Please Do Not Use These Programs for Illegal Purposes

Google's in the news these days (ain't that a surprise). Seriously, I can't look at PC World's site--or just about any blog--without seeing its name. I figure I'm not going to go against the tide, so this week I've got two new Google newsmakers--as well as a tremendous imaging site from Microsoft.

I don't know what Google was thinking when it allowed Google Hacks to be posted on the Google Code site. But it's a sure bet most people won't abide by the "Please do not use this program for illegal uses" disclaimer you'll find on the download site.

Google Hacks is a front-end GUI you can use as a stand-alone app or as a browser toolbar. It performs searches you can already do--if you know the syntax. For instance, if I wanted to search for Dave Brubeck, I could pop the following into Google's search field:

-inurl:(htm|html|php) intitle:"index of" +"last modified" +"parent directory" +description +size +(.mp3|.wma) "Dave Brubeck"

But it's obviously a heck of a lot easier to type Dave Brubeck into Google Hacks and choose the music category.

Google Hacks lets you search in any one of 12 categories--music, applications, video, books, lyrics, and others. But there's a catch. The searches are indexes--Web site directories that haven't been protected. Translation: You have to sort through lists of files and some, if not most, could be unrelated to what you're searching for.

At the same time, you might hit the jackpot--loads of files with just the content you're looking for. The showstopper is that the content belongs to someone else who doesn't know how to hide it from prying eyes. (And yes, I know, that person may have downloaded the music illegally as well.)

BTW, credit for this masterpiece goes to Jason Stallings, the author of Google Hacks. Jason doesn't work for Google, but his program was released using Google's free code hosting service. You can find more of Jason's code on his Web site.

Dig This:Microsoft's entry into the mobile phone arena is sure to give Apple a run for the money--and promises to take the nerd world by storm.

Microsoft's Photosynth is awesome--and addictive. You can travel to Rome, zoom in on St. Peter's Basilica, and see details--and I mean close, close up--that I guarantee will amaze you. (The hardware requirements are stringent--more in a sec.) Don't believe me? Watch this 7-minute demonstration.

But wait a minute: Unless you have a heavy-duty PC--you need Windows XP and the hardware needs to be Vista ready--save your time. You just won't be able to use Photosynth. (My wife's out of luck; she's been playing with Photosynth on my machine.) If you have the system requirements, you'll also need to download a small ActiveX plug-in available at the Photosynth site.

Photosynth is now up and running. (My friend Bill Webb has a good write-up about it.)

Once you've finished killing time at the default spot, St. Peter's Basilica, head for the rest of the collection. My favorites? Grassi Lakes (did you spot any trout?) and the NASA collection.

Dig This: Have you ever seen M.C. Escher's drawings? He was a graphic artist and the absolute master of optically novel situations. (He died in 1972.) Take a look at a gallery of his more famous works on the official site. Once you have an idea of Escher's weirdness, check out two videos on YouTube: A Day in the Life of an M.C. Escher Drawing and M.C. Escher-inspired animation.

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