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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.

Monday
Jul142003

Lance Goes Off-Road

Lance Goes Off-RoadWow! What a great Tour this has been and what a wild tour stage 9 today! It featured more incredibly steep mountain climbs, fast descents, numerous attacks, the crash of Joseba Beloki (sadly is out of the Tour) and a wild off-road adventure for Lance Armstrong.

I was listening to the stage today live while working and heard the call, with Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen just about going crazy when Beloki went down in melted blacktop, followed by Lance immediately jumping off-road to avoid running over the injured Beloki. So far I've not been able to round up a video off the crash and off road jaunt, but even the pictures seem amazing.

"I decided to do a bit of cyclo cross!" said Armstrong. "I was really scared. It was the reflexes of a survivor."

Lance must have been working completely on instinct as he veered onto the grass and cut the corner backward. He actually had to pop his feet off the pedals and jump off the grass median, which was a few feet higher than road level, then remounted his bike. He caught the rest of the field and eventually pulled in close enough to the lead riders to stay in the yellow jersey by 21 seconds, ahead of Alexandre Vinokourov, who won the stage. All of the mountain biking he does in the off-season paid of today!

Armstrong also commented on the loss of fellow rider Joseba Beloki:

"He was racing the race, and racing aggressively. It's a shame to see a guy who's out there, who's a real threat to the race, going down like that."

I'm also still amazed that Tyler Hamilton, who is riding these mountains with a fractured collar bone while other riders who have much fewer problems are dropping out. Amazing. I'm incredibly impressed at Hamilton's drive and resolve to continue even in pain and on top of that, attack Armstrong on the mountains. I have no idea how he does it.

On a personal cycling note, I was privileged to enjoy a great road ride on Saturday with a few friends Southwest of Milwaukee on some very pretty country roads. I've been feeling better and better, and my power climbing hills seems to be coming back.

My road bike is now with a mechanic friend of mine, being tuned up a bit, so I'm riding my mountain bike. All I can say is, I really appreciate how much difference narrow road tires and lighter frame can make when climbing a long hill. I like my mountain bike, but I can't wait for my road bike to return, that's for sure. :-)

(Photo: Joel Saget/Agence France-Presse)

Thursday
Jul102003

Le Tour Memories

I'm actually not the biggest cycling fan out there, but I do really enjoy the Tour de France and keeping up with race coverage across the big pond.

Today, I was thinking of all the fond memories of past Tours, and how they have inspired me to get out and ride. Some of my oldest memories were from the 70s and 80s, when as a kid, I loved watching Tour highlights on ABC's Wide World of Sports. I still remember how just one hour of Tour highlights on a Saturday afternoon excited my friends and I about cycling for the rest of the summer.

After college, in 1992, I happened to have cable TV and ESPN carried coverage of the Tour daily (well, it was at 3am). I felt fortunate, since I could tape that day's stage and watch in the evening after work. Wow, what a great Tour! Miguel Indurain, Greg LeMond, Laurent Fignon, and all the other greats, battling it out for the win. That year I was challenged to buy and refurbish an old steel frame racing bike and retrofit it with new components. I had a great time building my ride, which I still ride to this day.

I also recall a nice service AOL offered in 1995, where an on-location cycling reporter followed the Tour and sent out email updates to the subscribers of the list. I still recall dialing in by modem to download the latest descriptive post while I was visiting friends in Germany, as the Tour was taking place in nearby France.

And of course, this year I find myself enjoying Tour coverage offered by websites, weblogs and particularly by Outdoor Life TV in the form of live and archived audio feeds. I feel honored to hear Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen making the call on race day, while I work. In fact it brings back fond memories of 1992 when Phil and Paul made the call for ESPN.

After writing this post, I can't wait to get out on my road bike tomorrow morning! I can't wait to smell the fresh air and feel the wind in my face. I'm looking so forward to seeing the green of the fields and woods flash past, feeling the rumble of blacktop under my wheels, sensing the rush of flying full speed downhill and the challenge of spinning my way up hills. And of course there's that wonderful feeling of endorphins being released and the tension you feel in your legs after a nice morning ride.

Man, it's great to be a cyclist in July! :-)

Wednesday
Jul092003

Le Tour Fever

I'm a fan of cycling riding and following cycle racing, so this time of year is always a great one for me because of the Tour de France. This year in particular it's more exciting, because I and two friends have been training indoors since January and riding our road bikes outside since May, so I've been in much more of a cycling state of mind this summer.

I knew that the Tour began this Saturday, but today (Wednesday) I think I've caught the fever big time, learning of US Postal's Team's huge team time trial win today in stage 4. Lance Armstrong heads the US Postal Team (afectionately known as the Posties or the Blue Train) and is going for a 5th consecutive win of the Tour, to match the great Miguel Indurain.

So, with my thoughts turning to cycling and Tour de France results, I thought it might be nice to share some of the bits I've been collecting since the weekend for readers interested in the Tour. Enjoy!

First, there's of course the Tour de France Official Site, with all sorts of news, information and goodies in many languages.

Outdoor Life TV is showing 2 hour blocks of coverage on US cable TV and has an Official Tour website featuring live and archived audio feeds (Windows Media Player required), which are great for listening to in the background while working.

VeloNews, is covering the Tour as well, and includes rider diaries and excellent interactive flash-based Tour coverage.

Eurosport has a nice cylcling section covering the Tour, CyclingNews.com has good info but a confusing site and Graham Watson's Photo Website has some excellent photos of the riders in action.

The USPS has a Postal Team site up as well, for Lance and Postie fans.

I've found only one weblog completely focused on the Tour: Le Blog de France, but I'm sure there must be more. If you come across a good one, please let me know.

Lastly, the weblog Nicest of the Damned has a nice beginner's guide on the Tour for those new to cycle racing and the Tour itself.

Oh yes -- a Dutch company called Deepweb has release a neat little Palm OS Tour de France reference application called Le Tour 03 (thanks PDANews24!) which shows details on the stages, teams and riders. It's free to check out, though a small $3 donation to Deepweb is certainly in order if you like it and use it.

Cheers too all the road cycling fans out there -- enjoy the next month! :-)

UPDATE: 2003-07-10
I had to add two new Tour Blogs I've learned of via the comments on this post:

Frank Steele from Nicest of the Damned has a great Tour de France 2003 blog site up and running with the latest news (thanks Frank!).

Meanwhile, Dutchman Oskar van Rijswijk has his own LOGos Tour Blog with excellent coverage and a ton of great Tour-related links (thanks Oskar!).