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Associated with the School of Computer Science at Florida International University, the High Performance Database Research Center (HPDRC) released TerraFly in November 2001, a Web-based application that allows users to view Geographic Information Systems (GIS) images. In agreement with TerraFly, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) provides the project with many of its satellite images in exchange for a public service: free Web-based access to its application. Through a rather sophisticated Java applet, users have a bird's eye view of the images, much like other Internet services have provided in the past, such as TerraServer (last reviewed in the June 28, 1998 Scout Report). TerraFly, though, improves the still picture delivery of these services by enabling users to view the images continuously and seamlessly, giving the user a feeling of "flying over" the photographed land areas. Different resolutions are available, and the interface is extremely slick though somewhat complicated initially. Users of low bandwidth or active memory should be wary; the applet demands a lot from your computer. Also, even though access to the Web-based application is free through the USGS agreement, users should be aware that the TerraFly Project seems to have mostly commercial motivations. Note: This reviewer had difficulty using Terrafly with Mac Netscape 4.7; however, Mac Internet Explorer functioned properly. This site is also reviewed in the April 5, 2002 NSDL Physical Sciences Report.
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