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.
Google Chrome Web Browser:
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.
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 recently released 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:
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 .
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:
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 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 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:
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!
Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer:
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!
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.
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.
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
Download at: Google
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