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Technology Untangled: Google offers useful and fun features

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technology-bourAlmost everyone is familiar with the popular and useful Google search engine. If you take a closer look at Google’s main page, (google.com) you will see a small menu choice named “more.” I did some exploring into that drop-down list and discovered a wide variety of useful, functional, and fun features. Today we will look at just a few of the many extras that Google offers.

First, let’s look at several other twists on Google’s mainstay, the “search” utility. Instead of searching broadly across every corner of the vast Web, Google offers a search utility known as “directory.” It helps you narrow down your search by organizing the Web by topic into specific categories such as business, reference, technology, etc. As you drill down within a specific category, the search engine ranks possibly relevant pages by the number of hits each has received.

Another intriguing search tool is called Google Scholar. It provides a method to broadly search through scholarly literature across many disciplines. There are no entertainment news articles or dancing kitten YouTube videos here. This search area is for professional, scientific, and academic endeavors. Google’s tag line for the scholar search is “Stand on the shoulders of giants.” For attorneys and paralegals, there are specific search tools for legal opinions and journals, as well as the ability to refine a search exclusively for Indiana court cases or federal matters. The legal search offers even greater fine-tuning through an advanced search page.

For communication, Google Voice is a free application that I regularly use. Voice allows you to set up a single phone number that can be configured to ring through to all, or just some, of your other phones. I have also been impressed by its voice-to-text transcription feature. This technology will automatically save written copies of your voicemails to your inbox. While the transcriptions are certainly not court-reporter quality, they are surprisingly accurate for the typical short and simple voicemail message. The conference calling feature is also easy and useful. The best feature of Google Voice is the free domestic long-distance that can be accessed through any of your other registered phones. I used these features recently in a deposition to patch in a call from an out-of-town attorney who was stuck in traffic. We were able to start the deposition on time and not miss a beat.

As I looked through Google’s many offerings, I clicked on “more,” then scrolled down to a link called “even more.” There are literally dozens of applications. How can anyone possibly decide which to choose? Well, it turns out that Google has thought of that, too. Their answer is Google Pack. You can find it under the “even more” tab, or access it directly at pack.google.com.

Google Pack is a free collection of useful software from Google and other trusted companies. This is surely a cleaner way to load up on good, free software instead of wandering through the Web on your own and downloading random programs from here or there. The Google Pack software bundle helps you browse the Web faster, remove spyware and viruses, organize photos, create and share documents, and more. The package has been verified free of unwanted hidden extra programs and excessive pop-up notifications. Google says you can download and install the entire Google Pack without hassle in just a few clicks. It also has built-in updating features to help keep the software up to date.

I would suggest perhaps trying the Google Pack on a slightly older computer before putting in on your newest primary work computer. It may breathe new life and new functionality into a unit that doesn’t seem as useful as it once did. As I have cautioned before, be sure to set a restore point on your computer before loading new software. That way you can more easily revert should things not turn out as desired. Let’s look at some of the specific programs included.

Google Chrome Web Browser makes browsing the Web faster, safer, and easier. I think this browser seems fast and is probably worth a try. Google Apps includes email, calendar, and document-creation applications. I like the “Docs” collaboration feature that easily allows you to work with documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and more online with several others at the same time. Since the documents are stored on the Web, you can edit and view them from any computer or smartphone. Google Earth is a top-rate technical application that is useful and fun. It allows you to navigate easily to virtually any location on earth using high-quality satellite imagery, maps, and street-view camera shots. This tool can be used to retrieve images of accident locations, businesses, crime scenes, and more. RealPlayer is not a Google product, but Google does recommend it. RealPlayer is a good choice for trying to open and play a multimedia file that you may be having trouble opening with your default multimedia software.

Take some time to look at all the extra features offered by Google. I am sure you will find at least a few that you will enjoy.•

Stephen Bour (bourtech@iquest.net) is an engineer and legal technology consultant in Indianapolis. His company, the Alliance for Litigation Support Inc., includes Bour Technical Services and Alliance Court Reporting. Areas of service include legal videography, tape analysis, document scanning to CD, and courtroom presentation support. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s.
 

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  1. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  2. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  3. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

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