Ever since I was a child I’ve loved maps. There something about a map that smells of adventure and discovery. Satellite imagry is much like a map, but with that birds-eye view of our real world.
Earlier this year, Google added satellite imagry to their excellent Google Maps. Now they’ve Keyhole, one of the many aquisitions from the past year, and created Google Earth. I first used Keyhole a couple years ago, and it was so fascinating that my wife would get annoyed and threaten to unplug my computer. Now as Google Earth, the basic service is free (it used to require an annual subscription). If you like maps or exploring the world, get this program.
If you’ve never used Keyhole, you might wonder how Google Earth differs from the satellite imagry recently added to Google Maps. First, Google Earth is a program you install that access the data (satellite images) from the internet. It can overlay topographic data from the USGS to give you a fairly realistic 3-dimensional rendering of geography. And it allows you to fly around in that 3D space in real-time (assuming your computer has a processor and memory that’s up to the task).
It’s a fantastic way to look at the world. And there are practical applications, too. You can use it to get an idea of what view you would have from that hilltop lot in La Cresta, for example.
Although Keyhole has been around for years, it’s newest incarnation as Google Earth is labeled a beta product. And people who never heard of Keyhole are now discovering Google Earth. The name “Google” attached to anything seems to turn it to gold.
The downside of Google Earth’s newfound popularity is that it’s overloaded their download servers. When I tried to download a fresh copy today, I got a message that their downloads were temporarily unavailable while they upgrade their servers.
I’ll try again tomorrow — it’s worth it.
UPDATE: As of Thursday, downloads are working again. Go get it!