The Google Earth database is both enormous and easily accessible. It can be viewed in a variety of ways including the main Google Earth program, as well as with a compact browser plug-in. Easily understood tools allow navigation and manipulation of the data by anyone with a computer and high-speed internet access. At a slightly greater level of complexity, it is also possible to manipulate the data using high-level scripting and programing languages such as XML,KML and PHP. Users can also add in their own creations using 3D modeling programs such as Google's SketchUp. One of the most creative users of all these possibilities is James Stafford who operates the barnabu web site.
My favorite by James is a GE plug-in which he calls the
Mini Flight Sim.
Using just the mouse and arrow keys, one can fly a jet at hyper velocity at low level at any location in the world. An interesting feature is that the jet's altitude is locked at a fixed height above the terrain. A practical result of this is that control is hugely simplified because of the elimination of the need to control movement on one axis. What that means is that even someone like me with rather unathletic reflexes can negotiate difficult terrain at very high speed. Of course, it also helps that the little red jet has the magical capability of flying unscathed through buildings.