Can I kick the Google habit?

I'm concerned about my privacy and where my data is accumulating out of my control. Because of Adsense on this site, I choose to use Google in signed-in mode. As I search, I am being observed - what I search for, the search terms I use and which results I follow. The very smart people at the Googleplex look at this data and figure out a lot about me from it. The best part is that they can work out what advertisements to put in my face based on that data...or is it the worst?

Signed in to Google

Anyhow, I thought I might use a different search engine, say Ask or AllTheWeb, but I am wondering if I can kick the Google habit...the trouble is that it's just so so good. Just to prove it, here are a few things you can do other than searching:

  1. Find a flight

    If you type in as much information as possible, say 'Flight SFO - LHR Dep Dec 24 Ret Jan 11', Google figures out that you are looking to buy a ticket and gives you links to the consolidators CheapTickets, Expedia, Hotwire, Orbitz, Priceline, Travelocity passing your flight requirements on to them.

    Flight search results 1

    It appears that the rule is that you need to include the word 'flight' and airport codes and dates - the minumum phrase I have used to bring up the flight result is 'flight sfo lhr dec 27 jan 5'

  2. Buy a car

    If you enter the two words 'cars sale' and optionally a zip code and a car make, it will give you the search bar for Vehicle Search and then clicking on that gives you a listing of cars in a particular zip code.

    Vehicle Search

    Once you click on that you can specify the Make, Model, Condition, Price, Color, Year, Vehicle Type, Mileage, Transmission, Engine, Distance and any other keywords. Brings back cars for sale from various websites - Craigslist and Autotrader are noticably absent though.

    Vehicle Search

    You can see the list of cars for sale sorted in various ways and have them overlaid onto a map (you can right click on the image and click on view image to see them more clearly).

    Vehicle Search

  3. Create a wishlist

    From inside Google Products you can create a shopping list, placing products into the list for later purchase - effectively a shopping cart. You can take any product in that list and move it to your wishlist. Anyone who knows your Google ID can view your wishlist - how useful.

    Wish List

  4. Fly a plane

    If you're in Google Earth (you need to download software for this), just hit Command+Option+A (note it must be capital A) or Ctrl+Alt+A if you’re using a Windows Machine. You'll be able to fly a a F16 Viper or a SR22 4 seater around the planet - the software uses the Google Earth Satellite Imagery and allows you to fly from airport to airport.

    Choose Plane

    There is a key to the flight controls here

    Flying Over London

  5. Create lists of examples

    In Google Sets you can enter a few related terms and Google will produce a list of related terms.

    Pub Names

    I tried to give it something tricky - a list of English Pub names and it did surprisingly well, returning: The Red Lion, The Kings Head, The White Horse, The Wheatsheaf, The Victoria, The Cross Guns, The White Lion, The Windmill, The Daisy Hill Hotel, The Shoulder Of Mutton, The Village Swan, The Full Moon, The Pineapple, The Carpenters Arms.

    As a final test, what better after pub names, than dishes served in Indian Restaurants - I gave it only two this time, Dhansak and Jalfrezi. Stunningly, it returned a whole Indian Menu - very impressive.

  6. Get a discount coupon

    And finally, Google Coupons - when in Google Maps, you put in the product and your zip code and lo and behold you get a listing of coupons for that product in the area. I can't seem to get this function anymore. Just to prove that I'm not completely mad, Mike Blumenthal also discusses the coupons feature in his posting Google Coupons now has a Searchable Interface.