For years, perhaps decades, an image of hegemony stalked the world, with a
good chunk of its population fearing global domination by a stealthy, and
seemingly omnipresent, force.
No, I'm not speaking about the now-former Soviet Union. Rather, it was
Microsoft Corp., the software titan seemingly bent on total domination of
the known universe.
Now, however, that fear could be transferred to Google Inc. of Mountain
View, Calif. From a tiny search engine acorn, a rather mighty oak has
grown. Indeed, the company's name has become a verb: I'll Google that for
And so it came to pass that Google search begat other services and tools:
online picture sharing, Web-based e-mail, blogging and now word processing
and spreadsheets. The latter two are browser-dependent: they're great with
Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer, but non-starters with
Google's mapping feature not only nails down driving directions with
nearly flawless perfection, but often shows satellite images of a
destination and can create a hybrid map showing street names superimposed
on the satellite image of a location. Not only is it cool, but it can help
you recognize where you're headed once you get there.
Even more exciting is Google Earth, which takes the satellite images to
another level, almost a three-dimensional one. You can rotate photos on X
and Y axis, giving a nearly street-level view of a location. Everything's
flattened when viewed this way, but you can still make out locations and
buildings easily. For example, as any viewer of The West Wing could
attest, the top-down view of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. is easy to
recognize; turning it produces a pancaked image.
The ability to fly across the globe and zero in on locations and to do
this for free is an amazing ability, powered by Google's software, as
well as its database of satellite images. Yes, you have to be connected to
the Internet to make use of Google Earth, but the tariff is well worth it,
in my view.
Google Earth works on both Windows and Mac computers; the basic software
is free, a more advanced version with GPS device support and
higher-resolution printing is $20, not a bad price, Id say. You can
download the software at http://earth.google.com, and its certainly worth
ALSO VERY MUCH WORTH TRYING, if you're a Macintosh user, is the public
Beta version of Nisus Writer Pro, a full-featured word processor that
shuns what some consider the bloat of Microsoft Office, but still delivers
a solid set of features. There's full footnoting and endnotes, indexing
capabilities, every style you could hope for and a personal favorite
a "stats" sidebar which offers a running word count of the articles youre
typing. The program runs on both Intel-based and older Macs, and its well
worth your examination, since it can read and write Office-compatible
Details are online at www.nisus.com/pro. I've used Nisus' products for a
long time. This new Nisus Writer Pro version is quite delightful, and I
urge you to check it out.
SYSTEMAX UPDATE: Last weeks review of the Systemax Pursuit was slightly
outdated the moment it hit print: after deadline, as noted on my tech
blog, Systemax's publicists announced the firm is now shipping the Pursuit
with a faster Intel Core Duo T5200 processor and an upgraded 80GB hard
drive. That's good news indeed.