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Last Updated: Friday, 28 September 2007, 12:08 GMT 13:08 UK
Webscape
Passportstamp.com
By Kate Russell
Click Webscape-r

Kate Russell gives us her latest selection of the best sites on the World Wide Web.

Times Square

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Over the past couple of years, Google Earth has made headlines by giving us a stunning birds-eye view of our planet from satellite images. But getting down to human-eye level has not really been catered for.

Google's Street View fixes that by using lots and lots and lots of still photos to give us an eye-level view of the major roads in several US cities.

There is a light-hearted video tutorial to get you started but it is also pretty easy to get stuck in yourself.

Simply head to one of the Street View cities - say New York - highlight the Street View box and you will see a little orange character appear, ready to be your visual guide on the ground.

Click on him to see all the surrounding scenery and then why not take him for a walk - everywhere outlined in blue is Street View territory.

Use the arrow keys or drag the mouse to navigate your way around. You can rotate through 360 degrees and double-clicking zooms in, though there is not much point because you lose resolution, so the resulting image is not much clearer.

One other caveat: do not even try Street View if you have a slow connection because the photos will take an age to update. Nevertheless, if you have got a blistering connection, you have simply got to check this out, even if you have got no practical use for it.

It is incredible to think how much work must have been involved - mapping San Francisco alone involved compiling more than a million images.


Trafalgar Square

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Now, Google Street View is definitely a glimpse into the future of what we can expect from mapping apps a few years down the line - but as you might expect, Google's nemesis Microsoft have a few tricks of their own up their sleeve.

Microsoft's live maps uses aerial images shot from an angle and from nearer the earth's surface to supplement its core satellite maps. So, whereas a satellite map gives you a rather flat view, the other aerial images add real dimension to the image, and shows off incredible detail in images.

Here too, the globe has been prioritised, so expect more angled views of the US and Western Europe than other parts of the world.

One other nice feature here is being able to add pushpins - these are basically notes and photos which you can upload and save to your Microsoft live account to access the next time you log in.

And if you are prepared to download a dedicated application rather than simply browsing, you get treated to the piece de resistance - the 3D view. Once installed, you will find buildings in some locations faithfully modelled in three dimensions to provide a truly breathtaking experience.

In this sense I think it trumps Google Earth's attempt at the same 3D modelling features. Having said that, as a truly useful application for finding locations like restaurants, hotels and the like, Google Earth wins hands-down.


ArtRage

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Finally, an artistic application guaranteed to have you fixated for hours.

ArtRage is a free download aimed at bringing watercolour painting, majestically stroking its way onto your desktop - without any of the mess!

It is compatible with both Mac and PC, and is a beautifully designed piece of software which will appeal to would-be Picassos of all ages.

In fact since it was released it has already attracted more than two million downloads.

It is extremely easy to begin painting: after choosing the type and size of your virtual canvas, simply select one of four paint tools and colour from the palette and paint away.

This is done either with the mouse, or preferably with a graphics pen and tablet which makes the whole process far more realistic and allows a lot more control, as it does with any graphics design program.

I love the way you can mix colours and they appear as they would in real watercolour painting.

You will find there are loads of other fun features too - like stencils and more paint tools - though these are greyed out and only become active when you buy the fully-fledged version for $25 (12.50). While these are nice to have, there is plenty going on in the starter edition to keep you going for ages and ages. All in all, great fun.




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