Sunday, March 18, 2012

Google Maps and Google Earth – Where are the topos?

"Wow, Google Earth  is amazing!" Such hyperboly drips from blogs and discussion boards these days, yet for those of us who love topographic maps, Google Earth is more style than substance. Weak waypoint management and an inability to show contour lines make it close to useless for GPS / backcountry trip planning.

I am amazed at how many blogs (like Ogle Earth, via The Map Room ) are popping up, focused on Google Earth. They even have their own newsgroup! And Google Earth isn’t nearly as popular as Google Maps. Sheesh! What is driving this Google geomania? Well, the hacker crowd loves the fact that they can customize these applications. And there is a lot of potential there, but what about topo maps?

In researching this, I found a nice hack that allowed you to integrate Google Maps with Microsoft’s TerraServer. This lets you to toggle back and forth between Google’s map and satellite views, and TerraServer’s topo maps and more detailed b/w aerial photos. Despite my avowed antipathy to hacks  (granted this is primarily due to a lack of skills on my part), I decided to give it a shot. It really wasn’t that hard…

First, I downloaded Greasemonkey, a Firefox extension, then right-clicked on the topo_monkey.user.js  script on David’s blog, and selected "Install User Script." Hmm, okay…it wasn’t that difficult. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. Apparently, Greasemonkey 0.3.5 fixed some security issues found in previous versions, temporarily removing the Greasemonkey API’s. Now, as I said before, I wouldn’t know an API from a hole in the ground, so you’re not going to get a technical explanation here. Suffice it to say that, unfortunately, it does not work.

Maybe a new version of Greasemonkey will fix this. Heck, maybe this will ultimately be integrated with Google Earth. Then I might agree that Google Earth is truly amazing. Perhaps a reader / Google Earth aficionado will inform of us of another way to use topo maps with these applications. Anyone out there know of such a thing?


About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.

Comments

  1. are there ANY websites that have contour lines on satellite or map images in a google earth style?? i found earth tools.org but you can’t zoom that close…

  2. are there ANY websites that have contour lines on satellite or map images in a google earth style?? i found earth tools.org but you can’t zoom that close…

  3. Try this…
    http://www.backcountrymaps.com/
    Or go to http://local.google.com and click on the Terrain button.

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