Saturday, April 30, 2005

Satellite Imaging Software Comparison - Google's KeyholeLT ($29.95) vs. NASA's WorldWind (Free)

I've been a long time user of Keyhole, even before Google purchased them. I saw a recent post by someone about using Google's address locator feature and then looking at the Satellite image option that comes up. This Google feature is not as "zoomable" or feature enabled as Keyhole but not bad for free.

I was reading a recent e-newsletter and they had the below snippet of information:

Dig This: NASA World Wind is similar to Google's KeyHole, but it's free. World Wind uses USGS data, satellite images, and other sources to give you some cool images of anywhere in the world. [Thanks to Mike D. for this gem.]

Here's Keyhole:

I have not downloaded the WorldWind program as of yet (see below where I detail the download) but it seems to be about 171Mb in size (actually ended up over 500Mb) and it requires a relatively newer PC with at least a 1Ghz processor and says most computers purchased in the past two years are compatible. The screenshots on the website seem impressive.

I know that with Keyhole (a much smaller and more efficient program), I can actually zoom into a single house and get pretty decent resolution for most major cities. I can't read a license plate like the CIA/FBI can probably do but it aids in looking over an unfamiliar area and street ingress/egress. I can also put in an address and zoom into that address however I have found a few errors over the years where it will go to an address as much as a block away so it is not infallible. Keyhole does have a FREE Trial edition (only 10 days) so if any of you want to compare the products more closely, please download both of them. I will be downloading WorldWind soon and will report back with more info (see below for my continuation of this report).

I know that Keyhole can get pretty high resolution images (where you can zoom into an actual building) of most of the metro New Orleans area and most of the westbank (but not all of Metairie nor any of Kenner). It also has high-resolution images of Baton Rouge and Shreveport/Bossier City. It has lower resolution images of the rest of the State where you can still look at streets but not zoom into actual clear images of a particular address. I recently emailed Keyhole support since the satellite image on the FREE Google Address page had a better image than my Keyhole program and they responded that they are updating the Keyhole database on a daily basis.

On a separate note, for those P.I.'s or other businesses who do not have a website as of yet, Yahoo is offering a FREE easy to build small business website with up to five pages and a FREE listing in their search engine and White/Yellow pages. Go to: and you can have your own website up in about an hour's time. It may not have all of the bells and whistles of a website designer's multi-hundred dollar website but heck.. it's FREE and you can make changes whenever you like. If you have never utilized a FREE website service such as Geocities or if you are not very good with computers/websites, email me off list and I will be happy to help via email or over the phone, also FREE. I put my website together last night in about 45 minutes if you want to take a peek at my partially completed website at I only used three of the five pages available at this time but I will be adding more in the next few days.


Well, I just finished downloading WorldWind from NASA. Even with a DSL (Lite) connection, it took nearly 3 hours because you first have to download a small program called BitTorrent which is a download utility that also works as an upload utility. As you are downloading a program, using BitTorrent, it is also uploading the same file to another BitTorrent downloader so it uses your ISP upload bandwidth as a way of enabling more people to download the software. This is my first time using BitTorrent but it seems to be a pretty efficient way for people to download really big software programs like WorldWind which is 171Mb. (It actually ended up being 564Mb !!!!!) BitTorrent has a default setting to download the program to your Desktop. You can change the default setting by browsing to a particular folder of your choice if you do not want the program download created on your desktop.

And after you finish downloading WorldWind, BitTorrent keeps running, uploading the file to someone else who is downloading it until you close out BitTorrent, I think. I'll have to look into how long BitTorrent will continue to run. I'm just going to let it keep running while I finish installing World Wind. Does anyone else have any information about BitTorrent? Good, Bad or otherwise?

Next, you have to open the WorldWind.exe program which is identified by the NASA logo on your desktop. (There is also an update to WorldWind but you have to finish installing the downloaded version first, then go back to the WorldWind download site and download the upgrade.)

I have Windows XP-Pro with SP2 but I next had to install Microsoft's DirectX for Managed Code Update (December 2004) and the EULA requires you to have a legal copy of the Windows OS that you are using.

After completing the MS-DirectX download, the NASA World Wind 1.3 Setup Wizard opens. After accepting the EULA for World Wind, you get the option of which components that you want to install. I accepted all of the NASA original components and all of the NASA add-ons but I unchecked all of the Community Add-ons since I did not know what they were. Hopefully, as I learn more about this program, I can look into the Community Add-ons and maybe add some of them. Some of them looked interesting from an education standpoint.

Next, you choose where you want the program installed. I accepted the default Destination Folder - C:\Program Files\NASA\World Wind 1.3 (The final size of the program WITHOUT all of the Community Add-ons is 564.1 Mb) It still took about another 20 minutes to install this bad boy. This better be worth it! I don't remember Keyhole being nearly as lengthy of a download or install process. I would also recommend that you close any other programs while you are installing World Wind as it seems system intensive. Even typing this email causes glitches or slow-downs in my typing where it takes a few seconds for letters to appear after typing them. I have 512Mb of ram but it seems the install process utilizes quite a few of them Mb's.

O.K., The Wizard says the Setup is complete. When you click Finish, it gives you the option to view the release notes. I accepted just to see what they say and here is the beginning of the release notes:



World Wind 1.3Release Notes
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS===================
* Windows 95, 98, 98SE, ME, 2000, or XP* 3D graphics card (* Internet connection* DirectX 9.0c and Managed DirectX 9.0c* .NET Framework 1.1 runtime libraries
Minimum configuration---------------------
With the minimum configuration, performance and functionality may be less than expected.
* 700 MHz or higher CPU* 128 MB RAM* 1 GB disk space (World Wind's cache size is 2 GB by default; you must reduce the size of your cache)
Recommended configuration-------------------------
* 1.4 GHz or higher CPU* 256 MB of RAM* DSL/cable connection or faster* 3 GB of disk space


O.K., back to my download of the upgrade.

I attempted to move the World Wind.exe file from my Desktop to the WorldWind folder that I created in MyDocuments but it would not allow me, saying another program is using the file.... I'm guessing the still open BitTorrent upload that I still have running.

O.K., I started the download of the upgrade, which is 6.3Mb, and upgrades World Wind 1.3.0 to version 1.3.1. I executed the upgrade and installed it via the Wizard but once again, I unchecked all of the Community Add-on components although some of them look intriguing.

I did not have to restart Windows like with some downloads so here goes!!!!

O.K., it opened up with the Earth visible from space with the continent of Africa showing. There are about a dozen icons across the top. Keyhole opens with the USA visible and there is a series of controls at the bottom including a place where you can just enter an address or city/state and it will zoom into that address. I don't see that feature on World Wind yet. I decided to just click on the western horizon of the Earth and it spun the image around. O.K., I'm beginning to see how this works. Keyhole has the same feature.

I had to experiment a little... I know I should just read the darn Help Manual but I'm hard-headed. I decided to hit Shift-+ and it started zooming into the good old USA. I kept pointing my mouse and clicked on the New Orleans area and then hitting Shift-+ and it zoomed in but then stopped zooming while I was still looking at the entire Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas.

Not sufficient!!!

I then clicked on different Icons but nothing was happening. I opened the "Place Finder" window and entered "New Orleans, LA" in the Search box and clicked Enter. A list of "Places" showed up (i.e. - Churches, Hospitals, Radio Stations, etc.) I clicked on the New Orleans Jazz Museum and some Lat/Long numbers showed up in the position box. I clicked "Go" and it started zooming in and the various "Places" names showed up on a blurry picture. The altitude was set at 9Km so I lowered it to 1Km. Still only the name in yellow on a dark gray image.

Nothing visible.

Doing some more experimenting, I clicked on the "WMS" Icon which opened up the "Web Mapping Server Browser" window. Hmmmm.. .nothing really user friendly in there.

O.K., some more experimenting and I finally have something showing up. I clicked the "USGS Urban Area Ortho" icon and it started bringing up some type of image. The first actual viewable image since I started trying to zoom in closer than the Gulf Coast area. A rather blurry B&W image of the "New Orleans Jazz Museum" came into view. I clicked the "USGS Digital Ortho" icon and lost the blurry B&W image, only to be replace by another blurry B&W image.

So far, Keyhole is far superior to World Wind as far as ease of use and learning curve goes.

I remember being able to jump right into Keyhole and start using it's basic features and functions.

I started Shift-- keying out of the close up of the New Orleans Jazz Museum. Keyhole has a simple game type control panel for moving around, zooming in and out, etc., where with this program, you just have to click on one of the edges of the map to pan the image that way.

I opened up the Place Finder icon/window again and tried putting my street address into the "Look for place named:" box but it said "Not found". I then just put "Veterans Blvd., Metairie, LA" into the box and clicked Search. It's taking a while in it's "Searching" mode. Keyhole is superior to World Wind in this function. I probably could have just kept clicking the edges of the map or zooming out and finding Veterans Blvd on my own and zooming back in but I'm waiting to see what the Search produces. The 5 minute search for Veterans Blvd. (a very large street if you are not familiar with Metairie, LA) produced no results.

Hmmmm.. not very good so far.

Using my own locate and zoom, I was able to bring up a better image of Veterans Blvd. and David Drive intersection than Keyhole has although Keyhole says they are upgrading their high resolution maps of metro areas. I could never find a way to bring up street names on the image which is very easy to do with Keyhole. Also, I do not see an easy way to email an image to someone. With Keyhole, you just click on the envelope icon.

I did find out that you do not have to use the shift key when using the + or - signs for zooming.

Also, you can just use the cursor up, down, left and right keys for panning around the image.

In conclusion, I LIKE KEYHOLE MUCH BETTER THAN NASA'S WORLD WIND PROGRAM FOR PRACTICAL USE BY P.I.'S, REAL ESTATE PEOPLE AND GENERAL MAP PRODUCING PURPOSES. World Wind looks like it would be good for world wide viewing but not as useful for mapping out streets and addresses with an overhead satellite image.

I hope this review wasn't too long but the NASA program is kind of complicated... maybe kids and astronauts will be able to jump right in but this old computer geek had a little trouble. I'll keep this program for a while since I have about 40Gigs of free HD space but at over a half a Gig in size, this isn't for everyone. As I play with the program and figure out how to use more of it's functions, I may write a follow up review. I hope I can figure out how to put a layout of Streets into the image.

I really like that feature on Keyhole.

For ease of use, size and functionality, Keyhole for $29.95, gets my vote, even though it's not free like World Wind.

After trying WorldWind for two weeks, I uninstalled it. I'll keep using KeyholeLT and Address Search for my Satellite Imagery.

Hope this helps some of you guys and gals.


Lenny Vasbinder (Retired P.I.)

Yahoo! Groups Owner/Moderator:

EDIT ADDED 05/11/2005-


I just got a Keyhole email saying that they have updated the entire database and I checked it out and the images of my area are SOOOOOOO MUUUUCCCHHHHHH BETTTTTTTEEERRRR, I mean so much better than it was a few days ago!

And now when you sign in, you can choose from the Old Database, called the Legacy Database, or you can pick the New Database, called the Primary Database.

Now, without a double, Keyhole is MUCH, MUCH, MUCH better than WorldWind, even though it costs 10 cents a day to use.
Related Posts with Thumbnails

World Flag Counter added 04/14/2010 and U.S. Flag added 04/26/2010, so the numbers are WAY low.

free counters Free counters!