Sunday, November 26, 2006

3D Virtual Houston

Came across this interesting Newsweek article on the back and forth arms race between Google and Microsoft in online maps. Microsoft has just introduced 3D satellite maps for 15 cities, including Houston. You can fly around between buildings, which are rendered amazingly accurately (I put it in the slowest but most detailed mode). Microsoft makes money by placing floating billboards in the sky over paying customers.

After a slow install process (only works in Internet Explorer), I checked it out, and they're pretty cool, albeit extremely limited. As far as I can tell, the only portions of Houston they have in 3D are downtown and midtown, which is a little lame. The Texas Medical Center, Reliant Stadium, Greenway Plaza, and Uptown are all flat as a pancake. Dallas seemed to have a lot more buildings in 3D, although still broadly spread in the area around downtown. I recommend trying it out, but the controls take a little getting used to. For your convenience, I was able to create links to pretty cool views of downtown from the southeast side near Toyota Center and from the west side. Huh. I just tried those links out that they generated for me, and they sent me to central Washington State. I guess it is beta software. Oh well, play around and enjoy. Try the "Houston" link in the left sidebar, and "Las Vegas" is pretty cool too.


At 12:11 PM, November 28, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an aside, I want to sing the praises of the often belittled Chinese Tallow (aka "Chinaberry" tree).

I was driving along I-45 yesterday when I noticed that the unkempt groves of Chinaberry trees were ablaze in yellow, orange, and red. Not like a postcard from New Hampshire, but still a pleasant change of scenery.

As far as I can tell the Chinaberry and the Ornamental Pear are the only trees that consistently change colors (ignoring pail green and brown) here in Houston. I've read a few times about Houston having a problem with lack of tree diversity because of most people's affinity for live oaks. So here's one guy rooting to to save some space for Chinaberry trees.

(Preferably not hovering over parking lots so I don't get that nasty black crap on my car when the "berries" fall off)

At 12:30 PM, December 06, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chinese tallow (Sapium sebiferum) and Chinaberry (Melia azederach) are two different species. The trees Brian observed along IH-45 were most likely tallows, which have naturalized and are considered an invasive species. Fall coloration in Houston varies from year to year, but if you look around, there are always trees to be found here that will be showy. Some ash species, many of the deciduous oaks, and even crapemyrtles are fairly dependable. Also the native red maple, the Chinese pistache and baldcypress can be brilliant at times.

At 12:32 PM, December 06, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

d'oh...left off the ever-reliable sweetgum!


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