Google Pack Software – The Good, the Bad and the Useless

Google Pack 2 The applications offered in Google Pack are an interesting compilation of  freebies – some of them are quite useful and  worthwhile adding to your system. On the other hand, some of them are not only useless, but are potentially hazardous to your system security.

The good:

Google Chrome Web Browser:

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Google has developed an impressive browser with a focus on speed strong integrated search features. I’ll stick with Firefox though since I find Chrome just a little too simply for the type of work that I do. Some consider Chrome the safest browser available, but this conclusion is definitely subjective.

Google Apps:

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Cloud computing is where it’s at, or soon will be, according to the futurists. Personally, I think the jury is still out.

Google though, has tied its wagon to the concept of cloud computing, and  Google Apps reflects this direction. Using this collection of online (cloud based) applications you can plan (Calendar), stay in touch (Gmail), and collaborate (Docs). Since these are cloud based apps you can reach them from anywhere you have an Internet connection.

I should point out that Google Apps are available for business and education. Both are enhanced versions of the free personal version.

Note: Google will soon be releasing Google Wave, an additional online tool for real-time communication and collaboration. For more information on Wave, checkout Scoroncocolo TechPages.

Spyware Doctor with Anti-Virus:

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The version of the highly regarded Spyware Doctor with Anti-Virus included in Google Pack, does include full scan and remove capabilities, scheduled scans, database updates, but only limited real-time protection from both spyware and viruses.

I’ve reviewed this application a number of times, and consider it an outstanding secondary scanner. However, I do not recommend that you use this restricted version as a primary defense against malware, because of its limited real-time protection .

Picasa:

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Some might say that Picasa is the best free piece of photo managing and editing software you can find. Up to a point I agree. As a basic photo manager and viewer, it’s pretty terrific.

Bonus features include a full complement of editing tools, supplemented with the ability to create photo CDs, photo collages, screensavers, and posters. Not bad for a free application!

Mozilla Firefox with Google Toolbar:

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If you’re looking for  a Browser that you can customize to your hearts content, then download Firefox. There are literally thousands of totally free ways to customize Firefox to meet all of your personal needs. The big advantage to Firefox, in my view, is the ability you have to customize this Browser with security add-ons that raise the security bar substantially.

P.S. Forget about the Google Toolbar.

Skype:

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Skype has become my preferred method of contact. I use the free Skype video calling feature, dozens of times a day to speak with contacts worldwide.

In its basic form, Skype is a free communication package, using proprietary code, which allows users to make free computer to computer calls, including video calls, across the globe. As well, there are a bundle of additional features, that can be purchased at a low cost, which will expand the application’s functionality.

Google Talk:

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Google Talk is a cool application that includes Instant messaging, PC-to-PC voice chat , the ability to send, receive and leave voicemails,  along with unlimited file transfers (no file size or bandwidth restrictions).

Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but I prefer single purpose applications, and I would choose Skype over Google Talk.

Google Earth 5:

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I couldn’t say it better than Google so, “Google Earth lets you fly anywhere on Earth to view satellite imagery, maps, terrain, 3D buildings, from galaxies in outer space to the canyons of the ocean. You can explore rich geographical content, save your toured places, and share with others”.

This is truly an amazing piece of technology – I just never get tired of it!

The bad:

Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer:

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I have seen machines with more than 20+ installed toolbars, and this type of nonsensical download is one of the reasons why. Another toolbar? Lord help us!

Google Desktop:

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According to Google with desktop installed you can – “Find all your email, files, web history, and more. Get all your personalized info in one place with Sidebar”. So what could be wrong with that?

Well, if privacy and security is a concern – plenty. eSecurity Planet has a great article that exposes the major downside of installing this “spyware” on your computer. If you’re considering installing this program, I encourage you to checkout “Google Desktop: Next Big Thing or Dangerous Tool?”, first.

The ugly:

Adobe Reader:

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Without a doubt, one of the most hacked pieces of  software – ever! That’s bad enough, but Adobe, for all intents and purposes, seems not to care. On top of that, this application is the very definition of “bloatware”.

Don’t even consider this program. Instead, choose one of a number of much faster, more streamlined free application such as Foxit Reader, for Firefox, or Sumatra PDF Viewer for Windows.

RealPlayer:

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If you need a clunky, slow, ugly player, and you are the type of person who likes to be nagged constantly, then this application will give you what you want. If you think I’m being tough on this piece of crap, then read PC Mag’s “The 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time”.

VLC Media Player, on the other hand, an open source cross platform application, is a long recognized superior performer that gives you frame-by-frame advancement, granular speed controls allowing for on-the-fly slower or faster playback, and live recording of streaming video.VLC offers support for a wide range of video and audio formats, including OGG, MP2, MP3, MP4, DivX, HD codecs like AES3, Raw Dirac, and even support for playing back zipped files.

Google Apps System requirements: Windows XP, Vista Win 7

Google Pack

Download at: Google

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7 Comments

Filed under Cloud Computing Applications, Freeware, Google Chrome, Google Pack, Google Software, Image Editors, Multimedia Tools, Productivity Software, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, Windows Tips and Tools

7 responses to “Google Pack Software – The Good, the Bad and the Useless

  1. g

    Picasa is a great program. My wife and oldest daughter are scrap booking concerns and picassa is an excellent application for organizing, finding, and printing our digital photos.

    • Bill Mullins

      Totally agree G.

      First time I used it, and it located and organized all the pics (1,000s of them), on my machine, I was blown away! Couldn’t believe it – a definite keeper.

      Hope you’re over all that Turkey. LOL

      Thanks for the visit,

      Bill

  2. Mal

    I like Google Chrome browser. It’s super fast, simple to understand, and easily configurable. And from the tests I have done with it, it is very very secure. Not that I am saying it’s inpenetrable, nothing is. I see only a bright future for this browser.

  3. Mal

    Also, Adobe Reader, I agree with Bill. And the other thing about it, you don’t get to decide whether you would like it to access the internet or not, as it uses Windows BITS service to connect, which means unless you turn off BITS, you don’t get to decide whether you would like Adobe to connect or not.

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Mal,

      Yes, I remember you pointed out the BITS services connection before. This is an important issue, so thanks for bringing it up again. I will bring this point to readers’ attention more strongly in future.

      I agree nothing is impenetrable, but you’re right in pointing out that Chrome has made great strides on the security issue – no doubt about it. I’m kind of partial to Firefox at the moment, but I certainly encourage readers to give Chrome a fair try.

      As always, you have made some strong points. Thank you.

      Bill

  4. Hi Bill! Interesting opinions.

    I thought Google Wave was already out – not that I have a use for it. For an extensive guide, see Gina Trapani’s http://completewaveguide.com/.

    Not sure what you’ve got against Google Toolbar. I find it vital as I use Gmail and Google calendar as well as relying on Google for all kinds of searches and web history and more. In fact, it’s pretty much the only toolbar that I use.

    All the best,
    Dave

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Dave,

      Wave’s official release date is December 15, 2009 – in the meantime, it is available (in beta), by invitation. Thanks for the link, BTW.

      Your comment re: the Google toolbar “In fact, its pretty much the only toolbar that I use” – speaks to your level of computer knowledge. Used properly, a toolbar like the Google toolbar, can be of real benefit, as you point out. Unfortunately, an average user can often be unaware that there is no benefit (and some danger), in installing more than one.

      Many of the free applications I have tested over the last year, or more, have had a toolbar attached as part of the install process, and unless the user is cautious toolbars can become a major issue. When I mentioned that I have seen machines with 20+ toolbars, the fact is, I have seen machines with far more than 20 – all of them eating up bandwidth.

      My major objection to tollbars, including the Google toolbar though, is based on the amount and the type of personal information these apps collect. For an educated user this may not be problematic since there are ways to control the flow of such information but, the average user is simply unaware of the privacy issues involved.

      You have raised an interesting point here; one worth discussing, and I very much appreciate that.

      Bill