From:         Patrick Douglas Crispen 
Subject:      Tourbus -- 30 July 03 -- More Illusions / Google Toolbar 2.0 Beta

TODAY'S TOURBUS STOP(S): More Illusions / Google Toolbar

The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved

Howdy, y'all, and greetings once again from deep behind the orange curtain in beautiful Irvine, California, a type of dynamic random access memory that is synchronized with the microprocessor's clock speed. :P

TOURBUS is made possible by the kind support of our sponsors. Please take a moment to visit today's sponsors and thank them for keeping our little bus of Internet happiness on the road week after week.

On with the show ...

More Illusions

At the end of my last post I gave you the URL for a really cool optical illusion:

As your eyes scan around the image, the circles appear to spin although the circles aren't actually moving. It's really freaky.

The illusion is called "Uzumaki" (Japanese for "Rabbit Spirals," I think) and was recently published in a book titled "Trick Eyes 2" by Akiyoshi Kitaoka at the Department of Psychology in Kyoto's Ritsumeikan University. Unfortunately, Trick Eyes 2 is not (yet) available outside of Japan, but you may be able to order a copy directly from the publisher. Just send an email to

Of course, you can also find several of Kitaoka's images online at

This site contains DOZENS of optical illusions spread across several different web pages, so make sure to click on as many of the links as possible. [The "anomalous motion illusions" page is particularly cool.]

One word of warning, though: as Kitaoka kindly points out

This page contains some works of "anomalous motion illusion", which might make sensitive observers dizzy or sick. Should you feel dizzy, you had better leave this page immediately.

You've been warned. :)

Google Toolbar

It is not an exaggeration to say that Google's free browser buttons have literally changed the way I surf the Web. I first wrote about Google browser buttons back in my 15 December 2000 post [which you can find online at either or] and I've probably talked about them more than any person has a right to. What can I say? I think Google's free browser buttons are extremely cool.

My judgment about Google's free toolbar, however, has been a little more reserved. The Google toolbar is a free, Windows-based program that adds a whole new row of buttons to your Web browser. You can see what the Google toolbar looks like by visiting

The toolbar lets you search all of Google's database, search only the site you are visiting, find information about a particular Web page, and so on. BUT, Google's browser buttons do pretty much the same thing, they're cross-platform, and they don't require you to download and install any special software.

And, besides, Google's toolbar is spyware.

Well, to be completely honest, it's "good" spyware. Let me explain. One of the toolbar's features is something called "PageRank." PageRank graphically shows you a particular page's popularity/rank/strength in Google. As Google itself notes,

Knowing a site's PageRank can indicate if it's what it appears to be. For example, if an online news site has a high PageRank, you'll know that others on the web consider it a credible source worth linking to.

So what's the problem? Well to give you a site's PageRank, the Google toolbar reports back to Google, tells Google the URL of the page or site that you are viewing, and then retrieves and displays the corresponding PageRank. In other words, in order to display PageRanks, the Google toolbar tracks and reports every page you visit in your Web browser. Every one. It's spyware.

But, what makes the Google toolbar "good" spyware is that:

1. Google flat out tells you -- repeatedly -- about the toolbar's privacy implications well before you ever even download or install ANYTHING.

2. Google offers two versions of the toolbar for you to download: one with the advanced features (like PageRank) automatically enabled and one without ANY advanced features (so that no information about the sites you visit will be communicated back to Google).

3. Once PageRank is enabled, you are more than welcome to disable it, eliminating the need for the toolbar to call home.

That sure doen't sound nefarious to me.

By the way, to disable PageRank in the Google toolbar just click on the Google logo on the left side of the toolbar and then choose "Toolbar Options." Click on the "Reset Layout (without advanced features)" button at the bottom of the page, and then click on the "OK" button. That's it.

So is the Google toolbar spyware? Yes. Is that a bad thing? Not really. Do I use it on my personal computer? No, but only because, thanks to the free Google browser buttons, I just don't need the toolbar.

Google Toolbar 2.0 Beta

I do, however, use the Google toolbar on my work computer. I tend not to look at untoward sites at work, so workplace privacy really isn't much of an issue to me. Besides, Google's *NEW* toolbar, version 2.0 beta, adds three new features, the last of which I find to be essential:

1. AutoFill, which automatically fills in Web forms with the click of a button.

2. BlogThis, which lets you create a Weblog entry about the page you are visiting.

3. Popup Blocker, which kills pop-up ads.

You read that last part correctly, folks: the new Google toolbar 2.0 beta comes with a built-in pop-up blocker. For free.

Before we continue, I need to add the following editorial comment in order to prevent my poor little email inbox from being mailbombed by angry Tourbus riders:

If you're looking for a pop-up blocker and would rather replace your Web browser instead of downloading either the Google toolbar or a separate pop-up blocker program, later versions of Netscape, AOL, Mozilla, and Opera all come with built-in pop-up blockers. For more information see

Before you download ANYTHING on a work or school computer -- especially a new Web browser -- contact your helpdesk or IT department first.

Back to the new Google toolbar. :)

To use the new version of the Google toolbar, you'll need Windows 95, 98, 98SE, ME, NT, 2000 or XP as well as Internet Explorer 5 or later (you'll need IE 5.5 or 6 for the pop-up blocker to work).

To download the free Google toolbar 2.0 beta, just point your Web browser to

and follow the on-screen instructions.

Please remember that this software is still in beta, meaning that it's ALMOST ready for public consumption but may still have a few bugs in it. I've been using the new toolbar for about three weeks now, and I've had nary and problem with it. Your mileage [or kilometerage] may vary.

[I wonder: is there really an equivalent of the phrase "your milage may vary" in countries on the metric system?]

How good is the toolbar's pop-up blocker? It's actually quite good. When the toolbar blocks a pop-up ad, your mouse cursor briefly changes (to the little pointing hand icon with a yellow and red exclamation point on it), a little "click" sound plays, and the pop-up blocker button changes (to also include a yellow and red exclamation point).

One of the most frustrating things about pop-up blockers, though, is that some block ALL pop-up windows, including important pop-up windows like the ones favored by online banks, investment houses, and information sites. That's not a problem with the new Google toolbar. According to Google,

To allow popups on a particular web site, click on the Toolbar's popup blocker button and it will "whitelist" that site. Pressing and holding the CTRL key as you click a link permits a single popup.

Like earlier versions of the Google toolbar, version 2.0 beta is available in two flavors: one with advanced features enabled and one without. And, also like earlier versions, you can turn off PageRank at any time using the instructions I gave a few moments ago.

I've been a HUGE Google browser buttons fan for a long time, and I still use them on my personal computer. But the new toolbar's pop-up blocker was what made me install the toolbar on my work computer. And I love it.

If you want to add special Google tools and functions to your Web browser *AND* automatically kill pop-up ads (and don't want to change Web browsers), the new Google toolbar 2.0 beta may be just what you're looking for -- especially if you use a school or work computer.

That's it for today. Have a safe and happy week, and we'll talk again soon. :)

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The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved
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