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.