Searching Beyond Google
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DuckDuckGo: At first, you'd probably mistake DuckDuckGo for Google. That is, if you didn't notice the comical duck with a bowtie in its logo! Unlike Google, DuckDuckGo spells out their biggest draw right on the front page - they don't track you (or your search history) and serve up less 'spammy' results in the bargain. Also unique to DuckDuckGo is their zero-click info, a quick snippet style description of what you're searching for without even navigating away from DuckDuckGo. It also offers disambiguation prompts, which helps clarify what question you are really asking. Are you feeling ducky?
Blekko: Search for anything online these days, and a ton of what you see first is sites that are filled with keywords meant solely to capture traffic without providing too much new information. Blekko uses what it calls "slashtags" to group results into several categories and deliver results that are relevant, and you can use the existing slashtags, typically of the form '/India', to say filter only for results that have to do with India (you can even create your own slashtags to help improve the service).
Yippy: Meta search engines are those that grab and consolidate results from several other search services, and while they may be waning in popularity, you should try Yippy if you want a meta search engine that does not track or monitor your searches (much like DuckDuckGo).
Qwiki: Unlike Wikipedia, which requires you to read whole screenfuls of information to get an overview on a subject, Qwiki lets you search among more than 2 million 'Qwikis' that each tell a story about the subject, in the form of a neatly put together slideshow of images and text accompanied by a computer generated voiceover. It's been called a "movie highlight reel of Wikipedia pages", and that's pretty much what it is. Warning: can lead to a lot of Qwiki-surfing and loss of productivity!
Truveo: Specialised video search that spans the most popular video sharing and news sites. Enough said. Also, try Blinkx for more of the same.
Isohunt: A Bit Torrent search engine, Isohunt does not host files - it only helps you find files, and therefore is a completely legal service to hopefully help you find legal Bit Torrrent download files.
FoodieView: For all those times when you're wondering what to cook for dinner, FoodieView to the rescue. As the name suggests, it is a recipe search engine searching over 175,000 recipes from numerous sources, including AllRecipes.com, The Food Network, Martha Stewart Recipes, and many more. It's also extremely easy to find good recipes on FoodieView that are actually relevant to what your search query is such as if you are looking for a recipe using only certain ingredients.
Healthline: No, you do not need an MBBS degree to venture onto Healthline, a medical information search engine. Perfect for the little reading up that you should do to be a more informed patient.
Twitter: Wait a minute, isn't twitter for sending and interacting with byte-sized updates? Head over to search.twitter.com and you'll realise it's a great way to find out about the news and interesting links people are talking about right now!
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Forces To Reckon With
With the recent announcement of the PlayStation Vita at E3 recently, there is bound to be renewed interest in the hitherto ageing PlayStation Portable. I've been playing two new games on the console - Patapon 3 and Cart Kings and here's what I think of them.
In Patapon 3, you are, much like the previous Patapon games, a warrior deity worshipped by a tribe of tiny warriors, and since it's a musical role-playing game, you end up feeling like the beat-master on your own galley. You use the four face buttons on the PSP to pound out drumbeats in rhythmic four-beat patterns based on whether you want to march, attack, defend, jump, retreat and so on. Do it well, and your warriors are a well-oiled synchronized machine. Slip up and lose the beat, and your army falls into disarray and gets pounded by the enemy instead. There's much to like about this seemingly simple game. I love the shadow-theatre styling to the whole game, with patapons and their foes assuming black silhouettes with little splashes of colour set against gloriously detailed backgrounds. The musical score suits the game to a tee as well. And while the beats and movement become instinctive after a while, using the skills and weapons is a complex activity, so you'd be well advised to take this game slow and read up online before you get too far into the game. This game is as much preparing for the warfare (armor, weapons) as it is about the actual fight, and being prepared is the difference between victory and becoming a dragon's lunch.
Additional variety comes with the obstacle races and the tower defence modes, and an impressive list of multiplayer options that are playable both locally and online. Either solo or multiplayer, Patapon 3 delights at pretty much every turn, and the heady mix of the soundtrack, gameplay and the visuals makes this worth much more than the money you pay for the game.
Cart Kings is the other extreme. It takes popular characters from Indian comic-lore, such as Shikari Shambhu, Supandi and Tantri the Mantri and puts them into bullock carts in this simple arcade style racing game. It's all Indian - you get to race in locales like Bollywood, Delhi and Tiger land, and the power-ups and weapons include chilly powder, soda bottles, and cow dung! Graphically and visually, the game is very dated and can appeal only to really young children who associate with the characters and don't demand much of a storyline from their games.
Rating: Cart Kings: 7/10, Patapon 3: 9/10
Price: Rs 699 (CK), Rs 999(P3)
technocool at kanwar dot net