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Google Earth - A world exploration tool Pick of the Week
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Google Earth has been out for the PC for quite a while, but the Mac version was (finally!) officially released during Macworld Expo a couple weeks ago. (There was an unofficial beta floating around the net for a month or two before that.) If you haven't downloaded it yet, I highly encourage you to do so. It's an entirely different way of looking at our planet, and you may quickly find that hours have vanished as you play with the program. It's hard to explain exactly what Google Earth is, but think of it as Google Maps with an interactive 3D interface and (in many cases) higher resolution imagery.

You'll find yourself visiting cities just to see the high-res pictures, measuring distances between distant points on the planet, finding islands in the middle of the ocean, looking for airplanes captured during flight (as seen at left near Portland International Airport), and exploring some of the wonders of nature, such as the Grand Canyon and Mt. St. Helens -- I made a short movie [6.8MB] of a visit to Mt. St. Helens so you can get a sense for how the program works, showing the zoom, tilt, and spin features. It really is quite amazing, especially in the areas with high resolution imagery.

There are useful tools for measuring distance between points, either in a straight line or via a path, and if you thought directions on Google Maps were cool, wait until you see them in Google Earth. With a 3D perspective and instructions printed right on the map, they're quite impressive. Another fun thing to do is pick a spot (Denver, Colorado, for instance), and then just enter a faraway destination (Sydney, Australia), and watch Google Earth fly you from point to point. If air travel were only this fast and easy!

There's a lot more that I haven't even touched on, obviously. Give it a download and test drive -- and make sure you visit the Preferences section, where you can control a ton of little things about how the program works.
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Google Earth - A world exploration tool
Authored by: skapplin on Jan 23, '06 08:23:51AM

A major difference between the early beta version and the current version is resolution. The early beta version had resolution down to only a few feet. The current version's resolution is several hundreds of feet. Once you zoom in past that distance the images lose their visibility.

I guess to mitigate the loss in map resolution Google did update the maps by a year. However, some are still not current and at least one year out of date.

I don't use Windows so I don't know if these limitations are restricted to the Mac version.



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Google Earth - A world exploration tool
Authored by: b00le on Jan 23, '06 08:48:28AM

Resolution varied depending on what you're looking at: some areas have aerial photography with resolutions of a a few centimetres, some use QuickBird satellite imagery - maximum resolution 60 cm - and some Landsat at 15m/pixel. There's no difference I can detect between versions



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Google Earth - A world exploration tool
Authored by: CraigStanton on Jan 23, '06 11:26:48AM

The data is stored on Googles server, it doesn't matter if you're on a Mac or PC you get the same satellite photos and the same height data.



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Google Earth - A world exploration tool
Authored by: Uist on Jan 23, '06 04:03:42PM

I had this problem (in windows version, but I believe they use the same maps).

In the "Layers" pane, I found that deselecting the "Terrain" option made the maps (in some areas) appear in a very much higher resolution. (The same option appears on the bottom left hand corner underneath the map itself.)

I hope that this works.



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Google Earth - A world exploration tool
Authored by: umijin on Jan 23, '06 09:10:19AM

Google Earth ROCKS! It's a very useful tool for orientation in any environment. I use it to get decent latitude/longitude coordinates for biological samples.

One question though. A Windoze friend of mine said you can actually download the entire Google Earth catalog to your PC to speed up load times of maps. I haven't been able to find that option on the Mac version.



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Google Earth - A world exploration tool
Authored by: styrafome on Jan 23, '06 09:48:44AM

I wonder if that's part of the paid versions, which don't exist on the Mac yet.



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Google Earth - A world exploration tool
Authored by: styrafome on Jan 23, '06 09:57:22AM

Being a beta, Google Earth sometimes crashes, which makes it forget any places I've worked on. Through bitter experience I've learned that if you don't want to lose your work, be sure to do these steps every once in a while:

1. Select My Places in the Places panel.
2. Choose File > Save. (Sadly, the Command-S shortcut is assigned to a different command.)

Other notes:
It's easy to move My Places from Google Earth on Windows to the Mac. Just "Save As" a copy of your places in the Windows version and open it in the Mac version.

If you have a scroll mouse, the scroll wheel zooms. Try Shift-scroll and Command-scroll! (Reason #8468 I HATE Apple's 1-button mice) Also works great with iScroll!



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Google Earth - A world exploration tool
Authored by: bogdescu on Jan 23, '06 05:17:26PM

using the clickwheel as a button (i.e. press'n drag it instead of scroll) you get the same results as with shift-wheel and command-wheel...



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Google Earth - A world exploration tool
Authored by: mozart11 on Jan 23, '06 10:08:02AM

I tried looking at Mt Saint Helens and Google Earth zooms way in but it's all out of focus. This on a 1.67 AL PowerBool and a 1.33ghz iBook.

I watched the video posted here and it was so clear. I tried deleteing the Google Earth cache, but it didn't help.



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Google Earth - A world exploration tool
Authored by: PeterVana on Jan 23, '06 01:42:41PM

I had the same problem with clarity and I do not know the cause. I suspect that Google has experimented with different resolutions. But the quality difference is quite drastic.



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Google Earth - A world exploration tool
Authored by: robg on Jan 23, '06 08:20:55PM

That's quite odd. Mount St. Helens looks the same on my Dual G5 as it does on my PowerBook G4/1.33GHz. I have no idea what might cause the differences.

-rob.



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Google Earth - A world exploration tool
Authored by: solipsism on Jan 23, '06 10:33:55AM

This is a nifty piece of software. Unfortunately I have no real use for it at this time.



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Old pictures
Authored by: allanmarcus on Jan 23, '06 11:23:36AM

Nice, but when I looked at my back yard on google earth, there are tress pictures there that I cut down in 2001! I wonder how often they update their pictures.



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Old pictures
Authored by: Arturia on Jan 23, '06 11:47:16AM
Google Earth is there to prove that there was trees there and you cut them down :(


;-)

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Old pictures
Authored by: lstewart on Jan 23, '06 12:08:21PM

Good grief, people! Every time I read comments about Google Earth, everybody's always complaining that the imagery is so out-of-date! "Do they update it daily? How many times a day?" I kid you not, I actually read that complaint on another site.

Why don't the complainers stop to think that our planet has nearly 200 MILLION square miles of surface? Any idea how expensive it would be to keep that much imagery "up to date"? Do you think there are an infinte number of spy planes and satellites constantly criss-crossing the globe, to provide this information? Would you want there to be?!

I am amazed and thankful that the imagery exists AT ALL, even if it does happen to show a picture of my house from a couple years ago, and the nearby mountains from a several years before that. And that it is available to us for free, when it cost untold millions of dollars to compile, stitch together and link with the actual topography... that is just amazing.



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Old pictures
Authored by: Tonex on Jan 24, '06 05:56:50AM

You ask "Do you think there are an infinte number of spy planes and satellites constantly criss-crossing the globe, to provide this information? Would you want there to be?! "

Well, yes unfortunately there are. Most of them belong to the American military and much of the data they collect is classified. The GPS system runs on this network. The American military make this data available to certain other countries but reserve the right to downgrade the quality if they need to, for example when invading Iraq.

For this reason Europe has started it's own satellite project, Galileo, details of which can be found at www.eu.int/comm/dgs/energy_transport/ galileo/sa/index_en.htm.

Whether all these things are a good idea or not is beyond the scope of this post, but rest assured Google Earth is just the tip of the iceberg as far as applications of this technology goes. Applied satellite data is going to have an enormous impact on all our lives over the next few years.

---
Remember - in a million years we'll all be dust, and none of this will matter...



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Old pictures
Authored by: allanmarcus on Jan 24, '06 02:53:57PM

Take a pill and calm down. I simply wondered how often the pictures get updated. 'wondering' and complaining are not the same.

Your post, however, sounded pretty whiney.



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Old pictures
Authored by: lstewart on Jan 25, '06 09:05:07AM

Sorry, I didn't mean to sound like such a whiner. And I really didn't mean to direct my whining exclusively at you, either. I apologize. I guess I was just venting pent-up frustration after reading several comments on other boards where others were, in fact, complaining.

I am a happy and satisfied user of Google Earth (and have been on Windows for some time), and in my zeal to defend what I see as a great service, I mistakenly linked your comment with other complaints I had read. (Like somebody wanting to check whether their wife was at home while they were at work.) Again, I realize your intent was not to complain, and I apologize for grouping you in with that crowd.



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Google Earth - A world exploration tool
Authored by: JKT on Jan 23, '06 01:25:52PM

Does anyone know how to change the default first view that appears when you start the app - I'd like to switch it from the US to the UK (what can I say... it's where I live)?

---
PB G4, 1.5 GHz, 2x512MB RAM, 128MB VRAM, 80 GB 5400rpm HD, SuperDrive, MacOS X 10.4.3

Visit www.thelandgallery.com for nature-inspired British Art



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Google Earth - A world exploration tool
Authored by: Uist on Jan 23, '06 03:54:47PM
I have (only a few moments ago!) managed it.

I have only tried this on Windows, so I can't guarantee that everything is exactly the same, but try the following:

Go to the view that you want Google Earth to open up with. (I have set the British Isles)

In the "Places" pane, scroll down to the bottom, where there is a place labelled "default" (blue, underlined, just like a URL).

Then either

Right click the "default" label, and choose "Snapshot View" (I know, but 'control' click might work)

Or

Click beside the link, so that the area around the link is selected, and choose "Snapshot view" from the Edit menu.

Voila! Hope this is helpful - let us know if it works for you

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Google Earth - A world exploration tool
Authored by: solipsism on Jan 23, '06 10:54:37PM

That worked just liked you stated. It still starts off showing N. America but immediately flys to wherever you saved the snapshot too.



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Google Earth - A world exploration tool
Authored by: JKT on Jan 24, '06 09:35:41AM

Great! Thanks that did work. :-)

---
PB G4, 1.5 GHz, 2x512MB RAM, 128MB VRAM, 80 GB 5400rpm HD, SuperDrive, MacOS X 10.4.3

Visit www.thelandgallery.com for nature-inspired British Art



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Google Earth - A world exploration tool
Authored by: Fillman on Jan 23, '06 04:05:36PM

I agree. An outstanding application. How do you save a movie in the Mac version? It only seems to be part of the Pro app for Windoze.



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Google Earth - A world exploration tool
Authored by: robg on Jan 23, '06 08:22:18PM

I used Snapz Pro X to capture the movie; I don't think the feature exists in the Mac version...

-rob.



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Crashes on my Power Mac G5
Authored by: MacCoaster on Jan 24, '06 11:33:31PM
Google Earth crashes on my Power Mac G5 dual 2.7 GHz. No clue why? The error report I sent to Apple.

---
The Mac Coaster

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Not for 10.3.9 yet
Authored by: bonkydooky on Jan 25, '06 07:34:21AM

Only works in 10.4 right now, but they say they're working on a version for earlier Mac OS.



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Google Earth - A GPS Waypoint Manager
Authored by: syzygies on Jan 25, '06 11:46:29AM

Google Earth (OS X version) may not yet be upgradeable to versions that can interact with GPS devices, but it can import and export folders of locations, in two formats. One of these, ".kml", is XML, easily munged into other formats used by existing software that interfaces with GPS units.

I see Google Earth as the logical home for my GPS waypoint data, the best place to edit, annotate, and correct it, before exporting to GPS devices. Until the day when Google Earth supports direct export to GPS devices, I need to export via their .kml files.

I am actively sorting out how to best do this, and writing PERL scripts to do the text munging; I'll post a hint when I'm done. I have historically used MacGPS Pro to interface with a Garmin eTrex via a USB-to-serial adapter; it uses an understandable tabbed text format, but is not drag-and-drop. I see alternatives listed, e.g. on VersionTracker.

As a collaborative endeavor, anyone want to weigh in on the slickest way to do this?



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Google Earth - A GPS Waypoint Manager
Authored by: syzygies on Jan 25, '06 03:10:20PM

Aha! GPSBabel not only understands .kml files, but will talk directly to my serial-to-usb converter and Garmin GPS device. I've recovered my old waypoints, they all show up in Google Earth where I can edit them and save as a new .kml file.

GPSBabel is a command-line tool (there is apparently a GUI somewhere, but I couldn't find it). I used fink to install expat, then executed make mac-usbfree in the GPSBabel source directory, then figured out a command line to talk to my Garmin. Here the hard part was figuring out my device name. A sample line for reading from my Garmin was for me:

gpsbabel -i garmin -f /dev/cu.KeySerial1 -o kml -F Waypoints.kml

It will be easy to wrap such lines in tiny AppleScript applications, to get one-click uploads to the Garmin after saving from Google Earth to a canonical location.



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Google Earth - A GPS Waypoint Manager
Authored by: syzygies on Jan 31, '06 08:49:26AM

I have a working solution; I'll wait until it's more stable to post it. Basically, the .kml format as written by Google Earth is too whacky for GPSBabel to decode successfully, even though this format is ostensibly supported. However, it's a pretty easy Perl script to strip out the essential information and write a barebones .gpx file, which many programs including GPSBabel can transfer to devices such as a Garmin.

Programming Perl for this is a distinct pleasure. In contrast:

I've gone slightly mad trying to manage hierarchical folders in Google Earth's "Places" left panel. Folders spring open at the slightest provocation, and hop over their intended target when one's goal is to instead move one folder into another. I've had the best luck with wide left arcs, but I truly do not know what obscure sign language is wanted here, and I often want to stab a ball point pen into my display. I can calmly use even a dreadful language like AppleScript, so this isn't my basic temperament. Something is very wrong here.

There was one a gag Mac app (back in 1984) that looked like a system error "bomb" alert, but any attempt to click "ok" just caused the dialog to squirt over somewhere else on the screen. I haven't thought of that gag app in two decades, but this part of the Google Earth interface reminds me of it.

I have heard that Google is enamored with Python. If they've got religion, it will be a long time before they can convince themselves this even needs a fix.



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Google Earth - A world exploration tool
Authored by: houplagrundle on Jan 26, '06 02:05:06PM

There's lots of useful stuff on how to use Google Earth, and cool downloads +overlays at
http://googleearthhacks.com/
I spent all last weekend flying over google earth...



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Google Earth - A world exploration tool
Authored by: kkaiser on Mar 24, '06 08:58:51PM

In the Windblows version of GE you can add .png files to the res folder and use them in GE. Where is the equivalent to this file, or where would I add a .png file on the Mac?



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