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Google's Top 17 Easter Eggs, Gags, and Hoaxes
Tom Spring (PC World)
Fine Dining With Spam
If you go to your Spam Folder in Gmail, you'll notice that where you might expect to see an ad of some type, you instead see a recipe that features Spam as the main ingredient. Spam Imperial Tortilla Sandwiches, anyone? Or how about Spam Quiche? For other gastronomical options that feature the pink slab, keep checking your Gmail Spam box.
Google Gulp for Smarter Searching
In 2005, Google decided that--instead of just making Google searches smarter--it would try to make the people conducting Google searches smarter as well. The solution--literally--was Google Gulp Beta, a drink formulated in four yummy flavors (Glutamate Grape, Sugar-Free Radical, Beta Carroty, and Sero-Tonic Water). The secret ingredient: a chemical compound designed to optimize the drinker's use of the Google search engine by rendering the individual more intelligent. For all you non-MENSA members, here's the bad news: It was another Google hoax. Oh, well--back to MSG and syrupy radicals...
Google Street Views Credits
The Google employees that make our favorite cool Google services often go unrecognized. But that's not the case with Google Street Views. In a rare Google display of self-acclaim. the Google Street View team posed in the back of the company's Googleplex headquarters in Mountain View, California in--you guessed it--a Google Street View.
Classic Google Maps Easter Egg
A while back, if you asked for directions from, say, New York City to Paris on Google Maps, you would be informed that what objectively appears to be a swim of some 3462 miles across the Atlantic Ocean was in fact merely a stroll of two dozen steps. Last year Google removed this [[xref: http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2007/03/directions_from_goog.html|Easter Egg]] from Google Maps, saying figuratively: "You can't get there from here."
Adding It Up With Google Calculator
Thanks to Google Calculator, you can use the Google search box for serious number crunching--anything from converting currency to solving advanced math equations. But things don't always add up the way you think they will with Google Calculator. Try searching for "answer to life the universe and everything," "number of horns on a unicorn," or "once in a blue moon" for unexpected computations.
Google Searches in Klingon or Fudd
The United Nations may not recognize Klingon as a language, but that hasn't stopped Google from catering to the fictitious species of extraterrestrial anthropomorphs from the Star Trek series with a specialized Klingon search engine. Nor has it prevented Google from developing a number of other specialty search engine interfaces, including Elmer Fudd and Pig Latin. Google also serves up specialty searches that cater to humans and others who seek information regarding Microsoft, Linux, and BSD Unix.
Something Spooky Just After 3 A.M.
You could take the high road (or the low road) to Scotland's Loch Ness in hopes of spotting the elusive Nessie, the legendary monster said to reside there. But if you'd rather do your mythic beastie viewing at home in the wee hours of the morning, set your alarm to 3:14 a.m. and your browser to the Beach themed iGoogle page. At precisely that o'clock each day, Nessie surfaces for 60 seconds, then takes a deep breath and dives back under the dark loch's surface. Why that time of the morning? Well, according to programmer's lore, Google developers did it to pay homage to the mathematical quantity pi. Other iGoogle pages using themes have spooky Easter eggs of their own. In the Seasonal Scape, the Northern Lights also appear at 3:14 a.m. Look for UFOs to descend on the City Scape. A monster appears in Spring Scape; and in the Tea House theme, ghostlike fox spirits (well known in Japanese folklore) appear and disappear in the mist of the lake as the fox sleeps.
The Many Faces of Pegman
To use the Google Street Views feature in Google Maps, you move what Google calls the Pegman (he's [[xref: http://maps.google.com/help/maps/streetview/newcities/index.html|visible in this video]]) to a specific spot. When you do, up pops the Street View window. To keep things interesting, Google dresses up Pegman on special occasions. For instance, during the week of Christmas, Pegman becomes a snowman; at Halloween, Pegman dons a witch costume; on Valentine's Day, Pegman stands on a heart instead of his usual green circle; and whenever Pegman sets foot on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, California, he becomes a tie-dye-shirted hippie.
Unsanctioned Googles: Goth y Loco
To find this hidden Google treasure, type 'Google Gothic' into the Google search field and--instead of hitting the Search button--select 'I'm feeling lucky.' You'll see Googoth, a specialized search engine that caters to "dark, gothic, industrial, and alternative topics." This search site is not related to Google. Another specialized site unrelated to Google is Google Loco, a parody of Google that's rife with bouncy characters and flashing colors. Tip: Try Google Loco in Internet Explorer for an even better, muy loco experience.
Free Broadband Wi-Fi Goes to Pot
Cheapskates rejoice. If you ever wished for no-cost broadband Internet access without having to steal it from your neighbor or discommode yourself in any way, Google's free (but advertising-supported) TiSP service is a dream come true. To get TiSP (short for Toilet Internet Service Provider), you first obtain a free self-install kit from Google. Next, you flush one end of the fiber-optic cable (included in kit) down the toilet and then wait for about an hour while the line is connected to the Internet via a "Plumbing Hardware Dispatcher (PHD)." Now hook up your Google wireless router and you're done. Yeah, it was a Google hoax.
Soaring Across Google Earth
Buried in the free mapping program Google Earth is a nifty flight simulator that lets you either hop into the cockpit of an F16 fighter jet or a lightweight SR22 propeller-powered airplane. To access the flight simulator in Google Earth, open the program and press Ctrl-Alt-A on your keyboard (Command-Option-A on a Mac). In addition, Google provides keyboard shortcuts for desktop pilots.
Google Gets Romantic--Sort Of
Since 2000, Google has honored Every April Fool's Day by preying on the gullible. In 2006, it went after lonely hearts with a Google Romance beta program, which purported to offer "users both a psychographic matchmaking service and all-expenses-paid dates for couples who agree to experience contextually relevant advertising throughout the course of their evening." Did you fall for it?
The GoogleTV Beta That Never Was
The best Google Easter Egg may be GoogleTV. Simply follow the steps outlined by Infinite Solutions host Mark Erickson in [[xref: http://www.marksinfinitesolutions.com/tutorials/default.asp?tutorial=IS_Googletv|this instructional video]]. The bad news: If you hope to gain on-demand streaming access to ABC, CBC, NBC, and Fox's primetime line-ups, you'll be sorely disappointed. Infinite Solutions is a parody of a tech show, and none of its mirthful tech "tutorials" really work.
Google's Official Easter Egg Game
It's one thing to find Easter eggs, and it's another thing to catch them. In the spirit of Easter, Google has posted its Google egg drop game -- where you, acting as a rabbit, hop up and down and to and fro, trying to put all of your eggs in one basket. The only real point of this game other than to catch eggs that spell out G-O-O-G-L-E. Sorry: No chocolate eggs for those who win.
Picasa's Mysterious Bear(s)
Google's free image editing and management software Picasa has a wild side that few people know about. Open Picasa and press Ctrl-Shift-Y, and a teddy bear will pop up. Keep pressing those keys and watch out for the sloth (or sleuth) of red-bowtied bears that take over the program.
Measuring Spam by the Pound
Ever wish you could simply press a button and have all of your Gmail messages printed, sorted, boxed, and shipped to your front door? If you care about keeping your carbon footprint at something smaller than Paul Bunyan dimensions, you'll be glad to know that no such service exists--despite an elaborate hoax Google perpetrated to make Gmail users believe otherwise. As part of a 2007 April Fool's Day joke, Google announced the debut of Gmail Paper, which would allow users to create a hard copy of their entire Gmail account. In a nod toward environmental consciousness, Google said that it would avoid cutting trees down to print people's Gmail archives, instead using paper composed of "96 percent post-consumer organic soybean sputum. Oh well.
Have you ever been too lazy to type in your Google search query? If so, consider Google MentalPlex search. This Google service figures out what you're looking for before you touch the keyboard, by analyzing the previous five sites you visited and factoring in your local air pressure, your astrological sign, and the "speed and vector of your mouse movements." Okay, you didn't have to conduct an imaginary search to figure this one out: Google MentalPlex was the April Fool's Day hoax for 2000.
Buried Deep in Google
Google Web site -- and many of the company's software programs -- are loaded with gags, goofs, and Easter eggs that have helped Google maintain a fun-loving spirit in the cutthroat world of Web competition.
Of course, Google always has a good idea. Thousands of our readers have enjoyed past explorations of wonders like "The Strangest Sites in Google Earth" and "The Most Spectacular Sights in Google Sky."
So when we heard stories of hidden teddy bears, a Google Romance beta service, and early morning appearances of the Loch Ness monster on Google home pages, we had to check them out. And most of them turned out to be true. Take a look.
Artwork: Chip Taylor
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