Notes on NASA World Wind notes

The Earth is Square posts notes from a recent NASA World Wind development meeting. Kudos for being so open. Here’s a CliffsNotes version:

  • The Java versions of NASA World Wind (for the Mac and Linux) appear to be delayed somewhat, with perhaps something beta-like on offer in late October, vs. September originally.

(Bummer. Why? I’m on an Intel Mac. I can and do use BootCamp to run NWW natively in XP, but that requires a restart, and keeps me from my regular desktop. Parallels Desktop lets me use Windows without rebooting, but it doesn’t yet support DirectX, which NWW requires. The upshot: I’m still not using NWW regularly.)

  • Future NWW development seems to be moving to the .NET 2.0 platform, in addition to requiring DirectX. There are some concerns raised that this would narrow the installable user base, but the conclusion seems to be that it’s best to go with the newest software technologies as a way of building the best possible geobrowser.

This is a definitely a different tack from the one taken by Google Earth, where the priority for version 4.0 seems to have been to widen the user base as much as possible, with feature-equivalent versions for Windows, Mac and Linux and a focus on speed optimizations. Nor does the Windows version of GE depend on .NET, while DirectX is optional, allowing the application to be used by (many more) older computers. All this is in keeping with the notion of Google Earth as a geobrowser — just as with web browsers, the user’s choice of operating system doesn’t matter; the content is entirely platform-neutral.

I can see two reasons for this divergence in tactics. 1) When your resources are comparatively limited (as is the case for NWW), you want to get the biggest bang for your development buck, and 2) if you’re volunteering for an open source project, you want to have fun, and making NWW run on old computers isn’t perhaps all that much fun. I’d do exactly the same:-)

What isn’t clear to me, though, is how (or if) the cross-platform Java version of NWW will be feature-equivalent with the PC version. Specifically, most add-ons are Windows executable files. How will these be made usable on Macs and Linux? Will plugins work? Will Mac and Linux users be able to author add-ons?

  • Finally, the exclusivity deal between Google and DigitalGlobe is discussed. The sourcing on this is getting iffy, but:
    [adamhill] yeah and google said that what [DigitalGlobe] said was wrong as well

    [Bull_[UK]] lol

    [adamhill] they only prohibit *commerical* use

    Which would mean that the DigitalGlobe salesman quoted in the Geowanking mailing list was misinformed.

5 thoughts on “Notes on NASA World Wind notes”

  1. I don’t think these chat excerpts show the WW community in a good light. I read one developer disrespecting another. Think twice before you log your IRC channel!

  2. That’s how open-source development looks when there isn’t corporate HR policy dictating behavior. :)

  3. Not so, Erik. Deriding the size of other developers contributions is just petty, and potentially corrosive. This is not something you see in all open source development IRC channels. Not by any means.

  4. It is kind of the way we work, it may not be the best way I agree, but we have a big fight then compromise and make up, and it usually works out for the best. WW is not your usual OS team, it is an OS project run by NASA a gov agency, whose goals are often changing and sometimes they cant even tell us what the goals are (security issues and all that cr*p), but overall we work as a team and love doing it.

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