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More new toys

Started: 2008-04-08 21:13:15

Submitted: 2008-04-08 22:26:33

Visibility: World-readable

When I left my previous employer two months ago today, I surrendered the Dell Latitude D810 they issued me, which their IT guy had named Darnassus. (I'm told that Darnassus is a capitol city, albeit off the beaten path, in World of Warcraft.) At home, I dusted off Illyria, my well-worn T21 (which I purchased, used, on eBay three years ago) and contemplated buying my own notebook computer. Now that I'm working at a startup, my cash compensation more closely resembles a stipend than a real salary (they're paying me mostly in stock), leaving little money available for silly things like new notebook computers. Unless I used the vacation time I had accumulated for myself (one of the hazards of working hourly meant I had to take care of that myself) and used it to fund the global personal computer market.

I went shopping (online) this weekend and began to narrow down my choices. I decided I was looking for a business-class luggable notebook, probably with a 15.4" widescreen monitor, dual-core processor, hardware virtualization support, not running Windows Vista. My D810 served me well, so I looked at the newest model in the same class, the D830, which formed some of my criterion and matched the others. I also looked at Lenovo's Thinkpad T61; I quickly configured a nearly-identical machine for almost the same price. I was impressed that I could buy the T61 with SUSE Enterprise Linux; the prospect of buying Linux pre-installed and sticking it to The Man appealed to me, though even I occasionally need to use Windows. (Besides, I'd simply end up formatting the drive and installing Debian or Ubuntu.) I spent hours reading reviews before ultimately deciding on the D830; despite spending long quality hours with my Thinkpad (and its Thinklight), the physical design of the D830 and the configuration of its ports (on the back of the machine where they belong rather than on the left side where they're more likely to get in the way) won out. (It also doesn't hurt that I already have a compatible docking station from the Darnassus era, and that Adara is a similar D620. (It amuses me that Kiesa, my father, and my sister all have D620s, while my mother and brother both have T40-somethings. I'll continue to be the bridge between the two sides, with both a Thinkpad and a Latitude.)

(I also looked at MacBooks, since I lust after the sexy Apple hardware. Now that Macs have Intel processors, I could pick a MacBook with almost exactly the same specifications as the T61 and D830 I looked at, though it would cost two and a half times as much.)

I ordered the new computer yesterday morning. Dell tells me they should ship in a week, and that I should have my new machine two days after that. I haven't yet decided what to name it; I usually prefer to touch the hardware first to get a feel for what it wants to be named but it's helpful to have a name in mind. (Or at least a namespace. My tradition is to draw from science fiction television shows; I'm not watching very much sci-fi these days.)

My other adventures for the weekend included watering my trees and shrubs and biking into Boulder. After figuring out a plausible route through Longmont a few weeks ago, on Sunday I took my new-found interest in cycling to the next logical level: Bike all the way into Boulder. The forecast called for less wind on Sunday than Saturday, so I set out on Sunday in what turned out to be a brisk, 15-mile-per-hour head wind on the Diagonal. It took me two-thirds of the way into Boulder to remember that I had forgotten to bring any snacks at all, though I had remembered water. I felt entirely out-classed in the wind; not since my first (and only) attempt at driving on a four-wheel-drive road early last summer. It took me 90 minutes and 900 calories to bike the twenty-nine kilometers from home into my office. I entered Boulder on the Diagonal and continued west on Iris to Folsom, which took me straight to my office. Once sheltered from the wind in the city, I finally felt that I could enjoy the ride rather than fighting for every inch. When I arrived, I was exhausted; I calculated the time left before I could call Kiesa and ask her to bail me out via car. I biked to Chipotle on Pearl Street for lunch (which may have been the only time that I've eaten Chipotle for lunch and been able to justify the calories), walked my bike down the Pearl Street Mall to my new favorite bike shop, Full Cycle, and investigated cycling shoes. I ended up buying a reasonable-looking pair (snug, but not too tight) and the necessary pedals (which came with cleats that attach to the bottom of the shoes); the store installed the pedals and I wore the shoes out the door, hoping I knew what I was doing.

It turned out that I had at least a vague idea what I was doing. Clipping my shoes into the pedals worked fairly well (simply press down, in the right place). Clipping out wasn't any worse (simply twist), but actually remembering to clip out in advance of needing to clip out was a bit harder. I fell over the first time I stopped, while standing on the curb in front of my office setting up my electronics to monitor my ride home. (Lunch elevated my blood sugar to the point where I thought I could try the ride.) On my way out of town, I took Folsom north to the Goose Creek Path to the Foothills Path, which took me to the Diagonal. The westerly wind now functioned as a stiff tail-wind; I averaged thirty kilometers per hour on the way home. I could feel the difference that the shoes and clips made; I could feel my legs working in the up-stroke as well as the down-stroke, and I had no trouble putting the pedal in the position I needed while stopped waiting at traffic lights. I made it home in just over an hour and six hundred calories; I'd consider an hour the nominal commute time I should shoot for if I want biking to become a semi-regular occurrence.

I expected my legs to complain about the ride, but I didn't expect to sun-burn my arms. My arms have been sheltered from the harsh light of the day-star for at least six months; exposing them for the hour-long ride home was enough to turn a nice shade of red.