Lunar EarthBrowser is a tool to view the Earth from a lunar perspective. When you
first bring up this application you see a 3-D rotating earth. The specs say the resolution
is 1km/pixel. The user can zoom in to a whole range of cities/locations by way of
a menu. Cities are indicated by yellow dots. As the cursor moves over a dot the city/location
name and temperature are displayed. Various features of the current map setting can
be turned on and off including weather forecast, cloud animations, earthquakes, ocean-buoy
information, Antarctic iceberg info, tropical storms, fires, webcams, etc. Worldwide
information on weather, oceanography, local images, country statistics are available
to the user. World travelers, weather aficionados, boaters and information junkies/lurkers
are the target users.
- Global weather forecasts
for over 17,000 locations
- High resolution 1km/pixel
satellite map of the Earth
- Live hurricane and
tropical storm tracking
- Satellite cloud animations
are updated every 3 hours
- Live earthquake map
with magnitudes and links
- Live ocean buoy data
for over 250 buoys
- Antarctic iceberg
- Daily fire hotspot
- Hundreds of dynamic
webcams all over the globe
- Add and save your
- Political borders/Tectonic
- Over 15,000 volcanoes
with links to more information
- Screen Saver
- Times in cities of
all world time zones
- Links to facts about
countries all over the world
To run EarthBrowser 2.5.5 on Mac OS X 10.1 or later version, you need 128MB Ram,
64MB of disk space and an Internet connection. Earlier versions will run on earlier
versions of the Mac OS 9 and earlier. There are also Windows versions. A list of
all downloadable versions is available from the EarthBrowser web site.
I downloaded the EarthBrowser application from the website. It was 4.3 MB and took
less than a minute to download. After double-clicking on the .dmg file, a folder
was created that includes the application, a 9-page manual and a ReadMe file. I ran
the application on a 12" PowerBook G4, 1.5 MHz, 512 MB memory, with an 80 GB
disk and a SuperDrive. The PowerBook is connected via Airport to a LinkSys WRT54G
wireless router which is connected to a cable modem.
The first thing I did in EarthBrowser was to select Location List from the Menu.
This displays a location list window for choosing a specific location. When you start
to type in the name of a city, a live scrolling list scrolls to that city.
EarthBrowser Location List
When you double-click
a city name, the map will zoom to that location. It can take up to 30 seconds to
reach its final state. Upon completion, you are presented with a high resolution
graphic map image showing forests, mountains, bodies of waters, and presenting key
points on the map that represent major cities or locations. A nice feature is that
when you quit EarthBrowser and start it again, it remembers where you left off from
your last session, displaying the same map at the same location.
EarthBrowser Map View
If you move the cursor to various yellow dots (which represent major cities), the
city name and temperature are displayed. If you have the Forecast setting turned
on and click on a city, a popup is displayed with a 7-day forecast, temperature,
barometric pressure, wind speed and more. These are static popup displays, and do
not update in real-time. You have to go back and click on the city again to update
the values on the popup. If you click the country flag on the Forecast display, you
will be taken to the CIA fact site that contains information about this country.
EarthBrowser Forecasts and Weather Conditions
The Forecast setting is
controlled by a toolbar. EarthBrowser comes with a floating toolbar that lets you
turn on various features of the application, such as showing shadows, earthquakes,
clouds, forecasts, storms, volcanos, webcams, fires, icebergs, and buoys. It includes
additional features for showing the default view of the entire world, zoom in, zoom
out, rotate hand tool, grid lines and settings. The settings button displays a window
for additional options, such as City Lights, State Borders, Temperatures, Local Times,
If you turn on the Ocean
Buoy setting, you will see buoy icons in the oceans. Again, if you move the cursor
to a buoy, a short description of the buoy and its location is displayed. If you
click on the buoy icon, you will see a picture of the buoy with air temp, water temp,
wind speed, wave height and more. See Fig. 3. If you click on the picture of the
buoy in the popup a NOAA web site will be displayed with more information
about the buoy including graphs of recent measurements.
EarthBrowser Buoy Information Popups
Although the buoy info
is updated hourly, the popup info lags behind, typically displaying information 2-3
hrs old. If the popup is up and the buoy info changes the popup disappears. This
behavior differs from the forecast popup that stays up but does not update its info.
Also, when I first bring up these popups, many of the popups are off the screen to
the right. I have to drag the popup to the left to see the entire popup. Once re-positioned,
the popups will always appear in the same position from then on.
Clicking on an iceberg icon will display a picture of the iceberg. The user can also
turn on country names, grid lines and calculate distances interactively. If cloud
cover is turned on you can see an animation of clouds passing over. If you are zoomed
in too close the cloud information is too coarse. You need to be zoomed out quite
a bit to have the clouds look natural. If earthquakes are turned on you see tiny
circles with numbers and colors. The numbers are the magnitude of the quake. The
colors indicate how recent the quake was. The hotter the color, the more recent the
quake, the cooler the color the older the quake (see the Map View figure above).
If you move the cursor over one of these earthquake icons you'll see information
such as magnitude, location and GMT time of the quake. If you click on the icon,
you'll see a USGS site with more detailed info on the quake.
Earthquake information retrieved on your browser when clicking on an earthquake icon
If you just want to get
a nice view of the entire world, click on the Default View toolbar icon (the first
one), and a nice graphic image is displays of the Earth. Using the hand rotate tool,
you can spin around the world and browse various countries. When you are ready to
zoom in, click on the zoom in tool and the map starts zooming in on the location
you click. After each click, the application re-renders the map view, and you must
wait until rendering is complete before clicking again. However, if you hold down
the mouse button, the view continues to zoom without re-rendering, allowing you a
speedy zoom to the closeness you desire.
EarthBrowser Default World View
Another nice feature is
the webcam tool. By turning on webcams, a webcam icon displays in all the locations
of the map where a real-time webcam exists. From there you can request a screen capture
to make a copy of the image. The one oddity I found with the screen copy function
is that with a desktop busy with files, the screen capture image is not always placed
in an empty area of your desktop. In my test, it was overlaid directly on top of
another desktop file. In any case, the webcam pictures are very cool. Below is a
webcam shot of Half Dome at Yosemite National Park in California.
Webcam Image of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park
In the pulldown location
list, there are around 17000 different cities and locations to choose from. You can
also add your own cities and locations. There are several other customizations possible,
such as updating the webcam list, or saving your favorite views in a Favorites List.
The geological features displayed are also very impressive. Mountains, valleys, lakes,
etc., are all shown in amazing texture detail. One of the cool settings that I turned
on was "Ocean Features", which displays the names of oceans as you navigate
around the globe.
I did have a problem with the Ocean Buoy popup when I upgraded from 2.54 to 2.55.
I did get a response for this problem in a couple of days via e-mail. There were
two other email questions I sent in regarding popup display issues and webcam updates,
but I never received a response to those.
Lunar EarthBrowser is a 3-D simulation tool that gives the user various pieces of
information about the world. The user can see weather information, cloud cover, ocean
data, earthquake, volcano, fire, tropical storm, Antarctic iceberg and country data.
By moving the cursor over various points and icons and clicking, web sites are displayed
with even more up-to-date information. The application includes features for adding
new cities/locations and new webcam sites to the application's database, although
I was not successful in adding new webcams. The Earth can be rotated and the user
can zoom in and out down to 1 km/pixel resolution. Cities/locations can also be viewed
by a scrolling list. The amount of visual and texture information provided by EarthBrowser
is astounding. People who are interested in information about weather, ocean conditions,
earthquakes, country data, and other information on the Earth, will find EarthBrowser
to be a useful and indispensable tool. Despite the few minor bugs I encountered,
I would highly recommend this application. EarthBrowser provides great functionality,
visual appeal and useful and current global information at a very reasonable price.
- Ease of use, large database
- Nice selection of different
types of information
- Summary information links
to websites containing more detailed information
- Good looking geographic
features, mountains, valleys, lakes, etc.
- Easy to navigate to any
location in the world
- Inconsistent behavior
of popups (most popup windows initially appear off screen)
- Ocean buoy information
2-3 hrs old
- Cloud cover data too
coarse when zoomed into a location.
- Had trouble creating
new web cams
4 out of 5 Mice