Google Earth -- "Beta" Version 4 Released
Google leaves programs in "beta" long after most companies would have released a "release" version. In the case of the Google Earth beta, Google is just released its 4th major release and the program is still considered "beta." In case you are one of the rare people who has never heard of Google Earth, this program allows you to view Earth from space and then get very close to just about anywhere on the planet via satellite images. It's a lot of fun to play with and even has real world uses. For example, it is being used to find good places for archaeological digs in Europe. As the program constantly accesses data and satellite images on Google servers, a high speed internet connection is a must -- but this is really the only major drawback the program has.
"Beta" version 4 features a streamlined interface. I think it is a lot easier to use than previous versions, although I suspect the changes are enough to annoy many who use the program every day. Other new features are less immediately noticeable:
- Drawing tools from the pay version are now available in the free version
- Textured building can be displayed (and users are urged to create some via Google SketchUp)
- There is a new type of KML file (for user-created data) that will load much faster
- Versions are available in English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish.
Google Earth is a lot of fun and a great way to use up all your spare time looking for airplanes caught in mid-flight, possible naked sunbathers, or every house you have ever lived in. If you have a broadband connection, you really do want this program. If you already have an older version, this upgrade is definitely worth it.
Operating System: Windows XP (also OS X and Linux)
License: Commercial Freeware
Web Site: http://earth.google.com/
[tags]Google Earth, Freeware, Satellite images[/tags]