadway soundtrack for The Little Mermaid. The Disney film was an integral part of my childhood, but when the Broadway show was announced, my fellow T.L.M. lovers and I grew nervous. We heard about plot changes, and the dubious choice to have the cast performing on Heelys. I am occasionally resistant to change, and the new soundtrack had additional songs, a new lyricist, new voices—altogether I had very little faith in the whole endeavor, but we still went to see it. About halfway into the first act, somewhere between one of the new songs and one of the originals, we were hooked, without a care in the world for those roller-skate sneakers. I bought the soundtrack that night—though, naturally, not at the theater. I don’t want to be a dork about it.—Bridget Fitzgerald
Ah, the heady days of text adventuring. Who doesn’t remember hunkering over their keyboard and playing such games as Colossal Cave, Adventureland, Zork, and Lost Pig? Actually, if you’ve played Lost Pig you probably remember the experience rather vividly, as you must have done so in the last few months. Yes, people are still creating (and playing!) text adventures, and Lost Pig—which was released last year and just swept the annual awards ceremony—is one of the best. To play it you will need both the game file and an interpreter (I recommend Frotz). Once you get the latter you can gorge yourself on the plethora of completely free text adventures that have been written in the last few decades.—Matthew Baldwin
Colin McKay’s The Secret Underground Guide to Social Media for Organizations (pdf available here) is my most recent, favorite download. It’s a brilliant, practical, and short guide for anyone wanting to introduce their workplace to the benefits of blogs and other social software; particularly where you fear the organization doesn’t seem that keen.—TMN reader Andrew Brown
I missed Daniel Clowes’s Mister Wonderful when it was serialized in The New York Times Magazine’s (very inappropriately named) “Funny Pages,” so it was nice to catch up, all at once. Kind of like the pdf version of consuming a whole season of “One Tree Hill” on DVD. In Mister Wonderful, Clowes paints a cheerless portrait of an angry, self-absorbed, and sexually dysfunctional loner—no surprises here. Reading it all at once helped me keep my expectations in check. That, and my brand loyalty—even when he’s kind of spinning his wheels, Daniel Clowes still possesses the ability to make my eyeballs sad every time.—Todd Levin
Recently I came upon a film I’ve been looking for entitled Frontiers and Beyond (available as a torrent here). It follows Journey on their U.S. tour in support of their 1983 album Frontiers. From what I’ve been able to piece together, the film was only available to members of Journey’s fan club, and even so, was released only on VHS in the late ‘80s. As expected, the film is a rather self-serving and campy rock artifact (it’s narrated fatalistically by N.F.L. Films’s John Facenda), but it’s also very informative, placing equal emphasis on Journey’s roadies and their preparation for the tour. Watching it, I’ve learned that the “spine” of electrical cables that’s suspended behind the stage is called “the Snake,” and that Steve Perry grows mustaches intermittently.—TMN reader Rumsey Taylor
Yeasayer’s album All Hour Cymbals—talk about falling off the earth. Filled with worldly sounds and other wonder-clutter, it’s great for my morning and afternoon commutes on the El here in Chicago. It’s in heavy rotation and I thank eMusic for making it available for less than what is paid on iTunes.—TMN reader Jeff Casale
The best thing I have downloaded so far this year has to be Launchy. It is the one piece of freeware that I use every single day. Launchy allows me to live my life without ever having to look at the messy All Programs in Windows again. With its one-fingered alt+space activation and one or two keystrokes I can access all that other software I have downloaded without having to remember where the hell I put it.—TMN reader Liz Brackeen
A casual gamer is simply a hardcore gamer without any time. It’s a cruel irony of modern life that as console-buying power increases, console-using time decreases. Instead, video games became a casually snatched indulgence, a snack for the reflexes indulged by those adults who can unashamedly carry around pocket games machines made for kids. Then came proper mobile phone games, a discreet way of turning my Nokia into a pocket arcade for those spare moments. I’m addicted to K-Rally, a top down racer that’s fiendishly well-tuned—a half an hour long tournament can be decided in the final few seconds. Yet each race takes just a couple of minutes, perfect for bite-sized chunks of time, and is so involving that I’m wearing the numbers of the keypad.—Jonathan Bell
My best recent download: Elbow’s “One Day Like This,” from their forthcoming album The Seldom Seen Kid, coming out April 22. (If you can put up with the interface, you can stream a clip here.) When the staccato strings kick in during the chorus, I feel compelled to turn the volume up, only to realize that it’s already up as loud as my iPod or car stereo will go. So I compensate for the need to hear more of it by hitting repeat two or three times. It is a perfect pop song that offers, for a few minutes, a close approximation of the feeling it describes: pure (temporary) bliss.—TMN reader Neil Robinson
For about 10 months now, I’ve been learning Spanish for free courtesy of the folks at Coffee Break Spanish. Once a week or so, Mark (the teacher) and Kara (the student) get together in a sound studio in Scotland and talk about the language, and I get to listen in. I was tickled two weeks ago when I downloaded a lesson recorded shortly after Valentine’s Day. Under the guise of teaching Kara (and me) about the preterite past tense, Mark spent 20 minutes gleefully needling his co-host about her new boyfriend, asking her what they’d done to celebrate the holiday. So now, I am able to say: Mark y su esposa vieron una película a sus casa, porque ella estaba enferma. Kara y Antonio comieron paella a un restaurante y bailaron hasta las dos de la madrugada. Muy romántico! ¿Y yo? ¡Me aprendí y me divertí mucho, también!—Kate Schlegel