Hit me two times Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ever since the feature was introduced, we've had a small number of users report that Backup on Connect suddenly, with no "inciting event", stops working for them. I was never able to reproduce the problem, but had a way to get functionality back: basically, reinstalling. Which sucks, and I hated having to suggest it. But we do what we have to do.

For years I've been at a loss to figure out why, but thanks to Frank Fackelmayer, who was willing to let me provide him with a bunch of debugging versions, I've managed to get a handle on the bug, and have fixed it.

I can't tell you how awesome it is to fix a longstanding, rare, confusing, crazy-seeming bug. But this isn't going to be one of those amazing stories of heroism in the face of threading deadlock. No, it's going to show how stupid I can be. Or, at the very least, how stupid I feel now that I know what the problem is.

Now that we're all in agreement that I'm about to be proven an idiot (foreshadowing?), let's begin!

How it's done

Backup on Connect is implemented as an AppleScript that is called by launchd. We register our agent for two events: volume mount and -- since there's no "volume unmount" event -- a WatchPaths on the Volumes folder.

When we get one of these, the script determines what drives have mounted or unmounted, and for each "new" volume, it checks the Scheduled Copies folder for files that match the drive name. In that list, it checks each one to see if the target volume in the settings data is the same as the mounted volume name. If so, the script is launched.

All well and good - relatively simple stuff, and the kind of thing that AppleScript is pretty darn good at (it's so easy to ask it for, say, a collection of files containing the word "idiot", "stupid" or "dummy").

How it's done wrong

But here things went wrong. When the script retrieves the list of matching schedule bundles (bzzt) from Finder, I simply asked for any files that contained the volume name. I knew it might overmatch (returning files with source volumes with the same name, for example), but I handled that case, since the overmatch would get double-checked when verifying the target volume name.

All good! I am a super genius! Ship it!

Perhaps you see where this is going.

This particular "super genius" didn't consider that there might be a file in that folder that matched but wasn't a scheduling settings package. Or a match that wouldn't have a settings file in it to check. And that "super genius" didn't handle the potential error from the settings file parse. Because: "super genius"--which you may now read as "idiot".

Worse still, every SuperDuper installation had one file (in pre-2.7.2) and now two files (in 2.7.2) that match if the drive is named "Backup": "Backup by time.scpt" and "Backup on mount.scpt".

I will leave determining what the most common name for a Backup volume is as an exercise for the reader. It's a real puzzler, so don't hurt yourself.

Random is not your friend

So, why didn't this happen to everyone? And why couldn't I ever reproduce it?

Basically, the order the files were returned from Finder determined whether the script would work or not. In my tests, they always came in last, so no problem. But if they came in somewhere before the appropriate .sdsp...boom. So, basically, it was a bit random.

The solution is almost always easy when the problem is known, once the head-slamming-on-desk impact injury has healed enough for clear thought to return.

Homework

I've made a pre-release version of the fix (which I've tested) available here.

To install, download to your Mac. Once you have the file, open the SuperDuper! application bundle (Control+click, Show Package Contents), navigate to Contents/Resources in there, and replace the "Backup on Mount.scpt" with the one you downloaded. Also, replace the same file in Library/Application Support/SuperDuper!/Scheduled Copies.

So, if you're interested, give it a try and let me know if you have trouble. If you don't want to do this yourself, the fix will, of course, be included in the next update.

Take a breath Saturday, February 22, 2014

Well, that took longer than we though it would, mostly because we wanted to make sure we got very broad external testing coverage before release (extremely important when we make changes to the copy engine), but I'm happy to say that SuperDuper! v2.7.2 is now available.

To summarize the changes made:

  • Full Mavericks support, including the return of auto-mount and auto-eject for scheduled copies.
  • Scheduling has transitioned to launchd from cron
  • New volume size information available in the source and destination pop-ups
  • New volume information tooltips for the source and destination pop-up lists
  • Warning in the "What's going to happen?" section of the UI when the source drive has significantly more data than the capacity of the destination
  • Improvements to "Backup on connect" to help with a launchd bug in "WatchPaths"
  • Works around a problem in Mavericks with Spotlight handling (where mdsutil can't talk to mds and returns IPC errors)
  • Improvements around prebinding (only done when strictly necessary)
  • Elimination of the rare "Copy Job" unclickable dialog
  • Smart Update speed improvements
  • Scheduled Copies window will re-open on launch if open on quit again on 10.8+
  • Applescript launch no longer loads default settings on 10.8+
  • Large EAs no longer return "result too large" errors
  • Scheduled copies no longer generate annoying and incorrect "controlling your computer" security prompts
  • Now requires OS X 10.6 or later (but 2.7.1 still available for those using 10.4 and 10.5)
  • Various other optimizations, changes, and things I've forgotten because I am old and broken

Thanks for your patience as we've worked to get the release out, and enjoy the new and improved features!

Paving the Road to Hell Sunday, December 08, 2013

I think it was around Leopard's release--which seems like forever ago--that we ended up being later than expected with an update to SuperDuper. Since we've missed our internal target for release of 2.7.2, I thought I'd write a quick blog post to fill you in on what's going on, and why we haven't released the update yet.

First off, the update we have in external beta right now has been working really well for quite a long time. We're basically getting no reports of failures, which is a good thing, since it confirms internal testing.

However, we noticed two things in 2.7.1 under Mavericks, being used by the broader population, that we needed to fix.

The (demonic) MDS Daemon

As some of you may know, Spotlight's indexing daemon is called "mds", and runs automatically. It's loaded by launchd, and does its thing transparently, at low priority. Most of the time you won't even notice it.

In the past, we've temporarily turned mds off with mdsutil during the SuperDuper copy to stop it from indexing the backup during creation.

Which was fine, until we were hit by that dog's big wave.

Under Mavericks, on a few systems, mds seems to be crashing (in some cases it's been unloaded, rather than using the Privacy tab of the Spotlight preference pane). When this happens, mdsutil now throws an error, indicating that it can't talk to the daemon, and we stop. Re-running will often work (since mds gets reloaded), but it's intermittent and annoying.

We're going to stop disabling mds in 2.7.2 to work around this problem. Remember, you can always disable Spotlight indexing of a backup with the Privacy tab in the Spotlight preference pane (as long as you're using Smart Update): something I'd generally recommend since it also prevents backup results from showing up in a Spotlight search.

Extended Attributes of Unusual Size

Way back in Tiger (as I recall, it's been a while), Apple added Extended Attribute support to HFS+. The pretty standard getxattr/setxattr/listxattr calls were supported, and we've been using them to copy the attributes ever since their introduction. Mostly, they used to be small.

These days, Extended Attributes can be quite large (compressed files are actually stored, in some cases, in the resource fork EA), so we've always tried to copy them 256K at a time (to avoid allocating gigantic amounts of memory--they can be up to 2GB in size). This seemed to be fully supported by the get/set APIs, and worked fine.

However, in Mavericks, we started getting ERANGE errors on some (again, very few) user systems.

It turns out that the failure happens when a non-ResourceFork EA turns out to be larger than our 256K buffer. These are super rare, but we've found a few users who had PDFs with kMDItemComments that were gigantic (on the order of 2MB) and some GIFs with corrupted kMDItemWhereFroms that were huge and contained image data.

After carefully reviewing the code along with the current version of the man page (a tip of the pocket to Rich Siegel for helping out with a code review), we've determined the cause of the problem, and it's definitely our bug.

Basically, the com.apple.ResourceFork EA, where large compressed file data is stored, supports chunked reads and writes. Surprisingly, other EAs do not (even though they can be just as large, as mentioned above), and thus must be copied in one go, even if they're as large as 2GB. We were trying to copy them 256K at a time, which failed as soon as we went to the 2nd chunk, and we'd never hit a large, non-ResourceFork EA until Mavericks' release.

This took much too long to figure out. But now that we've determined the cause of the problem, and have fixed it in a way that maintains efficiency (and doesn't unnecessarily bloat our memory footprint), we'll have one more beta build and get the result, assuming success, into your hands.

Thanks for your patience. While you wait, you can try to diagram the last, terrible sentence of the previous paragraph. Good luck!

Mavericks Tuesday, October 22, 2013

So, it's been a while!

For the tl;dr crowd out there, SuperDuper! 2.7.1 backs up Mavericks just fine, so we've got you covered, day-and-date, with backups.

In addition, I'm happy to announce that we will, have an even better Mavericks-compatible release 2.7.2 available shortly.

For more patient readers, here's some hopefully interesting detail.

Despite few visible changes, we've done quite a bit behind the scenes to bring back the cool automatic volume mount/eject feature that stopped working in Mountain Lion because of some new "security features". (It should also eliminate that intermittent, weird, unclickable "Application isn't running" panels and the like that occasionally happened to a few users.)

But every OS release presents new challenges, and Mavericks is no exception.

As you may know, our scheduling feature runs a little application called "Copy Job" behind the scenes. Copy Job gets launched by the system, figures out what the scheduled copy should be, and then launches SuperDuper! to actually do the copying.

When Copy Job starts, one of the first thing it does is ask the OS whether SuperDuper! is already running. That way, it knows whether or not it should quit it at the end of a successful backup.

For some reason, in Mavericks, this check (and a second one that checks whether Growl is running) now generates a scary security warning that claims Copy Job is trying to strangle kittens or some such—and then doesn't give you an easy way to disable the warning (it's a multi-step, confusing process, as you'll see).

We've found a way around this prompt, but it requires that you delete and recreate your existing schedules once 2.7.2 is released. To be blunt, that sucks, I wish it wasn't necessary, and I'm truly sorry for the hassle.

On a slightly sad note, the new 2.7.2 version drops support for Tiger and Leopard (10.4 and 10.5). It's become too difficult to build and test new versions that are compatible with these years-old OS versions (hard to believe, I know, but Tiger came out in 2005, and Leopard in 2007).

2.7.1 will still be available, of course, and can still be used with those older OS versions.

The new 2.7.2 version is in the final stages of testing, and will be available for automatic upgrade shortly as a free update.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for using, trusting and recommending SuperDuper. We couldn't do this without you.

30-day notice of awesomeness Tuesday, September 04, 2012

We've been pretty happy with the way v2.7's been behaving out there in the Big, Beautiful World, but as my previous posts indicated there were some bugs that we needed to deal with.

And deal we have: I'm happy to announce the v2.7.1, available today, has resolved the vast majority of them:

  • We've fixed the "too many open files" error, and the "index out of bounds" exception. While we were doing that, we improved our error handling even more, and added additional, more specific diagnostic messages during a failure that will help you (and us) pinpoint the cause of disk errors when they occur.

  • The statistics in the "status view" and in the log have been corrected. Previously, they were underreporting the number of files and bytes copied in some situations (even though the files were being copied as they should have been).

  • 10.4.11 users had a minor problem with Growl notifications that has been dealt with, too.

A fix for automatic mounting under 10.8 is still in progress (it's not a simple fix, even though we know what to do).

That'll do it for now—we'll head back to the code mines to work the remaining seam while you surface dwellers enjoy.

Hope you had a great Labor Day weekend!

Talkin’ about 2.7’s rollout Thursday, July 26, 2012

Two blog posts in two days - shocking!

The rollout of 2.7 is going well: this is probably the smoothest new version release we've had. But, of course, when you go from "small batch testing" to "large batch testing", you find some things that slipped through the cracks.

Here's what we've found and what we're working on - save for the first two, these are all extremely rare (fewer than ten users affected by all the issues combined), but I thought they might be interesting:

  1. As mentioned in the previous blog post, automatic mounting of ejected local volumes doesn't work under Mountain Lion when time-triggered schedules run. A fix is still in process.

  2. Some users on 10.5 and earlier are getting errors during the update process. If the update doesn't install automatically, you can download it from the Shirt Pocket web site and install manually.

  3. We've had a few reports of a "too many open files" errors in the log. This seems to have to do with some copy-retry logic for busy files. Investigation continues: if you're encountering this (unlikely), quit all active applications and retry the copy.

  4. Another three or four users are getting an exception with an "index out of bounds" error. We're pretty sure this is related to folders whose case has changed on a case-insensitive volume: we're trying to optimize for that, and update the case of (rename) the folder on the destination, and in some situations this can generate an error. To work around the problem, do an erase-then-copy backup rather than a Smart Update (one time).

  5. Finally, there's some kind of issue with utilities that mount volumes outside of the /Volumes folder (again, a very rare case): we're trying to descend into that mount, which will often generate an error. If this is happening to you, you can ignore the mount point/folder with a copy script by following the steps in the User's Guide.

That's about it! We'll continue feeding Xcode some Zwiebacks to get these few teething problems taken care of and get another update out as soon as we're done.

Silence is golden, but it’s time to talk Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The worst part about OS updates is that we can't talk about them.

I know other companies will sometimes discuss Apple's next version of OS X, and how they do or don't work with it, but we try to keep our mouth shut until it's actually out there and we're released from our non-disclosure.

That day is tomorrow, as I write this, and today, as I post it.

So let's talk about Mountain Lion and SuperDuper!

SuperDuper! is already Mountain Lion compatible

The version of SuperDuper! that was released last year, v2.6.4, was already compatible with Mountain Lion, with three exceptions:

  1. SuperDuper! v2.6.4 is not signed, so it will get flagged as a scary-bad application with the default Gatekeeper settings. It's not, of course, and already installed copies of SuperDuper! should work fine.

  2. Automatic mounting of ejected local volumes for scheduled copies does not work.

  3. Most of you can ignore this, but for the technically inclined: while SuperDuper sandboxes work, sandboxing of Mountain Lion (for future Mountain Lion updates) doesn't copy the applications Apple added to Mountain Lion (e.g. Messages, Notes, etc).

SuperDuper! v2.7 is more compatible with Mountain Lion. Plus it's even better.

I'd love to say that we've been sitting around sipping Corpse Reviver #2s and relaxing full time since the last update. That would be pretty awesome, but, well, no.

Instead, we've been working to make SuperDuper! better in a bunch of significant ways, which include:

  • Faster file copies That's right, your backups will finish faster than before.

  • Better information during copying We now update the status window while large files are being copied, so you can get a better idea of what's going with your backup while you sit back, relax, and have a tasty beverage of your own.

  • Gatekeeper compatibility SuperDuper! is now signed, and will not generate Gatekeeper errors when installed with Apple's default settings.

  • Much faster startup SuperDuper! starts even faster, even when you have unresponsive network volumes attached.

  • Better copying of active files Applications that rapidly create and delete files during a backup no longer cause intermittent "vanishing file" failures.

  • Better handling of Time Machine As much as we wanted to copy the local snapshot (the .MobileBackups folder), it was in an uncopyable state too often. It's now ignored, which results in fewer backup failures.

  • Improved diagnostics We've worked around problems in Lion's (and Mountain Lion's) file copy APIs, and more accurately return errors when drives can't be read or written.

  • Support for Growl's latest version & Notification Center We now support the version of Growl in the Mac App Store, which means we also support its latest features, including Notification Center.

  • Still supports Intel and Power PCs; OS X 10.4.11, 10.5, 10.6 and 10.7 As crazy as it seems (and as much as a pain it's been), we still support versions of OS X released in 2005, and Macintoshes that that should have been made into fish tanks years ago.

    In other words: we, clearly, are not smart, and those of you with older systems benefit!

  • Various other miscellaneous improvements Because we can't help ourselves.

Wait a second. You said "more compatible", not "fully compatible"!

You spotted a weasel word! Well done! Nothing gets past you, clearly.

Automatic mounting of local volumes is the one thing we couldn't get to work in time for Mountain Lion's release. (Backup on connect still works just fine.)

Basically, Apple is tracking where an application launches from, and seems to be preventing processes that launch from "cron" (one of the system schedulers), even indirectly, from mounting local disk volumes, even when that application is signed.

We found this late in testing, and tried valiantly to try to work around it, but were unable to in time. And given that it's undocumented (but really cool) behavior, I just couldn't justify holding up the release of v2.7 based on this one problem.

Don't lose hope, though: we're think we know how to fix it—initial testing looks good—so we'll release another version of SuperDuper! as soon as we get the fix fully implemented and tested.

How do I get the new version?

Start SuperDuper! and it will prompt to update itself (unless you've turned that off), or install it manually from the download at the SuperDuper! page at Shirt Pocket.

Yeah, but how much does the new version cost?

That's always the way, right? Show me the money, etc.

Well, we've never charged for updates, not since SuperDuper!'s release in 2004. Not once. And we're not raising our prices.

The update is free. A SuperDuper! registration still costs $27.95.

And the unregistered version still never expires, will make full, bootable backups, and comes with support.

We know it's not the most profitable way of handling things. But as long as you—our users—continue to run, love and recommend SuperDuper!, we'll continue to do our damnedest to do right by you.

So there you go: thanks for reading this and for using SuperDuper. Enjoy the new version!

Racer I(talian), Part Four: Canazei to Corvara Monday, July 18, 2011

Our previous was the biggest day of climbing before the Maratona, but today wasn't much smaller, with three passes to traverse on the trip from Canazei to Corvara. And once again, we'd be doing some of the passes that would feature in the Maratona, albeit from other directions: Falzarego and Valporola.

I'd been feeling a bit better over the last day, perhaps riding into form (such as it is) before the event. But this night threw me a lovely little loop: the Shirt Pocket server went down due to lightning storms and power failures in the Boston area around 6pm my time, while I was catching up on support that built up during the day's riding.

So after barely being able to keep up with (let alone balance) my personal and work duties over the past few days, the worst happened.

Unfortunately, by the time power came back connectivity wasn't restored, and it was a few sleepless hours before everything was squared away again. The backed up emails came flooding in, and I was up until some awful hour trying to catch up. Two hours of restless sleep later, I tried to finish more before breakfast, ate, packed and jumped back on the bike.

Passo Fedaia, Falzarego and Valporola: 41.1 miles, 6,357 feet of climbing

We started climbing almost immediate, up and over Passo Fedaia, and I have to say I don't remember a darn thing about the first climb. Nothing. I attribute that to a lack of sleep, mostly, or I was just in a make-the-legs-go-round zone. Whatever it was, less than an hour later we were at the top, with a view of the Marmolada glacier.

The descent after Fedaia obvious had our guides worried, because Enrico practically begged us to be as careful as possible on the way down: it was, indeed, steep, and unbroken is the man who takes advice offered in good faith. With that kind of pitch on the descent, it didn't take us long to start up Passo Falzarego (HC, 9.3mi, 2933 feet of climbing).

This was one of my favorite climbs of the trip, with lots of switchbacks (18, as I recall), beautiful views, and a great switchback-dug-through-the-mountain a few kms from the top. A nice bar at the top meant a delicious doppio espresso macchiato, and after a regroup and some snacks we headed up the small climb from Falzarego to Valporola.

Enrico encouraged us to stop and tour the war museum here, inside the Tre Sassi fort, which was an Austrian stronghold during WWI. A bit eerie to approach, since there was an authentically dressed Austrian soldier standing guard and smoking a pipe at the entrance, the actual exhibits were excellent and, as expected, a bit horrifying, including a display of the three-headed maces and clubs soldiers used to deliver the "ultimate blow" to the wounded soldiers who had been gassed.

A lot to think about during the long, twisty descent into La Villa the climb to Corvara: our home base for the next few days.

Racer I(talian), Part Three: Enter the Dolomites Friday, July 15, 2011

Re-reading the last two blog posts, it's pretty clear I'm both out of blogging practice and at a loss for words that might actually describe this experience. Part of that is due to the nature of what we were all doing: how do you talk about exertion and sweating and momentary accomplishment in a way that might be even remotely interesting?

Sorry about that. Still tired, perhaps not fully processed. But I'll keep going just to get it out there.

It's funny, because I wrote a few emails to Zabeth to keep her posted on how things were going, and she replied to one saying "yes, but how do you feel?"

My only response was: kind of blank. I didn't mean that in a negative way, either. I don't do a lot of thinking on the bike. It's not exactly "downtime", but you're so focused on the activity, the beauty, staying upright, being considerate of others on the ride, etc, that there's not a lot of space for deep, meaningful thoughts.

You almost feel like one of those professional riders at a post-race interview. Asked about the race, the comments that come back are nearly always pretty simple and banal: "I'm just so happy", "I'm glad it's over", "We rode hard today".

But that's what comes to the front. You're happy it's over. You rode hard. Tomorrow's another day on the bike, another great meal, another beautiful climb, another fast descent, another hotel, another shower, another restless sleep.

They're all the same, but they're all different, and those differences are hard to describe. The shared camaraderie of the group, the little jokes and comments as we, separately-but-together, push and pull our way up thousands of feet, across the miles, struggling sometimes, spinning more easily others, trying to make sense of the rhythm and pitch of the road, the angle and curves of a descent.

Your thoughts, in the end, are simple, because you're part of a machine. You have a job to do, to partner with your bike and get up and over and down these mountains.

So you do it.

Cliffhanger

Terrible movie, if you've seen it. But it's hard to argue with the natural beauty all around–those mountains Stallone fake-climbed (he's afraid of heights) were the Dolomites. And they're spectacular. Huge, sheer limestone cliffs jutting up out of treed slopes; blasted and dug holes that were filled with soldiers and snipers during World War I as the Italians and Austrians fought and killed each other (not that any war is good, but WWI's trench and mountain warfare was just awful).

The result of Italy's victory was Sud Tyrol, northern Italy's unique combination of cultures, languages, architecture and cuisines. We rode from Bolzano to Canazei, up and down these roads, the limestone above turning the mountain streams a silvery-white, and not even the sweating and struggling could distract (much) from the beauty all around us.

Passo Pinei and Passo Sella—42 miles, 7750 feet of climbing

Despite the beauty, there was one thing on all our minds: today was the biggest climbing day yet. But even though both passes were difficult, the weather cooperated, the climbs varied, and the time passed more pleasantly than the day before.

Passo Sella is especially beautiful, and we'd be doing it again in the Maratona later in the week, so it was nice to get a chance to "scout" it a bit.

Due to my own total lack of knowledge, which you can read as "sheer ignorance/forgetfulness", I was constantly surprised at the number of ski lifts and runs all around us. Well, it turns out that this is all part of Dolomiti SuperSki which, with one ticket, lets you ski virtually everywhere we'd been and where were were going, all connected by an incredible number of lifts and trails. It's kind of like the Trois Vallées area, except, well, bigger (and, from what I can tell, more family oriented).

Anyway, we descended off the Sella into Canazei to a lovely hotel called La Cacciatore (right next to a ski lift, of course), had a delicious meal and slept like dogs.

The next day we'd be heading to Corvara and our final hotel (the first where we'd get to spend more than one night), to scout more of the climbs we'd be doing in the Maratona...and to get a feel for the incredible number of riders who were flooding the area during Race Week.

Racer I(talian), Part Two Thursday, July 14, 2011

When you're pushing a way up a climb, going 12kp/h or whatever you're managing, panting and aching, it's humbling to think about how quickly your typical professional cyclist can manage the same thing. Of course, it's their job, and (and I mean this in admiration) they're basically mutant superheroes as well.

We had a reminder of that at the top of the Stelvio when, as a group of us were standing there patting ourselves on the back for getting to the top, a group of riders in Quick Step gear came up over the top so fast they knocked us all back on our heels.

We all went silent for a moment, and I know what I was thinking: wow, no matter how long I do this, no matter how many mountains I climb, no matter how much weight I drop, no matter how many intervals I do, I'll never even approach that. And they weren't even pros, as far as I know. Really amazing.

Controlled Falling

It's not just ascending that's challenging, though; descending is quite difficult as well. You need to control your speed, pick just the right line through the turn, brake at the right time, keep your weight on the right pedal, with your body lined up right with the bike... and everything, as you whip around the corner, is precariously balanced on a 1" strip of rubber against often broken pavement.

And the people who are good at this—I mean really good—are incredibly, unbelievably, going-70-mp/h-down-a-scary-grade-and-whipping-around-corners fast. And they're doing this on a road that's shared between cars, bicycles, motorcycles, walkers, buses... but even on a closed road, it's hard to believe that they're doing what they're doing.

I'm not a terrible descender, and I find it fun, but again: totally different league. And so, we picked our way down the 48-plus hairpin turns, brakes squealing, hitting pretty high speeds and hoping that nothing would go wrong so early in the trip.

Thrilling, nerve-wracking and successful, I'm pleased to say, and we met for lunch in a town at the bottom.

The total: about three hours of sweating up. About 20 minutes of heart-in-your-throat wooshing down.

A ride to our next hotel, the Hotel Hanswirt (a really fantastic hotel in Rablá), eat-work-sleep-eat and we're off again.

Passo Paladi & Passo Mendola—51 miles, 5402 feet of climbing

The third day was beautiful, sunny and hot from the get-go. Feeling kind of happy that the Stelvio was done, I went out faster than I should have and Paladi, an 11 mile HC climb averaging about 7.4%, decided to teach me a slow, painful, sweaty lesson.

Every climb has a personality. The Stelvio was hard but varied, with a lot of switchbacks and beautiful scenery. Our legs were fresh. We were ready to test ourselves. But for me, at least, Paladi was a slog. There were very few turns. The sun beat down, making the high humidity even more oppressive, and any shade was few and far between. Getting up to the top was a confidence-sapping, nearly two hour Mom-are-we-there-yet struggle.

But it got done.

Passo Mendola, despite being Cat 2, was comparatively easy and dispatched pretty quickly: a relief. Lunch, followed by a fun, fast, twisty descent towards Bolzano, brought us to the city's incredible bike trail system.

I don't think I've ever been to a city quite as friendly to bicycles as Bolzano, something I didn't notice when I first arrived for my brief stay before the trip started. There are a huge number of extensively used bike paths. No cars are allowed in the middle of town, which is a pedestrian mall, surrounded by beautiful scenery.

It's really a lovely town... and, after the typical dinner-work-sleep-work-eat-pack ritual, we left it all too soon for what was scheduled to be our biggest climbing day yet.

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