COMPUTER RESEARCH & TECHNOLOGY
Google Earth Revisited
Everybody got so excited the last time we spoke about Google Earth I decided to go back and visit it on its first anniversary. This is a program that is enjoying absolutely astounding success on the Internet.
Perhaps we should also say happy birthday in French, Italian, German and Spanish, because Google Earth is now fully localised for those languages in addition to English. This includes a local search, driving directions, geo-coding, and unique local information layers for in excess of 200 countries.
Ok, lets Refresh, Just What Exactly is Google Earth Again? Google Earth lets you search for and see locations anywhere on earth - you can zoom around a virtual earth on your screen and land wherever you want. For instance, you can display 3D aerial images of major cities, tourist attractions, your favourite lunch spots car park or your own homes backyard.
Locations can be searched by address, intersections, cities, postal codes countries, latitude, longitude or even altitude. Then the images can be zoomed in close enough to see streets, buildings and higher levels of detail.
Alright That All Sounds Very Exciting - So - What's New Since We Last Looked? Just to mention a few, there's a very streamlined new screen design, very nice, very easy to use - bound to make you crave new places to explore. It has received an absolutely massive update to their database of places on earth. It has increased its global coverage by about 4 times.
Google Earth now covers more than 20 percent of the landmass of the entire globe, complete with high-resolution satellite imagery. "High resolution" meaning you can actually see cars, houses and buildings in more than 200 countries and territories. Mind you having said that, not every house in the world is covered, only about two billion of them - that's about 1/3 of the population of the Earth can now see their homes in high-resolution.
Google Earth has already helped save tsunami, hurricane, and earthquake victims, not to mention find a lost Roman villa, track severe storms, discover new meteor craters, track the outbreak of avian flu, visually index magazine articles and photos, host travel videos, redefine the house-buying process, track aircraft in flight and who knows how many other uses never expected This new global coverage was produced in conjunction with their satellite is at approximately 70 cm per dot on the screen (pixel). They have even better data for many countries, up to 10 cm per pixel.
How Do You Drive This Thing Then? To move the planet, click the left mouse button and drag the mouse. The Earth image will rotate, tilt up and down, whatever. To zoom, click and hold the right mouse button and move the mouse - down to zoom in, up to zoom out. Take a few minutes to spin the planet around and basically be nine years old again.
But if you want to zoom in on a particular area try the flight feature, which takes you straight to a point on a view, or a series of points on a view. For example to find a business, enter the name of the business (or type of business) and where you want to look. Maybe find Greek food in Newtown. I entered Greek and Newtown NSW. The Google Earth image will zoom in to Sydney and settle on an area with several Greek restaurants mapped out. Click on one, get contact information, pointers to Web results about the place, etc.
Another link allows you to specify flight from one place to another. I want to go from Sydney to Brisbane. Google Earth will zoom out to show the area between those two destinations, and then highlight a direction, providing you with directions written on the screen.
Another link gives you the ability to fly to a specific place. You can either enter an address, or a city, or even a country name. Some landmarks are flyable too, Centre Point was and there I was.
I've barely scratched the surface of what Google Earth has to offer, but if you download it I think you'll have a lot of fun playing with it. Actually a million people already have. There's also a thriving community of add-ons and additional information for Google Earth.
Isn't There Another Google Program - Google Maps? How is Google Earth different from Google Maps? While both Google Earth and Google Maps use satellite imagery to share geographical information, such as the location of a building or driving directions, Google Earth provides a more powerful, interactive user experience and offers more tools for learning about a location.
The Google Earth experience is one of fast flight - zooming and rotating and tilting imagery to view the particular geographic location you're interested in. You can wind along mountain roads, view buildings in 3D, and fly to businesses near your desired location.
Google Earth also allows you to far more easily measure distances and areas, draw lines and shapes, and even import your own data.
So Will Google Earth Run on all Computers? Google Earth 4 is now available to download for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Mind you, you will need a computer with some horsepower. Google Earth uses a lot of computing resources and might not run well on some of the older computers.
You'll need to perform a 13-MB download and then install the application. Once that's done your computer will chug away for a minute or two and then low and behold - our planet.
How Much Does It Cost? Google Earth is available in several versions. The free version is for personal use. For a few more features Google Earth Plus costs about $40. If you are getting a little more serious Google Earth Pro costs $700 and is pretty much designed for the likes businesses who need a research and collaboration tool. Finally, there is Google Earth Enterprise Solutions for on-site deployment of Google Earth which costs thousands and is really meant for those kinds of businesses that want to embed a Google Maps experience in their websites or internal applications. It enables businesses to map customer locations, track shipments, manage facilities or view any other data source in a geographic context.
So, unless you're ready to part with some of your hard earned cash, my recommendation is to download the regular Google Earth instead of Google Earth Plus or Google Earth Pro even if it's just to test drive before you buy.
Keep up to date with the latest in the IT/Communications industry by listening to ABC Local Radio on FM107.1, every Tuesday morning at 9.15AM.
Computer Research & Technology Managing Director Arthur Hissey and Morning Host Janice McGilchrist will be discussing current matters of interest and future directions in the IT industry.
Transcripts of these discussions and other topics are available, just click on the links.
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