Skip to main content

World Wind 4.1 vs. Google Maps: Map Viewing in the early 21st century

I like maps. Old, new, hand-drawn, or digital. I like the stories they tell. An offshoot of this fascination with maps is a fascination with the images sent back by probes sent to nearly all the planets of our solar system, including Earth. The two most interesting (for me) applications for viewing Earth images are Google Maps (GM) and Nasa's World Wind (WW) application.

I recently installed World Wind 1.4 and went zooming around the Earth with it. It's slick. On my notebook the response to moving over the surface or zooming in or out is silky smooth and immediate. While I had WW up I decided to compare its satellite imaging with Google Maps. While the majority of sites look identical or nearly identical, some of the sites under World Wind are deliberately obfuscated to the point where, if you want a clear image, you're better off using Google Maps. First example, my favorite paranoia place, Area 51. The first image is from WW, the second from GM.


GM has matured since its initial introduction. I can't believe everything I can spot on the map. I was surprised that I could zoom as far as I could with Area 51, but I did reach a point where GM couldn't (or wouldn't) get any closer. Unfortunately I didn't see any UFOs parked on the tarmac. Maybe they had their cloaking devices active.

A more serious area to view is the hole in the ground where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood. Since the urban data for WW is current only up to 2000, I zoomed over to the area in New York and looked down. I then looked at the same location in GM.


I don't know how current the images are for GM, but for me it was sobering enough to look at the before (WW) and after (GM) of 9/11.

World Wind is a cool application. I use it for general viewing of the Earths surface. If I want more detailed urban information I use Google Maps. I'm waiting for Nasa to finish the Java version of WW. The current version requires .Net 2.0 and DirectX, which pretty much ties the application to Windows. I'm learning to use WW to do other things, such as view the surface of Mars. Both are a lot of fun.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

cat-in-a-box channels greta garbo

So I'm sitting at my computer, when I start to notice a racket in back. I ignore it for a while until I hear a load "thump!", as if something had been dropped on the floor, followed by a lot of loud rattling. I turn around and see Lucy in the box just having a grand old time, rolling around and rattling that box a good one. I grab the GX1 and snap a few shots before she notices me and the camera, then leaps out and back into her chair (which used to be my chair before she decided it was her chair).

Just like caring for Katie my black Lab taught me about dogs, caring for Lucy is teaching me about cats. She finds me fascinating, as I do her. And she expresses great affection and love toward me without coaxing. I try to return the affection and love, but she is a cat, and she takes a bat at me on occasion, although I think that's just her being playful. She always has her claws in when she does that.

She sits next to me during the evening in her chair while I sit in mi…

vm networking problem fixed

Over the weekend I upgraded to Windows 8.1, then discovered that networking for the virtual machines wouldn't work. Then I tried something incredibly simple and fixed the problem.

Checking the system I noticed that three VMware Windows services weren't running; VMnetDHCP, VMUSBArbService, and VMwareNatService. VMware Player allows you to install, remove, or fix an existing installation. I chose to try fixing the installation, and that fixed the problem. The services were re-installed/restarted, and the virtual machines had networking again.

Once network connectivity was established there was exactly one updated file for Ubuntu 13.10, a data file. This underscores how solid and finished the release was this time. Every other version of every other Linux installation I've ever dealt with has always been succeeded by boatloads of updates after the initial installation. But not this time.

Everything is working properly on my notebook. All's right with the world.

sony's pivotal mirrorless move

I'm a died-in-the-wool technologist, even when it comes to photography. I have always been fascinated with the technology that goes into manufacturing any camera, from the lenses (optics) through the mechanical construction, the electronics involved, and especially the chemistry of the film and the sophistication of the digital sensor. It's amazing that the camera can do all it's asked of it, regardless of manufacturer.

Of all the types of cameras that I've really taken an interest in, contemporary mirrorless (again, regardless of manufacturer) are the most interesting because of the challenging problems the scientists and engineers have had to solve in order to build a compact but highly functional camera. In particular I've followed the sensor advances over the years and watched image quality climb (especially with μ4:3rds) to exceed film and rival one another such that there's very little difference any more as you move from the smaller sensors such as 4:3r…