Saturday, February 11, 2012

The legend of Jeremy Lin

The hottest name is basketball right now is Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks. I first heard of him when he was taken by the Golden State Warriors after not getting picked from the draft despite having good scouting reports and performance from the summer league. He completed his stint at Harvard and had a good run with the Crimsons. Here's some highlights of Lin's performance in the summer league of 2010:

John Wall eventually became the top pick from that batch.

Lin was a fan favorite at Golden State especially to the Asian community because he grew up in Palo Alto. Unfortunately, the Warriors had a lot of elite guards (Ellis and Curry to name a few) and Lin averaged only 10 minutes per game with a scoring average of 2.6. And those 10 minutes, if he's lucky, are usually "garbage time." But nonetheless, whenever he got in, the crowd appreciated since he's the hometown boy. But in the NBA, numbers like that don't usually result to long careers (unless you're Luke Walton).

So as expected, he was waived by the Warriors during the off-season to as the team cleared some cap space to chase DeAndre Jordan. He was then claimed by the Rockets but was waived anew before the start of the season to sign Samuel Dalembert. The Knicks eventually signed him to complete their roster but as Lin said, "its a numbers game," meaning he didn't expect to have long minutes with the Knicks given the perceived depth of the roster.

Lin knew that from the start, and the Knicks assigned him to the NBA D-League (or the NBA Development League). Now people have different opinions of the D-League. Officially, its a place for players with talent to improve their game and mature in a professional level. But some consider it as professional playground for NBA teams to "assign players they don't want right now but would probably be good for movement in the future," or something of that sort. And Lin is a D-League regular since his Golden State days.

However, last January, Lin got assigned to Erie Bayhaws and did a triple double. Check out his performance in this video:

The day after the game, Scott Schroeder of NBC sports wrote an article about Lin's triple double performance and how he could be valuable to Mike D'Antoni's rotation for the Knicks. Then on February 4, 2012, D'Antoni, perhaps out of desperation, got Lin to play against the New Jersey Nets which resulted to "Linsanity." And the rest, is pretty much history.

Was Lin stereotyped by scouts, trainers, coaching staff and players even? Most likely. This lowered his chances to succeed in the NBA early in his career. If not for the Knicks' point guard woes, Lin wouldn't get to show what he can do. Lin is of Asian descent but actually American by birth. How many Asians did the NBA ever had? You can only name a few, and please, not all of them are named Yao. And Lin is the first Asian American to be in the NBA (edit: he wasn't. Wataru Misaka gets that distinction and also played for the Knicks). Lin even tweeted last January 5, 2012:
"Everytime i try to get into Madison Square Garden, the security guards ask me if I'm a trainer LOL"

Now it makes you wonder how the Knicks will adjust their lineup when Baron Davis gets back from injury (that's a big if). Also, if I were Mike Bibby, I'd be worried about my slot in the Knicks.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Nokia Belle on N8: Old phone, new lease of life

Three days ago, Nokia has finally released to the world the much anticipated Operating System update for a select number of Nokia phones shipped with Symbian^3 and Symbian Anna. Christened as "Nokia Belle," the update was meant for older handsets, the N8, E7, X7, C7, E6, C6-01 and Oro. By the way, If you haven't heard or seen the Oro, there's a reason why.

I was able to update my Nokia N8 handset running Anna with no issues. However, the Belle update requires a user to do it using a Windows PC running the latest version of Nokia Suite. The download is around 300MB and the actual update from Anna to Belle, including backup took almost an hour. Using Nokia Suite to update is not exactly pleasant, but the same can be said about iPhone iOS updates with iTunes. I would expect the incremental and security updates to Belle can be installed directly from the phone in the near future (just like how Symbian^3 and Anna updates were delivered).

Here's the first thing you see from Belle after the update:

Belle retains the "squircle" icon style which I think is very stylish and makes Symbian distinct. The Nokia Pure typeface is now standard. The combination of both makes Belle look "slim". With Belle, it is possible to create up to six home screens which you can customize to your liking by adding application shortcuts and widgets. Adding shortcuts and widgets are more quicker and more flexible with Belle, with more detailed icon positioning and layout. It would have been nice if Nokia is able to force all application icons to be squircle shaped as a lot of third party apps still have oddly shaped icons that destroy the consistent design of the interface. The Application Menu also got an obvious facelift: Belle defaults to a flat menu structure and gives the user the freedom to create application folders.

Belle also has a new feature called the Pull down notification drawer which looks similar to functions provided in Android and iOS 5. Network, call and message status appear from the drawer. You can also turn on/turn off device settings from the drawer, just like how you can do it with Android.

One thing I noticed about the Belle update: the operating system is very responsive. Switching between home screens is so smooth - it is almost comparable with an iPhone 4 running iOS 5. You wouldn't even notice at all that the N8 only has a 680MHz processor with 256MB of RAM.

But here is a a nice bonus that you get from the Belle update: the camera can now shoot 720p videos at 30fps in continuous autofocus. This is only possible with the N8 as the other Nokia cameras compatible with Belle use a fixed focus lens.

There are still some apps from the Nokia Store that are still incompatible with the new update though. Nokia has provided a list of these Belle incompatible apps. Its not a huge list, but given the current number of quality apps in the Nokia Store, one would hope that we'll see some new Belle optimized apps in the future. Microsoft has committed to release Lync and a slew of Office-related apps after the Belle release so that's something to look forward too.

But I have to face reality. Nokia Belle is the N8's swan song. There is no doubt about that. Nokia has started shipping 1GHz phones running Belle and to an extent, some models with Symbian Series 40, a less capable OS. After 3 major OS updates (Symbian^3 (2010), Anna (2011), then Belle) the N8 is now feature complete. If Belle came out the same time as the N8, Nokia would still be riding in the Symbian wave of success. But right now, the N8 is still one of the better, if not the best camera phone available in the market despite the aging hardware. The 12MP AF Carl Zeiss camera still packs the biggest camera sensor in a phone to date; and the Xenon flash pretty much defeats every flash module installed in all camera phones out there.

And that statement would be true, until the N803 comes out.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Preparing for travel itineraries the app way

I'll be traveling again for work in the next few days and that means a lot of preparations not only for the work to be done, but also the things left at home and other personal to dos that must be accomplished while away. While most of the home stuff, I can do without personal technology, thanks to my supportive wife and mother-in-law, my work related to dos and itineraries, I have to do by myself.

It's a good thing that every smartphone out in the market has a solution for travel and I have been using some applications that have helped a lot. I currently use 3 phones: iPhone 4, BlackBerry Curve 8900 and a Nokia N8. But I'll just focus on apps available for iOS and BlackBerry. There was a time where the Symbian platform had great travel apps, but as developers have moved away from that, the quality of apps available has gone down. Some of the iOS apps mentioned are also available for Android and even on BlackBerry.

  1. TripIt - my essential travel app. I can't make a decent itinerary without it. Upgrade to TripIt Pro is worth it if you travel a lot within the United States. (iOS, Android, BlackBerry)
  2. Hipmunk - a great travel search and booking engine where it takes into consideration the potential stress and time between layovers. Shows results in a timeline so you can compare price and flight times. (iOS, Android)
  3. Skyscanner - similar to Hipmunk but with a wider airline availability. It provides some pretty weird results. Tried to find flights from Manila to Jakarta and it gave me a suggestion to take a flight with Qatar Airwarys with a layover in Qatar. I'm not booking that flight for sure. It has a local site though that provides pricing in Philippine Pesos. (iOS, Android)
  4. XE Currency - No doubt the best currency calculator site out there. (iOS, Android, BlackBerry)
  5. TripAdvisor - great site when checking out hotels and nearby places of interest. I get a kick out of the user posted photos of bad hotels and weird stuff being discovered. (iOS, Android)
  6. BlackBerry Travel - I used to have TripIt and a bunch of other travel apps in my BlackBerry but when BlackBerry Travel came out, I decided to just use it exclusively. This is actually a rebranded WorldMate that takes advantage of the BlackBerry's mobile functionality and executes flawlessly.
If I were to choose 1 phone for travel with all the functionality I need, it would be a BlackBerry (surprise, surprise!). BlackBerry Travel pretty much has everything I need in 1 app. If your contacts are BlackBerry users, it would be very easy to catch up with them by using BlackBerry Messenger. I haven't encountered any roaming issues with the BlackBerry and carriers usually provide a bridge data plan that is optimized for the platform.

I would give TripIt second place since it is multi platform and very flexible. I can write my whole trip itinerary with this service. Upgrading to TripIt Pro is an option and seems to be more useful for frequent flyers in the United States rather than world travelers.

There are many apps out there that try to solve some particular travel issues, but the list above provides me  all the functions I need whenever I'm out of the country. Happy travels!

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Battle of Los Angeles 2012

Last night we were treated to a great basketball game in the NBA featuring hallway rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers versus the Los Angeles Clippers. Having briefly lived in LA, I follow both teams and make sure to watch their games at Staples Center whenever I'm in town. Its quite interesting to observe the basketball culture of LA. Being a "big market" team in the NBA means a lot - gate tickets, merchandise and of course tinseltown itself. SoCal is big. That's why Donald Sterling moved the Clippers from San Diego to LA when he bought the team in the early 80s. That's also the reason why the Maloofs are keen on moving the Sacramento Kings to Anaheim (although Orange County isn't exactly LA, but tell that to the Angels).

Going back to hoops, both teams are in the process of transforming themselves - the Clippers, still adjusting and getting their swagger back thanks to the signing of CP3, Mr. Big Shot and Caron Butler (and probably still have some cap space for the next season). They are definitely LA's hottest ticket right now. The Lakers, still adjusting to the Mike Brown system have the ever reliable Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum. But I see a lot of changes happening after this season in their lineup. Most of the time, the Lakers are relying on Kobe, but he can't be the only offensive threat of the team. Pau did a great job offensively last night and we were even treated with a Metta World Peace sighting.

I'm excited how this season will turn out in LA. I would expect the Clippers to go to the Playoffs either as a 5th or 6th seed in the West while the Lakers will still make it but I wouldn't be surprised at all if they end up 8th.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Paid Apps in the Nokia Store

I'm one of the few who still swear on what Nokia is capable of despite their recent setbacks. That's why I still hold on to the N8, arguably the best Symbian phone Nokia has released to date (its currently running in Symbian Anna, but scheduled to be upgraded to Symbian Belle next month). The Carl Zeiss Tessar powered 12MP camera is just one of the reasons why the device is such a keeper. The only problem I really have with the N8, and Symbian in general is the availability of quality apps. A few months ago, Nokia renamed the Ovi Store to Nokia Store which makes sense in branding and marketing. But the Philippines only had access to paid apps just recently, and I'm really glad Nokia decided to make third party commercial apps finally available locally.

The number and quality of paid apps in the Nokia Store obviously pale in comparison against Apple's App Store and the Android Market. But you'll be able to grab some good apps for as low as P20. A number of HD games from Gameloft are priced aggressively.  The most expensive app I've seen so far is the excellent Gravity social networking client which sells for P150. I wouldn't be surprised if Nokia subsides a huge chuck of the pricing of apps.

Many thanks to @loell for pointing out an important factor in making this work for me - as of this time, only Globe Telecom supports phone billing which allows you to access the paid apps from the Nokia store. You can still use a prepaid sim from Globe as long as you provide your credit card details from your account profile in the Nokia Store.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I still prefer the Kindle E Ink devices

This month marks a year and a half of continuous use of the Kindle Keyboard (used to be called Kindle 3). Between those months of use, I've had the opportunity to own other tablets and use other reading formats but I keep on going back to the simplicity of the Kindle.

It's probably because of E Ink which just works. I've always been a fan of the display technology when it was introduced. Now its being used in other products such as wristwatches, retail displays, etc. I hope Amazon continues to build E Ink based Kindles and perhaps even move to Color ePaper technology.

Regarding formats, the only thing I'm not really happy about is not being able to support ePub, while the rest of the competition has adopted it. Even the new version of iBooks for the iPad supports the latest version of the ePub format although there are reports that the support is broken in a way that Apple added undocumented extensions that pretty much breaks the standard. But I don't see myself using a lot of iBooks in the future even though the books are pretty. The problem is that the file sizes are too huge (the Life on Earth book is almost 1GB).

It's amazing how ebook technology has evolved over the years. I remember in my previous work, the first time I had a chance to work on ebooks was when we had to do some work on the Franklin eBookMan. It was a terrible device to begin with. It didn't ship with an OS, you had to download it first before actually using the device. At least it had support for Mobipocket format (before Amazon bought them). When I started reading books and building content for the eBookMan, I got hooked and have always been looking forward to ebook reader technologies that come out since then.

Hopefully, Amazon continues to develop the technology for dedicated book readers without resorting to LCD or LEDs. The E Ink Kindles work just fine and have a market of their own. Heck I wouldn't be surprised in a few years, Amazon will just give them away to any Amazon Prime subscriber.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sometimes a reboot is necessary

The first month of January is about to end in a week and I decided its the right time to do a "reboot" on my online presence. I finally got to transfer my domains out of GoDaddy and into NameCheap. The transfer process was pretty straightforward, after unlocking the domain from GoDaddy, I initiated the transfer and everything went as planned, just replying to emails explaining the process and authorizing NameCheap to be the new registrar. Moving the DNS took some delays as I wasn't that familiar anymore with the interface of Google Apps and learned along the way that it doesn't require domain name verification anymore.

Going back to Blogger was a no brainer. It's simple and it works. Although I'm a bit worried how its going to get integrated into Google+ in the future. At least I can say I have a very clean blog right now and hope I would be able to sustain it.