New Views of Planet Earth

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By CBS News Resident Technologist "Digital" Dan Dubno:

This morning, we're looking at a few things that can help you get a different view of our little planet.

First, a new software and web-based program called Earthviewer. Fairly soon, they intend to offer a service that anyone can buy that will allow you to zoom into any part of the Earth and see high-resolution imagery with overlays of information you may be looking for. Want to see your home? Or the mountains behind it? How about the locations of the nearest pizzerias? What's extraordinary about this application is that all you do is key in an address or a city and you will zoom down to it nearly instantaneously. Keyhole Inc., which makes the Earthviewer, expects offers a download the software and a monthly subscription for about $10 bucks.

If you are a pilot, or are just nuts about planes, you can track aircraft in real time. There are a number of services that let you follow a single plane at a time. This new software from allows you to track literally all of the approximately 5,000 flights that are traveling around the United States in real time. This fascinating software lets you even monitor your own "fleet" of craft and watch the weather systems the planes try to avoid.

Time to blow my own horn here: I created the CBS News "Disasterlinks" website because I wanted to get all the best real-time disaster and weather data in one place. Every government agency seemed just interested in showing what they wanted: I wanted to see everything. So if you are interested in information about hurricanes, tornadoes, severe weather, droughts, floods, terrorist incidents, etc., visit my amazing compendium of disaster-related material. There are even links to free software you can use to monitor earthquakes and storms.

I've been a huge fan of Microsoft's Mappoint software, which can help you plan out complex routes and even overlay demographic information on easy to create maps. But now, Microsoft has launched a wonderful web-based map creation software package online. Service is excellent and intuitive and it produces sensible maps in an easy to use way. Try it.

Two American companies also offer great views of Earth: and both have commercial satellites in space and both sell imagery of any part of the world. There are no more "denied areas' (places where our cameras can't go.) Technology has opened the skies…. Visit the sites and check out samples of their excellent imagery.