- The Washington Times - Monday, April 30, 2007

For years, the specter of hegemony stalked the world. People feared global domination by a relentless, omnipotent force.

But this is not about the former Soviet Union or the United States. Nor is it about Microsoft Corp., the software titan that appears bent on total domination of cyberspace.

It’s about Google Inc. of Mountain View, Calif. From a tiny search engine acorn, a mighty oak has grown. The company’s name has become a verb. “I’ll Google that for you.”

Google’s search engine spawned other services and tools: online picture sharing, Web-based e-mail, blogging and now word processing and spreadsheets. The latter two are browser dependent: they are great with Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer, but nonstarters with Apple’s Safari.

Google’s mapping feature not only nails down driving directions with near perfection, but often shows satellite images of a destination and can create a hybrid map showing street names superimposed on the satellite image of a location. Not only is it cool, but it can help you recognize where you are headed once you get there.

Even more exciting is Google Earth, which takes the satellite images to another level, almost a three-dimensional one. You can rotate photos on X and Y axis, giving a nearly street-level view of a location. Everything’s flattened when viewed this way, but you can still make out locations and buildings easily.

For example, as any viewer of the “West Wing” could attest, the top-down view of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is easy to recognize; turning it produces a pancaked image.

The ability to fly across the globe and zero in on locations and to do this for free is an amazing ability, powered by Google’s software, as well as its database of satellite images. Yes, you have to be connected to the Internet to make use of Google Earth, but the tariff is well worth it, in my view.

Google Earth works on both Windows and Mac computers. The basic software is free; a more advanced version with GPS device support and higher-resolution printing is $20, not a bad price. You can download the software at https://earth.google.com, and it’s certainly worth trying.

c Also very much worth trying, if you’re a Macintosh user, is the public Beta version of Nisus Writer Pro, a full-featured word processor that shuns what some consider the bloat of Microsoft Office, but still delivers a solid set of features. There’s full footnoting and endnotes, indexing capabilities, every style you could hope for and a personal favorite a “stats” sidebar that offers a running word count of the articles you are typing. The program runs on both Intel-based and older Macs, and it’s well worth your examination because it can read and write Office-compatible files.

Details are online at www.nisus.com/pro. I’ve used Nisus’ products for a long time. This new Nisus Writer Pro version is quite delightful, and I urge you to check it out.

Systemax update: Last week’s review of the Systemax Pursuit was slightly outdated the moment it reached print: After deadline, as noted on my tech blog, Systemax’s publicists announced the firm is now shipping the Pursuit with a faster Intel Core Duo T5200 processor and an upgraded 80GB hard drive. That’s good news indeed.

Read Mark Kellner’s Tech Blog at https://www.washingtontimes.com/blogs.

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