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Thread: SpaceNavigator - Cool Google Earth Hardware

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    Moderator Emeritus Appletom's Avatar
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    Jul 2005
    El Paso, Texas

    Default SpaceNavigator - Cool Google Earth Hardware

    I have a Space Navigator on my desk and I’ve been playing with it in Google Earth.

    Disclaimer – I was given a Space Navigator at no charge with the understanding that I would post my thoughts here on GEH. The Space Navigator costs $59 or $99 (more on pricing weirdness below) or you can use Mickey's link to get it from Amazon for $49.

    I found a nice surprise on the box. Space Navigator is made by Logitech, the mouse and keyboard people. I’ve never seen or heard of a lousy Logitech product, so I have high hopes for this one.

    First thing I noticed is SN is HEAVY. It is one solid chunk of metal with the controls on top. I’m impressed before I ever plug it into my computer. The cool factor is high.

    Being of the male gender, I don’t ask for directions and don’t read them either. So I took the SpaceNavigator out of the box, left the instructions inside the box, and plugged it in. Windows came up and told me it had found new hardware and everything was installed properly and my device was ready to use! Windows lied, SpaceNavigator does nothing except sit there looking calm, cool and collected. OK, I will read the directions.

    Ah – the directions sit on top of a CD. No wonder the SpaceNavigator does nothing, software must be installed. The instructions are only four pages, so I ahead and read them. The absolute first thing the instruction manual says is to turn off my computer before plugging in the SpaceNavigator. Too late now.

    I inserted the CD and started installing the software. The first screen is a notice about how I have the personal edition and if I want to use SN in a commercial environment, I will have to pay an additional $40.00 in 30 days.

    <rant on> What!? I have never in my life seen hardware that has different price points for business and personal use. Can you imagine paying one price for a keyboard to use at work and another price for the exact same keyboard to use at home? If they had a “lite” and a “heavy duty” version, that’s one thing, but if Logitech can make a profit selling these for $59.00, then asking business users to pay $99.00 is gouging, pure and simple.<rant off>

    The EUA/TOS repeats the dual citizenship they want SN to have:

    The user must upgrade to the standard version of SpaceNavigator in order to be used for commercial purposes.

    The installation software has some really dumb behavior. While installing, it tells me there might be more recent software available and it asks me if I want to check. I clicked “yes” and after a few seconds it told me there was newer software available and asked if I would like to have it installed instead of what’s on the CD. When I tell it “Yes” it exits the install program – and absolutely nothing happens. I finally had to Google “Space Navigator” to find the 3DConnexion home page, then I had to hunt for the software myself. Once I found it, I had to go through all the silly install steps again.

    Why even bother putting the software on the CD? Just put a command to go to the Mother Ship and download and install the newest version.

    Once the install was finished, my Space Navigator turned on and it has a really cool blue glow. That’s a 10 on the cool factor. It asks me if I want to go through the wizard to set up my device.

    The “Wizard” is a mouse driven series of still photos and animated gifs that show you what SN does when you tilt/twist/push/pull. A set-up wizard that won’t let you use the device you are setting up; this makes no sense whatsoever.


    I started Google Earth and did what everybody does the first time they use Google Earth – I went looking for my house. But this time I used the Space Navigator instead of my mouse. Imagine taking a drunk person, spinning him until he’s dizzy, then watching him try to walk – my first try was that ugly. So I tried again, this time it was like watching a drunk but not dizzy person walk. Still not pretty, but much better. After about five tries it was great, I could get to my house quickly and with style.

    So I tried going to my sister’s house. It was sweet, I can zoom out while traveling east while rotating the earth just a tad. Then I can start zooming in while still panning east and I can start tilting and rotating so I’m facing east and down as I “land”. Now granted, I “landed” about four cities away from my sister’s, but it was my first try. By about the fifth or sixth try I was landing in her zip code, and after a little practice I could land perfect every time. SWEET!

    Next, I tried SpaceNavigator with one of Google Earth’s 3D Buildings. I started with downtown San Diego. It took only a few short minutes before I was swooping and sweeping around the buildings and dropping into Petco field.

    Being able to tilt, pan zoom, rotate all at once – it just makes the traveling through Google Earth so much more pleasurable.
    Becomes second nature to use after a short learning curve.
    Looks and feels great.
    The blue light, which was so cool when I first saw it, can thankfully be turned off.

    The software forces itself into my task bar.
    Allows you to tilt “backwards”. Hard to describe, but when you tilt in Google Earth and press/hold the icon to come back to looking straight down, it will “lock” once you’ve come all the way back. The SpaceNavigator will continue tilting, so suddenly your world is upside down on the screen – it can make you dizzy.
    When you want to go only one direction, since the SpaceNavigator allows you to control all six axis’s at once you’ll find it easier to use a mouse.


    I love the navigator for viewing 3D buildings. It’s also great for just wandering through Google Earth. But sometimes I use Google Earth just to look up an address or measure a path. For mundane and ordinary things like this, the mouse is faster and more efficient.
    Last edited by Appletom; 02-19-2009 at 10:30 PM.

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