From the Actrix Online Informer February 2009
Google Maps and Street Level
Most of us are probably aware that Google's new mapping service has been in the news a fair bit lately. This is mainly because of its great Street Level view feature which allows you to virtually walk down a street just about anywhere and look right and left into shops or houses. A number of people have complained that their privacy has been invaded or that they've been snapped in embarrassing positions or locations.
However, most people who have used Street Level will tell you it's pretty harmless in most cases. I've had a virtual walk up and down my own street and have not seen anything I wouldn't have by walking up and down it in the real world. In fact you can see a good deal less.
Street Level can have some real uses. You could use it, for example, to see what someone's house looks like before you go there, but mostly it's just great for playing around.
Google Maps and Street Level are very easy to use. First, just go to www.maps.google.co.nz. You'll end up looking down on a map of New Zealand. You can zoom in or out of the map using the slider bar over on the left of the page. At any time, you can use your mouse to drag the map in any direction, just as if you were sliding it across a table top. You can also choose whether to view in map, satellite or terrain modes, depending on what you want to know about what you're looking at. The switches for these are at the top right.
The further in you zoom, the more detailed things get. Once you've zoomed in on wherever you want to virtually be, you can turn Street Level view on by simply dragging the little orange man at the top of the zoom slider and dropping him on the desired location on the map. Suddenly you'll find yourself standing on the street. Drag the map to look in different directions, and click the white arrows to move further into or out of the view.
In fact you can activate Street Level view at any stage, no matter how much you are zoomed in or out. Simply drag and drop that little orange man. If you're bored, a great game to play is to zoom right out so all of New Zealand is below you, and then drag and drop him onto random locations and see where you end up. You can find yourself in some beautiful remote spots, or smack in the middle of a big city. It's a bit like having your own malfunctioning tardis!
If you want to go to a specific address, just type it into the Address bar above the map. Include number, street name, suburb and you'll go right there. Because this works for just about anywhere (in New Zealand or the world!), it's a great way to re-visit houses you used to live in to see how much they've changed. It was fun, for example, to go back to 6 Cameron Avenue in Sydney, Australia and see that the pine tree I fell out of when I was four-years-old is still there.
Once you've finished playing with Street Level, you may want to check out some of the serious Google Map tools. The Get Directions feature, for example, is pretty sophisticated. You can enter two locations to get directions between them. You can even say whether you want directions for walking or driving and whether you want to avoid highways or tolls. Once you have the directions worked out there's even a feature to email them to others so no one will miss your party.
For a full set of Google Map features, including how to use them, see http://maps.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=68259.
Copyright © 2009 Actrix Networks Limited | Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org