Google Earth woes

For the last week or so, I’ve had issues with [tag]Google Earth[/tag]. In May, this year, I purchased – from idle curiosity – a Plus license to see if it offered anything really useful above the functionality from the free version. Since that time I installed it on my linux laptop, my linux OS at home, then the windows partition on that dual boot machine and finally on the personal windows desktop at work. I couldn’t remember seeing any mention then, and can’t see anything in a license now, that limits the number of machines you can install your Plus license on, and there was certainly no technical restriction to prevent me installing it where I did.

Now, it appears that Google have implemented a two-machine policy. In fact, it’s a two-OS policy. The result is that Google Earth Plus only works on two of the four places I installed the license. Even worse, Google Earth is now irrevocably tied to that Plus license in all four places for the duration of the license (12 months). According to the support email I received from Google, there is no way to revert to the free version on a machine:

Thank you for your note and feedback. First, please be informed that once you’ve upgraded to Google Earth Plus on your machine, you’ll be unable to use the free version again while you have an active Google Earth Plus subscription. At this time, you’ll need to continue to use Google Earth Plus on your machines.

ie. Google Earth is now unusable on two of my machines. I’ve done some basic testing on my home Windows platform by removing the software and searching through the registry for any mention of Google Earth – removing those remaining references. I also removed any reference in the “Documents and Settings” folder to local user settings so that, as far as I could tell there was no remaining trace of Google Earth on the box.

I then re-installed GE. When I start it, it asks me for an email address, pre-filled in with the address I used to apply for the Plus account. There is no way to log into the servers for access to the free functionality, that I can see. The FAQs on Google’s website list a answer to the question of reverting, which appears to require a previous email address being registered with them, use of which allows you to get back to the free mode. Given that the website also states that no registration is required to download and use the software in free mode – which is the case for my initial installation of GE – this answer is useless to me.

So there you have it. Google has forced me to stop using their product on as many places as I would like to. Additionally, I have to report that the Plus functionality is not really worth paying for: there are other tools that are free that allow you to import GPS data from some device, and create a KML file for use by Google Earth. The annotation functionality might be useful, but not to me so far.

Now the Pro version might be more interesting, given that it hints at what might be called Google for Business, but it’s still limited to better data import functionality, with what could be some primitive aggregation. Compared to serious business intelllligence tools (Hyperion, Business Objects etc.), Google is nowhere.


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