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Getting Advanced with Google

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Now that Google's been around for a while, it's easy just to think that it's a search engine. But wait, there's more. Here are some ways to take advantage of the company's latest free offerings. One word of caution: You need a PC because these applications don't work on Macs

1. Speed Up Your Surfing
Google's experimental Web accelerator is a free program that helps broadband browsers load sites more efficiently, so you waste less time waiting for pages to load. The software works by routing your requests for certain Web pages through fast Google-managed machines, compressing online information before sending it to your computer, and by centrally storing copies of Web pages that are used often, to make them more quickly accessible. Like many of Google's services and downloads, the tool doesn't work on Macs, a source of much grief among those who favor Apple machines. To try it, go to: http://webaccelerator.google.com/

2. Safeguard Your Computer
Google Pack is a new collection of free software that includes virus protection and spyware-blocking to keep out programs that can damage your operating system. ItÝs basically a bunch of software that novices need but often don't know how to get, packaged for easy use. The virus protection is trial software, though, which may eventually have to be purchased. In addition to the safety stuff, the collection includes fun new diversions like Google Earth, which lets you zoom around the globe seeing satellite images of your favorite spots.

3. Find Your Lost Documents
Over the last two years, a major shift took place in computer searching. Instead of just scanning the Web, Google Desktop, followed by similar programs from other companies, enabled the searching of one's own computer. You can now find anything on your PC's hard drive, from pictures you forgot you downloaded years ago to old papers or journal entries.

4. Organize Your Pictures
For those without a Mac—and therefore lacking its excellent iPhoto program—Google's Picasa is the best available free picture organizing and editing software. It can find all of the photos on your computer and help you edit, print and e-mail them quickly and easily—as well as share them with friends and family on the web. The new version, number two, is still free and makes it even easier to edit photos and make posters, collages or even a simple movie out of your pictures.

5. Navigate More Easily
Google is testing a "Ride Finder" service, which uses the Global Positioning satellite system to track the current position of taxis, limos and shuttles so anyone can find an available ride nearby. Try out a test version at http://labs.google.com/. Another experimental project hosted on that site helps travelers navigate public transit. The service is designed to offer a step-by-step itinerary for those using buses and subways.

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