I have been using Google Maps when I wanted to locate places, etc but
when my brother was here over the holiday weekend he turned me on to
a _really neat_ service from a company called 'Keyhole', which I have
been told is being / has been acquired by Google.
It consists of streaming realtime video captured by satellites as they
fly around everywhere. I did not have the luck yet with it my brother
had, but get this: he put in his home address and zip code; we see the
'satellite' flying through the sky, closing in on _your house_ (or
whatever address you choose) and by changing the camera's 'zoom' and
its 'tilt' I actually saw a close up of his front door and a car on
the street in front of his house. I am still learning how to set the
focus, zoom and tilt controls, so I did not as of yet have a lot of
luck with my house, but I did do pretty well focusing in on the Arco
Building downtown; the tallest building in our town is six stories.
You want to go to a different location, anywhere in the world ... no
problem; just tell the program the zip or post code desired, addresses
as known, and we see the 'satellite' zoom off a few miles into space.
with camera still running; when it reaches the new destination, the
focus/zoom/tilt changes to the default values and you work on it from
Two caveats: You have to load the software you get on line from 'Keyhole',
the software is specific to your _Windows_ 9x or XP machine, and you
must have certain Direct X drivers installed. Also, you have to set the
screen size to at least 1024x768 I think. The installation got a
little bit technical for me, and I am not sure yet I have the best
versions of Direct X installed. It also helps if you have a very fast
internet connection. Well, you can look up 'Keyhole' on Google, and
read through the detailed instructions for installation and operation.
The instructions say if you do not have the right Direct X or the
proper size and resolution you will only get 'black objects' on your
screen (where the house or whatever should be).
Another caveat: _its not free_ . The version called Keyhole PRO costs
several hundred dollars, but the more limited version for home use is
about forty or fifty dollars, and you don't own it, you 'license' it,
but anyone can have a 'license' who has a credit card and enough credit
to pay out the forty or fifty dollars. I accidentally downloaded the
'Keyhole PRO' version first; it scolded me and said "this is the
version for use in companies, etc _do you really want that much_?"
So I backed out of the installation and chose 'Keyhole LT'
instead. You get a free trial period but during that time, a message
is stamped across the .jpg image output saying 'trial demo version'
or something to that effect. These are just one time fees, not
recurring or anything like that.
There is also a nag screen each time you log in, asking 'do you want
to buy it now?' I just click 'continue' and go on with my testing of
addresses, etc. I would really recommend you try it first, some of
the camera controls get very tricky and take very nimble fingers to
correctly operate; there are 'pan' and 'tilt' and 'focus', and arrows
to drag around on the screen image, which move your view to
wherever. But it seems quite an improvement over the satellite images
Google has been using for their 'maps' feature, being able to see the
front door of your house and your car on the street in front of the
house. The 'pan/zoom' control for example allows you to be twenty
or so miles out in space and close in to as little as 35 feet away
from the object under scrutiny if you wish (as long as you know how
to properly focus the camera, etc.)
They also have a BBS for questions and answers from the experts who
know about those thing better than I. If you decide to try it (either
for the free trial period or you actually spring for the forty or
fifty dollars to buy your 'license' to ride in the satellite with
your camera, let me know how you like it. I am finding it very
interesting, although difficult for a diseased brain to comprehend. I
have to stick to looking at giant skycrapers in Chicago right now.
Oh, and any image you find that you like, you can 'bookmark' it and
go back to it without having to always re-adjust the camera controls.