Google Earth and Microsoft Virtual Earth are engaged in a full-on battle royale for geo-geeks' eyeballs—but not, apparently, their money, because both are free.
Google Earth boasts a much larger customer base and community of interactive users who contribute placemarks and other content; they've also got an apparent edge in 3D building generation (thanks to Google StreetView), and controllable sun placement and lighting now in version 4.3. Not to mention the KML format trump card, a community of open scriptability tying in to Google Maps, and good old-fashioned mindshare (hell, "googlearth" is on the way to being the next "kleenex" or "podcast", much to any competitor's chagrin).
But Virtual Earth has 3D cities that look just about as good, equally detailed ground maps, the same SpaceNavigator support, and a few tricks up its sleeve that Google Earth doesn't—namely some friggin' awesome-looking clouds (inherited from MS Flight Simulator's cloud engine) that put Google Earth's lame 2D cloud layer (itself still new in 4.3) to shame.
Go watch the video. It's stunning stuff.
Commenter Duncan also notes:
One thing that really amazes me: all of Miami is fully populated with trees in Virtual Earth. It is not random trees, but 3D trees in the correct locations. It must be an automated technique, but it works pretty well. One interesting thing is that it adjusts for tree size, but frequently confuses the type( no doubt hard to get right). Palms are sometimes replaced with skinny poplars, etc, but it often gets it right. I haven't seen the trees anywhere else yet.
That's another big win for Microsoft, one that Google's going to have to play ketchup on—along, of course, with improving their clouds, for which they've really got their work cut out for them.
Another commenter says:
i love to where technology is going, between competition, this is going to a fantasy.
Indeed. It's a good thing both these companies are intimately familiar with the potential rewards of not ignoring a market just because it doesn't pay anything for your product; if the browser wars have taught us nothing else, it's that if people are willing to be a captive audience for you, don't do anything to dissuade them, and for God's sake don't stand by and let some competitor come and steal them.
Even better: this time around, Microsoft has no home-field advantage, because they're not able to give their product an unfair leg-up by bundling it (at least not yet), so they have to actually make the product better. And this isn't the web we're talking about; there's no massive corpus of uncontrolled content out there to render and split up through inconsistent standards compliance; the two programs are separate entities with isolated but similar bodies of data to present, and never the twain shall meet. It's truly a choice of preference.
As a Mac user my personal choice is by necessity still Google Earth—but if Google is forced to improve it in response to Microsoft's encroachment, then I'll inherit those improvements in due time. Which judging by the pace of this technological arms race won't be long at all.
Who's supposed to find this funny? I know I sure don't. It's like a stunt film to show that he's unbiased and willing to poke fun at the Left, or something. But if left-leaning people are supposed to feel chastened by it, I can't imagine any right-leaning viewers finding it even remotely humorous or forward-worthy.
It's like this is Rall's impression, as a Jane Goodall-like outsider, of what a right-winger might find funny, if only he could get into their thick heads.
Bulldog enlists the help of his addled chum Algae, who wasn’t doing anything at the time, really, just standing around the hospital waiting for his wife to give birth.
I once read a children's book, probably one of those stacks that were written in the 50s that we were all supposed to relate to even though they talked about how only rich people in New York City could afford refrigerators and everyone else (including the protagonists) put their perishables in a box hanging outside the window all winter, where the kids had to give a name to something (probably a gerbil or a hamster or a diplodocus or whatever kids had back then). They dismissed a bunch of different names as being too easy to make fun of ("Bart, Cart, Dart, Ee-art..."); but then settled on "Algie" as being immune to such manipulations.
I couldn't figure out why they didn't think "Algie" was worse than any of the other possibilities they considered. I mean, it's not like you run into anybody named Algie today, for what I would have considered obvious reasons. But I guess I should just assume that back in the 50s they didn't teach this modren-style New Biology that treats the unicellular phyla as equally important to the walking and talking ones, the way I grew up with it. Back then they probably just called it all "scum" or something, right?
I mean, damn. Don't forget to play with the objects at the end.
Yesterday—purely in the interest of promoting the business, you understand, and reaching out to some choice clientele—we took two of our most circuit-oriented cars down to New Jersey Motorsports Park for a track day.
A grand time was had by all, and I learned an immense amount in a very short time—chiefly just how much I have yet to learn (e.g. "a lot").
Okay, just what exactly is going on with advertising lately?
First there's those Bill Gates/Seinfeld ads that were so confusing and stupid that Microsoft pulled them off the air after only airing two of them and switched immediately to a me-too-ism campaign trying to counter Apple's "I'm a Mac" ads by saying PCs are better because they're ubiquitous and can afford celebrity spokespeople. Or something.
And now there's Volkswagen. Hey, remember when VW ads were awesome? Remember that "Share the Joy" one with the guy going through the geeky features of his new car, like the windows that roll down when you lock the door from the outside, and his exasperated wife storming back inside? The infamous "chair" ad? The "Unpimp ze auto" ones? Fahrvergnügen? Yeah... well, this is what they're up to now:
With more of this tomfoolery here. What's hilariously sad about all this, of course, is that the Routan is just a rebadged Caravan, and hearing Brooke Shields talk about "German-tuned suspension" and "German engineering" without acknowledging the fact that it's about as German as "Das Big Mac" is an exercise in fending off depression over the thought of how many people are potentially in the market band that a) cares about "German engineering" and b) doesn't know that the Routan has so little of it.
VW and I had a torrid fling throughout the late 90s, when it was as close to an ideal make for me as possible. Then we parted ways. Perhaps it was inevitable, since it's so hard for two people to grow and mature in exactly the same directions. But now I don't even know them anymore.
I don't know whether there's some kind of pervasive numskullery washing across the advertising landscape (don't even get me started about those Twix ads that, perhaps out of sheer incomprehension by a second-string ad agency, ditched the "Twix lets you buy time in a sticky situation by filling your mouth with syllable-munging caramel" concept for "Twix actually lets you physically pause time while you think of an appropriate comeback"). But this is one trend I'd be happy to see reversed.