In a scientific poll of one, (I sampled myself), Google Earth was voted the greatest free program on Earth. The brilliant developers at Google have managed to turn the most unlikely subject, geography, into a video game. And what a game it is! Google Earth doesn’t troll around in an adolescent make believe world. Google Earth serves up the real thing. This would be amazing enough but with Google Earth you can explore the Moon, Mars and the night sky as well. If you have any geographic or astronomical needs get Google Earth.
I got into Google Earth a few years ago when I started geotagging old pictures. Locating old, pre-GPS pictures, is one of the better Google Earth games. My mother snapped this picture of me in 1964. I am standing in front of the Uintah mountains in north eastern Utah.
1964 was long before GPS was even a dream. To find exactly where I was standing I turned on Google Earth’s terrain feature and slowly followed the adjacent road until all the landscape features matched up.
For famous sites it’s not this hard. Here I am at Stonehenge. Stonehenge is a Google Earth nobrainer.
Over the last few years I have geotagged hundreds of images. It’s something I will continue to do until I drop dead. Online picture sites like SmugMug provide automatic mapping of geotagged images but Google Earth does a much better job if you do a little KML programming. KML is an XML namespace used by Google Earth and Google Maps. It can be used to tour geotagged images. When KML files are compressed, (any ZIP utility will do), they are given a KMZ file extension. KMZ files can be loaded by Google Earth.
The KMZ file geotagged.kmz was generated by a J script I put together to query my geotagged SmugMug pictures. When loaded into Google Earth it spins around the world pausing to display all the pictures I have geotagged. I realize few will be interested in my pictures but it’s not hard to extract the KML embedded in geotagged.kmz and adapt it to your pictures. Go forth and hack my friends.