Google’s guide to the galaxy

First Google brought us the world, with tens of thousands of overlaying digital images mapping the entire globe. Although it appeared as so much eye candy, it’s actually an extremely practical application that allows you to plot routes from place to place, post pictures and information about various locations, and overlay custom routes and shapes for your own personal use.

Then Google brought us the Moon, mapping our closest satellite in rich detail — less practical, but very educational and satisfying for astronomers and the scientifically curious.

Then Google brought us Mars, overlaying satellite pictures from NASA and the European Space Agency, and linking to photos taken on the surface of the planet. Again, not practical, but it’s still a pretty cool example of the Internet at its best.

Recently Google announced plans to bring the rest of the universe to us, in the latest version of Google Earth. Basically, all you have to do is click on a button to see the night sky above you at any given time of day, and then navigate through the solar system, galaxy and universe using a collection of images from observatories and the Hubble Space Telescope. The layers make it possible to see constellations, the names of stars, and navigate to distant galaxies.

Google Earth is a free application that’s best found going to the Google homepage and either performing a search for Google Earth or clicking on the “more” tab over the search window. I recommend downloading it immediately.

Meanwhile there’s a lot of talk that Google will release a phone that would rival Apple’s iPhone by the end of 2007, which was more or less confirmed by executives at Google. According to one report on Engadget ( ), the new Google phone is just one of 18 research and development initiatives underway at the company, which appears ready to make the leap into hardware.


The best Facebook Applications

Since Facebook opened up to third-party applications, the number of applications available has soared to 3,182. That’s about 3,075 more than any profile really needs, but that’s really up to users to decide.

I’ve kept my profile pretty sparse, turning down most of the invitations that come my way, but I’ll always sign up for something that’s truly useful.

The full list of approved applications is available at , with the most popular applications of that day up front.

Some of applications that I’m currently trying out are Tetris Tournament, Drink Recipes, iLike (music), iRead, WarBook, NES Games (not for work), The Simpsons Photos, Quotes and Trivia, Pandora (more music), (which is a topic for a whole other column), Chess, and Files (file transfer program).

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