Hot and Sandy

Travel writing, pictures and stuff for people I know. Quite a lot of cycling talk, and some semi-controlled ranting. Hiking, outdoor and two-wheeled stuff, perhaps a little computing when it's worth talking about. Meandering thoughts.

Friday, January 30

Interesting Short

Wednesday, January 28

The Outcome

Today was pretty hard work. It was probably 4 degrees, and although there was no wind there was a persistent, really wetting rain. As far as the bike goes, great. But I've lost a lot of fitness over the Christmas season- I'm at "hibernation weight" and the squash and badminton just can't maintain leg strength and top-20% cardio fitness.

As you can see from this crude mashup of two heart-rate graphs. The red line is a September '08 commute. The green line is today. As you can see, the key features are aligned. But there are a couple of interesting features. First, recovery in the green line takes longer and the HR does not get as low. Second, for sections of consistent effort, today's rate is consistently ~10bpm high. This is not good news.

On the other hand it's not all bad. I'm riding a lower gear, which places lee strain on the joints. Arguably though, this moves effort from big muscle groups and relatively few reps to teh cardio domain and smaller loads / higher reps. With my physiology I'd expect this to raise the bpm a little. The mean cadence went up from 78rpm to more like 85rpm.

I may revisit these graphs in a few weeks and see how my cardio has got on, using this 55km circuit as a control.

PS > The red circle on the map below is a level crossing. Tonight I waited for over 8mins while 4 trains went by. This, and a killer calf cramp in Tempsford on teh way home, probably contribute to the slow time. Oh, and I was petrified because I had a "be seen" light in the pitch black countryside!!

First Cycle Commute of '09!

Sunday, January 25

Pompino Refresh = Small Victory

Finally got round to the spring refresh of my commuting bike.  Off go the Vittoria Zaffiros (excellent grip but a little energy-sapping due to the almost-cyclocross tread) and on go a fab pair of Conti Sport Attack (must remember the exact name...).  Although both tyres are all-weather 700x28, they couldn't be more different.  I will be less happy with towpaths and bridleways on the Contis, but that's what my MTB's for!

The other stuff I did was a full transmision fix.  I went from a 42x15 to a 42x16, and from a 1/8 chain to a 3/32.  This involved a new wipperman chain with a quiklink, a new TA chainring and an additional Dura-Ace cog and lockring.  I say additional because 2 chains, at least 5 pairs of tyres and a chainring have not dented the 15t on the wheel.  All that time and grime has firmly welded it in place though.  Apologies to the bike shop who broke their lockring spanner on my behalf, but the cog's staying.  The change in chain diameter was a conscious one - a messenger bike has a hard life, all skid-stops and maximum-attack acceleration.  My work bike at the moment cruises on flattish terrain.  Less transmission inertia and noise will be welcome.  You can keep your chrome track chains... for now.

So what difference?  Well the gearing was a welcome change, and the new tyres bring out a Mr Hyde in the Pomp's handling that I'd forgotten was there - engaging, sparkly and very precise.  Lovely.  Other things to report include: TA chainring - very round and an excellent fit, although the machining on the teeth was very sharp.  Goldtec hub and Open Pro CD grey rims - amazing finish, cleans up as new.  Only other things to fix are a new (old) Selle Italia Flite Alpes saddle and another re-wrap of the bar tape.  Oh, and maybe some new lighting.

Friday, January 16

UMPC Setup

There are some minor problems and irritations with ultra-mobile computing. The first and most obvious is the need and desire to make the machine as physically small as possible, while retaining all of the functionality of a full-size notebook. For manufacturers this is a lose-lose. Either they go for the mini approach and get slated for not including nice-to-haves like a 3G modem, or they go full-featured and lose out in the portability stakes.

The same compromises exist in operating systems. On the one hand, it's the path-of-least-resistance kind of convenient working in the ubiquitous MS environment, with old favourites falling easily to hand. The security issues, brand / company dependency and constant calls to the mother ship are such a part of modern corporate computing that they have become background. The things that as a new user would make you say "no wait – that can't be right!" are just the way things are.

My strategies in this context is simple.

1. Use the professional version of the OS; you get more security, more options and often more stability. This is because OS sppliers make the bulk of their cash supporting corporate sites and corporate IT guys.

2. Do the advanced install, although it's always a pain. Deselect the stuff you don't want or it will be hard to remove later. Be picky and go into the fine details of each option. Some people might love the windows games and some might need DUN support. Not me!

3. Kill trivia stone dead. Get TweakUI for Windows, and equivalent apps for other OS (Tinker-tool and __Cache Cleaner for OS X, gTweakUI for Gnome Linux) and get rid of colours, fades, animations and fussy window adornments. This includes making the Windows start menu classic mode with small icons and sorting enabled.

4. Finally, authorise all downloads and security patches manually. Although it's worth keeping up to date over broadband, you still want to keep an eye on what's happening. Check the prefs of new applications as well- some will call back for updates by default. On OS X it's worth googling Little Snitch.

5. Even more finally- it's very rare to have to pay for a firewall –either set up the one in your router properly or use the one in the OS. The Windows, Linux and OS X ones are pretty idiot-proof if you google the functions of a firewall first. It's also worth getting a multi-platform and low profile anti-virus app. Personally I like Sophos because it's unintrusive and autonomous. AVG is also very popular and free. Norton, Symantec and Panda are (in my personal experience) big bright boxes containing inefficient and intrusive solutions.

I think that's plenty for now.

This is the result of some Xmas ponderings. It's incomplete and only my opinion.

Friday, January 9

Joli the Yorkie

Saturday, January 3

Festive Netbook Thoughts

Anyone with a feel for technology trends or a need for travel will have noticed the explosion in "netbook computing" that has happened over about the last year. Why would anyone need to travel with a £1500 subnotebook when for £300 you get something 90% as capable, probably the same size and so cheap as to be almost - not quite but almost - disposable. I know which I'd rather have nicked in a faraway airport!

I have been such a late convert because of two reasons. The first is that my need isn't that great. I'm as likely to use a netbook for quickly checking my mail or an eBay auction while I'm in bed than to write that vital article in wartorn somewhereistan. But this is still valid; a small computer with wireless and no optical drive is great to have round the house, just sitting on the bedside table or the kitchen worktop. I suppose this means my life is a little too internet-enabled!

The second reason is that my other machine - a 12" Apple Powerbook - is so completely awesome. It has been reliable, fast, rugged, flexible and it's looked good throughout my ownership. It will even run UNIX apps without complaining! Apart from a failing battery and a size which means you just can't open it on an economy airline seat, the legendary 12" has been, well, legendary.

The new machine is a departure for me. A Samsung NC10. Straight out of the box I repartitioned it and installed Fedora 10, a brilliant distro I've been running on a 900MHz beige box at home for some time. I was slightly anxious about the install. Linux had been conspicuously absent from the Samsung model range, so I thought maybe there would be a killer problem that would force a full restore and XP Home Edition from now on.

The install went perfectly, and everything just works. There are a couple of very minor glitches though. The brightness function keys don't work (who cares - the Gnome brightness widget works great) and the wireless card only wakes from suspend / hibernate about 90% of the time. No big deal. I can mount and write to the Windows partitions using the brilliant OpenOffice with native PDF support, I have an excellent Mac OS theme running in Gnome, and 6hrs + or realistic battery life in a gorgeous little device - almost like the low-cost netbook Apple should be making.

More thoughts (and probably some photos and an edit of this) to come in the next few days. Isn't 2009 amazing so far?


Blogger seems to be playing up at the moment, so there has been a bit of
a delay. I am suffering from a notorious fault, which is difficult to
resolve completely. I wanted to write about the anniversary of this
blog (and the reasons this has survived for me when many diary attempts
have failed) and some other stuff. We'll see how things go over the
next few days.