The Lake Chelan TerraBrowser

Thursday, 26 June 2003

The The Lake Chelan TerraBrowser is an effort to create a more intuitive and flexible interface to the Terraserver V5.0 maps and images.

At the core of the Terraserver is a database of maps and imagery of the US, created by the US Geological Survey. In collaboration with Microsoft and some other entities, that database has been placed online.

This remarkable information is broadly useful and, to me at least, intensely fascinating. But the user interface to that data, especially the primary one located on the home page, is limited and imprecise.

My own interest in certain imagery led me to examine the server's behavior more closely, and I found that it is really quite flexible. I realized that a better means of browsing the data set could be devised.

Once I understood what could be done, I wanted to do it.

The obvious means was Javascript.

Until now, I had never made anything resembling a proper study of Javascript. In point of fact, I still haven't! But this was an excellent excuse to learn, and learn I did. I've always learned the most, the fastest, and most happily when seeking new skills towards the accomplishment of a specific creative result.

Even as Javascript makes the TerraBrowser fun and interesting, it is also a drawback. First, because I have found it impossible (so far!) to write the script for every browser. And second, many people are rightly cautious of "active" web content and will miss out when they visit the page with their script-disabled browsers.

Javascript has limits, especially when applied across a spectrum of browsers and versions thereof. But I've worked around those limitations to a significant degree. I think most will find the TerraBrowser a pleasure to use.

I initially devised the Terrabrowser for my own use. For that reason, and for the benefit of my local friends and clients, the original page started up with a view of lower Lake Chelan in Washington State.

By adding a US map interface, I have greatly expanded upon the TerraBrowser's range; but mainly because of my love for this beautiful region where I live, I have retained the Lake Chelan moniker and its default to a view of the Lake.

I think the TerraBrowser provides for powerful and intuitive navigation of the fascinating USGS imagery. I hope many will enjoy it.

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