Well, File This!
Part 2 - Google Earth's built in FTP Client!
Let's say that your school doesn't have a networked server for student's files to sit around on and you don't want to mess with floppy disks, USB drives or anything like that. Or let's say that you have been called to do presentations around the state because your Google Earth lessons are so cool and you want to share the files with the participants but you don't want to burn a hundred CD's with all the placemarks and PowerPoints or deal with a zillion email addresses. One quick, easy, inexpensive way to share files is via FTP. As mentioned in part 1, FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. All it really means is that you can perform basic file management from your computer to a computer somewhere out in the world somewhere. Depending on the situation, you can create special accounts for students or people to have access to particular folders, etc. For instance, in creating this Nifty Trick I created an FTP account that you can test out the ideas with, but more on that later.
Where do you get an FTP account? It depends. Your school district might have a web server and the big wigs might give you an account that you can play with, or you can go out and buy one. Some are really cheap at under $4 a month for more space than your students will ever fill up with simple placemarks, while others can run hundreds of dollars a month. If you need to buy one it is a 'three price' deal usually.
The three prices (usually) are for the server space (starting at $4-5/mo), a Domain Name fee ($10-30 Year) and most of the time a set-up charge ($0-$50). Some hosting services are better than others, some offer you 'Free' this or that and some offer you all sorts of nice little extras like web page builders and stuff. The best place that I have found to start looking at hosting services is a nice little site called www.findmyhosting.com where you can select the different options and prices, etc. to find one that matches your budget and needs.
Once you have an FTP account somewhere, you can use links in Google Earth placemarks to open up a simple FTP Client inside Google Earth!! Here's how...
1. Create a placemark. In the description box you need to use the html <A HREF> code to create a link to the FTP account like in the sample below. The secret for the coding is that you put the username and password directly into the link like so, replacing your information for the text in red:
<a href="ftp://USERNAME:PASSWORD@FTPHost.com">Linked words</A>
Let's break that down a little bit...
You MUST put the quotation marks in to surround the ftp address. Then comes the ftp://which tells Internet Explorer (the program that is doing the work even though it looks like Google Earth is at the heart of it) what 'language' to speak to the internet. Then comes the FTP account's username, a colon, then the password followed by the @ and the 'address' of the server. No, it is NOT secure!!! If you put an FTP link in a Google Earth placemark, everyone you share or display the link with will know the username and password for the FTP account!!
Why would you do that? Well, because you need to and if you take the proper steps before hand you can minimize the security risks greatly. For instance, with my web host (the folks who own the computer where this web page is actually coming from) have it set up where after I bought the hosting account I got full administrative control over the FTP accounts associated with my site. I can add or delete FTP accounts, set the maximum amount of disk space each account can have and keep track of how much space is used. They use cPanel which is very simple to use, so you might want to look for a host that offers cPanel if you aren't sure about all this stuff.
It is as simple as clicking!
Managing accounts takes only a few seconds per account, so you can set one up for each student in a short amount of time.
It's easy to add or monitor accounts.
If you don't have too many students, you can create FTP accounts for all of them.
But getting back to the placemark link. Remember it looked like this <a href="ftp://username:firstname.lastname@example.org">
Most of the time it is that easy. But what you need to remember is that Internet Explorer doesn't read symbols the way people do. For some FTP accounts, like the one I created for you on this site you need to put in an email type address that contains the @ symbol. When Internet Explorer sees the @ symbol it thinks that the next thing coming is going to be the FTPHOST.com part, so you have to trick it by using the character equivalent, in this case the symbols %40, so email@example.com becomes bob%40bob.com. That is why if you download and edit the sample placemark you will see that to log in to the GELessons sample FTP account the link looks like this:
If you get a window like the one below, you messed something up in the code.
What you can do with FTP and Google Earth -
The power of FTP in Google Earth is the sharing of files related to a lesson. You cannot 'Open' files like normal. What you can do is copy, paste, delete and rename the file. Some students might find it confusing, so you need to let them know that FTP literally means File Transfer, not File Opening or File Editing.
There are somewhat limited file management options with FTP
Where you will probably find the most use for FTP in Google Earth is by having it as a way for students to turn in their files for grading. So, you can create a webpage on your server that they go to to download the beginning placemark and then when they have completed their assignment they can drag and drop from the folder where they saved their placemarks, directly into the FTP window.
So they open the folder where their placemark is saved, click and hold and drag the file over to the FTP window, it copies over and a few seconds later you have a student product available and ready to grade from any computer connected to the internet that you have access to, either at home or at school.
In many ways, the FTP capabilities can save you more than $5 a month worth of aggravation dealing with disks and drives!
Good Luck and Have Fun!