Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Google Do’s or Don’ts?

Love ‘em or not, Google is in your life.

This company does offer some really cool things for free that Genealogists (and normal people also,) might want to take advantage of.

Google SEARCH, is no doubt the best known feature that this company offers. Just go to enter a word or phrase into the search box and WHAM there are your millions of answers, and remarkably intuitive ones, that seem weighted towards your original desires usually appear in the first few offerings. Seems possible that the reason they can offer up just what you were looking for is that they “might” have a computerized history of you in their globe covering web, doesn’t it?

Google also offers many other services and features. You will likely be required to obtain a Google Account, but it's easy and free.

Here are some of the features Google offers now:

We love Blogger. Blogger has changed my life, that’s for sure. This is where you are reading this little morsel of news and information. Google designed Blogger to be easy to use by anyone, anywhere, anytime, and it has pre-made templates that you select from, and start typing. You will tweak it from time to time and add features in the margins that are specific to your message and it in essence can become your own website. C’mon, it’s easy, try it. “The first time is free.” Where have I heard that before?

Gmail is a web based email service. You do not need a special program on your computer to read your email. You can access it from any computer that has an Internet connection. In the early days you needed an invitation to join Gmail. I remember people selling invitations on eBay! I don’t think you need an invitation any more to get a Gmail or a Google Account, but if any one does want an invite I have some left to give away. You should know that computers do read every single part of every email that you write, or that you read. I suspect this happens with every type of email service, but know it to be an absolute fact with Gmail, because every single message has word appropriate advertisements in the margins as you are reading. Orwellian?

Google Books.
I have been extolling this fantastic service for some time now. I use it all the time and find preciously published works on every single subject, person’s names, biographies, local histories, on every research project I ever start now. Many of these books can be viewed in total and even downloaded to your own computer to have forever. Read some of our previous mentions HERE, and HERE:

Google Calendar.
I’m using it now, but still in a hesitant manner. I’m not sure how much of it can be kept private, so I’m still experimenting. The concept seems great. Enter all of your meetings, engagements, birth dates of family and friends so you can get advanced warning to send them a dozen roses, make everything public so that people who want to engage your services will know when you plan on being in their area. No, I think not. I’m still not a fan of this service.

Google Desktop.
I have tried this and at first was wow’ed, but took it off because it seemed to take too much away from my control. The best feature of Google Desktop is that it does index each and every single byte and bit on your own computer and you can instantly find anything that is on your own hard drive with a simple Google search box, just like searching the web, but searching only your own computer.

Google Docs and Spreadsheets.
You will not need any type of word processor or spreadsheet program on your own computer. The software is out there on the Google cloud and all you have to do is key in your data and it is saved for you, somewhere! I have not used this, but can think of some cases where it might be handy, particularly if you are traveling a lot and do not have access to all of your files on your main computer.

Google Earth, Google Maps, and now Google Street View.
These work in combination with; Topographical Maps, Aerial Photography, Satellite Imagery and now even local street level photographs taken from roaming Google vehicles in certain cities and communities. The satellite imagery is out of date by design. Apparently it is at least a couple of years old and in some cases older. I also suspect that Google DOES have instantaneous “LIVE” satellite imagery in their own offices, because during the recent news stories about Steve Fossett being missing somewhere in Nevada, that investigators and searchers were offered the use of Google’s satellite views at the Google offices. We have discussed some of these features previously and you may read them HERE:

Google News.
Get the Hottest News, right up to the minute from news sources all over the world. Do I need to say more?

Google Page Creator.
Don’t know anything about it, (I know that’s a shock!) It is supposed to be a way to create html web pages in the cloud. You tell us about this.

Google Reader.
Ever since I became addicted to the crack like Blogging world, I have found Google Reader to be a feature I would never want to be without. When you are on a Blog that you like to read regularly, then all you have to do is subscribe to that Blog with Google Reader using the RSS (Really simple syndication,) or Atom feed button. Then every time that person makes a new posting it shows up in your Reader box. You can also have Blogs emailed to you but Reader is handier, IMHO.

Google Talk.
Instant messaging. Sitting right there in your sidebar is a little box with all your friends and family, you can tell when they are online, and you can instantly interrupt them at will. I never use ANY type of instant message utility, and totally refuse to EVER respond to one. But that’s just me…

This is a photo management service that takes place out on the cloud. When you load the Picasa software on your computer it first scans all of your hard drives and locates, and catalogs all of the images of any type that are on your computer, and puts them in a nice chronological order for you. If you are concerned about this invasion of privacy, you do have the ability to allow it to only index certain parts of your hard drive. I do use Picasa and have grown to like it a lot. One nice feature is that if you select an image of any type or size that you want to send by email to someone else, then Picasa will automatically resize the image such that it will be able to be sent through the ether without choking servers everywhere and without exceeding your bandwidth allowances.

Google does offer other features and services most of which I am not familiar with, but we would love to hear from you readers if you want to tell us about them. There are sections for Finance, Groups, Labs, Orkut, Patents, Products (the old Froogle,) Scholar and Video. Did your ancestor ever receive a Patent?

To those of you that think that some of these features are too invasive, I’m sorry to say, but it is too late to start worrying. You have already been scanned. Everything you write and every website you visit, and everything you do on the Internet is being recorded somewhere.

Oh, and if you turnoff, unplug, stay in the house, don’t watch tv or listen to the radio, they can still get cha! You’re going to have to go outside and go to the store sometime. Now the birds have got you covered. Are you worried yet?

I’m not. Anybody want a Gmail invite?

Please give us your input. If you love Google or have a hate relationship, we want to know. There is a little “comments” tab right below this message.

Visit our main website at



Pat D said...

I use the Google Blogger to set up family pages with my siblings and my husband's family. I share stories and photos of the ancestors and it seems to catch interest in that format. I got some useful Google tips for genealogy from Lisa Louise Cooke's podcast Genealogy Gems.

Anonymous said...

I have gmail - two accounts, one is personal and the other is for genealogy. I also have a blog. I like them all. I tried Picasa but didn't care for it and removed it. I tried the instant messaging and also the vocal messaging but do not use any longer. No one to talk to as I only have one other person who has the gmail. I think some are afraid of it. I also like that spam is blocked automatically from my email accounts. I rarely have any show up in my inbox - just great service. The blog is really easy and I recommend it to everyone.

unyg said...

To Pat,
Using Blogger for sharing genealogy and photos is exactly one of the best benefits!
Thanks also for mentioning the GenealogyGemsPodcast by Lisa Louise Cooke. We bragged about her in our annual New Years message on this Blog.
Thanks for the comments.

unyg said...

Thanks for your input Sandi.
All good points. You are absolutely right on the automated SPAM feature.