Every time I turn around, Google's come up with something new, cool, or innovative. It's no wonder it has Microsoft on the run.
Nifty Google Features
Calculate This: You can use Google Calculator to crunch numbers and figure out conversions. Try entering 12*12 and see what happens; you can also run more complex equations, like G*(6e24 kg)/(4000 miles)^2). Google Calculator handles conversions of all types, such as 3 ounces in tablespoons, 16 dollars in euros, or 19999GB to MB.
Find That Number: You can track FedEx, UPS, and U.S. Postal Service shipments just by sticking the tracking number into Google's search field; do the same with zip and area codes, vehicle IDs, patent numbers, airplane registration numbers, and even UPC codes.
Dig This, Too: So you need to move a palm tree? Watch this safety video first. Step one: Hire a professional. [Thanks, Brad.]
Useful Google Services
Sights on Google: My buddy Leo F. sent a note asking if I wanted to create a quick Web page, or something fairly complex, with just novice skills. "Google Sites is fun to play with," Leo said, "and even makes a useful Web page, too. Of course, it's free."
Ongoing Experiments: If you like poking around with Web tools, you need to explore Google Labs. For instance, Experimental Search gives you five new ways to search, each aimed at tightening and focusing on specific results.
Alert Me! Google sends me an e-mail every time it sees a new occurrence of "steve bass PC World," "steve bass PC Annoyances," or keywords about my various hobbies and interests. If you haven't tried Google Alerts, you're missing out on a terrific service.
Hello, Google? If you're using Firefox and find something cool on the Web, you can use Google Send to Phone to pass the info along to a U.S.-based cell phone. It's a nifty service that's really useful for, say, sending a map to a lost buddy. Check the FAQ for details.
Even More Fun With Google
You probably think there's not much more to say about Google. Nope, there's still lots.
Start by downloading the Google Cheat Sheet, a two-page PDF with lots of valuable Google shortcuts, search and query examples, and services.
Even better is 55 Ways to Have Fun with Google, a free e-book with Google trivia, games, and nonsense, enough to kill an afternoon (I did). The more I explored, the better I liked this 228-page book. For instance, I wasted time with The Image Quiz, which has you guess the Google search term for a bunch of images. I also picked up a nifty Google magic trick, learned how to find world records, read IRC chat logs people didn't know were public, and browsed to some very funny Google parody sites, such as UnderGoos, the underwear search site, and Cthuugle, the Lovecraft search engine.
Dig This: I always get a kick out of the way the folks at Google occasionally transform the logo to match up with the day. Here are some Google logo rejects.
Dig This, Too: What's more interesting than a hole in the ground? Not much, you'll think, after you take a gander at these amazing pictures.
Steve Bass writes PC World's monthly "Hassle-Free PC" column and is the author of "PC Annoyances, 2nd Edition: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer," available from O'Reilly. He also writes PC World's daily Tips & Tweaks blog. Sign up to have Steve's newsletter e-mailed to you each week. Comments or questions? Send Steve e-mail.