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Surfin’: Got Parts, Maps and Macs?


By Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU
Contributing Editor

This week, Surfin’ returns to RadioShack, Google Maps and Steve Jobs

The Great Create

Last month, I wrote here that Heathkit is back in the business of producing kits.

This week, I have more good news: RadioShack is back in the parts business providing bits and pieces for hobbyists and do-it-yourselfers.

Their website has a tab dedicated to this effort, and their Great Create webpage promotes it all by publicizing projects that customers created using RadioShack parts. According to The Great Create webpage, “We want to know what great creations you’ve come up with using RadioShack parts. Our goal is to gather the coolest projects from our most creative customers and share them here. So, show us what you’ve got and submit your project now. Let the making begin.”

A caveat: This may not be “news” as in an up-to-the-minute, breaking news sense. I stopped visiting RadioShack stores and websites after they marginalized their parts department, so I am not sure when they reversed course. But I assume there are others like me who abandoned the Shack and that is why I am passing along this information to enlighten anyone as clueless as I was.

Google’s Virtual Flying Machine

Love ’em or hate ’em, Google comes up with a lot of neat stuff and they’ve done it again, in my humble opinion. A new feature in Google Maps allows you to virtually test drive any traveling directions that Google Maps provides.

Say you want to go mountain-topping on Mount Washington this weekend, but you've never been and you need directions. Go to Google Maps, click on the “Get Directions” button, type your home address in the field labeled “A,” and “Mount Washington, NH” in the field labeled “B,” then click on the blue “Get Directions” button.

After Google Maps suggests some routes, click on the 3D button just to right of the suggestions and voila!, the map switches to Google Earth mode and begins tracing your route as you follow above in your virtual flying machine.

I calculated that the trace travels at approximately 871 miles per hour on dirt roads and superhighways, so a 50 mile trip takes about 206 seconds, but your mileage may vary depending on your Internet and computer speeds. Note that these features require you to install the Google Earth option in Google Maps.

My Steve Jobs Story

Anyone who has been reading my stuff for awhile knows that I am a dyed-in-the-wool Mac fan. I bought the first Mac in 1984 and have continued buying Macs ever since.

A few years ago, my Mac allegiance was tested. I had a six-month-old Macbook Pro that had a display issue. Researching the problem, I found that it was common to a batch of Macbook Pros manufactured over a two-week period in Singapore.

The display was defective, but Apple had no plans to recall the Macbook Pros and fix the problem. Any fixes were the customer’s responsibility, but getting a fix was a little daunting because the replacement part itself cost about $1000.

I was upset about spending $1000, plus labor on a $2500 computer that was less than a year old and I considered going over to the Dark Side. But I read somewhere that if you wrote directly to Steve Jobs with a problem, he would consider its merits and fix the problem if he thought the merits called for a fix. He would not inform you that he got it fixed, but it would get fixed.

What did I have to lose? I wrote a letter to Mr Jobs stating my case and soon I exchanged my sick Macbook Pro for a brand new one at no cost. And as luck would have it, Apple had just introduced a new line of Macbook Pros, so not only did I get a free replacement, but I also got a new model.

Thank you, Steve Jobs; may you rest in peace.

Until next time, keep on surfin’!

Editor’s note: Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU, likes Google Maps. To contact Stan, send e-mail or add comments to the WA1LOU blog.



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