google earth

Google Earth integration for Drupal 6

Druplicon meets Google EarthThe KML module for Drupal allows you to view location-enabled data from your site inside of Google Earth, and it's now available for Drupal 6 - the latest release of the Drupal content management platform.

Having realised last week that the Location module for Drupal was already working pretty well on Drupal 6 I set about to update the KML module to start working with it.

It had been a while since I'd done much with the module, and have thankfully had some help from another community member - Robin Rainton, or raintonr - who was keen to add some new features, so it was great to get stuck back into it and try out some of the new things that Robin had added since I last touched the module. Perhaps the biggest new features are the caching of KML feeds so whenever you're accessing them in Google Earth you put less of a strain on your Drupal site (especially if you are using Network Links to regularly update the feed), and the ability to choose the style of the markers instead of using the default pins that we used to have.

So, if you want to use the KML module on your Drupal 6 site, you can now do that. You'll need to download the latest version of Location module and also the latest version of KML module. There will likely still be issues with this early version, so please let me know if you come across any by posting them in the issue queue on drupal.org.

Note: The icon depicted above is a combination of elements from the Druplicon (licensed under the GPL) and the Google Earth icon (used without permission). Hopefully it's not breaching Google's trademark or copyrights or anything...

Aerial Imagery of the Isle of Man: now on Google Maps

After a long wait, Google has updated their aerial imagery to include high resolution imagery of the Isle of Man. The imagery is available through both Google Maps and Google Earth.

You can now explore the Island's towns (e.g. Castletown, Douglas or Ramsey), glens (e.g. Silverdale Glen, Glen Helen and Glen Maye), historic monuments (e.g. Lady Isabella or the Laxey Wheel, Corrin's Tower on Peel Head, Peel Castle, Castle Rushen in Castletown and Derby Fort on Fort Island, Langness) and the only mountain (Snaefell) or anything else that can be seen from above.

Unfortunately there still isn't any name data, so it's much easier if you know what you're looking for when exploring.

Update: I see from the Isle of Man Newspapers website - Improved Isle of Man images on Google Earth - that the imagery being included in Google's database is dated 2006 and is the result of "months of negotiations involving the Department of Local Government and the Space Commerce Division of the Treasury."

Views support in Drupal's KML module

To set up a KML feed in Drupal all you need to do, after downloading the latest Drupal 5 version of KML module, is create a new view, enable the 'page' display for that view and choose 'KML feed' as the format to display. You can then filter it by anything you wish, sort it in different ways and feed it arguments to filter it down even further on the fly (untested, but should work).

If you want to use that feed as a self-refreshing network link, point the user at http://www.example.com/kml/view/<viewname>/networklink

I haven't had a chance yet to test it all thoroughly but it appears to work just fine. Any feedback and testing appreciated though, as always.

3Dconnexion SpaceNavigator

3Dconnexion SpaceNavigator on my MacBook Pro at workI folded last week and bought myself a SpaceNavigator 3D mouse from Amazon after reading great reviews of it. They have been out a little while but only recently has the company released a Mac driver, and Google Earth added support for it in 4.1.

Flying around Earth is likely to be my main use of this great little peripheral.

Since I first opened up Google Earth I didn't find it completely intuitive to navigate, but I got used to it. Mice and trackpads simply weren't designed for this purpose.

The SpaceNavigator is designed exactly for it though, giving you so much more power in navigating a 3D globe. I have already spent hours just flying around Stuttgart's valleys and even trying to land at its airport - I wasn't too successful - as well as flying around the Isle of Man and exploring parts of Japan and Manhattan where there are 3D buildings available to create an imersive world through which to fly.

I'm not sure I have much of a practical use for the SpaceNavigator at the moment, but it's great for just allowing yourself to get lost exploring the world from the comfort of your laptop. And with Amazon offering to pay 20EUR of it just for me to use their credit card, it was difficult to stop myself getting this great little navigator.

Finding Drupal sites from Google Earth

I love finding new sites that use the Drupal KML module, and seeing what they're doing with it. The great thing about it is that it can be used for absolutely anything that has associated location information, so every site out there can be a site about something completely different to the previous one.

The site I discovered today is an Ontario real estate website, listing houses for sale and their locations, but also events and other such things. Not only are they able to add a 'kml' link to each relevant page, allowing the user to click through to Google Earth and see the location, but they are also able to have people find their properties through Google Earth itself.

For a while Google has been indexing KML feeds (ones from Drupal included) and allows their content to be searched in Google Earth. To take an example, there is a $300k townhome in Newmarket, Ontario for which the realtor has added location information to the node in Drupal. Try doing a search for 'townhome in Newmarket' whilst in Google Earth, and you'll see that property show up as the first in the list of web search results.

The KML module can help bring your information to a completely new set of users, or potential customers in the case of the Jasmina Homes site.

How do I know about what sites are using the module? Well, I've started keeping track of of them through the Google Alerts service, monitoring any site that has links with kml/node in them.

Geo brings people to Drupal

I recently discovered the iCommunity.tv localised video news site (via High Earth Orbit) and was especially interested as it was being run on Drupal.

This was one of the first places out on the internet that I'd seen Drupal's KML module being put to good use, for example to be able to view in Google Earth all of the citizen journalist videos from YouTube that are tagged as being from the city you're interested in (e.g. Stuttgart video news and its associated KML feed of Stuttgart video news). Grass roots journalism is only useful to readers if the content is filtered to your needs, if it's in the area you want to know about and it's the type of news that you're looking for. The iCommunity.tv site does that by tagging videos by location (both coordinates and the name of the nearest city) and by topic (politics, community life, arts, etc.) and lets you filter by a combination of those*.

I heard back from Chris Haller of iCommunity.tv after posting a comment on his announcement of the site. He told me that he was previously a Mambo/Joomla user, attracted to Drupal both by its flexibility and by its geo-capabilities. It's great to see that happening, and someone told me exactly the same thing yesterday too. It's also great that organisations like the Open Source Geospatial Foundation are using Drupal as their platform of choice.

Its good to see Drupal becoming more and more of a GeoCMS and people taking the tools and finding ways to apply them in useful and practical ways.

* KML feeds for multiple tags do not currently work in the KML module, as I've just discovered

Google doodles in Hyde Park

I was in the Apple section of a department store in town yesterday having a test drive of the latest MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops when I noticed that they had Google Earth running on them. Trying the MacBook Pro out first, I was very impressed with the responsiveness of the machine when exploring in Google Earth. The MacBook wasn't quite as impressive, but still very nice and an improvement upon the iBook I've got at the moment.

Google Maps version of Hyde ParkAs I was exploring, I zoomed into London and specifically into the area of Hyde Park and its north eastern corner. I had spotted a road pattern that didn't look quite right on top of the imagery that was being shown. Hyde Park is full of criss-crossing paths that are really quite distinctive from above, but what I was seeing didn't fit that pattern at all.

It rather looks like a glaring intentional error has been introduced, perhaps so they can tell when people have copied their maps verbatim (read the Maps that Lye page on the OpenStreetMap wiki for more information).

Yahoo Maps version of Hyde ParkWondering if it was perhaps a series of paths that had been introduced after the aerial imagery had been taken, I took a look at Yahoo Maps to see what they showed and they didn't have the paths included.

I suppose the logic in adding erroneous data here is that it doesn't matter if you follow it as you're in open space anyway, and so it won't matter to pedestrians if the paths don't actually exist.

KML and GeoRSS now ready for Drupal 5.0

Over the past few days I've been readying the KML module (thanks to AjK for starting the work) and the GeoRSS module for new releases that will work on the latest, shiny, version of the Drupal content management platform: Drupal 5.0.

They are both now ready (with the exception of some minor bugs and some feature requests) and there are a number of bits I need to backport to the 4.7 version of KML module to ensure it starts working again with recent updates to the Location module. I also need to make sure that GeoRSS module is consuming feeds properly from the successor to Aggregator2, Leech, as well as Feedparser.

I've also been helping out a little with the port of Location module as it is an essential part of getting the two modules to produce their geodata. It's not quite ready to be tagged as being ready for Drupal 5.0 but most of it is already working in this release.

If you're interested in any of these modules, please try them out and report any bugs in their issue trackers. If you have any ideas for future features, please also add them in there. Ideas (and patches, if possible) are always welcomed!

New beta of Google Earth released

I read over at Ogle Earth this morning that a new beta version of Google Earth v4 has been released.

I was pleased to see that the ability to access standards-based OGC Web Map Service servers has been included in this version. Whilst this is an improvement upon the previous methods people had of including WMS geodata as an image overlay in Google Earth, it does seem to be hidden away in an options screen (the Refresh tab under Add Image Overlay) that doesn't make much sense to me. Also I wonder why layers you've selected in there aren't added as children of the Google Earth layer you've created, allowing you to enable and disable layers from that WMS when desired.

Most importantly, this is the first version of the Google Earth v4 beta that hasn't crashed my Mac when I try to zoom in to an area.

Geo-enabling your Drupal site

Unpublished

Did you see Zacker's mashup machine screencast a few months back, showing how simple it is to add geographic information into a Drupal site and then display it to the users on top of a Google Map?

If you set up a site like that, then the likelihood is you have a lot of geographic information within the site. There's no point keeping it locked up within the site when you can set it free and allow people to explore it in Google Earth alongside any other dataset they want to use.

Don't worry if you haven't already got a Drupal site with geotagged nodes in it, it's easy enough to put one together. I'll talk you through the steps below. I'm going to assume a little familiarity with Drupal, but once you've managed to get over the hurdle of installing Drupal, the rest is relatively easy.

  1. Download and install Drupal 4.7.3 on your web server if you don't already have it installed (check the manuals if you need)
  2. Download location.module, gmap.module and kml.module into your site's modules directory.

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