This may just go without saying for some of you, but I’m gonna say it anyway.

Google Earth totally rocks.

I know that downloading has been disabled right now, because a couple of friends have told me that they get told to try again later when attempting to download it.

And, yes, I know, it’s only for Windows, and only on higher-end hardware. And you need a fast ‘net connection to make use of it, ’cause it streams the images off the internets.

But given all that, it still rocks. You can get a brief taste of it by going to Google Maps, searching for a location, like your address, and then turning on satellite images and then clicking and dragging around. Cool to see your neighborhood from above, like you’re flying around, right?

OK, now imagine being able to do that, and then angling down so that you’re looking towards the horizon as you glide along above your street. And then being able to search for, say, bars along the path. Searching for anything you could find in a Google Local search, really.

Or having a real-time tour of the driving directions from your house to, well, anywhere in the US or Canada. I think; I know they only recently added all the satellite images for outside the US and Canada to the Maps stuff so that might not be in Google Earth just yet. Give them time.

I’ve been using other software to map out my running routes, but this is now my favorite tool for it. I can pinpoint my half-mile marks based on actual landmarks, depending on how updated the satellite pictures are.

Google says they’re working on a Mac version. I’m not sure either of my home Macs are up to the challenge, though, being fairly underpowered machines. Might be time for an upgrade… For now I’m using my work PC.

And it’s free! For now. But Google has been all about the free-as-in-beer for end users, so it’s likely to stay that way for a while. In fact, the only feature they make you pay for that I can see is the ability to pull GPS data out of the program.

Go grab it if you can.