Monday, January 09, 2006

my unnecessary two cents re: Google Pack

Even though I blogged about the hypocrisy of pulling a link off of Memeorandum and blogging about it, I'm still doing it. I even notice 495 blogs linking to and didn't read them all. Yep, I'm that special and my opinions are that important.

Anyway, like most of the blogosphere quoted on memeorandum, I am stunned at how lame Google Pack is.

My one comment, though, is that the blogosphere seems to think, "oh, of course I need to install an anti-spyware tool and an anti-virus tool and Acrobat; that's the first of the 250 steps I take when I set up a new computer for myself or my family members or friends! Duh!" However, if you have ever dealt with the types of elementary computing problems your family members or other less-savvy computer users have had, I think it is clear that Google Pack is really for them and not the tech.memeorandum crew.

Because I know that avid Give Our Abilities Time readers are awaiting my suggested replacements, here they are:

Acrobat: I think Acrobat 7 has fixed the slow loading problem from Acrobat 6, and really, the trick to speed up Acrobat 6 was out there for internet search savvy individuals to find (move all plugins to the optional plugins directory or whatever). However, I have been trying out the Foxit Reader and am relatively pleased with it. You can type into form fields of a document, which is nice, and it also loads like crazy fast. However, it doesn't let you zoom by scrolling the mouse wheel while holding Ctrl, like most browsers, MS Office apps, and Acrobat itself do; it doesn't prompt you to save when you type stuff and close the PDF; and doesn't launch outside of IE as I prefer. Really only the first one is kind of critical so I've kept using Foxit.

Ad-Aware: I'm with Paul Thurrott, use the Microsoft one; it's pretty good and low-impact.

GalleryPlayer HD: I'm with Paul again, don't use it.

Google Desktop: I use this at home and am relatively happy with it, particularly its real-time indexing and ability to launch native files (or the explorer in the appropriate directory). However, at work, where I really need search, I have used LookOut for more than a year and still love it despite its flaws. Microsoft recognized its awesomeness and made MSN Desktop Search out of it but for whatever reason I've always preferred LookOut due to its simple interface and easy method of indexing selected public folders. I don't search documents with it (I have Interwoven DeskSite for that) but I search my email many, many times a day with LookOut.

Google Earth: I suppose this is cool, Google is really stretching the definition of "essential software" with this one, though.

Google Pack Screensaver: OK, here's where I am an elite techno-blogger when I say this -- I don't use screensavers. My screensaver is my desktop image, locked and requiring a password. You are looking at your computer when you're using it, and when you're not, you are away from your desk and don't care what the hell is going on with your screen.

Google Talk: I like Google Talk simply because it notifies me when I have GMail. I am an IM loser and only have one person who has ever communicated with me via Google Talk. And this person works at the same company as me so we usually use our firm's internal MS Office Live Communicator via HTTPS.

Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer: I use this on those machines on which I have to use IE to block popups. Of course, I only use IE when I probably want popups, like for OWA or the Interwoven support site or... I can't think of anything else, really. I consider this a useful app.

Mozilla Firefox with Google Toolbar: I use this every day and heartily recommend it.

Norton Antivirus: I like the free version of AVG and wish Google had chosen it. I've never noticed a slowdown and never caught a virus. But I am an elite internet user and never click on any attachments unless they are Word or PDF files that my coworkers send me.

Picasa: I have not settled upon a proper method of viewing and organizing pictures that is not labor-intensive. Picture that I want to share I upload to my Flickr page using the Flickr Uploadr. At home, I have a directory which I used to share and my wife and I would just use Irfanview to view the pictures. Now I sync to my Media Center PC so if we want to look at pictures we can see 'em on the TV and somewhat easily scroll through them. My coworker who takes a lot of pictures and is fairly tech savvy uses Picasa so I suppose that's a recommendation, and I may have my wife try it out to see if she likes it. Most non-tech-savvy people I would imagine just use whatever application came with their digital camera (or their computer a la HP Image Center on our Media Center PC).

RealPlayer: Everyone on the internet hates Real and rightly so -- their whole business model is based on duping people into buying into some sleazy upsold version other than the free one they want. And then the app goes into the system tray, steals file associations from their rightful owners, shows you ads for everything not just content you are downloading from Real, etc. I suppose that Google needs to strike a blow against Microsoft so people don't just use the default Windows Media Player that most non-savvy users use by default, and that's why they partnered with someone people had heard of that also had their own proprietary format that some sites require you to use. And until recently they couldn't have used Winamp, which is what I use for all my stuff. And the recent announcement of a video store thing pretty much means Apple won't be lending out iTunes to Google any time soon. So I suppose this was the only likely choice. If Google wanted to show its super nerdy cred they probably would have used Foobar but that interface is only for engineers and really haughty audiophiles who want everything to be more complicated than it needs to be.

Trillian: I do use this and have for years. I suppose you could say Google had to do this because Google Talk doesn't talk to the other IM networks, and all the other search vendors have their own far more popular IM clients and networks than Google and the typical new computer user needs to connect to those networks. Trillian lets them do this without installing any software which provides ad revenue to those other search vendors. It also doesn't really provide any of the features that people are expecting from modern IM clients like VoIP or webcam or file transfers, so I guess the genius(?) is forcing you to use Google Talk for at least the VoIP part.

Anyway, there are my thoughts. I know that as the 496th blog to post about this my unique take will shoot right onto memeorandum's main page! (or more likely drop back into the low-impact, low-readership position you've come to expect from Give Our Abilities Time)


Gotta say I agree with you on most of this, but you should take a look at a replacement for Trillian that I've used for a while called GAIM I've got IM's hooked into Google Talk, AIM, MSN, and Yahoo. It still doesn't have all the VOIP features of Google Talk, but it does archive the conversations which can be useful. Don't know if Trillian does that stuff.
Thanks for the link. Trillian does archive all conversations which is kind of why I keep using it. A forum I post on sometimes has a running war between Trillian and GAIM users; I think Trillian is a little more feature-rich and professional looking but GAIM is open source and will never pop up ads once you've used it for awhile. (You never see a pop up until you've hit something like 1000 hours of use, but then the popups become relentless to the point where I uninstalled it, lived without IM for a month, and then reinstalled it and the counter started again. Haven't reached it yet.)
I mean to say that GAIM will never pop up ads period. Trillian pops up a reminder to purchase it after some amount of time has passed.
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