Monday, September 25, 2006

The Hindu : Business / Netspeak : Google tools revisited

http://www.hindu.com/biz/2006/09/25/stories/2006092501081500.htm

Business
Published on Mondays


Google tools revisited


THIS WEEK NetSpeak takes a look at the latest tools/services related to Google.
Google has become such a great phenomenon of recent times that some people equate it to "all-knowing, all-seeing, everywhere at once'' deity (http://www.thechurchofgoogle.org/). Though ascribing Google the status of God may be a highly far-fetched idea, its potential in solving our problems is indisputable.

As noted earlier, besides the search service, Google features several on-line applications such as Google news, Google video, and so on. The Google News Archives (http://news.google.com/archivesearch), a recent addition to Google service pack, is gaining much attention from news analysts and researchers. The service helps you dig out several-years-old news stories from news sources such as BBC news, Time magazine and the like.

If you find any difficulty in remembering the multitude of Google services/search operators, services like Gseek (http://www.gseek.com/), created for helping you access various Google tools from a single interface may come in handy.
In this Net-ridden World, having appropriate searching skills (especially on a popular service like Google) is increasingly becoming essential. Though Google wields enormous popularity and almost all netizens use it daily, only a very few can use it efficiently. Some people take hours to spot a resource that can be unearthed in a couple of minutes (if right Google commands are used). This aspect of Google has already been featured in this column (http://www.hindu.com/biz/2004/08/23/stories/2004082300341500.htm).

Google games

To equip its users with necessary skills/tools, Google itself features many tutorials and other information products. The Google Librarian Centre (http://www.google.com/librariancenter/index.html), meant for helping Librarians exploit the Google services effectively, is one such tool worth exploring. Here, you can subscribe to the Google Librarian Newsletter that regularly updates on Google related tips/information.

Likewise, Google Webmasters Central (http://www.google.com/webmasters/) is yet another resource worth a look (especially if you make web sites). Also, reading Google related blogs such as Webmaster Central (http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/) could improve your Googling skills.

Now, to test your Google proficiency many services are available. These services (also known as Google games) are generally based on the reverse search concept, where you have to guess the key-word(s) for a given Google search output. One such game, which has gained much popularity of late, is Gwigle (http://gwigle.varten.net/). In this multi-level game, with each level, you will be presented with a Google 'results' page and you have to guess the search string by scrutinising it. By and large, the game is enjoyable and worth a shot for testing your Google skills, though some of the levels require extra skills (like maths). The game 'What did I search For' (http://www.gamesforthebrain. com/game/whatsearch/) is yet another one of this kind. For a comprehensive list of a variety of Google based games, check out: http://blog.outer-court .com/ archive/2006-08-13-n15. html.

Another Google related resource worth a visit is the freely downloadable book '55 ways to have fun with

Google' (http://www.55fun.com/). The book features different Google services, several tips/tricks and numerous Google based games.
This information packed book can either be downloaded from the site or read on-line at: http://www.googlified.com/55
fun.php.

In this context, you may also check out the fascinating development-statistics visualisation tool Google Gapminder (http://tools.google.com/gapminder/). For analysts/economists development indicators (like life expectancy, economic growth and child mortality) are valuable sets of information.

Combining different indicators on a graph and viewing the changes in them over time, for different countries, provides typical insights on the differential development process. Gapminder, the application developed for showing the development indicators (from World Bank) for all countries worldwide in a scatter plot, may come in handy for such purposes. Each bubble in the graph represents a country and the bubble's size represents the size of its population. The scatter plot comes with the default indicators on income and life expectancy.
By clicking on the name of an indicator you can choose another one from the menu that pops up. Using the time slider you can view the change over time. For further details of this application, go through the tutorial:http://tools.google. com/
gapminder/howto.html.

Free software on a wide range of subjects that include word processors, mathematics, science, statistics, econometrics, graphics and so on are available. Though the Net is abundant with free, open-source programs, meant for a variety of requirements, finding/downloading the right ones may be cumbersome. To ease your burden, many free software aggregators are in place. Such services collect the various free programs available across the Net, organise them into meaningful categories and make them downloadable from a single interface. Generally, these services keep a CD image of all the compiled programs for free download. Some such services (like the OpenCD- http://www.theopencd.org/, GNUWIN- http://gnuwin.epfl.ch/en/index.html) have already been featured in this column. TTS OSSWIN-CD (http://www.ttcsweb.org/osswin-cd/) is yet another one of this kind encountered by this author recently.

As mentioned in the past, a cheat sheet for a product/service lays out the summary of all the commands available with it on a single sheet or web page. Several on-line locations host cheat sheets on a variety of subjects.

The new cheat sheet hosting service, TechCheatsheets.com (http://techcheatsheets.com/), specifically meant for hosting cheat sheets pertaining to technology products/services, is one of its kind. This service with Web 2.0 features lists out the latest cheat sheets available on the Net.

We are familiar with several answer services such as Answerbag (http://www.answerbag.com/), Yahoo Answers (http://answers.yahoo.com/) and Google Answers (http://answers.google.com/answers/). Live QnA (http://qna.live.com/) is the Microsoft's answer to such services.

Here, besides browsing the questions (organised under different user generated tags) asked/answered already by other users, you can shoot your own question and get answers from the people.

J. MURALI
He can be contacted at: jmurali@gmail.com

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