RIP Kenneth Nanian - 1928-2019 Wednesday, March 13, 2019

On March 7, 2019, I unfortunately lost my Dad (which is why support has been a bit slow recently). I thought I'd post my eulogy for him here, as delivered, should anyone care. He was a good man, and will be missed.

Good morning, everyone. I’m David Nanian, up here representing my Mom and my brothers, John and Paul. Thanks so much for coming.

All of us here knew my Dad and were, without question, better off for it.

He’d greet you, friend or soon-to-be-friend, with a smile and a twinkle in his eye because, well, that was the kind of person he was. He exuded warmth and kindness. It was obvious as soon as you saw him.

And so we’re here today to celebrate him. To celebrate his achievements, certainly, because he was a great doctor. But also to celebrate his … his goodness. He was, truly, a good man.

It took my brothers and me a while to realize this. Like most kids, we went through the typical phases as we matured, where Dad went from a benevolent, God-like presence when we were kids, to a capricious one when we were teens… but that was mostly about us, not him.

Dad worked hard. Mom was a constant, grounding presence at home, but Dad’s typical day started early, and he usually wasn’t home until 8.

Dad’s sunny optimism and caring nature helped to heal many patients, but it took a lot out of him, and when he did come home, he was bone tired. After eating he’d usually fall asleep in his chair in front of the TV—only to awaken if we tried to change the channel. My brothers and I even tried slowly ramping down the volume, switching the channel, and then ramping it back up…it would sometimes work, but when it didn’t he’d wake up with a start, hopping mad.

He’d work hard, and would cover other doctors’ shifts on holidays, so that he’d have larger blocks of time for vacation with the family. And when that time came, he was a sometimes exhausting whirlwind of energy, trying to cram in eleven-something months of missed family time into a few focused weeks…something he’d be looking forward to with anticipation, while we were a bit more apprehensive.

Where would the new “shortcut” on the ride to Kennebunkport take us this time? Was Noonan’s Lobster Hut 3 minutes or 3 hours away?

It was always an adventure.

When I was in my teens, Dad gave me a job mounting cardiograms. I think all three of us did this work at one point or another. It gave us a chance, not just to earn a little money to fritter away on comics or whatever, but also to see Dad at work. There, we could see how admired he was by his colleagues, staff and patients, and I began to see him not just as the “Dad” presence he was during our childhood, but as a real person.

During this time (and even today: Mom recently had this happen in an elevator when Dad was in the hospital), people would constantly stop me in the hallways and tunnels of Rhode Island Hospital as I was doing an errand for him—typically, getting him a Snickers bar—and they’d tell me what a great person he was. How he’d helped take care of their parent, or had a terrific sense of humor, or how quick he was with a kind word or helpful comment.

Later, during my college years, my friends—after meeting my parents—would constantly tell me how awesome my Mom and Dad were. How normal. How much they wish their own parents were like mine.

Which was weird at the time, but, I mean, they were right. I have great parents. I had a great Dad.

So I wanted to tell three little stories about why that was, from when I was old enough to understand.

Dad’s enthusiasm and optimism were positive traits, but they occasionally got him into some trouble.

I’d recently graduated from College, and that winter our family went on a ski vacation to Val d’Isere.

Dad was absolutely dying to try Raclette—which, if you don’t know, is a dish popular in that region where a wheel of cheese is heated at the table and scraped onto plates that have potatoes, pickles, vegetables, meats. It’s delicious, but quite filling.

So, we went to a small, family restaurant, and they brought out the various parts of the dish—there were quite a few plates of the traditional items—along with a big half-wheel of cheese and its heating machine.

Now, normally, that 8 pound chunk would last the restaurant a long time. It seemed super clear to the rest of us, just from the size, that there was no way it was “our cheese”. But Dad was absolutely convinced we were supposed to finish the whole thing. To do otherwise was to insult our hosts.

And so, to the obvious horror of the owners watching from the kitchen, Dad—in an attempt to not be ungrateful, to not be the ugly American—tried to finish the cheese.

The rest of us tapped out, but more plates came as Dad—never one to give up—desperately tried to do the right thing.

In the end, much to his chagrin, and the owner’s obvious relief, he couldn’t. Dad apologized for not being able to finish (I think, this is where my brothers and I snarkily told him to tell the waitress “Je suis un gros homme”), and they replied with something along the lines of “That’s quite all right”—but Dad’s attempt to conquer the wheel with such gusto, for the right-yet-wrong reason, even though we could all see the effort was doomed, was human and funny and endearing.

He loved to sail. We had a small boat, a 22-foot Sea Sprite named Systolee, and we’d sail it for fun, but Dad also participated in the East Greenwich Yacht Club’s Sea Sprite racing series.

Season after season, we’d come in last, or second to last, but he had a great time doing it, holding the tiller while wearing his floppy hat, telling us—the crew—to do this or that with the sails.

I’d had some success one summer racing Sunfish, and the next year, Dad let me skipper the Systolee in the race series, with him and Mom as crew.

I didn’t make it easy. It was important to be aggressive, especially at the start of a race, and both Mom and Dad would follow my various orders nervously as we came within inches of other boats, trying to hit the line exactly as the starting gun went off.

But he let me do it. He watched me as, one day, I climbed the mast of the pitching boat in the middle of a race in a stormy bay to retrieve a lost halyard—admittedly a crazy thing to do—despite his fear of heights, since he knew abandoning the race would be end up being my failure, not his.

And that season, we came in second overall. But more than the trophy and the opportunity, he gave me the gift of trusting me, and treating me as an equal, week after week. Of allowing me to be better than him at something he loved.

Finally, Dad had some health challenges later in life. At one point, he came down with some weird peripheral neuropathy that was incorrectly diagnosed as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Fortunately, more testing in Boston showed that it wasn’t ALS, but some sort of neuropathy, and while it didn’t take his life, it did take away much of his balance, and with that, it took away skiing.

Dad loved skiing—and missed a real career writing overly positive ski condition reports for snow-challenged Eastern ski areas—and from my earliest days skiing with him it was clear he wanted nothing more than to be the oldest skier on the slopes, teaching his grandkids to love it the way he did.

Possibly, he just wanted to be old enough to be able to ski for free. He did love a bargain.


He didn’t let his neuropathy hold him back—of course he didn’t—and started traveling with Mom all over the world, and they’d regale us with the stories of the places they’d been, the classes they took…the number of bridge hands they won (or lost). He especially loved the safari they went on in Tanzania, and brought back many great pictures of the landscape and wildlife they’d seen.

He loved learning new things, and had more time to read, to make rum raisin ice cream (the secret, he’d tell us, is to soak the raisins in the rum…overnight!), and to enjoy the Cape with Mom. He was able to relax and play with his grandkids, and it was great to see him entertain my friends’ kids as well.

When he got his cancer diagnosis, he took the train to Boston to meet with his doctors, learned about Uber and Lyft, and was just fiercely determined, independent and optimistic. To illustrate his attitude, he just had a cataract repaired and he had the other one scheduled to be fixed in a few weeks.

During this time, the doctors and staff at Mass General would tell us that he was their hero. Not, I think, for facing his disease with courage and determination, although he did do that. But because he was 88, 89, 90, and full of life, of humor, and of love.

And of course, we all saw that too. Because he was our hero.

The last time I was with Dad, just a few weeks ago, he was clearly feeling poorly, and while he kept a brave and cheerful facade he also, with a voice tinged with regret, wanted to make sure that I knew how proud he was of John, and Paul, and me. And how he felt badly that he never told us that enough…because he didn’t want to spoil us.

You know, books and movies through the centuries constantly depict sons and daughters desperate to get the slightest bit of approval from their dads.

For us, though, he took clear delight in what we all did. He looked with admiration and approval at John’s beautiful photography, Paul’s Peace Corps service and ultralight outdoor kit business built from his travel and experience hiking the Appalachian trail, my crazy computer stuff.

And so I told him, as clearly as I could, that it was never in doubt.

Of course we knew. 

Just as each and every one of you know how much he cared for you. Whether you were part of his family, a patient, or a friend, he made it clear. He was truly happy to know you. You were truly loved.

And now he’s gone, and the world is a little bit darker because of it. But we all have, within us, a memory of him. A memory of his kindness, his boundless optimism, his love, his zest for life.

And with that in our hearts, we can look out, perhaps at the snow outside: dirty brown, with bare patches, rocks, ice…ice covered rocks. You know, if you’re an Eastern skier: it’s “machine loosened frozen granular”.

Imagine him there, with his arm around your shoulders, and a big smile on his face, and see it the way he’d make you see it.

See that the snow condition’s fantastic. It’s always fantastic. Life is terrific. Every day.

Remember that, greet the day with a mischievous smile and an open heart, and think of him.

Relax, Have a Homebrew! Monday, October 16, 2017

Off-topic alert!

Over the past few months, I've been enjoying brewing beer at home with a Pico Pro. No doubt purists scoff a bit at the automation involved during the mash and boil, but it's a relatively small part of the beer making process...and doing a true, temperature-controlled step mash without investing in an expensive setup (not to mention the space it would take up) is a huge win.

It's been a lot of fun.

The biggest challenges, and the place where a lot of brewers fall down, are in sanitizing and controlling fermentation: keeping things at the right temperature, consistently, so the yeast can work its magic efficiently without producing off flavors.

I can't help with sanitizing (you just have to do a better job!) but I can help with fermentation!

To that end, there's a great device called a TILT Hydrometer. The TILT drops into your fermentation vessel (which, in the case of a Pico Pro, is a small, 1.75L corny keg), and transmits both temperature and specific gravity via Bluetooth 4/BTLE. It's pretty cool, and by using TiltPi, along with a Raspberry Pi Zero-W to receive the bluetooth data and log it to a Google Sheet, it does all this automatically. You just peek at the sheet every so often to see how things are doing.

That all works great, but reviewing the data I realized I was having trouble controlling the temperature precisely using an external thermometer. Given the open source nature of TiltPi, and that fact that it was built with Node-RED, I thought, hey—I could use the temperature being transmitted by the TILT as a current measurement, and then use IFTTT and a few WeMo switches to exactly control both heating and cooling!

So, over a few hours in between doing SuperDuper! stuff, I learned Node-RED, figured out how TiltPi worked, added automatic temperature control, and found/fixed some TiltPi bugs at the same time. It works great!

I've provided the TILT people with my modifications to TiltPi, and hope they'll be integrating it into the official TiltPi release. Until then, here's how you can use it:

  • Set up TiltPi according to TILT's normal instructions.
  • Download and unzip this text file and open it in your favorite editor.
  • Open the TiltPi Node-RED editor. This should be here: http://tiltpi.local:1880.
  • Copy the contents of the text file to the clipboard.
  • Using the "hamburger" menu, select Import > Clipboard. Paste the copied contents into the box, and choose to import into a "New Flow". It'll be called "Main".
  • Switch to the old flow tab and delete it.
  • Click Deploy.

That's all the hard stuff. Next

  • Set up your IFTTT Webhooks service so you get a key.
  • Copy that key to the clipboard.
  • Open TiltPi's normal interface at the URL it sent you when it started up (usually http://tiltpi.local:1880/ui/#/0).
  • Using TiltPi's hamburger menu (so many hamburgers!), select "Logging".
  • Paste your key into the IFTTT key* field.

Then, set up your various color TILTs normally. You'll see a Target Temperature slider - that's configurable on a per-TILT basis and defaults to 70F: reasonably appropriate for ale fermentation.

The next step is to set up the heat and cool steps in IFTTT. (I assume you've already got your WeMo switches configured and WeMo is connected to your IFTTT account.)

  • Create a New Applet in IFTTT.
  • For the "This" clause, add a Webhooks service.
  • For the event name, use TILT-COLOR-temp-low, TILT-COLOR-temp-high, or TILT-COLOR-temp-just-right. depending on what you want to do.
  • For "That", add the appropriate WeMo switch action.

For example, let's say that I want to control a heater for a BLUE tilt. I'd add three Webhook applets:

If BLUE-temp-low then Blue WeMo Heater Switch on
If BLUE-temp-high then Blue WeMo Heater Switch off
If BLUE-temp-just-right then Blue WeMo Heater Switch off

If you want to both heat and cool, you'd add three more events (since you unfortunately can't add extra actions to an existing event):

If BLUE-temp-low then Blue WeMo Cooler Switch off
If BLUE-temp-high then Blue WeMo Cooler Switch on
If BLUE-temp-just-right then Blue WeMo Cooler Switch off

More events can be added for more TILTs, each with its own target temperature and WeMo switch(es).

If you don't have a cooling device, and it's warm where you put your keg, do what I do: put the keg in an insulated cooler bag (I have an old version of this bag) along with an ice pack. That way, when the heater goes off, the ice pack will act as a cooler.

I hope that helps some of you make better beer. Enjoy!

Note: this post was updated on 10/22 with a new version of the flow that works better with multiple TILTs, now that I have more than one.

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.


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.

Racer I(talian), Part One Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My original plan was to blog about the Maratona dles Dolomites, and the week leading up to it, while it was happening. It'd been a while since I'd written things with any regularity, and it seemed to be a good way to get started again.

Foolish me.

Given the length and intensity of the cycling, and the amount of work I had to catch up on in the morning and evening, there was just no real way for me to execute that plan while still getting a few hours of sleep every night. And I definitely needed sleep.

So, plan B was to tweet occasionally and write things up after-the-fact.

Welcome to Plan B

As I wrote before, I'd tried to train as much as I could during the months before the event, both with and without friends (the great group of enthusiastic and knowlegeable folks at Ride Studio Café in Lexington). I'd configured and packed up a fantastic titanium bike from Seven Cycles, a great Axiom SL with couplers that fit me perfectly and could break down into two pieces. This allowed it to be packed in a small case, the Co-Motion Co-Pilot about the size of a wheel and less than a foot deep (26"x26"x10") - easily checking as regular luggage and, with handle and wheels, rolled onto planes and trains and through the streets of Italy as needed.

Honestly, if you're doing any kind of serious cycle-touring, a great bike with couplers and this case is a fantastic way to go. I can't speak too enthusiastically about either the bike or the case.

I booked things so I arrived in Bolzano a day before the main group (relatively late at night due to the flights), and stayed a night at the Stadt Hotel Città, who were kind enough to feed me when I came down to dinner a bit late after catching up with the support email that'd come in during my travels.

The next morning, I met the host of the FredCast, David Bernstein, during breakfast: it was great to put a face to the voice, and as he wrote in his own blog, we were both quite worried about the first real day coming up, climbing the Stelvio. (David blogged his impressions of the trip in far more detail than I'm going to, and he took a lot of great pictures - you can find his posts and pictures here.)

Warm-up Day—15.2 miles, 810 feet of climbing

Our guides, Enrico and Massimo (both great people and cyclists) were at breakfast, and we met with a number of the other people on the trip as we headed out to the shuttle that would take us to Glorenza, a great village, and our first hotel, the Hotel Post Glorenza, a beautiful and comfortable way to begin our tour.

The morning brought bicycle assembly (which took less time than expected) and a short ride to shake out the legs and highlight/resolve any mechanical problems. Three of us (not including the guides) had brought our own bikes, and one of them was a Seven Axiom, which was great to see.

The first ride was short, including a brief extra loop up the approach to the Stelvio, and it was fun talking, getting to know and riding with the others on this adventure. A delicious dinner and restless sleep later, our adventure began in earnest.

Passo Stelvio (The King)—61 miles, 6495 feet of climbing

It's hard to describe how incredibly different the riding in Europe is compared to what I'm used to. On my normal rides, we might have 2000 feet of altitude gain, but that's often done a few hundred feet at a time. Elevations rarely go over 1000 feet, and a typical climb takes 10 minutes or so.

Compare that to the Stelvio, which was around 13 miles and over 5000 feet of elevation gain, averaging well over 7%. A real HC climb (well, category 1 in Italy, since there's no HC).

Never done anything like that before. And, frankly, I had no idea how to pace myself. I don't know what my zones are, don't train with power, and rarely use my heart monitor thingy (which wasn't working anyway) so, well, I just tried to stay in a comfortable-but-not-relaxed zone. There was a lot of climbing to come, and it didn't make sense to hit everything hard.

And, well... it was tiring but fun! The scenery was beautiful, the company pleasant, the bike worked well and before I knew it I was confronting the famous figure of Fausto Coppi.

I remember thinking it was absolutely crazy to have us climb this particular climb so early in the trip, but now I completely understand why: if we could do this (and we proved we could), there was nothing coming up that we could not do. It was a huge confidence boost to get up (and down) this famous climb, and I think we all felt that, after all the pre-trip doubts, we were actually ready for what was to come.

And there was a lot to come.

Maratona dles Dolomites and an Update Saturday, July 09, 2011

For SuperDuper! users, I'll cut quickly to the chase here: we should be releasing an update this weekend that resolves the few issues that inevitably arise when a new update comes out. Thanks for your patience as we worked through the issues, and thanks to the users who helped us by running special test versions to ensure we had the problems fixed.

This is a bit of a stressful time to be releasing an update, as I mentioned before: I'm in Italy, training for the Maratona dles Dolomites, which happens tomorrow.

My schedule has been kind of crazy, as everyone suddenly remembers they have to back up before a major OS release (and given the minor issues we've been dealing with): I get up around 5-6am, answer as much email as I can before 7:30am, join the group for breakfast and route review, pack (we were moving to different lodging every day before today), get on the bike, ride over mountain passes until evening, shower, answer email until 7:30pm, eat, and then work from 9-10pm until sometime after 1am.

And repeat.

Our total activity so far, pre-Maratona: 210 miles of cycling over about 18 hours and 31 minutes, with 26,813 feet of climbing. Tomorrow's event will add up to 85 more miles and 14,000 feet of climbing over a long day with thousands of other cyclists from all over the world, for a trip total of around 295 miles and more than 30,000 feet of up.

Now, for many people (and you know who you are) that's really not that much. But this is the first time I've done anything quite this strenuous, and combined with a full day of work it's been mentally and physically exhausting. But I knew what I was in for when I signed up: the riding's been well planned, guided and supported, and SuperDuper users have (for the most part) been pretty understanding, so thanks!

With that, on to more detailed information about the update. Assuming final confirmation tests go OK, it should come out today (Saturday). Full information about the update is in the release notes, but I wanted to highlight a few items here.

First, we've fixed the problem with Tiger (10.4) where most AppleScript-based actions didn't work, including scheduling and post-copy actions like Shutdown and Restart. As soon as we determined this was a problem, we turned off auto-updating for 10.4 users.

This problem was due to a misconfigured build script that compiled our dictionary for 10.5 and later rather than 10.4 and later.

It's getting harder and harder for us to maintain compatibility with Tiger, and doing so is preventing us from using the new APIs introduced in Leopard, so I expect that we'll continue with our policy of supporting two OS versions back with new releases of SD! when Lion comes out. We'll still provide support for Tiger users, of course, but new versions will not be compatible as we move forward.

Many Leopard users found that the v2.6.3 was generating errors with their system log, asl logs or some other 'active' files. As above, as soon as we received a few similar reports of this problem, we turned off auto-updating for 10.5 users until we could run down the problem.

It turned out that some new, more aggressive post-copy error checking was a bit too aggressive on 10.5, and when users had very active system logging (due to various system errors that were getting written multiple times a second), a failure to verify file size (etc) information post-copy caused us to raise an I/O error for the file.

We've loosened up our check a bit here to avoid this problem, while still doing additional verification to catch more problems under all OS versions.

So there you go: auto-update will be turned back on for 10.4 and later sometime today, and you'll be able to enjoy improved operation while I enjoy a rest day off the bike.

As always, thanks for your emails, support requests, registrations and comments!

Riding a Lion Thursday, June 30, 2011

There's a certain way I like to release a version of SuperDuper, or any application, really. It goes something like this:

  1. We plan a healthy mix of fixes, tweaks and features.
  2. Those new features are designed and implemented.
  3. Once we've put them through a bunch of internal testing, we recruit a mix of old and new testers to put things through the "customer wringer".
  4. The fix/test cycle is repeated as many times as is necessary to ensure that we're meeting our quality standards, that new features are working as desired and satisfying the needs we'd identified during their design, etc.
  5. During the last few testing cycles, I usually start telling the story of the release (which, at that point, we're pretty sure we're nearly done with), highlighting some of the more interesting elements.
  6. Finally, we freeze the release and, with any luck, we release shortly after the release candidate is OK'ed by internal and external tests.

And I highlight all this because the whole "telling stories" part of our next release is going to be much shorter than usual, and we'll be doing other things a bit differently as well.

Ring One–Personal

As anyone who follows me on Twitter is aware, I've been doing a lot of cycling over the past few years (and tweeting about it in a rather boring way, sorry). After a cycling trip to Italy last fall, and based on a suggestion by one of the guides, I decided to train for (and participate in) the Maratona dles Dolomites.

So, for the last six months or so—in sun, snow and rain—I've been riding and training (well, trying to train) for this huge, 9500-participant Grand Fondo. In one day, we'll be riding about 85 miles and over 7 big passes, with 14,000 feet of climbing. It's the first time I've ever tried anything this...crazy. Ready or not (mostly not), on July 2nd, I'm headed to Italy for the race, which happens on the 10th.

Those ten hard-date days were running through my head when the 2011 WWDC keynote was broadcast earlier this year.

Ring Two—Professional

As the various rumor sites could tell you, it's always hard to know when Apple is going to do things. But given that WWDC was likely going to be all about 10.7, and last year's WWDC was about iOS, it seemed a reasonably safe bet that the release of 10.7 would be well after this year's WWDC.

Well that was a bad bet.

Apple announced that Lion will be coming out "in July". In other words, the release window opens tomorrow (I'm posting this on June 30th). Given the current state of things, our current 2.6.2 release of SuperDuper is not Lion compatible. Specifically, we know we have two issues of significance under Lion:

  • Deprecated command-line tool The "disktool" command was deprecated and effectively removed, and we rely on that for a number of things, including refreshing disk mounts when a copy starts, and automounting during a scheduled copy.
  • Updater crashes Our automatic updater crashes under Lion, which makes it hard for Lion users to update (although they can download from our site and install manually).

With that in mind, also remember that Apple is going to be releasing this through the App Store. That means that there's no delay between an "RTM" build (which we can test against) and when you get the GM: it'll get declared RTM, someone will push a button somewhere and BAM! it's GM, and in the App Store.

Add to that the fact that I'll be gone nearly half of July. Which means, if Lion comes out in the first half of the month, as it very well could, and probably will...I think you can see where this is going.

Ring Three–Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Well, perhaps not where you think. We're not going to be late with Lion compatibility, unless something really crazy unusual happens between now and when Lion hits your Mac.

What it does mean is that some of the more interesting things we were going to put in this update will be postponed until later, and we're going to have to put this out with "initial" Lion compatibility, as much as I hate doing that.

So here's the plan: we're going to release version 2.6.3 of SuperDuper! in the next few days (probably on July 1st). This version has a lot of small things in it, some of which will significantly improve the user experience. Examples include:

  • Initial Lion compatibility As I've explained, Lion is not out, so we can't promise that we'll be compatible with it when it is released. But SuperDuper 2.6.3 works well with the test version of Lion that we have now, and should work fine when the Big Button is pressed.
  • Better scheduling A small change that should help a lot of users. Right now, it's too easy for a user to accidentally create multiple schedules. In the new version, the "Schedule..." button brings up an existing schedule for the source/destination drive pair if there is one (which is what most users expect it to do). Users can still create another schedule for the same pair of drives by Option+clicking Schedule. (I could write an entire post about this one change, and hopefully will be able to in the future, since it's one of the major errors I made in SD!'s quickly-reworked-after-the-original-disaster schedule design.)
  • Improved volume failure detection If the destination volume vanishes during the copy, we detect the failure and stop the copy more reliably than before. This should avoid cases where the destination drive's mount point converts to a folder and files are copied to a "hidden" location (/Volumes) on the startup volume.
  • Antivirus compatibility improvements We've tried to work around some incompatibilities with NAV that would cause intermittent issues for users that had that installed.
  • Better support submission We've had an integrated email support submitter for a long time, but it relied on the NSMessaging framework, which has been deprecated. So, we've moved to a "direct submit" model. You shouldn't see any differences locally, but it'll work in more situations, regardless of your email client. (The downside is that we can't 'automatically reply' to one of these messages, which means a lot more work for me...)
  • Expanded automount/ejection We now allow internal drives to be ejected, so they can participate in automatic mounting when scheduling, and can be selected as an ejectable volume after a copy.
  • Various other improvements, fixes and tweaks We've touched pretty much every area of SuperDuper! in some subtle (and some not so subtle) ways, with more to come.

Thanks for Coming—Visit the Midway!

So there you go: we'll soon have SuperDuper! v2.6.3 available. You should endeavor to upgrade to the new release before you upgrade to Lion.

I hope you like the new release! If you're interested, follow me on Twitter where I'll be posting about the Grand Fondo a bit, and will be posting updates about SuperDuper! as necessary.

Support during these two weeks will be a bit slower than usual, because I'll be riding during the day, and only able to post at night. Apologies in advance if support feels less "spectacularly fast" during these two weeks: I'll do my best to respond as quickly as I can.

Thanks, as always, for using SuperDuper: we couldn't do any of this without you, and we'll continue to do our best to make SuperDuper an application worthy of your praise and personal recommendations.

Mac keeps waking on its own? Try this. Tuesday, January 05, 2010

So, I don't usually put general how-tos up here at Shirt Pocket Watch, but since I found this more than a bit frustrating and hard to diagnose, I thought someone else out there would benefit from what I found.

For years my Macs haven't gone to sleep on their own. I honestly don't know why, but there must be some application that's active enough to stop the sleep timer and prevent energy saver from doing its thing.

Annoying, but I'm pretty used to using Cmd+Opt+Eject to put the Mac to sleep. But recently, my Mac recently started waking unexpectedly—basically, I'd put it to sleep and whenever I'd go back (after an hour or so), it'd be awake, screen off.

I hate wasting power like that (not to mention the "fake" presence in AIM or whatever), so I spent some time diagnosing what was wrong.

It seems that the new Bonjour "Proxy" support implemented in Airport Extreme devices requires the proxy to be 'refreshed' on occasion by the proxied Mac. So, every hour, your Mac wakes itself without turning on the screen, updates the proxy, and then goes back to sleep.

Mine hadn't been doing that, but I recently reset my Energy Saver preferences to their defaults, and that turned on "Wake for network access". When that setting is on, this behavior takes hold. And if you Mac doesn't go to sleep on its own (for whatever reason), it stays on after the first wake.

So, in summary, it's a barely Documented Feature with surprising and unexpected behavior. Turning Wake for network access off in the Energy Saver preference pane resolves the issue.

Happy 2009 to All! Thursday, January 01, 2009

I'm not going to make a commitment to blogging more this year, although perhaps I should, because I've been remiss (and busy). I am up on Twitter as dnanian, though, so feel free to follow me there for the occasional self-serving and usually uninteresting bit of blather.

The New Year is starting off well with a great episode of MacMerc TV featuring SuperDuper!—big thanks to Rick Yaeger and his crew for the cool video!

And—just noticed—it looks like we're featured on the New York Times Podcast, too. Nice!

Anyway, I just wanted to wish our customers and friends a very Happy New Year - you're appreciated more than my relative blogging silence indicates.

Thanks, everyone!

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