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Jon Stahl is Worldchanging

Reaping the World Wind
Who says the space program never produced anything interesting here on Earth (other than Tang)?  NASA just released World Wind an open-source 3-D model of the earth that lets you "zoom from satellite altitude into any place on Earth, leveraging high resolution LandSat imagery and SRTM elevation data to experience Earth in visually rich 3D, just as if they were really there."
World Wind comes preloaded with a bunch of really cool geographic data sets, including NASA's amazing "Blue Marble" true-color image of the entire earth, 15m Landsat images, 3D data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission.  GIS junkies can add their own data sets as well.  Special bonus: incredible ease of use.  "All one needs to control World Wind is a two button mouse. Additional guides and features can be accessed though a simplified menu. Navigation is automated with single clicks of a mouse as well as the ability to type in any location and automatically zoom into it.
I can't wait to see the kinds of interactive mapping projects enviro-GIS folks like CommEnSpace are going to be able to pull off with this tool.
Jon Stahl is Program Manager at ONE/Northwest: Online Networking for the Environment and blogs at Jon Stahl's Journal. The image above is of Mount St. Helens.

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I fear that either NASA's server technology is very outdated or the server's overwhelmed. Is there a World-Changing adjective equivalent to 'slashdotted'? My download just stalls repeatedly. A shame, 'cause I sure am craving this one.

Posted by: Egg Syntax on 5 Oct 04

Actually, I think it was literally Slashdotted last week. But someday soon I'm sure WorldChangers will have that kind of server-crushing power. ;-)

Posted by: Jon Stahl on 5 Oct 04

I find it rather ludicrous that they are hosting a Microsoft Windows-only binary on a machine named "opensource"... If they had used OpenGL instead of Direct-X, the possibility of porting it to other platforms (eg: MacOS and Linux) would exist...

Posted by: Scott Henry on 6 Oct 04

I'm 100% with you on that, Scott. I may get around to downloading it on my game PC, but I would actually love to be able to take advantage of the software on the machine I'm on 99% of the time, my Powerbook.

Posted by: Jamais Cascio on 6 Oct 04

World Wind is a great app but I think In the long run, web interfaces will beat out desktop apps. The website at is attempting some interesting things with geography and GIS data. Things like putting news reports on a map along with other geographic data such as satellite images. The implementation is a little rough at the edges but I think it is a taste of things to come. I'm not sure how anyone would accomplish the 3d functionality on the web but some will do it I'm sure.

Posted by: Larry on 8 Oct 04

Yeah, this is a cool program. I have played around a bit with keyhole and am most pleased to see an open source app with similar potential.

I love the idea of being able to have it hit up local data, combine it with yesterday's MODIS updates, and not to mention the rest of NASA's and USGS' great selection of rasters.

And while I agree w/Larry to some degree, I don't think you will be able to get the kind of interface and quick response from a web-app that doesn't have a massive front-end download anytime soon .. so why not just forego the web browser entirely? Web maps, queryable and otherwise, are awesome, but I look at this as more of a visualization tool.

And in response to Scott Henry, I'd point out that open source refers to licensing more than platform, and that it's fantastic that such a neat app has the source available, and is being put on sourceforge, where many, (perhaps even yourself?) will take advantage of the open source nature of the project (eg the fact the core can be compiled on a mac) and begin to port at will.

Posted by: Josh on 10 Oct 04



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