Washington Apple Pi

A Community of Apple iPad, iPhone and Mac Users

Macs in Moscow and Elsewhere!

By Bob Jarecke, Allen Kent, and Travis Good

Washington Apple Pi Journal, reprint information

In our continuing saga of espousing that we are an international organization, we have another chapter to add. This report comes from the former Soviet Union and points southwest.

One of our long time members, Allen Kent, was fortunate enough to travel to Russia this past summer, and Moscow was on his itinerary. Allen made the classic tourist stop to see Red Square… But, why should I tell the story, let’s let Allen describe it in his own words:

In the summer of 2007, I toured Russia and took a cruise from Moscow to St. Petersburg. One of the principle tourist attractions in Moscow is Red Square, which is bordered by the Kremlin, Lenin's tomb, and the famous GUM* department store.

For years I heard of GUM, which was the epitome of Soviet retailing — wait in separate queues to order, pay for, and receive your merchandise. Today, the classic architecture of GUM remains, but the Soviet merchandising has been replaced with a Western-style shopping mall hosting many familiar retailers.

While others in my tour group shopped the apparel stores, I headed to the Apple store. It was as attractive as an Apple store in the USA, but with fewer computers on display and very few customers. I looked around, took a few photographs and left to find my group.

Oh yes, the rest rooms in GUM are clean and free, a rarity in Russia.

[Editor’s note: GUM stands for Glavnyi Universalnyi Magazin, or “Main Universal Store.”]

Allen submitted several Moscow photographs in the Pi Journal Cover Photo Contest. Needless to say, they were unique and as I am sure you saw, two of them were used to create the cover for this issue of the Journal. Thanks, Allen, great snaps!

But we just couldn’t let the story end right there; after all, here was an opportunity to learn something more, first hand! So to obtain a little more depth on the story, Allen was asked some questions about the experience. Here they are.

Q: Did you take any of your Mac gear with you? If so, what?
A: I don't own a portable Mac and my G4 iMac wouldn't fit in my suitcase. The only electronic gear I took was a pocket-sized digital camera with accessories (extra batteries, SD cards, and battery charger).

Q: What kind of considerations for physical security of computers or other electronic gear did you make?
A: Two people in my tour group had their cameras stolen. My ancient Minolta Xg was in a secure pocket when not in use.

Q: What was the accessibility to email and was it difficult to connect to the Internet?
A: Many towns had Internet cafes. I used one in a small city and tried to access Gmail to use a new throw-away account I set up for the trip. The Cyrillic keyboard was too great a barrier and I was unable to send email. I could not access the English Gmail home page and was mired in the Russian page.
I wanted to call a friend in the U.S. from Moscow. I had a new AT&T calling card and the USA-Direct numbers for Moscow and St. Petersburg. I tried unsuccessfully to use a pay phone in Moscow. Perhaps they require prepaid cards. I borrowed a cell phone from an English-speaking tour guide. I'm sure he didn't comprehend the concept of USA-direct, but he trusted me to not charge a call to the US on his phone. And I trusted him to not abuse the calling card number I punched into his phone. The call lasted about five minutes and then abruptly terminated. I don't know if my trusting guide paid for local calls by the minute, but I gave him a hefty tip at the end of the trip.

Q: Did you think about or keep any notes to use to build a Trip Blog?
A: The only notes were to identify my photos. Travis' blog [below] is impressive but not something I'm inclined to generate for my travels.

The reference to a Trip Blog was in response to a question concerning an adventure recently completed by Travis Good. It was an extensive journey, and yet he was able to boil down each significant area visited onto one page. See it here:


Travis passed along the secrets to putting it together; here is what he had to say:

Just a little insight might be useful to you. Since I used iWeb, I built the template of the entire site before I even started out on my trip. Since I planned how to weave together all my destinations, I had all my Google Maps done in advance too. Since I made a point of having WiFi at almost every place I stayed, I built the site in real time at night. When I got back, I had to plug a few holes and tidy things up but there was less than 20% of the site building effort left once I returned home.

Apple laptop, digital camera, iLife, and WiFi is all it took to do this.

And there you have it, another instance of Pi members using their Macs or related equipment to chronicle their lives. Good stuff and thanks to Allen and Travis for sharing that with us!