Category Archives: Reviews

RoboGEO exports ESRI Shapefiles

I just noticed that the latest version of Windows photo geocoding tool RoboGEO, out a few days ago, supports exporting to ESRI’s Shapefile format and even to Microsoft’s MapPoint. That’s in addition to Google Earth, Maps, and Flickr.


I wonder if more Google-centric applications will also start to accommodate ESRI ArcGIS Explorer’s native file formats in anticipation of that geobrowser’s release.

Geoblogging with Blojsom

Just two weeks ago Ogle Earth ran into the Gombe Chimpanzee Blog, which uses Google Earth as the browser of choice for displaying its location-based entries. This week, a system that lets you do just that automatically, courtesy of Adam Burt: Geo-Blogging.

Geo-Blogging is Mac-only at the moment, and it is built on the open-source Blojsom blogging system, but even so non-Mac non-Blojsom users might want to take a look to see what’s coming.

Adam’s system involves installing a special template that produces a KML version of his blog, to which a Google Earth network link can subscribe. The entire process is a bit more convoluted than that, but he’s got copious screencasts that make it easy to grasp. Adam also has a Flickr set of screenshots.

(Separately, Adam’s application got me to take a closer look at Blojsom as a blogging tool, and I came away impressed.)

Google Earth, cover model

cover_nature.jpgI’m off to read a whole slew of articles on mass mapping, virtual globes and in particular Google Earth in this week’s edition of Nature , but I thought you might like to know now and get started yourself. Declan Butler, who wrote many of them and snagged some great interviews at both Google and ESRI, introduces the week’s issue on his blog, and links to the articles directly. They are all on free access, and I suspect this is something we can thank Declan for.

[Update: 22:27 UTC: Kathryn Cramer already has her take out.]

Geotrace your food? Soon

It’s vaporware at the moment, but GeoAgriTrace, a project partly funded by the EU and partly by Europe’s agro-industrial complex, wants to make it possible for European consumers to track where their food comes from, using geobrowsers like Google Earth.

While more information is always a good thing, in this case I suspect it’s a blatant attempt by lobbying groups to shore up popular support and otherwise entrench the Common Agricultural Policy, arguably Europe’s most harmful program in humanitarian terms, especially for the developing world, but also for consumers at home.

The PDF explaining the project is a dry read, but luckily ZDNet has done all the heavy lifting when it comes to an overview for those who are intrigued by what European taxpayers’ money gets up to, so over to them.

Ogle Earth mentioned in old media

I don’t usually blog content behind paywalls, but if it involves a mention of Ogle Earth, I’m willing to bend the rules: The Atlantic Monthly has one of the most gushingly enthusiastic articles about Google Earth I’ve ever read, and it’s a wholly infectuous read. Staff writer James Fallows relates how his first use of Google Earth felt as momentous as the first time he saved a file, used a modem, used Mosaic or typed a word into a search engine.

Unlike some shallow reviews of Google Earth, Fallows rightly highlights the user-created content that has bloomed for Google Earth. And here comes the plug:

The easiest way to see what’s on offer is through sites like and They have news and screenshots, and links to files that create the overlays for Google Earth.

(Perhaps that’s just a tad too self-referential, so I’ll atone by also linking to Google Earth Hacks and Google Earth Community.)

Couldn’t not fact-check The Atlantic, though. For an article published February 7 and intended for the March issue, the release of a Mac version early in January should be an event in the past, not a promise for the future.

Fallows also pushes as a liaison between Google Earth and Flickr; while excellent, geobloggers is currently down, so in the meantime make do with Flickr2Map, Flyr, and Flickrmap, or try Panoramio.

And finally, ESRI’s Jack Dangermond is quoted as saying, “There’s no way to connect a professional data set to Google Earth, so in a sense it is pretty thin. […] But because it is spellbinding to customers, it can only build awareness of geography.” Maybe Dangermond has a different definition for “professional” or “connect”, but there is a wealth of data converters out there, including translators for WMS, ArcGIS (Arc2Earth), CAD applications… pretty much everything 3D and geospatial is being ported to Google Earth, not least video game characters.

Temporary link to the article here.

Navizon lets you be geo-social

A free mobile application for Symbian/WinMob5 devices called Navizon gets some clever new functionality, and it is now just begging for Google Earth integration.

The background: Navizon uses GPS, wifi and cellular signals to position you geographically inside a peer-to-peer network with other Navizon users, where you then get to be all geo-social with one another: You can track buddies (with their permission), or search Google Local, for example.

But now there’s a new version and a new feature: Geotags. No, these are not the geotags we know and love on Flickr; these “geotags” are messages written by Navizon users that are posted to a physical location instead of to a URL (at least metaphorically).

For example: You have an atrocious meal at a restaurant, and decide to warn people away: You write a message on your mobile device, tag it (√Ü la Technorati) and post it to Navizon’s server then and there. Anybody else plugged into the network and passing nearby will from now one be altered by it, if they are listening for the right tags. It’s a very clever idea (one that some Swedish friends have been mooting for a while), and it was only a matter of time before somebody implemented it.

So what’s still missing? The Navizon database of tags is crying out for a Google Earth network link that we all can access. These messages would also make great content for insertion in GeoUrl, and why not use the network to post phonecam pictures, both to other users nearby, and automatically geo-tagged to Flickr?

I think that in five years, when we all have our iPodGPScamPhoneMacBooklet, what Navizon offers will be commonplace, but for now, it’s an early adopters’ playground.

(Bonus nefarious uses of Navizon: Listing security codes to doors (especially useful in Stockholm), listing locations of speed traps… But it would also be an excellent tool for treasure hunts.)

(Via GIS user weblog)