Because I am a registered user of Keyhole‘s “Ultimate Interface to the Planet”, also known as Keyhole 2 LT, I was invited to beta test the upcoming release of Google Earth (Keyhole was purchased by Google last October). Damn, is it good! The new Google Earth is pretty much like the old Keyhole application, but it’s a little cleaner, it’s got some Google search and directions capability built into it, and most importantly, it’s got a vastly improved picture database. As a result it’s the most incredible atlas or map reference ever. Ever ever. You can fly around the Grand Canyon, zoom over the Cascades, or hover over your neighbor’s swimming pool. I have lost many hours of useful sleep playing with this insanely addictive program. Here are some ways to blow through the time:
- Visit every place you ever lived.
- Visit every place you ever went on vacation.
- Visit places that you want to go on vacation or are simply curious about (Norwegian fjords, Victoria Falls, Sugarloaf Mountain).
- Follow the paths of explorers like Lewis and Clark.
If you are the least bit of a map-o-phile, please beware: this is strong medicine. Your productivity is at risk. It is also more evidence of how quickly the world is changing. Encyclopedias bound as books are lost causes, but now atlases are equally doomed. Google Earth is far beyond anything else remotely like it. A description of the functionality is simple enough: Fly over the surface of the entire Earth in three dimensions at (almost) any altitude. But the experience defies description until you see it.
In case you were wondering about the name Keyhole, it was the name of a secret US satellite surveillance program. It’s easy to see why the whole enterprise is being re-branded Google Earth. First of all, they had to stick the Google name on it. But as a close second, who wants to be reminded just how much privacy they’ve already lost as peeping Tom satellites lift their latches and finger their blinds? My advice is to look up and smile from time to time, and for God’s sake don’t do anything incriminating out-of-doors.