Last week the San Francisco Chronicle published an article - called "GREEN Eyes in the Sky " about how Google Earth is leveling the playing field for environmentalists by providing a powerful visualization tool. First, GE provides them with a powerful way to look at high resolution satellite and aerial photography of pollution, waste, industrial growth, and encroachment to natural areas (see example here). Second, GE is also a powerful presentation tool allowing them to not only see the ground in close detail, but also allowing the presentation of pictures, data (for example, waste sites, oil wells, etc.), highlighting rivers and waterways, showing deforestation , and more.
The SF Chronicle story highlights some examples of environmentalists using Google Earth. For example, the Sierra Club have put together a GE presentation on the encroachment of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska (here is the web site). Once you download it, make sure you look through the many options in the arctic.kmz folder you will find in your Temporary Places folder to see photos, movies, oil well placemarks, and other information they have provided.
Another excellent GE presentation was put together in response to some proposed logging in the Santa Cruz mountains of California. A concerned citizen put together a model showing where the logging would be done and the effects on the watershed. This presentation resulted in the proposed logging plan was withdrawn.
When Google Earth for Windows went out of beta last Tuesday, a new item was added to the features list of Google Earth Plus (GE+): Enhanced network access. That's right, if you buy the Google Earth Plus version ($20 per year subscription) you not only get the ability to draw paths and polygons, GPS integration support, greater printer resolution, and data import capability. But, also you get faster network access. Apparently this feature already existed for some months, but just wasn't documented. So, if you already have GE+, you have already been getting faster access.
According to the Google Earth development team, the feature enhances the download speed of the databases compared to the free version of GE. Here's a comment from one of the team members at the Google Earth Community: "Upgrading to Plus should improve network performance at least a little and in some cases a large amount (especially if you have a long latency to our servers). "
So, if you've been thinking about getting GE+, here's another reason to consider it. Those of you who are real addicts (like me) might want to give it some thought. :-) Anyway, if you want GE+, just select "Upgrade to Plus" in the Help Menu of Google Earth.
Real estate applications are probably one of the most obvious uses for Google Earth. Combining house listings with actual location information and viewing the satellite or aerial photographs of the property and nearby amenities is just the beginning. Just a few months after Google Earth was released last June, I wrote about a serious real estate application which was done for Re/Max for listings in the State of Colorado, USA. Now, Re/Max in Quebec, Canada has also done their own network link for Google Earth showing real estate listings in Quebec (NOTE: many of the listings' descriptions are only in French).
You can go to their web site (English version) to download the network link, or you can download the network link here .
Once you download the network link, zoom into Quebec and...
A few months ago I wrote a story on a collection of placemarks which provided all sorts of details on countries, their flag, and links to other sources of information on the countries. This collection does something quite similar except it uses the flags as the placemarks, and uses the CIA World Factbook as the basis of its information. The CIA World Factbook is a nice collection of public information on countries of the world made available by the US government on the Internet for many years now. When you click on the country flags, you will see an excerpt of the background information (usually a historical/political perspective) from the Factbook, a link to the complete information, and links to both Google and Wikipedia information on that country. I recommend you click on "Borders" on the left, in the navigation window of GE, to show country outlines.
This collection was put together by the GEC community member known as 'Herrminator' who also published the excellent collection of World Heritage Locations written about earlier. Nice work Herrminator!
The beta version of Google Earth for the Mac released on Tuesday, 10-Jan-2006, is version 3.1.0527 and runs on Mac OS X 10.4+. This version does not quite have a complete set of the features seen on the Windows version. There are just a few uncompleted features for the Mac version:
Google Earth onf the Mac also won't be capable of running specialized applications like the Globe Glider which uses Windows-only IE scripts to perform its magic. But, almost all standard Google Earth files and network links reportedly work just fine. All other features seem to work quite well, and only a few people will miss the features not yet implemented.
Google has created a "Google Earth for Mac OSX" Support Forum at the Google Earth Community. If you want to see what current problems people are experiencing, or want to report your own, go to that forum.
Google reportedly plans to support OS X 10.3.9. If you want to read a review of Google Earth by a real GE Mac fan, try OgleEarth.
Recently someone contacted me with some interesting Google Earth files which show solar eclipse paths (where the eclipse is viewable on the ground), both total and annular (for information on solar eclipses see this Wikipedia article). His web site contains a few historical ones dating back to 1961, but is mostly focused on near-term (those in this century) future eclipses. The next total solar eclipse is only 76 days away on 29-March-2006 and crosses over a lot of land mass from southern Russia, across Kazahkstan, Turkey, and right across north-central Africa. Here is the [EDIT: typo corrected] 29-March-2006 Total Eclipse path for Google Earth. Now you can plan your trip with Google Earth for the best location to view the Eclipse, find an airport, make hotel arrangements, figure out which geocaches are nearby, etc. Thanks to Xavier Jubier for creating the GE files and informing me about them. Also, his data came from Fred Espenak, at NASA/GSFC.
By the way, last October someone at the Google Earth Community, calling himself 'yaohua2000', posted a huge repository of all the solar eclipses (4.7 Mbytes) since the year 1001 for GE. WARNING: this might take a while to load (4.7 Mbytes), and your Earth will look like a yarn ball after it loads (he defaults with all the eclipse paths turned on). I recommend after it loads you find the placemark folder in your Temporary Places folder called "Eclipses" and turn it off. Then open the folder and turn on the type and year of eclipses you want to see (it is well organized hierachically). This is a very interesting collection of data. I was able to find a total eclipse I saw as a child (a long time ago).
The guys at fboweb.com, who brought the amazing near real-time flight tracking in Google Earth of planes flying into Los Angeles (LAX ) airport, have added several other major US airports you can watch. You see all the planes currently in the air inbound to the airport, and they show a short GPS-like track of their recent 3D path in the air. The tracking updates once every 10 seconds, so if you zoom into the aerial photo of the airport, and tilt your view, you can actually watch the approach and landing (or takeoff) of the aircraft.
The list of new airports includes: Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD ), Atlanta (ATL ), and New York (JFK ). I highly recommend you turn off one airport's network link in the Places folder before you turn on the other (otherwise there is too much information). You can view the fboweb.com web site for these Google Earth files here. Also, make sure you tilt your view so you can see the 3D view of the plane tracks.
[EDIT 12-Jan-2006: After you read this story, check out the new Google Earth Basics page here at GEB for a list of helpful stories for beginners.]
For the many new users of Google Earth (GE), here are some important tips for getting the most out of the application. Learning to manipulate the mouse and keys to control GE is crucial to getting the most out of sightseeing the Earth.
For those of you with multiple mouse buttons: using a mousewheel is the easiest way to raise or lower your viewing point (or you can hold the right mouse button and slide forward and back). Alternatively, you can use the CTRL-UP ARROW or CTRL-DOWN ARROW keys on your keyboard. Finally, you can use the visual controls on the Nav panel with the + and - symbols. All of these methods adjust your altitude above the Earth's surface. You can see your height in the lower right of the GE viewing window. You can move the Earth to position it where you want to see by clicking a point with the left mouse button and slide the cursor to the middle of the viewing window. This way you can learn to zoom in and see the closest possible view of the aerial and satellite photo views of the Earth.
At first, many people don't realize...
Google has finally made Google Earth official - it's not a beta product anymore. Now even more people will be able to use Google Earth for sightseeing, business applications, GIS applications, sports, planes and flying, and more. Welcome to all the new Google Earth users downloading GE for the first time. Read Google Earth tips as you learn more about the program.
The announcement was made at the Official Google Blog. Also part of the announcement, the Mac version of Google Earth is now available (see this story). Google Earth version 3.0.0762 for Windows XP, which was released in November, was deemed worthy enough for the announcement of official release.
The Google Earth team has worked very hard in the past 6 months, since GE first went into beta, with several public updates addressing problems and adding features to the program. For some time now I've been predicting they were about to make the product official, and after the announcement of the Google Pack at the CES Keynote last Friday, I knew it had to happen soon.
So, now, as an official product, maybe Google will put even more PR muscle behind this really awesome program. I expect the media will be writing more about Google Earth in the coming weeks and months. If you haven't downloaded Google Earth yet, you are missing out on one of the most amazing free programs ever made available on the Internet. Congratulations go to the hard-working Google Earth team (with a little help from a few million beta testers).
This is the one many people have been waiting for! Today, in time for MacWorld, Google has announced the availability of a version of Google Earth for the Mac! There's a link off the home page for GE at http://earth.google.com/ to the Official Google Blog announcement. There's also a screenshot of the new release. Also, the word "Beta" is missing from the Google Earth logo! The version released is for Mac OSX 10.4 and up, so upgrade if you aren't there yet.
[EDITED: added the link to the blog announcement, and the OS version.]
This is the Placemark of the day! A lot of folks are publishing this one around the web, so I should make sure all of you get a chance to see it as well. A first time poster at the Google Earth Community posted a placemark to this incredible sight of a fully restored Lancaster Bomber which just happened to be flying just about over his house (which is why he found it). According to other posters in the thread, this is the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Avro Lancaster, normally located in the City of Lincoln, England (see website). But, it happened to be flying about in this Google Earth photo. As someone said, this would be an incredible 500th post in the GEC, but a historic first post. Another vote of thanks for finding this one SergioL.
Last November a new web site called FlickrMap was announced by Mark Zeman which is an excellent tool for viewing geotagged (tying earth coordinates to a photo) Flickr photos in a Flash map (a small US$5 subscription is required to have your own map, but it is free to just geotag). FlickrMap was already cool in its interface for viewing geotagged photos on an interactive map, but you still had to use a variety of tools and steps to geotag your photos. Well, Mark just contacted me to say he has written an AJAX application which allows you to quickly and easily geotag your photos using Google Earth for the interface. This is the fastest and best method I've seen yet for geotagging. Not only that, but Mark produced a really excellent video tutorial showing you the steps for using his application with Google Earth to Geotag.
Here is how you use the FlickrMap geotagging tool with Google Earth:
An off road enthusiast from the Google Earth Community (who calls himself TommyAfrika) forwarded me some forum threads dedicated to off road races. The first is for the Dakar 2006 which is probably the most grueling off road race in the world from Lisbon, Portugal to Dakar in Senagal in western Africa. The Dakar race goes through some of the most inhospitable terrain on the planet. Unfortunately, the Dakar 2006 did not choose to publish GPS coordinates for the positions of its racers. So, all we have so far is an image overlay and waypoints of the course. Here's the forum thread which includes some good links to videos describing the course - here's a documentary video (English - other languages available in the forum) about the Dakar 2006. The Dakar 2006 is currently in day 9 out of the 16 days it is estimated it will take to complete the course.
Another off road race held in November, 2005 was the Tecate Baja 1000 rally. Here's an overlay showing the course of the Baja 1000 rally , and here is the GEC forum thread about it.
These races need to publish their GPS data so you can follow them in Google Earth like the current round-the-world sailing race called the Volvo Ocean Race.
Google announced during the CES Keynote last night that they have begun working with at least one car manufacturer (Volkswagen) to explore putting Google Earth/Local as an embedded application for car navigation. gpsreview.net has written some interesting thoughts about this announcement saying Google has all the makings of a good car navigation system now, except you would need $26,000 in equipment to store the entire Google Database in a car, since broadband connections to cars are not available yet. He was just speculating on what it would take to put the whole thing in the car of course.
Actually, you wouldn't need the entire database since cars rarely travel the entire surface of the Earth. In fact, existing car navigation systems usually get by with just a couple dozen Megabytes for maps and points of interest (POI - things like restaurants, addresses, hotels, etc.). You would need more space to store satellite/aerial photography though. I suspect a 200Gbyte hard drive could store all the data needed for Google Earth for an area covering several states in the US.
The other thing to consider is that with a WIFI connection in the car, the car could do literal "war driving" and pick up data as it moves from location to location from the Google database. A better solution would be legitimate WIFI connections placed in locations entering and leaving cities or states. Rest area WIFI maybe?
By the way, there are people already using Google Earth in cars today. You can read about people hooking up their GPSes to Google Earth if you go to the Dynamic Data Layers forum at the GEC and search for "+GPS +Navigation". And, someday a streamlined Google Earth for embedded car systems may be quite practical.
The CES Google Keynote just started 5 minutes ago. It started out with Google Earth being shown flying over the Eiffel tower, then to one of the Africa Megaflyover images, then to the Grand Canyon, and then to Las Vegas (where the CES is being held). Next, Larry Page (co-founder of Google) shows up in a lab coat on the stage on top of one of the robot SUVs which raced in the Darpa Robot challenge! (see live reports from the show at Engadget).
Larry said they are working with VW to put a live version of Google Earth in your car dashboard. They did a demo of it showing an aerial view of where you were driving. Very interesting!