Entrepreneurial Leadership and Management . . . and Other Stuff

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Aug
11

Addicted to Batteries

I suppose most people who don’t carry a big purse or briefcase have a place where they unload their pockets, holsters, belt clips, etc when they come into their home or change their clothes.  For me, it’s usually at the bar – my first and almost always necessary stop when I’m wrapping up my day.  As such, stuff tends to collect there.

As I was walking by the bar last night, I chuckled at what I saw . . .

Batteries

My first thought was that all this stuff should be consolidated into one device.  But then I realized that there were two phones, two iPods (as well as Oakley Thumps, another MP3 player) and two GPS’s (a Garmin cycling computer and a SkyCaddie, which has golf course information that tells me where the hole is when I’m hitting from 100 yards in the woods and can’t see it).

I guess it’s not about consolidation alone.  It’s about functionality, convenience and size.  The reason that there are so many devices is that each fits a particular need very well.  Not only because of its functionality, but because of it’s form factor.  For example, anyone who has tried to ride a bike with a headphone cord will tell you how many times the cord has gotten caught in their spokes – if you want tunes while you ride, the player needs to be cordless.  But, you don’t want the Thumps when you don’t need sunglasses.

Of course, there is no reason – other than the expected complexity and, perhaps, power requirements – that most of these devices won’t merge into one or, at least, fewer devices in the future.  That’s what makes all this consumer technology so much fun.

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 August 11th, 2008  
 Will  
 Gadgets  
   
 4 Comments
Aug
08

Blogging From the iPhone

Well, sorta . . . from an iPod Touch, actually. I really, really want to like the iPhone (the Touch is incredible, by the way), but the fact that the apps don’t talk to one another, Exchange is only partially integrated, and the virtual keyboard is not nearly as accurate as a physical one, makes it hard to see as a better solution than other phones.

So, I’m using the Touch, which I already have and has all the functionality of the iPhone without the phone, of course, as a testbed for the phone. Including the app I’m using to write his post – WordPress – for posting to WordPress blogs.

I dunno. I have made 100 typing errors writing this post. The very capable spelling software of the device has corrected 80% of them. Just not good enough, I’m afraid. With a physical keyboard, it’d be much easier – faster and more accurate. Pounding out a similar message on my Blackjack would not yield nearly as many errors and would be significantly faster.

I think I’m gonna wait to see how the Blackberry Bold and HTC Touch Diamond look before making a call on my next phone.

 August 8th, 2008  
 Will  
 Gadgets  
   
 1 Comment
Aug
07

Gadget Review: Garmin Edge 705

Garmin-705

As a cyclist, data junkie and all-around gadget guy, it doesn’t get much better than this.  Some people think this cycling computer is overkill, but my guess is that they’re the same kinda people who haven’t yet moved from VHS to DVDs.

Like most cycling computers, the Edge 705 collects data on cadence and speed.  It also determines heart rate, GPS position, altitude and a huge amount of other information that can derived from this data (e.g. distance, grade, calories, ascent/decent, pace, etc.).  Additionally, using Garmin’s de facto standard ANT+Sport network, the 705 can collect data from power meters made by other manufacturers, wirelessly, of course.  Being able to include power with all the other data collected makes this device incredibly powerful as a training tool.

Coming from Garmin, you’d expect the GPS functionality to be good, and it is.  Not only does the 705 track your location like it’s predecessors, but it displays your position on a color road map.  Garmin has basemaps available in micro SD format that slide into the device providing road and trail maps around the world.  While even I thought this type of mapping might be over the top for road biking, it has saved my ass a couple of times when I’ve been lost.  Take me home, 705, and avoid highways and dirt roads while you’re at it . . .

Sizeasy-Pack-Of-Playing-Cards-vs-Garmin-705-vs-Garmin-305 If you have a Garmin Edge 205 or 305, the first thing you’ll notice about the 705 is its size.  When I opened the box, I was amazed at how big the thing is.  Everything about it is bigger.  At first, I found the larger unit a bit of a turn-off, but after using it for a couple of months, I don’t even notice it and I really appreciate the advantages of its larger size – bigger screen, bigger battery, bigger buttons, etc.  I’m American.  Bigger is almost always better, right?  😉

As you poke through the menus, you’ll be blown away by how flexible the thing is.  Not only do you have choices of dozens of pieces of data to display, you can configure almost every screen to show the data you want where you want it.  The map display can stand alone or also show you data about your current ride.  The map is also easy to get around while riding, although gloves (the full finger kind) do make it a bit more challenging.

If you are a current 205/305 owner, you’ll immediately appreciate how fast the 705 latches onto and holds a GPS sat signal.  I used to have to turn my 305 on, leave it in my driveway for several minutes free and clear of any obstructions for it to get sat reception.  With the 705, I turn it on and start to ride.  Also, owners of previous models will appreciate the additional memory and battery power in the device.  With my old 305, the data from a century ate all the memory in the device up.  Recently, I had two centuries in the memory of the 705 and I still had loads-o-memory left.  There is also more memory for courses.  Since I often ride alone, I like to compete against my previous times on designated routes.  With the 705, I can carry 20 or more rides with me and select which one I’m going to do along the way, instead of having to plan ahead.

In terms of battery power, I wish I could tell you how long it lasts, but I’ve never come close to running it down.  After back-to-back 6+ hour rides a few weeks ago, I still had loads of power.  The manual says 15 hours, which is quite a bit longer than the 205/305.  My guess is that it’s pretty close, if not even conservative.

As with all gadgets, even the coolest ones, there are certainly areas that need improvement.  First, there is a little joystick that is used to navigate between multiple screens of similar information.  This works great even when you’re riding.  For some reason, though, Garmin chose to make the user push the joystick in like a button to navigate between the screens when in Courses mode (when you race against previously stored performance data).  While you’re bouncing around on the bike, this is difficult, and I almost always screw it up.  Instead of pushing the joystick in, I push it up or down.  This changes the mode of the map and all of the buttons on the device.  VERY annoying.

Secondly, for some reason, I am consistently getting errant zeros in my speed data.  As you can see from the chart below, there are a load of 0mph data points between 20mph data points that last for seconds (note the X-axis is time, not distance).  Unless I’ve become superhuman and can go 20-0-20 in a matter of seconds on a bicycle, I believe this is a problem with the device or rear-wheel sensor (yes, I tried new batteries in the sensor).

Edge-705-Zeros

[Note: I have no idea why the Garmin Training Center software has negative speed scale]

Finally, and not a killer for me, the Calories Burned numbers are significantly higher than on any other trainer that I’ve ever used – higher by about 2X.  It could be that the 705 is right and every other trainer I’ve ever used is wrong, but I sorta doubt it.

The bottom line for me is that the 705 has met or exceeded all my expectations and it’s really been fun to have along for rides.  If you’re a data junkie like me, there is really no better device out there for analyzing and comparing ride data and routes.  Also, since I ride on a Computrainer all winter, I can also take my routes from the 705 and convert them to work with the Computrainer.  That way, I get to ride the same routes virtually during the winter, doubling my fun with the device.

The Edge 705 ain’t cheap, but my experience is that it’s durable and should last a long time.  If you’re a frequent rider and enjoy seeing yourself improve, the smiles/mile can make it totally worthwhile.

 August 7th, 2008  
 Will  
 Cycling, Gadgets  
   
 9 Comments
Aug
06

The 2008 Pan-Mass Challenge Is In The Books

This past weekend, I rode in my fifth Pan-Mass Challenge, a 2-day cycling event across Massachusetts benefiting the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through its Jimmy Fund.  I was a bit apprehensive this year since I had fallen off my bike only two weeks before the ride and fractured two ribs.  As it turned out, though, the event turned out to be a huge success for the charity and for me personally.  As of August 5 the stats for the PMC were:

  • 5,200 riders
  • 2,758 volunteers
  • 157,000 contributors
  • 800,000 miles cycled
  • 13 emergency room visits (with 5K riders, someone’s going to crash)
  • 10,000,000 people cheering along the route (it seemed that way – the number of people who come out to support the riders is incredible)
  • $21,650,000 in funds raised (the goal is $32,000,000 by October)

These numbers are great and, of course, represent real money being raised for an incredible cause.

Personally, I had a great ride as well.  My ribs bothered me a bit, but did not hinder me nearly as much as I had feared.  I finished the first day averaging 19.3MPH and the second, 19.1MPH.  These speeds are significantly up from my previous bests at these long distances set last year during the PMC – 18.3MPH and 17.3MPH, respectively.  I really don’t know what to attribute the increases to – more training, better nutrition, improved technique?  Maybe a little of all of these plus loads of luck?

I was really fortunate to latch onto a small paceline (a line of riders who take turns “pulling” in front, then drafting behind other riders) that ran unbroken for 40 miles on day 1.  That had a huge positive impact on my time.

The weather sorta sucked on day 2, but it never rained.  I also never got a flat.  Rain and flats can ruin your whole day.

Thanks to all who sponsored me with donations and to the large group who offered their support and encouragement along the way.

 August 6th, 2008  
 Will  
 Cycling  
   
 3 Comments