Google Earth Hacks blog

Everything you need to know about Google Earth
(return to Google Earth Hacks)

New sunrise layer on Google Earth

Filed under: Software Updates — by at 12:54 pm on Wednesday, January 31, 2007

From the Google Blog

Many of us aren’t lucky enough to experience one of nature’s most glorious sights—the beauty of the sunrise—every day, let alone on demand. That is, until today. Now there’s a Google Earth layer that brings the sun’s ascent right to your computer screen, and Google Earth aficionados can also see video vignettes drawn from Discovery HD Theater’s “Sunrise Earth” program.

To view the videos, open Google Earth and select the Sunrise Earth layer under Discovery Networks. Follow the links in the pop-up window to experience the sights and sounds of one of nature’s most beautiful phenomena. Watch dawn rise over Stonehenge, Mayan pyramids, and Buddhist temples as it has for thousands of years. See the Katmai Bears emerge from their seven-month slumber to greet a new day. Witness the sun’s light bringing life to natural habitats around the world, from the forests of Costa Rica and the coast of New England, to the foothills of Turkey and the glaciers of Alaska.


A Virtual World by Google?

Filed under: Software Updates — by at 11:58 am on Monday, January 29, 2007

From MarketingVOX:

Rumors are swirling of a Google-engineered “metaverse” – a virtual world a la Second Life – with Benchmark Capital analyst Michael Eisenberg calling the rumored project a “world game.”

The metaverse would use real-world data gathered from Google’s existing properties to craft the alternate online platform, writes According to Eisenberg, Google is courting in-game ad company AdScape in preparation to monetize the virtual world.

Furthermore, rumor is that a firm in China has been hired to craft avatars while an internal team is building the “metaverse” itself, thanks to a team that has come over from, another online virtual world.

Google already has a product called SketchUp, which is used to craft 3D models that can be layered onto Google Earth images.

It’ll be interesting to see what comes of this…

Mechdyne Unveils Visualization Software for Google Earth

Filed under: Software Updates — by at 11:58 am on Wednesday, January 24, 2007

MARSHALLTOWN, IA, January 24, 2007 — Mechdyne Corporation today announced that its VRCO software division released Conduit for Google Earth Pro 4.0, a visualization middleware package that enables stereoscopic display of desktop-based imagery and viewing in multi-planar, large-scale immersive and interactive displays such as the walk-in CAVE and reconfigurable FLEX wall-size display systems available from Fakespace Systems, VRCO’s sister company.

A 3D interface to the planet, Google Earth Pro is used to visualize a wide spectrum of geo-referenced data exported from GIS, civil engineering, energy exploration and other applications. With Conduit for Google Earth Pro, applications can leverage ultra-high resolution stereoscopic display capability and a range of advanced 3D visualization features.

The Conduit middleware package enables a desktop application, like Google Earth Pro, to natively drive advanced visualization environments. This maximizes the potential insight and data interpretation accuracy, since stereoscopic viewing provides a realistic sense of depth that is especially useful when experiencing spatially complex datasets. Conduit makes it possible to use the multiple graphics outputs of PC clusters to drive the multiple projectors used for large-scale walls or walk-in immersive rooms, creating life-size experiences that completely fill peripheral vision and engage more of the senses. The Conduit package supports ultra-high resolution displays, using a series of tiled projectors or new 4096 x 2160 native projection technology, such as the Sony SXRD projector that forms the core of Fakespace’s Beacon 8MP stereoscopic PowerWall display system. It also enables user motion tracking that provides real-time, realistic perspectives as the viewer physically moves around when viewing the data. For intuitive navigation and manipulation of models, the middleware enables the use of wireless virtual wands, gloves and joysticks either on the desktop or in large-scale displays.

“Working with the LANL High Performance Computing Visualization team and VRCO software engineers, we have begun preliminary testing of Conduit to enable the use of Google Earth Pro in our immersive environments,” said Steve Smith, Lead Visualization Scientist, Decision Applications Division, Threat Reduction Directorate, Los Alamos National Laboratory. “We hope to use this extensively in support of our advanced analysis, modeling and simulation of infrastructures, social and economic networks, and military and Homeland Security applications. We find that the addition of stereo, tracked head and tools, and very large field of view combined with multi-resolution, continuously rendered terrain models is promising to advance our capabilities significantly. Integrating Google Earth Pro into our facilities via Conduit has helped us understand how we might integrate other commercial applications into our facilities. This has been problematic in the past, usually requiring us to develop our own custom applications.”

“VRCO developed the Conduit interface to Google Earth Pro in response to our customers’ need to leverage this tool in high-end displays,” said Julien Berta, Conduit product manager at VRCO. “We are excited to provide this capability, and to see how users are applying it to gain a better understanding of their data.”

Available now from VRCO, Conduit for Google Earth Pro can be integrated into existing software and/or visualization environments. Mechdyne can design and provide complete, turn-key visualization solutions that incorporate VRCO software and Fakespace display systems to meet specific customer requirements.

About Mechdyne Corporation

Mechdyne Corporation is the world’s largest company dedicated to consulting and development of immersive, networked and collaborative visualization systems. The company addresses complex projects where an in-depth understanding of user requirements leads to the development of products and customized solutions involving elements of visual, software and support systems. Mechdyne’s subsidiary VRCO, Inc. specializes in immersive and interactive software development and support. Subsidiary Fakespace Systems Inc. provides advanced display technology and implementation services. Headquartered in Marshalltown, Iowa, Mechdyne’s customers include leading government laboratories, military research programs, energy companies and a variety of ‘edutainment,’ manufacturing, and other users of visualization technology. More information is available at, and

CAPTCHA problem when downloading files (update: resolved)

Filed under: Software Updates — by at 6:13 pm on Saturday, January 20, 2007

 (note: this issue has now been resolved.  please let us know if you still experience this problem.)
We’ve just been made aware of problem that some of you are experiencing when trying to download a file from our site. The problem is that the CAPTCHA (image verification) isn’t showing up, and therefore you’re unable to enter it to download a file.

The quick solution is to simply register (it’s free, easy, blah blah) and then you won’t even have to see the image verification page. However, we’ve found the cause of the problem and it should be resolved shortly.

For those that are curious what happened: We recompiled PHP on our primary server yesterday in order to enable the ZZIP module. This allows us the server to open compressed files (KMZ, specifically) and pull out the coordinates for use in our network links (like this one). However, when we recompiled it we forgot to include GD’s FreeType support, which is used for creating those CAPTCHA images. Since I never see them, I didn’t realize it was broken until someone pointed it out a little while ago.

Anyhow, things should be straightened out shortly. If you ever see a bug on the site in the future, don’t hesitate to tell us in our Site Issues forum or you can e-mail me directly at


Coming Soon to Google Earth – Toxic Wastelands!

Filed under: Software Updates — by at 1:53 pm on Saturday, January 20, 2007

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced earlier this week that they would begin making hazardous site information available for GIS applications such as Google Earth.

Agency representatives at a public meeting here on Wednesday unveiled what they billed as the first step in a new push to make the EPA’s vast scientific data stores more readily accessible online for download and incorporation into popular applications like Google Earth and Microsoft Visual Earth.

The agency’s ultimate goal is to boost public awareness of its activities–with a loftier aim of improving public health and the environment in the process–by allowing federal agencies, companies and even mashup artists to get their hands on the data more easily. Such data can play a key role in everything from land-use planning to real estate transactions, they said.

“We’re extremely excited about this,” said Pat Garvey, one of the project’s managers. “We think this is really going to advance public access.”

The pilot piece of that effort, posted early Wednesday morning, is a single XML file containing information on about 1,600 locales relegated to the Superfund National Priorities List. As required by Congress since 1980, the EPA uses that list to locate, investigate and clean up the worst-offending landfills, chemical plants, radiation sites and other areas known or suspected of releasing contaminants, pollutants and other hazardous substances.

(full article)

You can find the XML file mentioned in the article at

New NASA network links for GE

Filed under: Software Updates — by at 1:42 pm on Saturday, January 20, 2007

It’s been a month since Google and NASA signed their ‘Space Act Agreement’, an act that will lead to 3D mapping of the moon and mars being made available for free using Google Earth software.

In the mean time, someone called OnEarthWMS has been posting some simply marvellous network links at the GEC using some of NASA’s high-res imagery (thanks to Google Earth Blog for picking this one up).

First up is the NASA ‘Blue Marble’, many of you may have seen the version that is still available from Google’s showcase page (showing composite images across the 12 months of the year). However, the problem with this was that the images were low-res, and as soon as you zoomed in to 4,000 km eye altitude, it became pixelated. These new network links will update as you zoom, showing the full beauty of NASA’s Blue Marble at a MUCH higher resolution! You can now see snow and ice advancing and retreating on a valley scale in the Alps, for example. Here is the file:

NASA Blue Marble Next Generation for GE4 (give this a while to load!)

As many of you may be aware, NASA’s Blue Marble is a composite of many MODIS images (an instrument on board the Terra and Aqua satellites). Daily updates of MODIS images have been available at low-res for quite a while now. However, OnEarthWMS has also posted network links that show the daily updated images at full-res (the links update as you zoom). The ability to see mid-scale cloud systems developing between the Terra and Aqua images is jaw-dropping! Anyway, here are the two files:

Terra MODIS daily network link

Aqua MODIS daily network link

These new network links provide what I feel to be some of the best overlays Google Earth has seen to date. A step closer to true real-time monitoring of our planet on GE. Well done NASA, looking forward to seeing lots more.

Many thanks to Google Earth Blog, OnEarthWMS and NASA.

First 3D-city outside USA

Filed under: Software Updates — by at 2:14 pm on Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Google Earth offers more than 30 cities in 3D – all in the USA. Now Google is going to offer a new city in 3D – outside the USA!
The online version of the German news magazine Spiegel reports, that Google Earth is going to offer the first 3D city outside the USA. Within the next days or weeks, the German city Hamburg will be available. Hundreds of models with detailed textures will display downtown Hamburg.

Historical city hall of Hamburg
The complete article with a picture series and a little movie here – unfortunately only in German.

Update: Ogle Earth has a bit more info here.

Update: The first buildings are available! 

Google Earth Gaming

Filed under: Software Updates — by at 12:51 pm on Tuesday, January 16, 2007 – the German online magazine for computergames – reviews about another use of Google Earth instead of peeking in the neighbors garden, finding aliens or preplaning the next vacations: gaming!

From GE War to Mars sucks – six different games bring more fun and popularity to the growing Google Earth community.

The whole review in – only in German language!

Google Earth used to attack troops in Iraq

Filed under: Software Updates — by at 8:50 am on Saturday, January 13, 2007

The British Daily Telegraph reports, that terrorists in Iraqi use Google Earth to prepare and conduct attacks against UK troops in Basra.

Print-outs with details of the base including the precise coordinates were found during a raid. British military men are concerned. The daily mortar attacks are increasingly accurate, killed one soldier within the last six months and injured many more.

A Google spokesman said the information could be used for “good and bad” and was available to the public in many forms. “Of course we are always ready to listen to governments’ requests,” he said.

Google Earth 4 no longer beta

Filed under: Site News — by at 9:39 am on Friday, January 12, 2007

After months in beta, Google Earth 4 has finally been officially released.  If you haven’t downloaded version 4 yet, you’re missing some great things including textured 3d buildings, improved terrain data (better looking mountains), a refined interface and much more.

You can download version 4 here.