Saturday, July 14, 2007

How Software is Built: NASA World Wind

I have been a fan of WorldWind since the day it was released - way back when. UnfortunatelyI have never had the time to contribute to this open source project. (Hopefully that will change in the future). So when I found this link to a web interview with Patrick Hogan, the program manager for WorldWind, I had to read it..... you can too at: http://howsoftwareisbuilt.com/2007/07/14/patrick-hogan/ What I have admired about WorldWind is that: 1. When it was first released - it was way ahead of the pack (Google Earth and Virtual Earth werent even on the horizon). 2. Its been trully open source - Most of what the development/plugins you are seeing now - was developed by developers contributing to this project from outside NASA. 3. Any company can leverage WorldWind - and create a brand new product - and sell it - without having to release any of their code - this is the beauty of the NASA open source license. This too is amazing - because WorldWind is a infrastructure product - so keeping it on a non-restrictive license - allows for companies/people to leverage this product to come up with innovative new products - that might provide NASA with cool new ways to look at their data. This I believe should be the true mantra of all open source projects: Allow the implementers to decide if their extensions should be part of the open source community or proprietry technology. The benefits of leaving it open-source - is that your code becomes part of the project - so future releases will support it. But if you choose to keep it proprietry - then you might have major issues trying reconcille changes as and when newer versions come out. This I think is true of atleast "infrastructure" projects such as WorldWind or OpenSceneGraph. 4. In the face of competition from the BigGuys (MS and Goog), WorldWind is still cool - and I still turn to it - for new ideas in visualizing old GIS data. 5. Finally - its written in C# - shows what can be done with .NET and Managed DirectX.

1 comment:

Robert said...

FYI, Google Earth predates WorldWind by a number of years. The history of Google Earth is that Google bought out Keyhole and thereby inherited their Earth Viewer which became... Google Earth.

There are plenty of other examples of web based whole earth viewers that predate WorldWind too, Earth Viewer was just the best of the pack - and probably why Google bought Keyhole.

Also WorldWind have now ported from C# to Java. Why? WorldWind under C# just showed what couldn't be done with C# and DirectX.. work on any other platform! Java and OpenGL do, something they should have adopted from the day one... well actually they did actually start with C++ and OpenGL but that's another story... Still they are back on track now.