Time to correct a few details from the last post. At present, the coverage offered via virtual globe software is not real time (it may be over a year old!) and not 'military grade' - i.e. at best, you can see a car, but not a person (1 pixel = 15 meters). On the bright side, it is still cool :) Now, for comparison of two of the most popular softs: World Wind and Google Earth (and yes, this time I have installed them and seen them myself :>).
Keeping it short: World Wind offers several types of maps, but kills the CPU (official bug promised to be fixed in some future release), has no hiqh quality coverage other then USA and eats drive space like mad. Google Earth is much smaller, faster and hdd-friendly, and offers some HQ maps of non-USA places, although they seem mostly limited to Western Europe. Both softs could do with better user interface and debugging. For example, World Wind can either show all names (city, dostricts, streets, etc.) or not at all. Google Earth has quite a few filters, but seems to have problems displaying important things like cities name, and its search function seems to work badly with non-US cities (actually, my searches for Katowice and Cracow/Kraków were directed to some strange places in US). There are quite a few other bugs: World Wind maps don't work well with axis change, creating terrible artifacts that seem to recreate themselves even after image refresh, and Google Earth interface can freeze sometimes. All things considered, all of the above seem more like a beta versions then any final release - but they are still mighty cool. I was unable to find my house in Katowice (Poland), but I could find my quarter and I am pretty certain I recongized some larger landmarks like the naerby airfield, lake or scyskraper. US coverage is beautiful, and you can find individual houses (hotels, universitites) easily - after half an hour learning the controls, I found both the university I will do my PhD (University of Pittsburgh) and hotel I will be staying for the few days looking for the appartment.
Here's hoping that high quality coverage for rest of the world will be availalble soon, and that real time super high quality coverage will not take more then few years. Anyway, I highly recommend downloading the above software and taking a look. If I had to chose, I'd say go with Google Earth first - it is smaller, faster and more user friendly. If you like it, give World Wind a try as well. Expect to lose a few hours either way :)
PS. Mars/Moon and other maps in making...
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