Tag Archives: Search

Google for the Anthropology Student (Part II)

Google Desktop running on Red Hat Linux.
Image via Wikipedia

Over a year ago, I wrote part one of this two-part (so far) series! I truly intended to write part II long before now, and I actually started it when Google first announced the ill-fated Google Wave. I was trying it out and working with a colleague to test the capabilities and usefulness of it for the student (and even professor) of anthropology when Google pulled the plug on it.

In part I, you’ll remember (if not, click the link, silly!) I talked about some of Google’s key apps: Gmail, Google Docs, Google Scholar, and Google Books. My most used is, without a doubt, Gmail. But my favorite is Google Books. I’m still amazed at the sheer utility of this part of Google. If you think I’m kidding, read the three paragraphs I wrote in Google for the Anthropology Student (Part I?) and then check out my Google Books Library. Browse a couple of the titles there. Some of these I actually own, but I turn to Google Books first to search their pages. Then I crack open the actual text and read from there. Sometimes I just read online.

Here are some other ways Google can enrich and streamline your academic experiences from the perspective of a graduate student of anthropology who is focusing on archaeology.

Google Desktop

About a year or so ago, I downloaded and installed Google Desktop on my main computer, which is a Linux box currently running Ubuntu 11.04. What’s cool about Google Desktop is that it indexes all my files. And I have a lot. If you’re like me, you’re a pack-rat for journal articles and PDF files gathered while researching papers and the like. I have them largely sorted in a subject oriented directory tree, but it can still be a challenge to search a thousand articles and ebooks in PDF for just the right keyword, author, or topic. That’s where Google Desktop comes in.

I tap both CTRL keys on my keyboard at the same time and up pops a little search bar. From there, I type in my search terms -inside quotes if I really want to be specific- and watch the top 6 or so results float to the surface and display in a drop-down box that I can click on. Or, I can click “Show results in a browser window” to see all the results in that familiar Google results format.

Google Desktop indexes web history, emails, media files, Open Office files, MS Office files, PDFs and HTML files. And you can choose to exclude any of these. You can set up the directories/folders you want searched and you can set it to automatically remove deleted files from the search results. Clicking on a result takes you straight to the file (or email, or whatever). Or you can click and use the same search terms on the web just like you normally would with Google.

Oh, and it works with Windows and Mac as well as Linux.
Google Calendar

I used to use Thunderbird and Evolution, and I still use Outlook at my job. But, if I could, I’d even ditch Outlook for Google Calendar and Gmail. Unfortunately, when I’m not a graduate student, I work for a major world bank and they have some strict rules about what applications get used how.

But, for all my non-work needs, definitely all of my academic needs, I use Google’s Calendar. I can save appointments, meetings, input my recurring class schedules, and sync it all with my desktop and many other devices. I still occasionally use Thunderbird to monitor a couple of non-Gmail pop addresses I have (like cfeagans AT ahotcupofjoe DOT net) and I can sync all my Google Calendar entries back and forth. I can also sync my Google Calendar with my Nokia e71, my Nokia tablet, my netbook, my wife’s laptop, and I can access it from just about any computer with internet access (except my work machine, which is hobbled by a very careful IT department).

Google Voice

Every student needs their digits. For voice calls to that special someone, SMS text messaging to that special someone else, ordering pizza, ringing up a parent for more textbook money (you bought the pizza, remember?), and so on.

But with all the new trends in cool cell phone tech that keeps coming out, who wants to be trapped to a single carrier? AT&T is the only place to get that iPhone but T-Mobile and Verizon do a better job with the Blackberry… Then there will be those times when the pizza and textbook money get stretched thin and you’re forced to go with a prepaid phone (but you tell yourself it’s still cool ’cause Jason Bourne used it). So how do you manage all the phone numbers?

With Google Voice, that’s how. I have a single phone number that I give out. That phone forwards to any and all of my other phones (work, home, whatever cell phone I happen to be on) either at the same time or at times I specify. I have an outgoing message on Google Voice and if I don’t pick up at one of the three phones that ring simultaneously, the caller can leave a message. Google Voice then transcodes the message from voice into text and emails it to me. I can then surreptitiously read the message on the Blackberry or Nokia that quietly vibrated in my pocket while in class and know right away that my wife wants me to pick up Chinese on the way home. Pei Wei here I come.

And you can send SMS messages from Google Voice as well. And dial the phone from your desktop or laptop. Who needs a land line? Give me DSL and WiFi and unplug it. Oh, and when you forgot to pay that silly student loan one month (or put it off to get the car fixed), you can put their automated calls on the blocked caller list. You can do the same with that ex-boyfriend who keeps bugging you for a second chance. Another cool feature is “Add a Note” to any call in your history. Very handy for making personal notes about the message or SMS conversation so you can go back and read some of the details or important information.

This is a phone number that you can keep forever (or so it seems so far).

Google Reader

One of my favorite Google Apps. I’ve tried other RSS readers out there, but this is hands-down the best, most useful. You can get to your Reader app just about where ever you can get Google. Even my work’s IT hasn’t restricted it yet (shhh…).

If you’ve never used an RSS Reader here’s what it does: nearly every blog and most other sites have RSS feeds. These are typically XML files that change over time as the content is updated. My blog has a feed, which you can click on in the sidebar. Unless you have a browser configured with a feed-reader, it’ll usually come up as a continuous block of very hard to read text, links and images. But, with a feed-reader, you can sort and manage these feeds in a very orderly, library like fashion. You can get news feeds like CNN and Google’s Top Headlines. You can get feeds for your favorite blogs (like mine, hopefully) and keep up with many blogs in a single, easy to manage space. And with Google Reader, you won’t have to worry about whether or not you’re on a particular machine or laptop. You can get it from any internet capable computer.

There are a lot of cool features in Google Reader, but the three that stand out for me are

  1. Starred Items – reader has the ability to star items as you browse (I like to do this when I see something I want to revisit or perhaps blog about) -you can click on “Starred Items” and see all of them in one spot;
  2. Shared Items: these are items you “share” among others who can see your Google profile; and
  3. Notes -here you can read notes you made about a particular feed entry. These notes are shareable as well and collected in one spot the way starred entries are.

There are a lot of other features that make Reader a useful and powerful tool too: tags, “like this,” nesting feeds in collapsible folders, sorting options for feeds, etc.

That’s it for part II of the (so far) two part series on Google for the Anthropology Student!

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Google for the Anthropology Student (Part I?)

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

I’m a big fan of Google. I know a lot of people tend to get a little paranoid about big corporations like Google, Microsoft, Intel, etc. getting their fingers in everything, but so far everything that Google gets into is practically free to the average user. And, for the anthropology student, free can mean the difference between that $100 textbook and, perhaps more important, a week’s worth of Pizza. You don’t need to be an Anthro student to benefit from these tips, though.

Email

Okay, Gmail is the core of it all. If you have a Gmail account, the rest falls into place. If you don’t have one, start by going to mail.google.com and click the “Create Account” button on the lower-right. This is a must if you want to take full advantage of what Google has to offer and the tips that follow.

Gmail is a very powerful and flexible mail application, giving you access to POP and IMAP. This is useful if you use a mail application like Outlook, Evolution, Thunderbird, Claws, etc. Running an email application like Thunderbird can allow you to access your Gmail and other mail services without having to log into them directly but synchronizing your mail with your desktop application. I prefer Thunderbird and Evolution on Linux and Outlook on Windows, but mostly I just use the Gmail cloud application. “Cloud” because it doesn’t reside on your desktop but in “the cloud” of the Internet (as it were).

Within Gmail, there are many features you can take advantage of such as assigning labels which can act as folders or tags. There are many useful widgets that you can install that enhance the Gmail experience, but I’ll just mention three: Calendar, Chat, and Docs. These each put the Google applications of the same name in your Gmail inbox, making access and viewing information convenient and quick. I’ve only mentioned the barest surface strata of the many layers of features available for Gmail, but let me just add that Gmail’s spam filter is simply the best you’ll ever find.

Docs

So you’ve got that term paper to write. 30 pages? Double-spaced? Hanging indents on the references? No problem. Working from multiple computers and keep losing your USB drive? No problem.

At docs.google.com, you can upload MS Word, Power Point, and Excel documents as well as Open Office, PDF and RTF documents. Once uploaded to the Google Documents servers, you can access them anywhere and edit them anywhere as long as you can access Google. Not only will you be able to access them from any Internet connected computer, but you can share documents with collaborators or friends. I’ve uploaded PDF files of journal articles to share with colleagues in order to get their comment or opinion. You can choose who sees the documents and they are quite secure. You can even email documents to your docs space by copy/pasting a rather long email provided by Google, a service that’s handy if you already have a document in your inbox.

Scholar

You’ve got the great idea for the term paper. Perhaps an outline and an abstract or an introduction… but now that writer’s block has set in. You need more information and the library is closed. You have access to your university’s online databases. How do you find the relevant journal articles? The answer is Google Scholar. As a search application, it’s in Beta testing, but the functionality is solid. You can search diverse set of sources to get citations, abstracts, books and full papers and even see the number of times an article or source has been cited. If you click this link to the search results for “forensic DNA,” you’ll see an example of the results I described.

Books

You say you need some books for your paper? Maybe you have a book, but you want to search for specific keywords within it. If you clicked the link in the preceding paragraph, you should have noticed a link that began with “[book]” which takes you to Google Books about the third link down (though this might have changed by the time you read this). By clicking that link, you might go to this book where you can see the forward, table of contents, introduction and many of the pages of many if not all of the chapters. You can catch the page that carries all the citation information (date/place of publication, title, author, ISBN, etc.). In addition -and this is what’s really cool- you can search the book for keywords. Try this, go to the book link above, find the search box on the left side-bar, and insert “fluorescent dye” without the inverted commas. Then you’ll see the results.

If the page is available for preview, you can click on it and read the surrounding text for good context (no excuses for quote-mining here). If the page is not available for preview, Google Books will still show you what page the term(s) appear on and a portion of the sentence it resides in. You might ask, “meh, what good is it if you don’t have the full page text?” Remember when I said you can search books you own? I’ve used Google Books on several occasions to help me search books I have sitting in my lap. The index might show 7 or 8 results for “fluorescent dye,” but Google Books returns 41. See the value now? You can use Google Books find specific phrases or words that the author didn’t even index. It’ll give you the page number even if the page isn’t part of the preview and you can turn to it in the physical book!

Oh, and you can collect books in a “library” of sorts. Just click the link “add to my library” and, when you’re ready, click the “My Library” link at the top of the page. Just to give you an idea of the books available in preview and the extent of the previews, take a look at my own library. It’s heavily skewed to physical anthropology with a smattering of cultural anth here and there. Feel free to read. They’re your books too!

There are still several Google apps and services that could benefit the anthropology student (or any student, for that matter), so perhaps I should do another part, covering Calendar, Chat, Blogger, Reader, and others to show how they can benefit the anthro-student. If you’d like to see me cover more or if you’d like to start a discussion on Google apps, comment below. Feel free to share your own tips and suggestions.

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