Moving On

While I might continue to post the occasional cycling tidbit or maybe a personal note here every now and then, I'm heading into the tech world (my last two posts almost a year ago might have hinted I was heading in that direction). I'll be logging those adventures over at mikeebert.tumblr.com.

Thanks for reading


Best Wife Ever

Just got home from a three day work stint and although @rsanmarchi wasn't home she left me this.


11 is Enough

Almost three months ago I wrote a lengthy post about my gadget crush on the 11 inch MacBook Air. I had ordered one up and I challenged myself to stop upgrading to new computers at what had become an embarrassingly rapid rate. After three months of using the Air I don't think that challenge will be a problem. I'm using it as my primary computer and it's definitely all I need.

I went with the "maxed" out 11 inch Air that has a 1.6Ghz dual core processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB solid state drive. It's powerful enough to quickly do everything I throw at it and handle all of the programs I typically run. I usually have at least 8 or more programs running at once and this computer handles them with aplomb. (For example right now I'm running MarsEdit, Mail, Adium, Fetch, Preview, Chrome, DevonThink Pro, iTunes, Socialite, OmniFocus, Quickcursor and Dropbox). The computer typically runs cool and I don't think I've heard the fans kick on once in the three months I've owned it, although admittedly the most processor intensive thing I've done is some simple iMovie edits.

As other reviewers have noted, the SSD helps make everything feel very quick and snappy. Files and programs open instantly.

The keyboard and trackpad feel just like any other Apple laptop, and the screen has less glare than any of the current MacBook Pros.

It did take me a week or two to get used to the high resolution screen. Text and icons were noticeably smaller, but now it seems normal. In terms of screen real estate, 11 inches works fine. I can comfortably fit a chat window, a document or browser window and the iTunes mini player on the screen. If I am going to be doing heavy multitasking or working on big spreadsheets or images I hook up a 24 inch monitor at home (which I did in the past even when I had a 17" MacBook Pro).

One thing that did surprise me is how much I'm still using my iPad even after getting the MacBook Air. The Air is so small and light that I thought I might even sell my iPad after I got it. However, the iPad is still my go to device in a lot of situations- especially for browsing through my RSS feeds. And when it comes to collaborating or presenting to just one or two people I still go to the iPad. It feels much more natural to pull up a document or video on the iPad and then hand it over for the other person to look at. However, when I want to do work-work (like typing anything over a paragraph or two), I definitely go for the Air. In my preview article I guessed that at a combined weight of 4 pounds I would usually just decide to take both the Air and iPad with me when I go to a meeting or on a work trip- and that's typically what I do without a second thought. They fit perfectly side by side in my small backpack.

The Air is an outstanding laptop and I've been recommending the $999 base model to a lot of people. The light, fast and powerful 11 inch (and its 13 inch big brother) represent the future of laptops. As the price and capacity of SSDs drop, cloud storage and media streaming become more ubiquitous and optical media is phased out, I think all laptops will move towards this same sleek and slender form factor.


Stopping the Cycle: The New 11" MacBook Air is All I Need

Confession: I love computers- so much so that I've adopted a ridiculously rapid upgrade cycle in search of the "perfect" machine. My wife and I recently determined that in the eight years we have known each other I've gone through 20 different computers.

But like Ben Brooks, I think that the new 11" MacBook Air is finally what I'm looking for and I'm going all in on it. I ordered a maxed out Air yesterday (with the 1.6GHz processor and 4GB of RAM) and am challenging myself to quit searching and use it for at least two years as my main machine.

You can read the footnotes for details of what I need a computer to do for me1, but I run a cycling team and do the occasional side job in the off-season. I'm typically at my computer six to ten hours a day and and I have the usual eight to ten programs running at all times (mail, calendar, browsers, text editor, twitter client, iTunes). Then there's probably another eight to ten programs that I use throughout the day but usually don't leave running. Three or four days a week I work from home or the coffee shop and then I'm at a race or visiting a sponsor once or twice a week. During the season I also travel regularly for up to three weeks at a time.

I won't bore you with all of my upgrade history2, but I have owned the three previous MacBook Air revisions. Their faults were apparent but the slim, sexy portability won me over (and unsurprisingly I was able to find good deals on Craigslist from disenchanted customers).

The two biggest issues for me on all of the models were the 2GB of RAM limitation and the one USB port. However, I learned to judiciously close programs that I wasn't using and ration the USB port. Here are the main reasons that I ultimately sold each:
  1. 1.8Ghz, 64GB SSD: The hard drive was too small.
  2. 1.6Ghz, 120GB HD: The hard drive was too slow.
  3. 2.13Ghz, 128GB SSD: This computer was close to perfect for me, minus the RAM and USB issues that I worked around. When the new MacBook Air rumors hit a fever pitch and promised to alleviate my two major sticking points I quickly sold it on Craigslist and started saving up my pennies.
And out came the new MacBook Airs last week. I was overjoyed but a bit tormented- did I want the 11" or the 13"? (First world problems, right?) Would the slower processor in the 11" be too slow? Would I miss the SD card slot, bigger battery and larger display of the 13" model?

I went down to the new Lincoln Park Apple Store on their opening day (kind of crazy, kind of fun) and spent an hour bouncing between the 11" and 13" machines. I even logged in to Dropbox and downloaded some of my bigger Pages and Excel files to work on while streaming HD videos that Tribeca Flashpoint produced for my team.

The 11" performed admirably and I decided that since this computer had a better battery and a higher-resolution display than the computer I'd just sold I was going to be perfectly happy. (The SD slot was not a necessity because I always carry a small card reader in my bag in case someone else wants my pictures). Ultimately, I ordered the 1.6Ghz processor upgrade for peace of mind. An 8% fee for a theoretical 14% speed increase seemed reasonable enough. [Update: Macworld tests have it as a 12% increase.]

So, now it's just the long wait until the computer arrives. The RAM and processor options I chose mean the computer has to ship from overseas, and then it goes through Oregon since I ordered it from PowerMax. I was surprised to discover that Apple isn't stocking the 4GB options in either the 11" or 13" models as it kind of seems like a no brainer upgrade. Is it possible that OS X Lion would actually use less system resources? It's something to think about while I wait for my new computer. At least writing this post passed some time.


  1. Usage: The programs I always have open are: Mail or Mailplane, BusyCal, Adium, Tweetie, Safari for Google Apps, Chrome for general browsing, Pages, Preview, Dropbox and iTunes. The programs that I open daily but don't leave running are: iPhoto, Acorn, Photoshop, Rapidweaver, Word, Excel, Numbers, WriteRoom, MarsEdit, Notational Velocity (personal notes) and Evernote (work notes). The programs I run a few times a week are inDesign, Illustrator, iMovie, Dreamweaver and Parallels (for TrainingPeaks WKO+).
  2. Condensed Upgrade History:

    - I bought my first Mac in 2002: a 14" G3 iBook. The learning curve on what was possible with a computer was so quick on OS X that within a year I outgrew the RAM and wanted to drive a secondary display.

    - Next up: a refurbished 15" PowerBook G4. At $2250 it is still the most I ever paid for a computer and I will never buy a refurbished laptop again. After four repairs in 6 months Apple gave me a new one that I immediately sold. In addition to the refurb lesson I learned that I don't need that powerful of a computer. I don't play games and don't do anything that processor intensive.

    - After the PowerBook I ventured into desktops and used laptops, thinking that I'd have a backup at home. I picked up a G5 iMac and an old titanium PowerBook, but my travel schedule was such that I wasn't using the iMac much, keeping them in sync was a pain, and the titanium PowerBook wasn't quite as durable as I hoped (those hinges!). It wasn't until I found Dropbox that having a desktop as a backup really made sense.

    - After the TiBook I found what I thought was the holy grail (and one of Jason Snell's favorite machines): a 12" PowerBook. There was really only one problem with it- in order to use a couple of Windows programs that I needed for work I also had an old ThinkPad X21 (which shunned the optical drive long before Apple did). But whenever I left the house for more than a day I had to take both computers. No matter how small those two computers were, combined with their power bricks they weighed close to 10 pounds. (Now I'll carry a MacBook Air and an iPad, which combined still weigh less than the 12" PowerBook alone.)

    - Then the first MacBook came along. It was a little bigger than the PowerBook but it could do everything I needed AND run Windows. However, for RAM, heat and display reasons I ended up jumping off the MacBook bandwagon after about a year and then went through a few different computers before getting my first (used) MacBook Air in the winter of 2008.

    - Over the past couple years I've bounced between the different Air models and 13" MacBook Pros (for reasons stated above). The 13" MacBook Pro was still more computer than I needed.


Just an awful lot of 'us'

What should concern us is not that we can't take what we read on the internet on trust — of course you can't, it's just people talking — but that we ever got into the dangerous habit of believing what we read in the newspapers or saw on the TV — a mistake that no one who has met an actual journalist would ever make. One of the most important things you learn from the internet is that there is no 'them' out there. It's just an awful lot of 'us'.

- Douglas Adams, 1999 (via www.kottke.org)


I want one

Eddy Merckx gets a stamp.

via CyclingNews


Most of Us Dream of Such Anonymity

Cyclingnews reports from yesterday's Fléche Wallone:

Spain's Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) was one of the favourites for Flèche Wallonne but finished a somewhat anonymous eighth, 11 seconds behind Cadel Evans (BMC).


Sometimes Your Doctors and Coaches Really Do Know What's Best For You

Mark Cavendish talking to the The Sunday Times about his recent setbacks:
He revealed that his well publicized dental problems had come after he defied medical orders and returned to training too soon.


“I’m looking forward to it, but I’m also scared shitless.”

Brutal honesty from David Millar about next weekend’s Paris Roubaix.
- Cyclingnews


I want some

Both the gigabit speeds and the beer.