I recently switched over my email from Thunderbird to Gmail and my calendar from Sunbird to Google Calendar.
One of the biggest reasons for this was portability. Almost every hour of the day I'm by a computer-- but a different one. Work, home, computer lab, other job, student organization computer.
The email system our school provides doesn't provide us with much room to store our email, and I don't like to delete email because I'm always referencing an old one. With my other email addresses, IMAP is slow because of the large amount of emails I keep. Gmail is fast, stores everything, and no setup time is required. What I really like? 1) The tagging system instead of folders 2) Significantly more powerful search 3) Great spam filter 4) How it groups emails from the same conversation together -- I frequently have large conversations (8+ people) with several messages each and this keeps track of everything very nicely. Check out the tour. I have invites if anyone wants one.
I was satisfied with Sunbird for quite some time. I shared my calendar between installations of Sunbird on other computers using WebDAV. This worked well except when I wasn't at a computer with Sunbird (and was at a computer lab where I was unable to install it). I installed PHP iCal on my server which provided a very well laid out read-only version of my calendar, but I was unable to add anything to it. Google Calendar allows me to read and write using a great interface, and still has the open format and portability of iCal. Some bonus features? 1) PDF Printable Calendars created on-the-fly 2) Powerful calendar sharing settings 3) Ability to drag and drop calendar entries and resize them without going through any pages. Check out the tour.
One of the best things with using Gmail and Google Calendar? They work together. Gmail searches your message for natural language concerning an upcoming event, and offers a link to add it right to your calendar. Cool huh.
I recently received an invite code from Google to try out Google Analytics. It's a stats tracking system for your website. It is meant to integrate with AdWords to track which of your advertisements on Google are doing the best, but it works fine without. The Tour can explain it much better that I can, but it's definitely one of the best stats tracking systems I've seen. A tad buggy when tracking referrals, but lives up to its expectations besides that.
I finally got invited to help test the new Google Page Creator. This is an online page building tool to build simple pages to go with the 100MB of hosting Google provides. It's very easy to use, but not very powerful for those advanced users out there. This is definitely a web hosting service for your mom.
They provide a simple "file manager" where you can create simple pages based off of several templates, and the option of 1, 2, or 3 columns on your page.
On the actual page, you have the simple text options such as bolding and underlining text, changing the color, font, and size and such. You can enter HTML within "blocks" on your page, but you can't enter custom code outside of that, and you can't move these blocks around without picking another template.
You can check out the page I made. Also, check out the code. While it isn't 100% valid, it probably has to be the cleanest code by such a tool I've ever seen.
I read a frustrating opinion piece in the Badger Herald today condemning the Google Censorship of Google.cn in China. He said that all Google cares about is money and their shareholders, and don't care about the Chinese citizens who won't get full search results.
But here's the thing--- without Google censoring their own results, the Chinese government did it for them. The Google search engine became slow and unreliable due to the filters, and at times users were even being redirected to other government-run search engines. At this time, Google -- by far -- provides the best search results. Providing a fast, accurate search engine at http://www.google.cn, with just a few politically sensitive keywords censored, give users in China the ability to find more than they ever had before. Google is also up front about the censoring, and alerts users when their filters are censored. And the final thing is, the original uncensored-by-google http://www.google.com/ig?hl=zh-CN search is still available.
I think it's better to have a fast, accurate, powerful search engine professionally censored by Google than to have an unreliable, poor searching, hack job of censorship search engine. If Google doesn't censor, the government will.
Google explains these same things in their weblog.