Thursday, May 12, 2016

Do the Google

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It still surprises me that in 2016, there are still people out there who cannot, or will not, use Google to find the answer to their question.  I'm the admin of a large group on Facebook that exists primarily for people pursuing the CCNA certification, though most technical discussion that stays on the right side of the law is permitted.  Since we get at least one question a day that involves something that could be solved in 10 seconds with Google such as "what is the CCNA?" or "what is Spanning Tree?" I've decided to put together a page explaining how to use Google to find what you're looking for.  And for the Microsoft slappies out there, you are more than welcome to try that other "search engine" as long as you're enjoying it's crap results.  I for one very rarely got good results when I tried it a couple times in the past.

In case you were wondering, the title of this post, "Do the Google" came from a poster on Reddit by the name of /u/sajaschi, in the Tales from Tech Support sub-reddit, that he heard from a family member who's computer he supported.   I liked the term and immediately told him that I'm stealing it. The thread is here for completeness.

Step 1:  Open a web browser.  For this demonstration, I'm on a computer with only Internet Explorer installed, so I will use that.  But for your hands on lab work, any one will do.  I've seen Google successfully used with Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera and even text-based browsers such as eLinks.   Not only does it work on PCs running Windows, Linux or Mac, Google also works great on smartphones running iOS and Android.  In fact, there doesn't seem to be a computer that is capable of accessing the Internet that cannot get to Google.

Step 2:  Enter (or the appropriate URL for the country that you are in) into the address bar.  Being a minimal web page, Google will load rather quickly.  Observe the image below.  If your browser looks like the image, you've successfully reached the Google website.

Step 3:  If you're still with me, we're almost there.   It won't be long now, I promise.  Do you see that long rectangular box under the word Google and above the two push buttons labeled "Google Search" and "I'm Feeling Lucky?"  That box is the key to this whole thing.  It is where you enter what you are searching for.  Now here is where you might have to actually think for yourself for a minute.  Stay with me, I swear this won't hurt.

Let's say that you want to find out what a certain page in your home router's web-based configuration means, as a recent poster in the previously mentioned Facebook group did.  Now, you could take a screenshot of this page, post it into a Facebook group with a very vague question like "what does this mean?"  For the record, the post in question showed a screenshot of a page used to configure SNMP settings.  Did the poster want to know more about SNMP?  Did he want to know more about his particular router's implementation of SNMP?  We'll probably never know, the post got flooded with less than helpful replies. 

So instead, here's where the smart person will enter SNMP into Google's search box, as you'll see in the next photo, and hit the "Google Search" button.  That's really all it takes, I swear.  The "I'm Feeling Lucky" button will take you to the first result, bypassing the need to look at the results and think about them.  Personally, I never use that button because I like to actually see all the results, and even look at more than one of them.  But that's just me, you do what you want.

Are you still with me?  This really isn't all that hard, is it?  Now here comes the fun part.  After you click on "Google Search," Google will give you every page it knows about that deals with whatever you entered.

Step 4:  Now comes the payoff.  In the next image, we'll see the Google results.  Notice the box at the top of the results, which shows some of the text from Wikipedia's article on SNMP.   This is known as the "Google Answer Box" and contains what Google believes to be the best answer to your question.  You can read more about it here (though if this article is for you, I know you're not going to actually read anything.   But I'm still going try).

And that's it!  You've completed your first Google search.  That warm feeling overtaking your body right now is what we call accomplishment, and you can feel it again and again as you learn to solve problems all by yourself.  So now, rather than go into a Facebook group with your elementary question or questions, get ridiculed for asking such an elementary question, and eventually get the correct answer 3 hours later, if ever, you can use Google to find the answer all by yourself in just a few seconds!   You'll never have to worry about an admin locking the thread before you get your answer again, and you'll never have to worry about not getting you homework done on time again.  Wasn't that easy?

Step 5: This one is optional, and should be reserved for only those who have reached a high level of comfort in using Google.  This should include everyone, but I understand your fear and will take baby steps along with you.  In this step we're going to learn about a few little tricks that are supported by Google to increase the quality of your search results.  Some call these "Google Hacks," others just use them and don't give them enough thought to come up with a name for them.

The first hack involves limiting the website that will be returned in search results.  Let's say you're looking for Cisco documentation on a topic, as an aspiring CCNA is apt to do.  You first enter ospf into the search box, and find a lot of noise in the results.  If you then enter "ospf" into the search box, Google will only return results that are found on the site because of the site: keyword used in that search.

The second hack involves limiting your search results to a particular file type, which is very useful to aspiring CCNAs.  Much of the documentation we use comes in the PDF format.  So to limit your results to downloadable PDFs, enter "ospf filetype:pdf" into the search box.  I've got a ton of PDF documents that I've downloaded and filed away on my hard drive that I intend to finish reading some day, and I'm sure you will too eventually.

And finally, the third tip involves using the + or - characters.  Let's say you searched for "ospf netgear router" and weren't happy with the results.  Google gave you a ton of results that contained ospf and router, but little to none of them also contained netgear.  No problem.  Just tweak your search to "ospf router +netgear" to indicate that you only want pages that do have the term netgear.  The opposite, -, works the same way.  The search "ospf router -netgear" will bring back pages talking about ospf and router but not netgear.  There's not really that much information about netgear out there, thankfully, but you get the idea.

There are a ton more great Google hacks you can use, and I highly encourage you to seek out others.  You can even use multiple Google hacks in the same search!  But armed with the information in this post, you will be able to find all but the most obscure information available on the Internet all by yourself using nothing more than the Google web site.  Now go forth and search!

1 comment:

  1. Edited to include the source of the quote and the Reddit thread I found it in.


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