Google Pack

Google Pack, (not to be confused with Google Apps) is a bunch of desktop applications, some created by Google and some created by other companies. Importantly, it allows one update application to track new versions of many applications. This is better than having you or a separate update program for each application try to keep thing up to date.

Created by Google.

Google Earth. Competes with Microsoft Earth and NASA WorldWind. I recommended getting all three.
Google Toolbar for Firefox or MSIE. Important for popup blocking. Optional–modern browser already let you block some popups in the preferences.
Google Desktop. Better than either of the Windows desktop search technologies. It is fast and easier to configure. Recommended. Also includes widgets, similar to Vista widgets or Yahoo Kombobulator. Widgets only recommended if you have a huge screen.
Picasa. The best way to remove red eye from photos. Also, with time you can learn to fix a lot more defects. Recommended.
Google Photo Screensaver. Very pretty. Recommended.
Google Talk. Yet another IM client. Useful for chatting with people who have gmail, but not any other IM client. Not really recommended, Google talk is an also ran in the IM universe. An exception might be if you plan on using Google Apps and can ensure everyone in your small company will have a Google talk account.

Not created by Google
Norton Security Scan.
I use clamwin. Not recommended.
Spyware Doctor. I use Windows Defender. Not recommended.
Adobe Reader. I’m fed up with Adobe’s update system, I use Foxit. Not recommended.
Skype. Skype is yet another IM/Voice chat application with emphasis on the voice chat. Unlike most IM chat clients, you can use Skype to call physical telephones. Skype seizes your left over balance if you don’t use them frequently and continuously. This is recommended, just be careful about giving Skype money.
Real Player. The BBC has a crapware free version of realplayer. Use that one instead if you come across a site that offers content only in real player format. The market for media players is very crowded with good free competitors, many with better sound quality. Last.FM has better sound for streaming radio. Democracy player and Songbird have better support for rss subscriptions to media. Not recommended.

In sum, just because an application is bundled with a bunch of high quality Google Applications, that doesn’t mean you want it on your system.

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Google Apps

Google apps is where a small business decides to use Google’s office browser based applications and email instead of Word/Excel/Outlook/Exchange

The other competitor is Open Office, Thunderbird and Sunbird, who likewise is free, but is client based. Google wins over these client based applications only in that Google’s apps don’t need to be installed and Google take care of the backup.

You can do some fancy smancy DNS record manipulation to get email sent to johndoe@yourdomain.com to be sent to your Google Apps gmail account. Personally, I just have my web host forward my mail to my google account where I can pick it up with POP access.

Pros: It is dramatically cheaper than installing applications to all your user’s desktop machines. The business version of Google Apps costs money though.

Cons: People are already somewhat used to office apps. Anyone that already has Word is going to be reluctant to change. But Google apps can read most MS formats.

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Google Checkout

Google check out is a 3rd party payment processor. It also is an authentication mechanism, albeit only at time of purchase.

Pros.

They are paying customers $10 at time of sign up.

You don’t have to store credit cards at your web site.

Your customers can have fewer passwords for money.

It is a REST based API– meaning your application communicates with Google via HTTP GET commands, instead of HTTP POST. You can build your app in .net, java or PHP.

Fairly cheap as far as payment processing goes, 2 percent plus 20 cents with discounts for merchants who have big Ad Words bills.

Cons.

No two factor identification, like what Paypal has.

You aren’t integrated into the Google authentication infrastructure. So you will still need to create a user account in your own infrastructure, then at time of purchase, the user will be asked for a 2nd password. The only saving grace of this 2nd password is that it is one that they probably already use frequently and can use at other sites that take Google Checkout. The other way to look at it is Google checkout purchases will be treated as if they were a different customer than the one in your custom user table)

Limited Authentication Claims. The merchant doesn’t seem to necessarily get the purchasers email address and can’t correlate all from the same person without some detective work.

Ready to try it out as a buyer?


Google Ad Words

Pros:

You can really target you customers.  The geographic pinpointing is truely magic.

There isn’t much competition that can match the traffic bringing capabilities of Google, either as a search engine or advertiser

Cons:

It’s very easy muck up an ad and bring yourself traffic you don’t want.  For example, if you are a house painter in Alexandria, you might easily for get how many Alexandria’s there are in the USA or world for that matter.  You don’t want people in Egypt showing up at your web site.

I almost never click on ads.  How many other people are there like me?

Many search I do return a paid ad, followed by free link from the search engine.  Why should you be paying for what the search engine is already doing for you for free?

Individual clicks can get expensive. Probably still cheaper than any other form of advertising, but still, all it takes is a couple of dumb clucks clicking on your ad by accident and your daily budget is gone.

Mixed: It cost me between $40-$80 a month for an ad campaign I ran for my sister’s business. The value of the ads is partly how much traffic you get and partly how well you deal with the traffic you do get. If you aren’t web site savy, you could easily end up wasting potential sales that google is sending you.

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Google Review: Ad Sense

Disclosure: I may someday receive money from Ad Sense. So far, I am corrupted by the promise of $2 in my account.

Types. Ad Sense is Google ads on your site, you get paid for clicks. You can also get paid for encouraging people to search the web with Google (see the search box for my web site) and for recommending people to use Google services. This blog entry is exactly an example of the latter.

Pros: Most of the people who come to my site are misdirects from Google. Not that google sent them to the wrong place, but that the searchers weren’t very skillful and ended up at my site. Some of them will get distracted and read a bit of my blog, and that is good, I like readers even if they are here by accident. It makes sense that I should help these people out by putting some Google ads on the site to help send them on the way to where they may have wanted to go in the first place.

Ad Sense can act as a supplemental customer tracking method in addition to sifting through referral logs and using Google analytics.

Cons: The generated code is somewhat opaque (generated javascript), sometimes not XHTML and sometimes doesn’t use CSS.

It’s a darn hard way to earn money.

Mixed: Are the ads really targeted? The ads seem to do some learning, starting with guessing strictly from your URL, then moving on to making guesses based on the text in your ad. Using words in your blog entry essentially as search terms sort of works.

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Review: Google Gears

Ok, I think I grok it now. Google Gears is a huge cookie that can store files and SQL data. It also acts as a web server should the real internet be down. The API is all JavaScript.

The only caveat I see so far is getting people to install the Google Gears plug in. For MSIE, you get warning after warning about the plug in. You also seem to need to be an administrator to install the plug in. Without a sophisticated user base or a sympathetic IT department, the ActiveX component installation could be a show stopper.

As for integration with ASP.NET, ASP.NET has never been very friendly to JavaScript developers. ASP.NET changes the element ID’s, so you will need to code generate some JavaScript with <%= ClientId %> golden nuggets each time you reference a controls ID.

JavaScript counts as an out of bound call