July 29, 2003
Moving on - Kicking the Sidekick
When I bought my Sidekick in December, I was jobless, and thought I would be using it primarily as a portable e-mail device and occasionally as a cell phone. By getting a 200-minute plan and a generous rebate, I decreased my monthly cell phone bill. In February, I went back to work regularly, and haven't been as happy with the Sidekick, since the phone is not so great, and it can't be used as a GPRS modem when I travel.
A more general weakness of the Sidekick as a platform is how slowly the developer community appeared, and the fact that T-Mobile essentially has to bless every application on the phone. I'm always happier on a platform that lets you do your own thing, customize your environment, and find your own way.
I don't have it yet, so I can't offer any firsthand experience, but online reviews suggest it's a good phone, with good reception, a speakerphone, voice dial, and iSync contact support. It has Bluetooth built-in, so I can use it as a modem with my miniBook, and T-Mobile now offers unlimited data usage for $19.95/month.
It also features a 640 x 480 camera, which was a big selling point for me. I have found myself on the road, wishing I had a digital camera with me, a few times lately, but not so frequently as to justify packing my somewhat bulky Nikon.
Finally, theres a lot of software available for the 3650.
July 25, 2003
Tech support as trusted-adviser profession
World New York: Technical Employment For All!
Good column on what it takes to create a viable tech-support practice to small-business and home users.
Seen at mrbarrett.com.
July 21, 2003
Sony's yummy new Clié
I think Sony's new Clié, the UX-50, looks like an amazing new tool. With Wi-Fi and Bluetooth built in, I could see myself carrying a UX-50 and a Bluetooth cellphone on the road, and leaving the laptop behind (on day trips especially).
It's the first PalmOS handheld I've seen that has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and it debuts Sony's new "Handheld Engine" CPU, optimized for multimedia (30 frames a second!).
On the other hand, it's going to be $700!
Tour weblog update
I'm not posting much here, since I'm posting like a madman right over there.
The site is doing very well. A lot of people are saying nice things about it, and among recent linkers were The Guardian (the UK newspaper), Jason Kottke, an Australian site called Grouse (where it shares the front page with "Take a Cruise with Dirk Benedict"!), and TotalFark.com, the for-pay version of Fark.com.
During the most-visited hour for which I've viewed the stats, I had 320 visits, and more than 14,000 since July 8; more than 3600 today.
I've claimed the site on BlogShares, where it's valued around $1,000,000 (insider tip -- sell before Sunday!).
July 15, 2003
TdF weblog takes off
The Tour de France weblog has taken off beyond my expectations.
Today: 2324 visits (the control panel calls them hits, but they're clearly counting referrer hits)
Peak hour was around 160.
I was hopeful that the bike racing books linked from the front page (and linking through my Amazon associates ID) might actually amount to something, but so far there have been exactly ZERO people who have bought squat from Amazon.
July 09, 2003
New Tour de France weblog
You can subscribe your RSS newsreader to just the Tour postings here.
Pleasant Google surprise
Noticed I'm getting a bit of a traffic spike, largely from Google.
So I popped up Google, entered "Tour de France update", and started looking for my page on the list.
As you can see, I didn't have to look very far.
Does anyone have a pointer to a method (using Apache's mod_referer?) to send folks who Google for the Tour to my Tour de France archive?
I hate to let this much Google karma go to waste....
Tour de France: Postmen take TTT
The US Postal Service team won its first team time trial today. By virtue of Victor Hugo Peña’s overall place, 1 second ahead of Armstrong, he becomes the new maillot jaune, the first ever yellow jersey from Colombia.
The tight bunching at the top of the leaderboard after yesterday's stage means that the Postmen are placed first through eighth in the overall standings!
2) Armstrong at 1”
3) Viatcheslav Ekimov (37 years old) at 5”
4) George Hincapie at 5”
5) José Luis Rubiera at 23”
6) Roberto Heras at 27”
7) Pavel Padrnos at 27”
8) Floyd Landis at 28”
9) Joseba Beloki (ONCE) at 33”
10) Jorg Jaksche (ONCE) at 38”
It’s fairly common to drop a rider or two who can’t keep up during the TTT — ONCE, Bianchi, and iBanesto all came in with 7 — but the Postal Service team demonstrated its depth by finishing strong and complete.
In the overall standings that count, Armstrong put 30 seconds into Joseba Beloki of ONCE, 43 seconds into Jan Ullrich of Bianchi and more than 3 minutes into Gilberto Simoni of Saeco.
Other team leaders (GC, or overall standings):
12) Jan Ullrich (Bianchi) at 39”
28) Fancisco Mancebo (iBanesto) at 1:30
29) Santiago Botero (Telekom) at 1:33
34) Paolo Bettini (QuickStep) at 1:39
39) Tyler Hamilton (CSC, riding with a broken collarbone!) at 1:45
40) Laurent Brochard (AG2R) at 1:45
56) David Millar (Cofidis) at 2:00
62) Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole) at 2:03
63) Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola) at 2:03
69) Davide Rebellin (Garolsteiner)at 2:10
79) Ivan Basso (Fassa Bortolo) at 2:18
81) Laurent Dufaux (Alessio) at 2:21
92) Didier Rous (Brioches) at 2:43
106) Gilberto Simoni (Saeco) at 3:09
Yesterday’s yellow jersey, Jean-Patrick Nazon of Jean Delatour, is now in 112th, 3:19 behind Peña.
July 07, 2003
Beta Nicest of the Damned on TypePad
I'm beta-testing MovableType's new service TypePad.
I can't say much about the system, but I have a beta site you're welcome to try out.
I'm still messing with the layout, blogroll, etc., but I would love to hear your feedback, either here or through e-mail.
The Drive for Five: A Beginner's guide to the Tour de France
(This is an updated version of a post originally written in July 2002.)
If you're not interested in bicycle racing, at least give me a chance to explain why I find it so interesting.
The most overused metaphor in sport is that "Sport X is like life." Tennis is not like life. Golf is certainly not like life. Life is a campaign, a day-in, day-out fight against constant adversity; a little like a full baseball season. Even more, I would argue, like a bicycle stage race. Here, you have water carriers (literally) and stars, teamwork and individual efforts, constantly shifting conditions and strategies, and a race so hard that no one ever chalks the win up to luck.
THE GROUND RULES
A stage race is a series of road races, typically around 100 miles each, and time trials that typically run about 30 miles. The stage winner is the first person to cross the finish line that day or the time trial rider with the lowest time. All riders compete for the overall race title, awarded to the rider with the lowest time over all the stages. This means the overall winner doesn't have to win a single stage -- they just need to stay close to the leaders.
There are 22 teams in this year's Tour, and each starts out with 9 riders. Some team members are sprinters, some are climbers, some are domestiques, literally servants, who are expected to fetch water from the team car and to protect the team leader by chasing down breakaways and riding at the front of the team, providing a draft in which the team leader can ride.
The race route for the Tour de France always starts out fairly easy, with a week or more of flat stages. These stages are typically won in a field sprint, where 20-30 riders who specialize in closing out races with a powerful kick (at nearly 40 mph) come off the front of the peloton (the main group of riders) in the last kilometer of the stage. Occasionally, a rider wins one of these stages in a breakaway, by jumping away from the pack with miles to ride, and staying away to the end.
The sprinters not only compete for stage wins, but for sprint points at intermediate sprints. The first few riders to reach the sprint line are awarded sprint points. The rider with the most sprint points is awarded a green jersey to wear during the subsequent stage, so other riders, fans, and TV cameras can easily follow the sprint leader's moves. Last year, Germany's Robbie McEwen of Australia won the overal sprint jersey, and Germany's Erik Zabel, riding in this year's tour, has won 6. Similarly, the rider with the lowest overall time at the end of each stage is awarded a yellow jersey, or maillot jaune. Lance Armstrong won the overall yellow jersey in 2002, and is heavily favored to win his 5th consecutive yellow jersey this year.
After the first 8 stages of this year's Tour, the race moves into the mountains. Some of the sprinters, maybe even some of the early overall leaders, will drop out because they can't hang in the mountains. Frequently, riders who have been involved in all the action so far will lose time by the bundle, and fall off the leader board. Now, the action moves to the climbers. Gilberto Simoni of the Saeco team has promised to make things difficult for Armstrong in the mountains, and he may find help among other Italian teams.
The climbers also have a race-within-a-race, for the polka-dotted climber's jersey. Each climb is categorized, from Category 4 (the easiest) to hors categorie, or beyond categorization, the hardest. The first few riders over the top of each climb are awarded climber's points.
There's one other type of race included in the Tour: the time trial. Riders take off at intervals (usually 2 minutes) from lowest to highest placed, and ride as fast as they can solo to the finish line. This year, the tour also features a team time trial (TTT) where the entire team (of 9 riders) sets out as a group, and all riders on the team are awarded the time of the 5th rider to cross the line.
Although the overall winner is an individual, by tradition, the winner's prize money is split evenly among the entire team.
One of the things that makes the race so interesting is that different riders, and different teams, have different objectives. Lance Armstrong and his U.S. Postal Service team will focus on the overall win. That means some of his teammates, who could compete for stage wins or specialist jerseys, will instead sit back and ride to protect Armstrong.
The yellow jersey's team is expected to lead the defense of the status quo, chasing down breaks and setting the stage's pace. This is a lot of work for the leader's team, and so letting another team take the lead might make sense.
A team without a legitimate overall contender will instead focus on trying to win a stage or stages, by sending a rider on a solo breakaway, by loading a group breakaway with a disproportionate number of riders from their team, or by providing a good leadout for the team's sprint specialist in a sprint finish.
Sometimes, teams who don't think they will have a chance at even a stage win will send riders on a suicide break -- one that can't possibly stay away -- just for the press coverage they'll get from that rider being on TV.
The differing priorities can lead to interesting on-the-road alliances, where a very strong climber may break away in the mountains with a rider who needs to make up time to try to get on the podium. Such a team might force the leader's team to expend a great deal of energy chasing the break down, opening the door for the 2nd-place rider's team to win their leading rider some time the following day.
Lance Armstrong is the presumed winner this year. He's won the last 4 Tours, and has a very strong team. Everyone knows about Armstrong's fight with cancer, and his tremendous comeback, but there's a technical reason he's been a more competitive rider, as well. In the mid-90s, Armstrong would tend to push a high gear at a low pedaling cadence, which is typical of time trialists or triathletes (Armstrong was a junior national champion in tri). Since his recovery, Lance turns lower gears at an unusually high cadence. Watch him in the mountains to see what I mean.
The United States has really come a long way as an international cycling country. In the days of Greg Lemond, the US would typically have 3-5 riders in the Tour, with Lemond, Andy Hampsten, and a few support riders like Bob Roll, Davis Phinney, or Roy Knickman. This year, there are 6 Americans in the race, 3 of whom are team leaders (Armstrong, Tyler Hamilton and Levi Leipheimer).
Despite the tremendous strides of the US, the brightest new country for international cycling is Australia. Seven Aussies started the race, and 2 of the 3 stages so far have gone to the Aussies.
The race is so hard that it's rare to have someone come out of nowhere to win. Last year's highest placed riders who return are Joseba Beloki and Santiago Botero, and former winner Jan Ullrich, who has never finished lower than 2nd, is back and looks to be in great shape with something to prove.
FOLLOWING THE RACE
If you have Outdoor Life Network, you can watch 2 hours of live coverage daily.
If you don't, you can follow a lot of the action on the web. The official Tour site does a good job tracking the day's action, and Eurosport has live streaming audio coverage each day. For general coverage, check out VeloNews, the leading American bike racing magazine, or CyclingNews.com, for rider diaries and daily analysis.
And I'll be posting as time permits on anything that catches my eye....