Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Flight Plans

As I plan my summer vacation, I've begun to wonder where my flights might put me as I fly to my destinations. Will I fly over the Grand Canyon? Yosemite? Nebraska? Assuming that my flights proceed in a more a less direct line, I could make a good guess using Google Earth.

Using the measure tool, I drew a line between destination points, which allowed me to see the approximate path of the flight and of course the distance. You can create multiple destinations using the path tool, but you won't see distance.

It is neat to see where your flight might go. For example, a straight line flight between Seattle and Tokyo will take you over the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. This seems counterintuitive until you look at the globe as a three dimensional sphere as it is displayed in Google Earth.

Monday, February 25, 2008

KML Video

The "Quick and Dirty KML Creation" presentation is now available on YouTube. Check it out.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Geo Data on the Web

If you are a Google Earth user, you can view all kinds of fascinating free geo data available on the web. For example, this morning, I went exploring on the US Forest Service website and poked around the FSGeodata Clearinghouse. This collection offers interesting vector and raster-based mapping data for USFS lands in the United States, such as topographical maps. Some of the data in this site is KML-based.

The WMS feature of Google Earth also allows you to access publicly available geo data and import it seamlessly into Google Earth as an image overlay. Google Earth Pro users can import GIS data directly into the application.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

KML Workshop

Yesterday, I attended a public workshop here at the Googleplex entitled "Quick & Dirty KML Creation". Pamela Fox and Mano Marks showed us "how to use tools within Google Maps and Google Earth to create, import, and edit KML." This was part of the Google Geo Developer Conference series.

The presenters described using Google Earth and MyMaps feature of Google Maps to create, edit, import and export KML. They also discussed the new KML spreadsheet tool that allows you to create placemarks using entries in a Google spreadsheet, the Google Maps API and other topics.

One participant asked an great question: when should you author content in Google Earth as opposed to editing the KML directly? Generally speaking, it depends :-) For example, editing in the Google Earth graphical user interface (GUI) is optimal when you are creating a specific view, or want to visually choose colors and icons. But editing the KML itself is best when you are creating single shared styles for multiple items, or add in elements such as time animation that the GUI interface doesn't allow you to edit.

This workshop should be available on YouTube soon. I'll post a link for it as soon as possible.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

GPS Tracking on the Go

Google Earth Plus, Pro and EC allow you to track your movements in real time via GPS. For example, you can view a live GPS track of your drive in a car on a laptop as you travel. To do this, you'll need a GPS device connected to your computer.

After you complete your trek, you can view an animation of the journey using the time slider.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Copying from Layers

See a point of interest in a layer that appeals to you? You can copy any placemark that appears in a layer and paste it into My Places (right click > Save to My Places). This is useful if you want to display this placemark, but not the entire layer.

It also allows you to view the KML behind an attractively presented placemark or balloon (learn more). I do this as a way to reverse engineer how a placemark was built in KML or HTML, which can inspire KML I author in the future.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Land Conservation Stories

Yesterday, several of us presented at the California Council of Land Trust conference in Sacramento. Member groups of this organization work on land conservation issues, which is a cause near and dear to my heart.

Land trust organizations often use GIS to plan projects and educate donors and the public about their work. Non profits like these have learned that Google Earth and KML are terrific tools for telling stories within a geographic context.

One amazing example shown at the conference depicts a landfill project planned for Petaluma, CA. Opponents of the project used KML to show wetlands that surround at the controversial landfill site. You can see additional examples at GreenInfo Network.