True Story From One Of The Books Authors Bill Zimmerly

I was driving home from work one day, when I suddenly blew out a tire on the highway. Fortunately, I was able to safely make it off the highway, and I pulled into a nearby McDonald's parking lot. When the vehicle was safely parked, I pulled out my cellphone and fired up the Google Maps application. It took about 30 seconds for it to get a GPS fix on my exact location, and I entered a search for a nearby business using the keyword 'tires.'About 10 seconds after that, I knew that I was only about 400 feet from a Dobb's Tire and Auto shop on the other side of the McDonald's—but it had been hidden from view by intervening buildings. Knowing this, I started up my van and drove slowly and carefully right to the Dobb's Tire and Auto shop and had the blown tire replaced in less than an hour. If that doesn't define a useful location-based application, I don't know what does.

■ Sky Map—For stargazers among us, this program is a real gem. It obtains a fix on your location using GPS and then, using the built-in magnetic compass of the T-Mobile G1, it displays a sky map of the area that you are directly looking at, as long as you're also staring at the G1 screen. This advanced application combines several of the built-in device's capabilities, giving that distinctive "wow factor" that geeks like us love to show off to other geeks.

The default display shows constellation names in blue text on a black background, with pinkish lines connecting the stars to make the constellation look more like what it is supposed to be (a bear, an archer, a dog, a scorpion, and so on).

It also displays and labels Messier objects from the Messier catalog using their assigned numbers. You can optionally have it display star names, constellation names, Messier object names, planets, the right ascension/declination grid, and the horizon. And as a great finishing touch, it can be set to automatically check for updates every time the program starts.

■ The Weather Channel—As hinted at in the discussion on Google Maps, this advanced application is a powerful tool that can get a fix on your location and display a map with various weather information overlaid on it. It also enables you to specify a list of favorite locations so that you can check the local conditions on demand. The main display is a brief summary of the conditions at all your favorite locations. By clicking any one of these, you can drill down to see greater detail about that location. It displays any local warnings with a button labeled View Alert. These can include tornado watches, severe thunderstorm warnings, or local flood warnings.

The specific-location page provides tabs for current conditions (date, current temperature, cloud condition, a "feels like" temperature, speed and direction vectored wind data, humidity, UV index, and visibility), an hourly display (of time, condition, temperature, precipitation, and wind vector averages), a 36-hour summary (today, tonight, tomorrow), and a 10-day forecast feature (date, condition, forecast, high/low temperatures, and precipitation expected).

This is a useful application for traveling and keeping tabs on the conditions that you're likely to see as you move through different cities and counties en route to your destination.

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