Friday, July 22, 2011
There would hardly be any internet user who does not use Google for searching across the world wide web. Google is the search engine giant and has grown to gargantuan proportions leaving almost every other search engine biting dust in its wake. But very few people know how to harness the immense abilities of this behemoth for getting more accurate and more speedier results. Google is not a search engine anymore. It is more of a massive living encyclopedia which can churn out relevant information in a fraction of seconds. Since there is so much more to Google, let me share with you some of the shortcuts I commonly use which are sure to be useful to you.
Calculations and Conversions: If you want to calculate something quickly while on the web, it is easier to use Google rather than your calculator. Simply put the equation, basic or advanced, in the search box and hit enter. Google would get you the results. You can even use this to convert in between various units of measurements as well as currency exchange rates. Example search terms: 150 GBP to USD, 78 kgs to lbs, 3 quarters of a cup in teaspoons, 40 c to f, 2967+5243, 30% of 4500.
Weather: If you are going out for a picnic and want to know the weather, there is nothing simpler than just googling it. You may simply type the word "weather" followed by the city, zip, state, country and Google would give you the current weather with 4 day forecast. You may even get results by city name or zipcode only.
Dictionary: You can easily get definition of a word by simply typing "definition" or "define" followed by a space and then the word you need defined. Google also works great as a spell checker. Google’s spell checking software automatically checks whether your query uses the most common spelling of a given word. If it thinks you’re likely to generate better results with an alternative spelling, it will ask “Did you mean: (more common spelling)?”. You can also get the synonyms for any words by placing the tilde sign (~) immediately in front of your search term.
Time: If you have friends living across the world, then you would like to know their local time before putting in a call lest you wake them up in the wee hours of night. You can simply type "time" followed by name of the city or country. e.g. time Las Vegas. You can even get the sunrise and sunset times easily by adding them to city name. e.g. sunrise Jamnagar.
Flight Tracking: Going on a holiday and want to checkup upon your flight? Piece of cake. Just type the airline name or code followed by flight number. Google would show you the exact schedule along with delays (if any) as well as the terminal numbers. e.g. aa 292 or american airlines 292. You may even get the flight schedule beween two cities. e.g. Delhi to Chicago
Movie Listings: Google allows you to quickly find show times for movies playing in your city. You can do this by simply typing in the word “movies” or the film title followed by your zip code or city name in the Google search box. You will then get a list of up to two theaters; if there are more than two theaters listed, you can click the “More movies to see the rest. In India, this seems to work only for the major cities.
Package Tracking: You can easily track your packages by simply entering the tracking no. in the Google search field instead of going to the courier company's site. At present Google tracks for Fedex, UPS and USPS only.
Local Search: If you’re looking for a store, restaurant, or other local business you can search for the category of business and the location and Google will return results right on the page, along with a map, reviews, and contact information. e.g. Indian food 94110, indian food San Francisco, pizza 94110
Stock Quotes: To see current market data for a given company or fund, type the ticker symbol into the search box. On the results page, you can click the link to see more data from Google Finance. e.g. AAPL
The above shortcuts are just a primer of many more functionalities built in the Google Search. But if you just learn to use the above shortcuts in your daily use, your life is going to get simpler. If you have some more interesting shortcuts which you are using , please do share them in comments.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
A few days ago, Facebook launched a couple of new features. Group Chat & Video Calling were the two new cool additions. These features were long awaited by Facebook users as the chat experience was not that fulfilling in their absence. The timing seems to be apt so as to counter the threat of Google+. The good thing about group chat is that it can be carried on offline too. You can just select multiple friends and send a message to all of them. Every recipient would receive a message labeled "Conversation" and is able to see and talk with all recipients as well as the sender, even if they are offline. Pretty cool. Previously sending such a message would result into a private message to each friend and their reply cannot be seen by any other recipient.
Video calling is supported by Skype and is still in beta as of now. You have to first install a browser plugin to get started. Unlike group chat, you can only call an online friend who is available in chat window. The recipient also has to install the plugin before answering the call. If the call goes unanswered, an option to record video message is provided to the sender. I have tried it out but could not record any message, attributable to a server error. Though video calling worked quite fine. Probably, these issues would soon resolve as the service is still in beta. Overall these features provide good additions to Facebook experience as now people don't have to scoot off to their Skype apps for video or group chats. My only grouse is about the Video Message feature, as it should be supported for offline friends also rather then for missed or ignored video calls as it stands now.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Nowadays everybody is having a camera whether a simple point & shoot digicam, a DSLR or a mobile with inbuilt camera. People are getting shutter happy, taking their cameras to their vacations, ceremonies and even streets. As a result, the net is now overflowing with tons of pics on social sharing sites. But if you want your pics to stand out, then you ought to get a grip on your camera. When you are using your camera in fully automatic mode, you are letting the camera take some educated guesses as to the scene in front of it and adjust the exposure accordingly. For those people who don't want to learn how to use their camera, they accept these guesses of the camera and think that to get a better photos, they have to upgrade to a higher priced camera. This belief is not entirely true. While you may get better pictures from a higher priced camera, in reality any camera is able to produce good pictures if you know how to control it. Most digital cameras nowadays, including the point and shoot models, offer manual modes to help you capture even better photographs. But very few people use manual mode including many DSLR flaunting people who have just upgraded from a point and shoot. Learning to shoot in manual or semi-manual modes like Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority is not very difficult. But it would require some experimenting with your camera so that you are able to comprehend what each setting entails. There are many websites which may help in learning to shoot in manual. For starters, you can have a look at this official Canon article or download this Nikon iPhone app. If you don't have your camera handy or just are lazy to go out and experiment, you can use this wonderful online camera simulator. (flash based tool, so won't work on an iPad or iPhone). Using this tool, you can easily simulate all the settings in your digital camera and see instantly how they impact the final photo. As always YouTube is your friend and you may wade through quite a number of good tutorials like this one. Kickstart your journey towards going manual now and be rewarded with far better photographs. It ain't that difficult fellas!
Sunday, July 3, 2011
One of the simplest pleasures in life is going to the movies. Movies transport us to an unreal world where we can disconnect from the real world forgetting all our worries. For those movie buffs who don't relish going out to the theaters for various reasons, home entertainment has been the panacea for getting their dose of cinema magic. People either rent out or buy DVDs or Blu Rays for their home viewing. But here in India, rental movies are usually shoddy pirated prints dooming the whole experience from the word go. And buying DVDs and Blu Rays is pretty expensive for an average Indian household. Many of the net savvy people have found a way around this by downloading pirated movies from torrent sites which offer near DVD quality. Many pirated movies can also be streamed on sites like YouTube. But all this is about to change with the recent launching of YouTube India Box Office. This special channel features a blockbuster movie every month along with many new and old movies without any hassles of piracy. It enables the viewers to watch Bollywood flicks from anywhere, at anytime, without paying anything and the movies do not expire also.The movies can be streamed in Full HD (1080p) and it goes without saying that a broadband connection is essential for streaming such movies. Indian diaspora around the world would be better placed due to availability fast internet connection in contrast to snail paced ones available in India. But I am happy to note that I was able to watch in Full HD on my measly 2mbps broadband connection. Those with an HTPC setup would benefit the most as this would allow them to watch the movie along with their family on their big screen TV attached to a home theatre system as opposed to crowding around a small computer screen. Of-course, other people may easily shift the action to their Plasmas, LED or LCD TVs by simply connecting their computer to the big screen TV via VGA or preferably HDMI cables. Alas you still cannot use your iPad to watch the movies as it requires a flash based browser which the iPad lacks. Further you have to bear 15 second ads which play after every 10 minutes of movie time. You cannot skip, pause or hide these advertisements. But it is really short change for the grand movie extravaganza which the Box Office channel offers. Specially, Indians living abroad would be benefiting immensely by being able to get their teeth sunken into juicy Bollywood flicks which they have ben missing since long. Just go ahead, grab that bag of popcorn and sink in your favorite seat in the house to get immersed in a true Bollywood experience.