Sunday, April 17, 2005

nasa world wind free software - map exploration heaven for the genealogist

this morning, between bagel bites, i downloaded the most wonderful new genealogy tool. and it's free. totally free.

i'm in love. i'm in love. and i've only used it for five minutes!

nasa world wind software (beta release 1.3) is incredible, and i only know a tiny fraction of what it may be able to show me. here is what i do know these first minutes:

i typed in harriman, tn on the place finder and got a menu containing the following:
harriman tennessee [county] roane [layer] us cities population over 1k population 6744 latitude 35.93389 longitude -84.5525
and a host of other harriman locations with the same kind of information including that for
harriman junction
south harriman
harriman baptist tabernacle
harriman cemetery
harriman church of christ
harriman city hall
harriman city hospital
harriman high school
harriman occupational school
harriman united methodist
old harriman cemetery
south harriman baptist church
south harriman middle school
wdhb-am harriman [radio]
wkce-am harriman [radio]
wkjs-fm harriman [radio]

by clicking on the top of the list (harriman tennessee), and clicking a button that says altitude, i was able to see a satellite view of the town with the place names marked. i clicked another button on top of the main screen that says usgs topo maps and got a usgs map of the area with the place names on the list above - and more - marked. by hitting print screen on my keyboard, i was able to automatically open a window on my hard drive to download a screen shot in png format (or other formats) to my computer. it's a little like having google maps and google satellite technology on my own home computer, and i - map fiend that i am - am so psyched out that i'm practically bouncing in my chair. and i'm also beginning to wonder why i'm writing this instead of playing with - ahem - i mean, studying this software.

i have discovered that there is a keychart image online at nasa that shows how to navigate the software with your mouse and keyboard and which also describes what the various menu choices offer. you can view the
keychart1-3.jpg (jpg image, 1024x768 pixels) here for yourself.

it finds places. it gives county names for towns. it draws boundaries. it downloads coordinates to your gps. it can pinpoint cemeteries. it even has world flags.

i'll upload a couple of screenshots in a second, but then i'm outta here to see what in the world i can see....

note: to use the software, unfortunately, you need a fairly new computer with a fast processor and 3d video card. here are the system and minimum requirements as listed in the software release notes:

nasa world wind 1.3 system requirements

* windows 95, 98, 98se, me, 2000, or xp
* 3d graphics card (
* internet connection
* directx 9.0c and managed directx 9.0c
* .net framework 1.1 runtime libraries

minimum configuration

with the minimum configuration, performance and functionality may be less than expected.

* 700 mhz or higher cpu
* 128 mb ram
* 1 gb disk space (world wind's cache size is 2 gb by default; you must reduce the size of your cache)

recommended configuration

* 1.4 ghz or higher cpu
* 256 mb of ram
* dsl/cable connection or faster
* 3 gb of disk space

you can download the software directly from nasa, but i used because it has a full windows-based installer version. it's totally free. really.

i'm in love. i'm in love. spring is in the air. i continue to gush as i get ready to send some screen shots to this site....

*screen shot 1

screen shot 2

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