20 August 2016
Time for a new phone
It's been some years
It was January 2009 when I got a new work phone from my then
employer. It was the brand spanking new Nokia e71 smartphone. It did it
all and it proved to be a longtime companion. I've used - and loved -
that phone ever since. I'm on my 3rd battery. Lately though, more and
more things stopped working. The VoIP client and the VPN didn't hold
up with the software cycles in their fields. Lately the email-client
stopped working too. Those are software problems, there might even be
solutions. More and more keys stopped working or fell out. And then the
USB connector started to break.
In the end I bit the bullet and decided on a new phone. Given the
current selection of phones, this is like "choosing the least sucky
of all those sucky phones out there". There's nothing with a physical
keyboard. The phone ecosystem seems to think that as a customer, you're
just an expendable that never really "owns" the hardware. The security
problems are a nightmare. Providers don't bother to update software.
Everybody thinks that it's ok if a phone breaks apart and is broken if
it ever falls down (typical e71-owners wouldn't even check the phone for
damage when it fell down).
So I got myself a "Samsung Galaxy XCover 3 VE" (instead of "VE" it might
also be described as "(2016)". It came with Android 6.0.1, which means
it will be up-to-date for a little while. I'm trying not to think about
all the security holes that are already announced for that platform and
duly ignored by providers and handset makers. It's a phone that is
slightly waterproof (IP67 IIRC), dustproof, and "should" even survive a
little bit of falling down. Only experience can tell on that side.
First impressions: It works. The cameras is better than the one from the
e71, but not by a huge margin. Good enough for pics to put on the web
when out cycling. Using it is ok. Response time in the UI are really
ok. The screen resolution is not great, but good enough for the current
state of my eyes (I wouldn't see more on an ultra high resolution
screen). Battery time is not in the same league as the e71, but I guess
good enough. I'm very stringent about shutting things like bluetooth
down and dow't use much (same as on the old phone). The e71 clearly was
a phone where "phone things" were much easier accessible.
There is this saying about war, that says it makes difficult things
easy, and simple things complicated (or something like that). That's
the impression I have about Android. Install a VoIP client? Easy peasy.
Open the phone to make a simple phone call to someone in your address
book? Takes about 10 steps more than on the Nokia. Put pictures from
the camera straight into Strava using the client, childs play. Get your
pictures from your phone to the computer that sits 30cm next to it? Ah
well, you could do it this way but..., and you could do it that way,
but... but in the end it was designed to just hand over your stuff to
Google or some other "cloud" thing. Which I obviously don't do.
And there is an app for everything(TM). But that app is quite likely
trying to display annoying ads or is crippled in some other way. On the
Symbian platform there was none of the ad bullshit really, but there
were the crippled apps too. The symbian app selection was smaller, that
just meant that you had less "sifting through all the garbage" to do.
Verdict: For now, it will do. It won't last as long as the last one, and
it makes some simple stuff complicated. The rest, time will tell.
18 July 2016
//INRNG Supporter Jersey
A really nice jersey even in black
For some time now I'm reading the //INRNG blog about pro cycling. One
mark of how well done this blog is, is that from time to time people
think it is a comercial cycling press website, and they demand more of
this or more of that. Instead it's one man's hobby blog, with a bit of
extra income by sponsors and... the sale of supporter jerseys, caps,
and socks. So after my usual hesitating and back-and-forth, I decided
to finally order a jersey and some caps. So here is what happened and
how I like the jersey so far...
Continue reading "//INRNG Supporter Jersey"
30 June 2016
Ride Slow to Get Fast?
No matter if it works, I like it
There is this story in cycling that says that to get faster, you have to
do some rides slower. The story goes that the main difference from
amateur to pro cyclists training is that amateurs don't ride slow enough
on their slow rides, and not hard enough on their hard rides. I'm not a
trainer, and I can't give any scientific evidence on this. But I've
tried it for a few weeks now. Here is what works for me now...
Continue reading "Ride Slow to Get Fast?"
21 June 2016
The Heat is On
First heatwave of the year
The last few days have been excessively hot here. There is a small
heatwave passing going over most of Greece right now, the peak was on
Saturday and Sunday. Right now things are slowly improving. In our
little mountain village on Naxos, it was the first time that we
experienced the temperatures not cooling down significantly over night -
the wind was stil hot. We're new here, so that might be no surprise, but
the oldtimers tell us that it's not something that happens "normally".
The weather report says we had temperatures around 37°C, while in Athens
the temperatures would have passed 40°C. I've lived through worse, but
that doesn't make it less annoying.
It didn't keep me from riding my bike though. Over the last few weeks
I've been working on my acclimatisation. I've been riding more and more
in the heat, at the same time improving my hydration. Because when it's
hot, you have to get used to it and you have to drink a lot of water. I
used to take small sips of water every now and then. Now I switched to
drink large gulps at once, as much as I can drink without getting out of
breath. The rate of emptying my water bottles has increased a lot like
that. On Saturday I drank one bottle (I think they're about 600ml) every
10km / 30min.
Sunday evening I the breeze wasn't that hot any more, yesterday evening
it returned to being a cool breeze, even if it wasn't very strong. I
hope it stays with us for the rest of the summer.
09 May 2016
Two Training Blocks
So happy to have guests for this
The last few weeks my cycling-Fu finally took a few steps forwards. I've
been going to the gym to fix my left/right leg imbalance, but I don't
think that's so much the cause of the improvement (yet). What got me
forward was doing two blocks of tough training, with riding much more
than I used to do in the last months.
You see, first we had the sprint, where we had (amongst other friends)
Borja here cycling with me for 10 days. With Borja I cycled 311km with
5500m of climbing, in 6 rides. One ride was a nice, round 100km
Apollona round, always a good endurance builder. When that was done I
relaxed a bit... and went back to the gym.
And not long after that, my friend George showed up. Now George, he's in
a different category of endurance riding. He has completed his 2nd 400km
brevet, and is now training to do the 600km brevet.
Even though he brought the family over, for some days of vacation around
Greek Easter, we managed to put in 4 rides. Those 4 rides made me
ride 254km in one week, climbing 4500m. That's about 50-60% more than I
used to do in a typcial week in the months before this.
As for the results of those two "training blocks"? Of course I have only
anecdotal evidence, but I seem to be as comfortable to ride 60km now as
I was doing 40km before. Unless I've been to the gym, in that case I'm
just a useless pair of sore, tired legs. Ah well.
30 April 2016
Flower Power Sprint
Working and having fun on Naxos again
The team I'm working with on one of my projects has this tradition of
meeting roughly 2x per year and working all together for about a week.
We call that a "sprint" (despite that some software process
terminologies call something different "a sprint", we're not bothered).
The last one was last November in Galicia, Spain. This time we were on
Naxos again (for the 3rd time now, April 6-16).
Our program consisted of 3 days of intensive work, then 1 day off, then
another 3 days of "sprinting", followed by 2 days for "social stuff". We
were quite productive on the work days, which resulted in us enjoying
the "social" days together even more. We also had lunch and dinner
together mostly, which resultet in way too much food being eaten. In
early April, not all naxian restaurants are open, but there is still a
Borja and me spent much of the "social" time out on a bike. We explored
many of the less cycled roads of Naxos together, and the number of
climbs was almost dwarfed by the number of sheep and goats we met out
on the road. We also met The Pig (which is another story for this
weblog, but since The Pig has a no-photo shield around it, maybe better
for another time). In the process, Borja managed to pass the magical
"100km in one ride" mark, of which he has written a nice ride report.
Oscar and Panos went looking for sheep and goats on a couple of
motorbikes, but they missed The Pig.
One perfect fit is that we got a new team member from Naxos, joining the
team just a few days before the sprint. This fit perfectly, as he could
meet all the team members, and also get a working start on the code
Oscar has another sprint report online, with tons of picture.
31 March 2016
Back from Paris
... and at home since a while
So, I came back from Paris. I had a very nice and successful week there.
Apart from the business stuff, I also did a tiny bit of tourism. Not too
much, since walking around currently isn't really my strong point. On
the last day I noticed that I had started to limp. Ah, never ending
story with that leg, it seems.
After the "vacation", I needed a few days of rest though. The main
reason was that I spent an overnight at the Athens airport. My plane
from Paris arrived at 23:40, my plane to Naxos left at 7:15. The airport
hotel is ridiculously expensive. So I just whiled away the hours. There
are some places where you can try to get some sleep, but since I was
alone, I didn't fall asleep at all. I re-watched an old movie ("A Sunday
in Hell"), then read up a bit on the Intarwebz, since during the days in
Paris, I was mostly enjoying offline time. The first 3-4 hours passed
quite fast, then somehow the clock seemed to slow down.
The worst was clearly over when I met some friends while waiting for
boarding on the little plane to Naxos. The flight passed really quick. I
had a nice window seat again, but this time I forgot to take the camera
out of my cabin bag, so no propeller pics.
20 March 2016
Paris-Brest (the sweet version)
Cycling and baking united
Paris-Brest-Paris is one of the toughest cycling events that a mere
mortal can attend. It involves cycling 1200km in 90 hours and is a
strictly amateur event. Before it was this "randonneuring" event, many
years ago, it used to be a professional race. At some point, someone (I
forgot who) created a sweet called "Paris-Brest" in its honor. I knew
This Saturday, while shopping with my host here, I was standing outside
the bakery... when I noticed the sweet in real. It's something different
to read about this, and then to see it in person. I probably should have
gone in and tried one, but at the time the bakery was so full that there
was a line outside the door - that's why I was waiting outside.
In any case, I should have gotten one for my friend tralala, who on the
same Saturday rode a 400km Brevet (congrats, man!). One the one hand, he could use the
calories after that monster of a ride, on the other, in a few years he
might be riding PBP itself and then it would be a good preparation.
UPDATE: The sweet things in the pics aren't actually "Paris-Brest", but chocolate Eclairs. Seems that the bakery had misplaced the label. I got a real Paris-Brest a few days later, and saw another one in a restaurant, and they didn't look like this at all. OTOH they were true calorie-bombs.
18 March 2016
Going to Paris
Just jump over
Continue reading "Going to Paris"
So there I was, climbing into the little plane (Dash 8) on the little airport
on Naxos. Heading for Athens... and then on to Paris. The airport in
Naxos is really kind of a family affair. Also you see that road in the
picture? It has the only traffic lights on the island. They turn red
when a plane is starting or landing.
28 February 2016
Attention, Dangerous Curve Ahead
You're in a maze of twisty little curves
You're in a maze of twisty little island roads, winding and curving
through the mountaineous island landscape for kilometers and kilometers.
There's a curve to the left, one to the right, to the left, and so on
forever. But then, you arrive at one curve that is special: It has a
warning sign in front of it.
All the other curves before or after don't have a fancy warning sign.
This one has. I've been wondering for a while now, what's so special
about the 1-in-a-100 (just guessing, I don't keep stats) curve that gets
a sign. I very much doubt that someone checked it and deemed it more
dangerous than others - I know some scary curves on this island, and
they don't have signs. The one in the picture is even easy to see ahead.
Also I doubt that it's the curves where accidents had once happened.
Not that I know that, but I don't think it makes sense. My current
theory is that there was a budget for warnings signs, x number of signs
for y square kilometers. So basically someone loaded a bunch of signs on
a truck and started planting them here and there.
What seems to be put to much better use are warning arrows on the side
of the road. They too aren't everywhere, but when they are there,
usually there is a good reason.