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Monday
Jul212003

Le Tour Tidbits: Wild Action, Crashes & Sportsmanship

Incredible! Today's tour stage 15 was another wild one, with Lance Armstrong, Jan Ullrich and Alexander Vinokourov all within mere seconds of each other at the start of the race. Well, it didn't stay that way very long. Ullrich attacked on the climb up Col du Tourmalet, which was much earlier than expected. But it would seem Jan played his hand a bit too soon, and was caught by a cool, calm Armstrong.

On the last climb up Luz-Ardiden, the leaders made another break, separating from Vinokourov who struggled to keep up. By the end of the day, Vino's 18 second gap would widen to over 2 minutes. I was surprised to see Vino fall so far behind in one stage, but these are the killer mountains that separate the champions from everyone else.

In the midst of the climb up Luz-Ardiden, Armstrong was involved in an accident with a fan and his bag, which wrapped onto Lance's handlebar and threw him to the ground, along with Iban Mayo. Ullrich managed to avoid the spill but amazingly stopped and waited with the group of riders, while Armstrong and Mayo got back up.

Lance was pumped with adrenaline after the spill and once the small lead group started out again, he attacked and separated from Ullrich on the climb. Wow!

"After the crash, I had a big rush of adrenaline. I told myself 'Come on Lance, you must win the Tour today,"'

The gap widened as Lance passed the lone breakaway rider and finished the stage with a win, while Jan pounded the pedals to keep the gap as slim as possible. All told, Ullrich's 15 second gap behind Armstrong has now been lengthened to 1:07.

For a detailed account of the stage, I recommend the live blog coverage of stage 15 by Locutus over at Daily Peleton... you can really can feel the excitement just reading his breathless, moment-by-moment account!

I was amazed me at todays stage not only for the wild racing action, but because of Ullrich's sportsmanship. Lance had extended the same courtesy to Ullrich in a previous Tour, where Ullrich had gone off the side of the road and Armstrong waited to make sure he was OK and safely back on the road with him before continuing the race.

I love Ullrich's quote about the incident today:

"I have never in my life attacked someone who had crashed. That's not the way I race,"

Very classy. It's not hard to see that these two respect each other very highly and can separate fierce competition from real life. It's not often you see this kind of respect and sportsmanship in modern sports. I'm glad it's still alive and well in cycling.

I'm pulling for Lance to win his 5th Tour and I think he may just pull it off, but my respect for Ullrich is very high. Besides I wouldn't count him out until the last seconds of the last individual time trial stage of this wonderful Tour de France.

Hang on tight, it's gonna be a wild ride! :-)

Saturday
Jul192003

La Grande WEBlock Boucle Bar

On Friday I finally got around to trying the La Grande WEBlock Boucle Bar which was mentioned in a comment on a previous Le Tour post. Hey this thing is quite nice! Essentially it's a webpage that combines Danish live TV coverage of the Tour (in Windows Media), official minute-by-minute coverage from the official Le Tour website and now, buttons to launch audio coverage in English, German, French, Spanish and Dutch (which load in external audio players).

Here are the site's instructions for English visitors:

The WEBlock presents 'La Grande WEBlock Boucle Bar' - a sidebar for your browser. This sidebar provides you with a minute-by-minute report of the race AND a live TV stream of the Tour de France! To use 'La Grande WEBlock Boucle Bar' you can follow this link or drag the La Grande WEBlock Boucle Bar link to the linksbar in your browser. A version for Netscape and Mozilla is available here.

If you use Internet Explorer on Windows, you can get the Boucle Bar to load into a sidebar, or if you prefer Netscape browsers, you can use an alternate link to just load the Boucle bar into a regular page (maybe in a separate tab you can check regularly).

Pretty slick! I'm especially glad to see that the audio feed feature was added this week, since this is the part I'm enjoying the most. :-)

Have a great weekend!

Thursday
Jul172003

Sony's New Clie UX50 Shakes Things Up Again

Sony PEG-UX50Yeah... just like everyone else in the Palm and hi-tech world, I'm talking about the new Sony Clié PEG-UX50 today. Sorry, couldn't help it. :-)

My first whiff of the new PDA came on my morning visit to PDANews24.com. There are several detailed articles on the net today, including a nice overview at InfoSync World and the official Sony Japan site, which Craig at GearBits has conveniently Babelized. The Sony Japan site is quite informative graphically and the Babelization of the Japanese text makes for some laughs to boot.

What I immediately found interesting was that the UX50 has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth integrated into the same small device. Guess that makes the Tungsten C's lack of Bluetooth seem significantly less acceptable. I'm pretty certain the next revision Tungsten C device will include Bluetooth. ;-)

Too bad about the camera as well. It's only 640 x 480 when the latest NX series Clie devices are already at 1.3 megapixel. Could be that the space in which the camera needed to fit put limitations on the selection of cameras Sony could use, but c'mon man... even el-cheapo camera phones have better cameras than the UX50.

Further, I'm a little concerned about the keyboard, since Sony Clié devices are not known for the most ergonomic keyboards in Palm-land. The keys look a bit too close to the surface of the device. too bad Sony couldn't license a RIM patent and get a decent ergonomic thumbboard on one of their devices.

Oddly enough, all of the images indicate that the UX50 is designed to be used horizontally only. I'm hoping there's a screen rotation preference app on the device, though if there isn't one, I'm quite confident one of the many Japanese Palm OS programming wizards will have a hack compiled within 24 hours. Gotta love those wonderful Japanese Palm programmers!

One of the coolest features of the new Clié is the built-in backup app. When the system senses that the battery power is about to fail, it takes the last few drops of juice and backs up the device's RAM to your Memory Stick. Very nice. Note to PalmSource: Make this a standard part of the Palm OS so every device can take advantage of it.

But even for its few shortcomings, the UX50 looks like real killer device. What makes it stand out in my mind is the design -- you'd never see a Pocket PC looking like this and this fact alone must drive Pocket PC fanboys absolutely batty. :-)

Wednesday
Jul162003

Surviving Mobile Number Portability

mobile phoneRead a great article at BusinessWeek online today called Portability: Survival Tips for Cell-Phone Outfits. The article talks about US mobile phone carriers requirement to deal with mobile phone number portability on November 24th, 2003 and gives the big carriers some ideas on making the best of the situation.

In a nutshell, the article argues that mobile phone carriers would do well to go with the flow of number portability and make it easy. They should treat their customers as people rather than "units" by providing the excellent service their customers deserve. Lastly, carriers should make their pricing plans decipherable by mere mortals and hold off on the hidden fees.

An interesting statistic from the article:

"A recent survey by Management Network Group, a communications research firm, revealed that 6% of cell-phone users -- some 8.7 million people -- would switch carriers within a day if they could take their phone numbers with them. Some 27%, or 39 million customers, said they would switch providers as soon as they received a better offer. Better than 50% of those who experienced service issues in the past year said they would at some point switch carriers."

I for one will be looking to switch carriers, possibly to Virgin Mobile, since they offer an easy to comprehend pay-as-you-go service that suits my phone use patterns perfectly.

I hope that this shift in the US mobile market will improve options of the consumer -- mobile phone carriers already have way too much power, which makes number portability seem like a perfect way to give some power back to the consumer, where it belongs.

Tuesday
Jul152003

Would You Like Linux with Your Weisswurst?

At lunchtime today I came across an article called Linux took on Microsoft, and won big in Munich, in USA Today online. Byron Acohido's well-written article by details the timeline of the Microsoft vs. Linux decision in Munich (the home of Weisswurst), along with behind the scenes information gathered after the decision.

Some of the more interesting tidbits from the documents USA Today uncovered, indicate that Microsoft was willing to let Munich extend their Windows XP "upgrade-free-zone" to 6 years -- a big concession compared to the normal 3 to 4 year span. Here's a great quote from Munich council member Christine Strobl:

"Microsoft's philosophy is to change our software every five years," Strobl says. "With open-source, it is possible for us to make our own decision as to when to change our software."

Microsoft also agreed to let Munich buy copies of MS Word without having to buy Office in cases where workstations didn't need anything more. In other words, unbundling. This is another big and very unusual concession, since Microsoft uses the sale of Office as a big stranglehold on business.

My Austrian friend Andy suggested that Munich is known as Europe's "Silicon Valley", which means this win for Linux is a very strategic one. It could have a huge impact on Europe, the US and the world. Should be interesting to see how this one shakes out in the next few years.

A final takeaway quote:

"Microsoft came too late," says Wolowicz, Ude's chief of staff. "The perception of the majority of the city council was now (Microsoft) wants to put pressure on the decision. Psychologically it was not good."

Read the whole article... I highly recommend it.