Bloglines is an RSS reader/aggregator that makes checking blogs easy. Give it the address of a site or RSS feed, and add it to your list. Then, every time you go to your bloglines page, it'll check all the pages and display the updated ones.
Gaim is an instant messaging client that supports a wide variety of protocols (AIM/MSN/Yahoo/ICQ/Jabber). It's a little slow at times (at least on my old system), but the features are great. The thing that sold my girlfriend was the mouse-hover away-message checking. People who use multiple IM programs should love it too.