The top deck of the bus

Here’s a simple way to tell if software is any good or not: is it fun to use? If you struggle and wrestle and curse, it’s probably a heap of crap. Probably an expensive heap of crap.

I’m finding more fun playing with Google Maps right now than anything for a while. It’s quite spellbindingly simple and effective, and wowingly fun. There’s some serious thought and innovation gone into the stuff you don’t see, so that what you do see is right. Zoom in and out to cache all of the relevant bits of image, and you can make your own little Powers of 10.

Here’s how much fun it is. Google Sightseeing is dedicated to just finding cool stuff on Google Maps. Go read the comments too, because they’re also a trove of goodies.

Nice as Google Maps was before they hooked up the satellite imagery, it makes for an entirely different experience to be able to see stuff. I find the effect oddly like sitting on the top deck of the (double-decker) bus when I was a kid, right at the front by the window. For some it might have been about pretending to drive the thing, but I was always more interested in seeing over the walls and the fences and the big box hedges that separate a small boy from most of the world. In this case what’s over the fence is Area 51 (note that, when you switch the display, it literally isn’t on the map), but it’s the same difference.

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