When I read Torsten's blog the other day about Open Street Map (OSM) integration, I just had to check this out for myself. Verdict: it works. Look, there's even the pub across the street from my house:
Even though this is new code that is still being worked on, the zooming and panning are already pretty smooth. It will be fun to see just how good it gets, really. I've heard rumour of integrating the OSM search as well.
So now Marble not only handles multiple projections (globe, flat and mercator thus far), provides multiple overlay options (countries, geographical features, temperatures, nighttime, ...), shows the stars in "space" when you zoom out, supports the KML format (as made popular by Google Earth), can load GPS traces, lets you measure distances, print maps, etc, etc, etc ... it also lets you browse right down to the street level.
I'm a huge fan of OSM because maps are, IMHO, a very important set of data and they've found a sustainable way to make that information Freely (as in Freedom) available to all. Best of all, if the maps in your area aren't great you can help them fix that by contributing GPS routes and annotating existing data.
Now OSM has a kick ass and highly portable rich client user interface thanks to Marble. Marble works very well on Linux, BSD, OpenSolaris, Microsoft Windows and MacOS X operating systems and on a variety of hardware form factors (desktop, laptop, UMPC, tablet). It also ships by default with the KDE desktop environment; what other mainstream desktop ships with a 3D globe? =)
Massive props to the people who have breathed life into both the Marble and OSM projects.
(Awesome side note: Marble is the first hit on Google when querying "mac os desktop globe". It's "only" third when searching for "macos desktop globe" though.)