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A Slave to Apple

July 16, 2011 Leave a comment

I wish it weren’t so. I resent Apple for controlling us so. When Gail and I walked into the Apple Store after dinner tonight, I cursed them in my mind. Yet, I don’t have a choice. We’re so invested in Apple gear that I see no way to change.

Our Apple Time Capsule took a turn for the worse this afternoon. This may have something to do with a dumb maneuver on my part, but let’s not dwell on that. The Time Capsule, as you may know, is really two completely different items in one: a wireless router — essentially the equivalent of what they call their Airport Extreme — and an external hard drive. Why combine them? Because it automatically puts at your disposal a networked external hard drive, ready to connect to any computer that is connected to the internet via the companion wireless router. Perfect for backups, especially of the automated kind.

The thing is, the hard drive connection has been flaky from almost the beginning. So when I ruined the hard drive today, I wasn’t too disappointed. That meant we could get the Airport Extreme for wireless routing duties and an altogether different, separate hard drive for our backup needs. I know, one can buy far cheaper wireless routers these days. The prices have dropped to almost nothing. But why mess with Apple?

So there we were, at the Apple Store. We bought the router. We bought a smart cover for my iPad. And after staring at all the third party external hard drives that the Apple Store carries, we chose one.

As we headed toward the door, I began an inventory. Here’s what we have. I’ll include not just what Gail, Joel, and I use in the house, but also some equipment we’ve passed on to Jessica.

Desktop computers: 2 iMacs. Maybe 3 if you count one Jessica has that I assume she stopped using when we gave her my used MacBook Air.

Laptops: 1 old MacBook Pro, likely to be replaced soon when Joel heads to graduate school. 2 MacBook Airs, an original model when it was introduced and a smaller new one.

iPads: 2 new ones for Gail and me, 2 hand-me-down original iPads for Jessica and Joel.

iPhones: 3 iPhone 4’s.

Wireless routers: 2, counting our new one but not the Time Capsule that ran into a bit of difficulty today. A third may enter our lives soon, when Joel heads off to school.

And there’s another iMac in my office, but that doesn’t count, since we don’t own it. It is due to be replaced soon by a new one. Plus assorted generations of iPod that remain functional, from hard-drive iPods to a first generation iPod Touch and two aging iPod Shuffles.

It would be interesting (for me, not you) to figure out all the Apple products we’ve owned going back to our 1986 purchase of a Macintosh Plus. I never should have taken that first bite.

Categories: Computing

That Tour Rhythm

July 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Thomas Voeckler crossing the line at Plateau de Beille

[Peter Dejong/AP]

Another post about the Tour? Well, why not? It beats talking about the deficit.

As I have mentioned before, once I start watching Tour coverage in the morning, I find it almost impossible to break away. If I have an appointment, as I did a week ago yesterday, then I drag myself away, even though there are only 5k to go and my hero Mark Cavendish is poised for another stage victory. Or if I have to take Gail and Joel to the airport, as I did this past Tuesday, I head out with them early, but race home to see what I missed, which alas was Greipel edging Cavendish at the line.

This point in the tour, the second half of week two, is always a tough one for me to handle, because it coincides with the playing of the British Open golf championship, and if there’s anything I watch with greater intensity than the Tour, it’s golf, especially the major championships. What I’ve discovered in recent years, to my surprise, is that the conflict ends up being easily resolved. When I try to switch back and forth between the two events, I find that the starkly different rhythms of the two make golf the loser in the battle for my attention.

Take today, for example. The Tour was in its last day in the Pyrenees, set to conclude with the massive climb up to Plateau de Beille. There had yet to be a shakeout among the big names, but today might be the day, and it could happen at any moment once the climb commenced. How would the Schleck brothers, Cadel Evans, Ivan Basso, and Alberto Contador handle the climb? Who would attack? Would there be a surprise contender? Would one of them crack?

Over in Sandwich, England, we had just as weighty questions regarding Darren Clarke, Lucas Glover, Thomas Bjørn, and a host of others. And given my interest level in the two sports and their leading participants, I without question have more interest in the fates of the golfers than the riders. Yet, once I start watching the riders, I just can’t break away. And when I do, the slower rhythm of the golf, the more gradual unfolding of its essential moments, makes me return instantly to the Tour.

Fortunately, the Tour ends well before the midway point of the day’s round in golf, so I can afford to stick with the riders to the stage’s conclusion, then switch over for good. But even then, when I make the switch, it takes maybe half an hour for me to adjust.

A case in point was what happened two years ago, when Tom Watson, at age 59, was making a run for the Open championship. My favorite golfer over the decades, poised to win his 6th Open, an unimaginable accomplishment. But the Tour won my attention, and when I did turn to golf, I didn’t warm up to it for a while. (Then, of course, Watson came to the 18th hole needing just a par for the unimaginable to happen, the Tour was long forgotten, no other sporting event could compare to what was happening in front of my eyes, … . Sigh.)

We’ll see how this plays out tomorrow. But the Tour features a flat stage, a day for the sprinters, a chance for the tour leaders to take it easy, and I may be watching golf until the stage nears its last 10k.

As for today, a great stage indeed. The favorites finished all together, letting Belgian rider Jelle Vanendert break off to build a lead near the top of the climb, and allowing Sammy Sanchez to follow him nearer still to the top. Vanendert and Sanchez finished 1-2, in reverse of their finish two days ago in the Pyrenees on the climb up to Luz-Ardiden. Their gains were modest, 46 and 25 seconds over Andy Schleck in third, 2 seconds more over the other Tour big shots — Frank Schleck, Evans, Contador, Basso. The only change this made to their relative overall rankings was to place Sanchez just a bit ahead of Contador, as they swapped 6th and 7th places.

But I didn’t even mention the real stunner, which is that once again Thomas Voeckler stayed with them up the mountain, holding onto the yellow jersey. Everyone knows it won’t last. He’ll crack on one of the mountain stages. But he’s shown no sign of cracking yet. And when he donned the yellow jersey at the podium afterwards, Bernard Hinault had warm words for him. (Hinault, 5-time champion, French racing giant, winner in ’85 when we saw him ((and everyone else)) on the final day in Paris during our honeymoon, stage manages the daily presentations. It’s always fascinating to see how he greets each of the day’s award winners.)

Following Voeckler in the standings are the riders we are all watching — Frank Schleck, Evans, Andy Schleck, Basso, Sanchez, and Contador. With tomorrow’s sprint day and Monday’s rest day, they will hit the Alps on Tuesday. There are some major climbs Wednesday, but the really big ones await on Thursday and Friday. Then, and perhaps only then, will the truth be revealed. After that, without a break, this year’s lone individual time trial will take place Saturday in Grenoble. It’s going to be an exciting three days.

Categories: Cycling