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2007 January | Savvy Tech Tips

January 30th 2007

Google Categories

Computer: All • Level: Novice

categories1.gifThree short years ago, when I was doing introductory training seminars on using the Internet, I would often have to explain to people what Google was. I would say that it was a site dedicated specifically to helping people search the Internet, much like Yahoo. Once I would mention Yahoo search, people would get it, and we would be on our way. How times are changed. Now when I run training sessions on using the Internet efficiently, everyone knows what Google is, and everyone knows how to search for information.

However, Google has evolved tremendously over the past three years. They update and change stuff so quickly that I have to revise my documents every time I teach a seminar on the Internet, even if they are two weeks apart. And one area that Google has expanded incredibly in the past two years is how they categorize the information they gather. In short, Google realized that they could make searching the Internet much more efficient if they cluster the information they gather into various categories, and then allow people to perform searches within those various categories.

By default, Google’s classic page defaults to a “web” search. You can see the more common alternative categories listed across the top of the search bar. However, there are many more. To get to them, click the “more” link at the right end of the alternative categories line. This will open up an entire new world of alternative categories.

Not all of the categories may be useful to you, but here are some of the details on a few of the more helpful Google categories:

Images
By far the most popular alternative search, Google Images allows you to search image files on the Internet. Looking for a picture of a duck? This may be a great way to get it, but as always, please consider copyright laws when handling other people’s intellectual property.

Video
YouTube may be the most popular, but Google Video has a great collection of videos as well. Search, watch, and enjoy!

News
The News category is often overlooked, but it can be a great help in many situations. When working with educators, I often get the question, “How can I help my students find reliable websites?” The issue here, of course, is that students will do web searches on sensitive topics, but not have developed their crap detector skills well enough to know which sites are reliable. The News category can be a huge help with this, in that it culls the web of anything that isn’t a media source, and lets people search the only thesecategoriesmaps2.jpg major media sources. This is not to say, of course, that CNN or the Star Tribune always has reliable information, but at least your screening out Joe Extremist in his basement. The News category can also be helpful, as you would expect, in finding the latest information on a current event.

Maps
Maps is a great source of getting printed directions. Personally, I like it much better than Yahoo Maps, whose now infamous inaccuracy has been the source in our family of two Car Trips from Hell.

Google has folded over the “Local” category into the Map category, which means that you can also type in things you are looking for into the Google Map search bar, and it will put up a neat set of clickable markers—complete with contact information—right on the map for you. This is great for looking for pizza, parlors, golf courses, movie theaters, restaurants, etc., as you can go right from the location information to getting directions. The specifics of this feature are beyond the scope of this post, but at some point I’ll try to write a full article on Google Maps.

categories2.jpgOne other neat feature with Google Maps is the ability to look at your map in satellite photo view. For actually getting somewhere, this satellite view is generally useless, unless you plan to travel to your destination in a helicopter. However, it has one awesome use: impressing the hell out of your less computer savvy co-workers. The key is to have a window with Google Maps open on your computer at all times, then when the “target” walks in, click on the little “Satellite” button, look at a spot on the map, nod a few times, and write something important such as “We’ve found Neo now!”

One other use: If you’ve got a particularly gullible co-worker that you dislike, zoom in on your current address so you can see the building you’re working in. Then tell your co-worker that if he runs outside, looks up, and waves, you’ll take a screen shot of him and save it for his desktop. When he comes back, tell him that there was a problem categories3.gifwith the screen shot function, and ask him to do it again. Be sure to spread the word around the office as to what you’re doing. Lather, rinse, repeat until you get bored. Or fired. But don’t blame me.

Other secondary categories that may be of use to you:

Scholar
Search academic journals.

Froogle
A shopping search engine that returns price information.

Patent Search
Search US Patents

Blog Search
Search blogs only for your search terms.

Book Search
Search the contents of books for your search terms.

There are quite a few more, so it can be worthwhile to take some time to explore the “more” link on your Google Categories page.

Enjoy!

January 28th 2007

FairAdsNetwork: Competition for Google’s AdSense/AdWords?

Topic: Blogging

If you’re a blogger, you’ve likely considered adding AdSense ads to your blog. If you’re an advertiser, you likely have looked at Google’s AdWords as a way to drive traffic to your site. AdSense/AdWords, and to a lesser degree, AdBrite, are the two easy options for advertising on the Internet.

However, newcomer FairAdsNetwork hopes to take on Google’s leading position. With ads that directly target Google’s program, this upstart program has gone into Beta as of January 27, 2007. They are accepting 10,000 publishers and advertisers for their beta run, so if you are a blogger or advertiser and would like to be a part of the trial run, you can sign up now.

The FairAdsNetwork’s site looks professional and clean. They are aiming to offer advertisers a wide range of ad types. In looking over their terms and conditions, they do have some interesting twists on their service. For publishers, whereas Google doesn’t pay until you have earned $100 in revenue, Fair Ads Network will pay from $50. They are also much more upfront about payouts. FairAdsNetwork states that publishers will receive 60% of the advertiser’s cost per click. So if an advertiser pays 20 cents for a click, the blogger would receive 14 cents. Very straightforward. For advertisers, rates look comparable to AdWords.

One confusing element of their service is the option for becoming a “Master Marketer”. It’s tricky to piece together at this point, because the information on their site seems to have both advertisers and publishers info all mixed together (it is beta, after all). But for big publishers and advertisers, it seems that you can pay $19.95/month for extra statistics about your ads and 70% commissions, among other benefits.

All in all, if you are an advertiser or publisher looking for an additional alternative to AdSense, AdWords or AdBrite, FairAdsNetwork might be working taking a look at.

January 27th 2007

Eos Tarot Card Reading

eos_tarot.jpgEos Tarot is slick little site, sponsored by Volkswagen, for getting a quick three-card reading about a question you’ve got about your life. You think of an open ended question, then deal a card for your past, present, and future. The reader then talks about the significance of each of the cards.
No signups required, and everything works right in your browser. The site works best with audio up, so you can hear the card reader talk about the cards that come up, but you can still read about each card if you’re in a place where audio would be unwise.

In many ways this site seems similar to Elf Yourself. We’ve got a corporate sponsor plugging an elegant one-page site that features some slick visitor interaction. It’s different and not quite as much fun as Elf Yourself, of course, in that you aren’t watching yourself dance around, but still, it’s nice to see these site types of fun sites coming up now and then.

Enjoy!

January 23rd 2007

Temporary Email

guerillamail1.jpgEver find yourself wanting to sign up for an interesting offer on the Internet, but balking at giving away your precious email address to what might be a spammer? Looking for some alternatives to anti-spam software?

Well, Guerrilla Mail and 10-Minute Email are just the answer. These are two handy little websites that generate a valid email address that will expire after just a few minutes. This is great for those Internet signups that insist you enter an email address.

To use the sites, just click on the link for getting an email address. Viola! The site refreshes, and you’ve got a temporary email address right on your screen that you can paste into the email field at any site. To check your email, with Guerrilla Mail, just refresh your page by clicking on the circular green arrows. For 10-Minute Email, you refresh your browser window (click on the circular icon at the top of your browser window).

As for which one of the two services is better, I’ve used both Guerrilla Mail and 10-Minute Email a few times now. Both are easy to use, but Guerrilla Mail is the easiest of the two. Also, one time 10-Minute Email simply never delivered me my test emails, but Guerrilla Email has always worked. Take your pick, though, as both seem reliable and functional, and are great tools in fighting spam.

Edit on 2/7/07: For a different type of anti-spam temporary email service, take a look at this post on Spam Gourment.

January 22nd 2007

Stumble!

stumble.jpgDo you find yourself going to the same websites and forums over and over again, repeating the same web browsing ritual day in and day out?

Stumble, a nifty little free extension to Firefox or Internet Explorer, might be just the thing for you. Basically, when you download the extension, you select some categories of websites that reflect your interests. Once you’ve installed Stumble (which takes less than a minute and is painlessly simple), you have an additional navigation bar at the top of your browser screen. To use the extension, you simply click on the Stumble icon. The extension then selects a website for you to view based on your preferential categories.

It’s the execution of this idea that makes the whole Stumble concept work, however. The sites Stumble displays are based on user approvals, which you can influence by clicking on a Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down icon. If you like the site you’ve been shown, you give it a thumbs up. Don’t like it? Give it a thumbs down. Additionally, you can add any website to Stumble’s database by clicking on “I Like It!” This approval system seems to work: I’d say that I’ve found three quarters of the sites Stumble gives me worthwhile. It’s been a great way to, um, “stumble” upon some wonderful new Internet resources.

If you’re so inclined, there is a lot more to the explore about the extension as well. There is a Stumble community, bookmarking, sharing websites with friends, etc. The heart of the program, however, is its website browsing capabilities.

Enjoy!

January 19th 2007

Importing Posts and Images From New Blogger to WordPress

I just made the move from New Blogger (formerly Blogger Beta) to WordPress, and found a couple of things about importing posts and images that took a long time for me to hunt down. In case this might be of help to someone doing the same thing, here’s what worked:

Importing Posts
1. This blog has a small utility to import posts from Blogger Beta to WordPress. It worked great for me, but everytime I tried it, it failed the first time I tried to run it. I pressed the button a second time and it worked perfectly. Very happy with the results with this. Excellent little application.

Once you do this, however, you will now have hotlinked to all your images on Blogger Beta. This is a Bozo No No, and eventually Blogger will shutdown access to your photos and you’ll get all those ugly red boxes.

To fix this, you’ll need to import all your images into WordPress as well. That takes us to…

Importing Images
2. This blog has a neat utility for importing photos from Blogger Beta to WordPress. I tried it and it worked perfectly.

However…

The Blogger Beta filing system is pretty arcane, and I ended up with all sorts of numerically named folders in my WordPress content folder after I did the transfer.

I wanted to at least start things out all nice and organized, and since I didn’t have many images on the old blog, I just went back in and manually imported my images.

Hope that helps!

January 19th 2007

Vanished…and Back.

Sorry for the disappearance over the last couple of weeks. I decided to move this blog to its own server, and life in general got hectic while this was going on. I also wanted to think about the general theme of this blog, and figure out a reasonable posting schedule.

I’ve decided to add blogging tips and information to this blog’s content. So many people are picking up blogging these days that I thought perhaps the information I pick up along the way could be helpful to them. I’m by no means an expert at blogging, but I’ve got long experience with education, technology, and training, so I’m thinking that perhaps my strengths can help me to explain the blogging things I’ve learned consisely.

Lastly, posting a tech tip article a day was too much for me to keep up with on a regular basis, so I’ve decided to reduce it to something more manageable. For large articles, I’m going to post once a week, on Tuesdays. Other random tips and stuff will go up at regular intervals, but at a minimum, every Tuesday I’ll post a full-fledged tip article.

Thanks for your patience while I made this move. As always, I welcome feedback and comments. Enjoy!