nba playoffs preview: 3-6 matchup

This should be one exciting series. Scoring is the modus operandi of both teams and both franchises are enjoying one of their best seasons ever. Golden State is back in the postseason after a short hiatus while George Karl, the Nuggets coach, has once again disproved the theory that a team needs superstars to succeed. At one point during the season, it did look like the Nuggets would lose their 3rd seeding to either the Clippers or the Grizzlies, especially after they lost Danilo Gallinari for the season and Ty Lawson for the stretch, but they held on and even dominated opponents to end the season.

Denver has the best home record in the league this season at 38-3, a mark better than even the sizzling Miami Heat (37-4). Not only that, but they have managed to win 8 of their last 9 regular season games despite losing key players to injury. Although Gallinari is lost for the season due to a torn ACL, Lawson and Kenneth Faried are expected to be healthy for the postseason. The Nuggets run Moreyball-on-cocaine, meaning that nearly all their shots are either from beyond the arc or in the paint. They rely on forcing turnovers, getting offensive rebounds and getting lots of buckets in transition. The fact that they play their home games in Denver and are accustomed to the atmospheric differences helps, too. Visiting teams often find themselves out of energy by the 4th quarter.

Golden State is returning to the playoffs with a pretty solid offensive unit but one that has ushered in some semblance of defense into their line-up as well. This isn’t the same GSW team that stunned Dallas a few seasons ago, but it’s packed with lots of multi-faceted offensive player. Stephen Curry is the most important player on this team and is proving his credentials as an elite shooter by eclipsing the single-season three-pointers made record set by Ray Allen. However, one often overlooked facet of Curry’s game is his ability to hit a variety of different teardrops in the paint.

The pressure doesn’t go off once Curry goes to the bench as he is backed up by Jarrett Jack, a candidate for 6th man of the year and probably even Most Improved Player. Jack has been on a tear, notching up 40% from beyond the arc and being very aggressive offensively. Watch out for a bunch of transition jumpers from him. Beyond Jack, the Warriors feature several solid offensive players in David LeeKlay Thompson (another threat from three-point range), Harrison Barnes and Carl Landry. However, I think the key for them being able to pull off an upset this year is going to come down to how much play they can get out of Andrew Bogut. Bogut is a rim-protector and shot-blocker but he’s also unfortunately one of the most injured players in the league. Expect a layup drill from the Nuggets if Bogut cannot get dressed for these games.

I think this will be a very exciting serious and actually contemplated giving the Warriors the upset pick here, but the Nuggets’ resilience despite injuries through the end of the season (as well as their easy 3-1 victory in the regular season series) encourages me to use logic instead.

PREDICTION: Nuggets in 6 (4-2)

I won’t lie, this is a series I’m unlikely to watch and one that I’m guessing is going to be relegated to NBA TV for a lot of the games. This should make it fairly obvious that I haven’t followed either of these teams this season, but I’ll try to cobble together a little preview.

From the Pacers perspective, this has been the season of Paul George, the leading candidate for Most Improved Player of the year. And it couldn’t have come a moment too soon for the franchise, who lost Danny Granger for most of the beginning of the season and even towards the end after a few games played. They’ve been led well from the point guard position by George Hill and David West has been as solid as ever. And of course, Roy Hibbert remains one of the top defensive centers in the league. However, it is still hard for me to get too excited about this team. I think they’ll play well but aren’t near being contenders, yet.

Atlanta, meanwhile, managed to string together a decent season despite trading Joe Johnson away to the Nets. Al Horford has put in a steady season and Josh Smith has once again put in decent numbers despite being one of the stupider basketball players to play the game (seriously, stop shooting three-pointers, Josh). I guess this team also has Jeff Teague and Lou Williams but I feel like they’re injured and I cannot bother to find out. These two teams split their regular season series 2-2, but I expect the Pacers to walk away with this one.

PREDICTION: Pacers in 5 (4-1)

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nba playoffs preview: 2-7 matchup

The Los Angeles Lakers not only clinched their playoff berth on the last day of the regular season but also managed to leapfrog over the Houston Rockets to take the 7th seed by virtue of winning the season series. The San Antonio Spurs, in contrast, have had their playoff qualifications on ice for about as long as anyone can remember although key injuries to Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili led to them losing the top seed in the Western Conference to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Lakers won in a hotly contested overtime affair yesterday for the right to play San Antonio. Let’s see why.

After a typically age-defying season in San Antonio, the Spurs have been cold down the stretch. Part of it was obviously injury, but part of it may have just been to coast through to the playoffs. The Spurs have dropped 7 of their last 10 games, starting with the two point loss to the Heat (which I believe was a Chris Bosh buzzer-beater). That said, they were dealing with injuries to key players leading up to the playoffs and probably wanted to prevent any further harm. Tim Duncan has been monstrous this season, one of his most efficient seasons in the league. The “greatest power forward of all time” has averaged nearly 18 points, 10 boards and 3 blocks a game in 30 minutes a night. That is insane. He should be fresh in the playoffs.

The Lakers have been dealing with injury issues of their own and unfortunately none of those injury situations will be resolved come playoff time. After losing Kobe Bryant to an Achilles’ injury last week, the Lakers regrouped very well to qualify to the playoffs and grab the 7th seed. Mike D’Antoni has finally realized that Pau Gasol is a superior player to Earl Clark and he is getting the minutes once again. The offense can again run through Dwight Howard–something he is a lot more comfortable with. If Steve Nash can get back into the mix quickly, this Lakers team may actually become more of a threat than the ball-hogging Kobe version.

That said, the Lakers’ biggest Achilles’ heel (sorry, Kobe) is their defense. Although they were able to stifle Houston yesterday, that was more a case of the Rockets taking a bunch of stupid three-point shots (8-33 from the field…). The Spurs offense is much more refined and actually has a low-post presence that can effectively spread the floor. Duncan and Splitter will match up well with Howard and Gasol. Tony Parker will ruin Steve Blake. If Ginobili is back in the fold, there is no one on the Lakers who can stop him, either. Basically, the Lakers will have to outscore San Antonio, something that I wouldn’t be envious of being able to do when your best players are 4′s and 5′s and like the ball in the post.

The Spurs won the regularly season series 2-1, with all three games being pretty tight. I think they’ll drop a couple in Los Angeles thanks to David Stern, but I expect them to take care of business, here.

PREDICTION: Spurs win in 6 (4-2)

I hate giving credit to the New York Knicks but they’ve been playing pretty superb basketball this season. With Amar’e Stoudemire injured and no other singular offensive threat in the starting lineup, it looks like Carmelo Anthony has finally got a core of players around him who don’t mind just passing the ball into him and watching him shoot. And luckily, for him, he has done this with stunning accuracy over the last few weeks en route to an improbable scoring championship, beating out Durant, the leader for most of the season.

The difference this year is two-ingredient cocktail: 1 part J.R. Smith and 1 part dead-eye three-point shooters. Smith is the leading candidate for sixth man of the year and helped New York stay relevant when they were battling injuries mid-season. They’ve got a plethora of shooters on their roster, most of whom don’t really want anything to do with the ball other than catch and shoot it when open. Raymond Felton finally looks like he hasn’t retired early to open a donut store.

Much credit must be given to the Celtics who managed to fight their way to a playoff spot in the consistently paltry Eastern Conference despite losing Rajon Rondo midway through the season. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have had good (but not great) seasons and Jeff Green has provided some much needed offense. They’ve also got a couple of dead-eye shooters in Jason Terry and Courtney Lee but both these guys haven’t had the chance to break free from the slow-pace Celtics offense. Avery Bradley has also been fantastic defensively and will probably spend some time guarding the likes of J.R. Smith if he gets hot.

The Knicks should win this one easily on paper, having taken the season series 3-1, but it’s foolish to take the Celtics for granted come postseason. Defense wins championships, after all. I think they’ll hang on for a victory in 5 or 6 games, but the series will be a lot closer than the final scoreline will suggest.

PREDICTION: Knicks win in 6 (4-2)

 

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nba playoffs preview: 1-8 matchup

It’s been a while since I blogged so I figured what better way to get back into the scheme of things than kicking off my annual playoff previews and predictions. With an exciting day of games just complete, the NBA playoff brackets are finally set up so I’m going to go ahead and start previews by seed matchups. Hopefully I’ll get all of these out of the way before the playoffs start up on Saturday!


This series is a match made in David Stern heaven, which probably explains the questionable officiating in the final regular season NBA game between the Lakers and the Rockets. The obvious storyline at play here is James Harden returning to the city that made him and his magnificent beard famous and trying to topple them in the playoffs. Harden has a lot to prove since the Thunder front office essentially told him they didn’t think he was worth the money.

In the regular season, the Rockets fell 2-1 to the Thunder, managing to record a 3-point victory in their final attempt after two lopsided blowouts. In that victory, Harden had 46 points, going 14-19 from the floor including 7-8 from the three point line. In the losses, Harden averaged 21.0, shooting 9-33 from the field (4-12 from deep). Going by Harden’s efficiency over the last month or so, I don’t see this improving anytime soon, especially given that Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins will be erasing a lot of shots at the rim. I feel like Jeremy Lin is going to be spending most of his night running around trying to catch Russell Westbrook and hence is offense will be stagnant.

For the Rockets to win, they’ll have to shoot lights out over the course of the series because defensively they have no one to stop Kevin Durant and Westbrook. For a team that shoots so many threes, I figure that they’ll catch enough fire at least once in the first four games to steal one. I see this OKC winning the first two at home, the Rockets winning the third and losing the fourth before the Thunder wrap it up at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Sadface.

PREDICTION: Thunder win in 5 (4-1)

The Bucks may have stolen a regular season match-up from the Heat but with the league’s MVP (LeBron James), official cry-baby (Dwyane Wade) and resident velociraptor (Chris Bosh) and surrounded by sharpshooters from deep, I don’t see them repeating any of it in this first round match-up. The Heat have been on cruise control since February and have been outplaying opponents with ferocity.

Really, the only shot Milwaukee has is if LeBron has a debilitating injury. A team more inclined to play down low may have been able to steal a game away but the Bucks’ best players are Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. Sure, Larry Sanders may have a few exciting defensive plays, but I wouldn’t put my money on the Bucks being able to stop anything the Heat do offensively.

PREDICTION: Heat win in 4 (4-0)

I hope to hit up the 2-7  match-up tomorrow!

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writing my first windows phone 8 app

At some point yesterday, I submitted for approval my first ever Windows Phone app. It also happened to be my first ever Windows Phone 8 app, since I never got around to developing any apps for the previous version of the operating system. I figured I’d type some thoughts down on my experience as a developer who has worked pretty extensively with .NET technology before. I’ll try to keep things from getting too technical but I cannot make any promises.

Pros

#1: Same Old Technology

When I first had a desire to develop a mobile app, my target platform was obviously the iPhone since it was the largest and most successful app market that existed at the time (and possibly still but I’ve stopped following iOS closely). I went ahead and bought a Mac Mini since I needed an OS X machine to be able to write the appropriate code. I then sniffed around Objective C and figured I needed a guided experience so I went ahead and bought an e-book. I may have even read 2-3 chapters of that book.

The problem became apparent very quickly. I hated Objective C. I hated it with a passion. The syntax makes no sense to me–which I’m sure would change once I got used to it–but I could not imagine a world where I wanted to be used to Objective C. The code just looked ugly. Which is a weird thing to say. But it did. It did not feel structured and logical like C-like syntaxes, despite being a subset of C. Weird. In my opinion, Objective C looked just how OOP syntaxes should not look.

Anyhow, developing my WP8 app, I did not have to learn any crazy new technologies. I already have a firm grasp of C# and that was all I needed for the modeling aspects of my app. C# is almost syntactically identical to Java, so that’s a whole bunch of developers there that shouldn’t need to learn a new skillset. The UI language is something I did have to learn, but having used Silverlight and WPF in the past, this wasn’t a massive leap for me. I’ve had to handcode Cocoa UI in the past and let me say I easily prefer XAML-land. Everything makes sense to me and the MVVM pattern flows effortlessly.

#2: Developing Metro apps is easy

The thing I like most about Windows Phone is the design of the apps. Several developers (particularly cross-platform ones) choose to ignore the beautiful design language and develop cluttery navigational systems. I decided to stick with Metro and it was abundantly easy to do so. There’s lots of boilerplate code to get you started and once I installed the Windows Phone 8 toolkit, I had access to all the controls that MS use on their native apps. Using my pre-existing MVVM knowledge, I was able to get going very quickly. After deploying my app to my device and the emulator, I noticed that MS handled a lot of things seamlessly. One particular shoutout is the persistence of view models. My original code had me recalculating stuff every time a page was loaded with the intention of caching it manually sometime in the future (kinda like in ASP.NET land). I instead found that if I just added a flag to see if I had been to that page before, I could take advantage of view models being cached automatically. This is probably already the case with WPF, but I didn’t realize it and it made me happy.

#3: Haven’t yet done it, but I can see how easy it would be to replicate stuff into a Windows RT/WPF app

I haven’t done this yet, but I do have plans to write a cross-platform WP8/Windows 8/Windows RT app at some point. Given that the all three targets use so much shared technology, it seems that porting across platform really will be a matter of adding the appropriate #if and #endifs and writing the UI layer. This also leads itself to more modular code since I have to keep in mind to separate my modeling layers from my view layers. This can further be expanded to WPF and even ASP.NET which means a developer could go from one code-base to writing apps for: WP8, WP7.5, WinRT, .NET 4.5 and ASP.NET! This makes me seriously excited as I think about app ideas that can leverage all these different platforms.

Cons

#1: Getting a fully-capable dev machine

Unfortunately, WP8 development also has several shortfalls, the greatest of which is finding a dev machine capable of developing apps on. This search was ultimately futile from the perspective of finding a machine that was able to both run the emulator and deploy to my device. Of all the machines I work with (and I work with several), only my home-built desktop was able to support the hardware virtualization that allowed the emulators to run. Sure, the emulators run really well, but it makes no sense to me why you would make the barrier to entry so large for a fledgling mobile OS. I can easily see independent developers willing to give WP8 development a spin only to realize that they need to buy a brand new Windows 8 64-bit computer with the appropriate new processor architecture to be able to use an emulator.

Once I found a computer able to run the emulator (which happened to be the desktop I had built from scratch 3 or so years ago), I quickly found out that it was not able to talk to my phone via USB. This may be an issue with my USB controller but I do use several USB devices without event so this was still annoying to me. I ended up having to install Windows 8 on my personal laptop and dual boot it to have a device which could deploy to my phone. So now I have a weird workflow where I develop on my desktop and test things out via emulator before checking it in to TFS and then pulling down a copy of the code on my laptop, building it and deploying it to my 920. Not something I would recommend.

#2: Silverlight-based target is still generations behind .NET 4.5

While I mentioned that the technology is similar to standard .NET development for Windows Phone, sadly it is still a couple of generations behind the current .NET release. Libraries and keywords that I have become accustomed to in my day-to-day development are suddenly no longer available. Routed commands are something I missed, in particular, because it cramped my MVVM style. I had to write my own ICommand classes and I will have to do that for all the apps I develop. Uncool.

#3: Developer support and documentation is paltry

End-user documentation from MSDN is horrible. I cannot recall finding a single piece of code that helped me on the Windows Phone documentation section. Most of my queries get answered by a Google search, a StackOverflow question or just get worked around. Microsoft’s .NET documentation is very good with lots of examples of how to do things. They definitely need better code samples and not just a high-level journey through workflows. The most immediate thing that comes to mind is programmatically generating dynamic live tiles. MS has a huge page describing the tile technology–in English. They frequently reference dynamic tiles and doing things programmatically–but never provide a code sample! Craziness.

That’s it for now. I’ll put a link up to my app once it gets approved.

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8th day thoughts on the Microsoft Surface RT

So, a little more than a week ago, I made the impulse decision to purchase a Microsoft Surface. I ended up spending most of my lunch hour in line at the Microsoft Store in The Domain in a mostly chilly morning with about a 115-120 other shoppers. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at the number of people who had lined up, although most of the pleasantness was not recognized at the time, because it was pretty chilly and I was in shorts and a sweatshirt

Anyhow, let’s get to the meat of this entry: the Surface RT itself.

Everyone has talked about the beauty of the hardware itself and I am mostly in agreement with that. Of course, I have not owned any other tablet device, so I do not have a comparison point, but I have used my parent’s first generation iPad and I would say that it easily blows that device out of the water (which it should do for a device that is a few years old). Compared to the various laptops I’ve owned, this definitely feels nicer and sturdier. Microsoft has promoted the sounds of the hinge and the clicking in of the cover. I’m not sure what is so special about it, but again I have not had the benefit of comparing it to another high-tech device with a hinge. The clicking in sound does sound pretty satisfying but I found, after 8 days of usage, that the only time I was clicking the cover in or out was when I wanted to demonstrate the sound to another person.

Let’s move on to another piece of the hardware: the Touch Cover. When the Surface was first announced earlier this year at an Microsoft keynote, this was the thing that immediately caught my eye. In fact, I even remember immediately posting a picture of it on Facebook, in awe. Unfortunately, Microsoft elected not to bundle the cover in the price of the base device, which I think was a misstep. That said, the keyboard itself works phenomenally for a device that is so thin and non-keyboard like. I am writing this entire review on the Surface so that I have the benefit of a relatively large document to test the keyboard out. I still make several typos and have to use the backspace key liberally, but it is eons ahead of any on-screen keyboard. In fact, when I’m in tablet mode on this device and the on-screen keyboard shows up, I can only use it for a few short words before I just flip the keyboard around and use it. The trackpad is also surprisingly responsive and challenges and, in some cases, betters the performance of several laptop trackpads. It supports multitouch, as well.

The problem areas for me with the keyboard are the space bar and the left shift key. In general, it seems that any key that needs to be fired with my pinky are slightly problematic as my brain needs to readjust to the fact that I need to apply more pressure to those keys than I’m used to. I suppose that is a con, but it is something that doesn’t really affect me that much. I will also concede that long typing sessions will probably cause fatigue to the wrists because there is no rest area for them. In conclusion, though, the keyboard is a fine piece of engineering.

The camera is unfortunately a letdown. I haven’t had a chance to do video chat on it yet, so I don’t know whether it will suffice for that purpose but for everyday picture taking, it is not very usable. I guess that makes sense since it is kind of silly to carry around a 10″ device to take photos, but it would be sweet if it packed a higher-resolution camera. The angled back camera also makes sense if the thing you want to tape is right behind your device but kind of an inconvenience for anything else. I tried to use the camera to take photos during my Halloween party last week and it was hard to use and produced pretty crappy looking photos.

Next, let’s move on to the software. The Surface RT comes bundled with Windows RT, which is essentially a handicapped version of Windows 8. When the Surfaces were first announced, I had my heart set on a Surface Pro as my laptop replacement. However, once Microsoft announced the pricing model of these devices, I realized that the Pro would probably fall out of my budget, especially given that my current Sony VAIO still works fairly well. In addition, I wanted to take advantage of the slightly lighter Surface RT as well as the fact that it was available now (see earlier comment about impulse purchase).

I did download a couple of the Windows 8 previews this year but did not get the chance to use it extensively. I set it up on my HTPC that is connected to my computer and found that the interface, while beautiful, is really not designed for a point-and-click environment. Which is why the Surface is the perfect device to take advantage of the “Modern UI” that Microsoft has been pushing. As a multi-year owner of Windows Phone devices, I have already completely been sold on the live tile-based UX and was excited to see it expanded. Having used the Surface for a little more of the week, I have to say that the gestures are very well designed and consistent across the Modern UI. I find myself swiping the Windows 8-style gestures when on my Lumia 900, now.

Let me go back to the handicapped nature of Windows RT, for a moment. As you may or may not be aware, the Surface RT packs an ARM microprocessor which means it is not compatible with Intel x86 code. Which, for the less technically-inclined, is essentially any Windows software that you have encountered prior to Windows 8. Microsoft ported a version of Office to the ARM processor but apart from that, any “apps” need to be installed from the Microsoft store. As a developer, I haven’t had the chance to play with the SDK yet and haven’t really followed the Build sessions so I do not know how restricted the available APIs are for Windows RT. It would certainly be neat to be able to run some legacy stuff, especially drivers (my printer is not supported) and stuff that rely on browser plugins (such as my work VPN as well as Google+). The porting of that legacy stuff will depend entirely on the commercial success of the device.

With regards to the stability of the device, I would give it a decent score. I do encounter some lag when I have a lot of stuff open or in some specific apps (Xbox Music being a prime example) but in general it doesn’t affect me on a daily basis. I did encounter a situation yesterday when apps seemed to crash to desktop when attempting to use them. A restart (and the restart itself is quick) fixed the issue but it was still a minor inconvenience. That said, I have applied the workaround that allows me to get to any Flash-enabled website that I want, so I’m not sure if the Surface was equipped to deal with the crappiness of Adobe’s platform.

Let me talk about the stock apps a little bit, now. Unfortunately, almost all the stock apps that I use on a daily basis are pretty sucky. First, there’s the Mail app. This app is pretty slow and definitely needs a second pass before it is usable on an everyday basis. It syncs down fine and everything but is just very laggy. Next we have the Calendar app. First of all, the Calendar app neglected to sync down my Facebook calendar properly and it is still an issue I haven’t figured out. Secondly, it appears Google still hasn’t enabled multiple-calendar support for the Surface so only the default calendar gets pulled in. I downloaded some trial software to sync my work Notes calendar with Outlook.com and it promptly brought my Calendar app to an unusable slowdown. Luckily, the live tile and notifications still work fine, so I don’t have to go into the actual Calendar app that often.

Next, there’s the Xbox Music app. Unfortunately, I think this app is a drastic downgrade from the really solid Zune desktop app. I sure hope the development team at Microsoft work on improving this app (they’ve pushed out several updates since Windows 8 was RTM’d) because right now it is buggy. I encounter everything from random songs being skipped due to Xbox Music Pass issues to the UI becoming unresponsive when trying to control my playlist. Once I get everything queued and started, it works pretty well, but that is not an ideal usage scenario.

The People Hub also appears to be a downgrade from the experience in Windows Phone. The biggest problem I have with this is the live tile doesn’t mark items as being read so I have notifications from several days ago still flipping around. Without a first-party Facebook app (so far) the People app also does not bridge the gap well enough so I find myself going into the browser-based experience often. Speaking of the browser, IE10 is very solid. The Modern UI app works really well and gives me a nice, full-screen view of the pages I want. There is still room for improvement in the form of the back and forward actions, which appear to reload the page from a very, very slow cache.

All this said, it is gratifying to note that none of the stock apps are part of the operating system, which means that they will have the ability to be updated regularly. Whether we actually see Microsoft throwing resources towards the continued improvement of those apps is anyone’s guess.

In conclusion, I’m very happy with this device. The major negative areas for me appear to be in updatable software portions. I expect Microsoft may have cut some features in their stock apps to be ready to ship by holiday season, and I hope those features get scheduled in the next few updates. This device isn’t ready yet to replace my laptop, but that is mostly a function of it not being an x86 device, something I knew going into the purchase. The Remote Desktop app actually functions pretty well so I can theoretically access anything I want from the Surface as long as I am on a network with an x86 computer I can remote in to.

I would recommend this device to anyone who is willing to deal with the growing pains of a 1.0 device. I think the keyboard is a must-buy if you get this device because it is what sets it apart from other products in the same form factor.

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16-week milestone

My left ACL is now 16 weeks and 1 day old. The coolest part about this is that I can start running again. The uncool parts include finding out how difficult running is going to be again and also waiting the 2 months until I’m cleared for sports. Especially now that NBA season has started and the Rockets are young and exciting. But I guess I cannot complain since I’m technically 67% of the way through, now.

I will admit that I have become quite lazy at rehab so I guess the 6-month mark may be pushed back a little bit. This coupled with the fact that my physical therapy appointments are now down to once every two weeks (more a function of not wanting to pay $140 a month for basically going and doing the same stuff over and over again) means that my recovery is a little slower than expected. But the dog adoption has ensured that I at least walk 20-25 minutes each day at a pretty brisk pace with effective resistance (Tucows still pulls on the leash quite a bit).

Next week is the San Antonio Half Marathon which I will obviously not be running. I’m contemplating going and supporting the one remaining friend who has not dropped out because of injury, but things like having to put the dog in boarding will probably make this an actual decision. Luckily, San Antonio is only about an hour and a half away and a really easy drive. And the weather should actually be good to walk around the river.

Anyways, that’s about it. Just a miniscule update on the ACL. I’ll be putting up a review of my Microsoft Surface (which I bought last Friday) over the weekend.

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technology soapbox

A lot has been going on in the technology landscape over the last few weeks and I’ve decided to get on a little soapbox and share my thoughts on them at midnight on a Tuesday night instead of going to sleep so that I can wake up in 7 hours to walk my dog after (hopefully) finding out that she has not pooped all over everything. Instead of trying to make the writing flow, I’m just gonna knock them off one after another.

Apple-Samsung patent case

As you may have read unless you were taking a break from the interwebs for the last month, Apple won a huge patent case against Samsung with regards to smartphone developments and innovations. While I’m not familiar with the nitty gritty details (nor do I have the desire to get familiar with them) I still feel the need to spew some gospel.

From a purely legal perspective (which, in honesty, is what the jurors should have been looking at anyway) I agree that Samsung was guilty of copying Apple’s “innovations”. I think the issue, though, is the fact that such patents exist, anyway. Of the several patents that were successfully defended, it seems there were ones about the shape of the device, the user interface of the operating system and other visual effects (such as the “bouncing” of a scrolling list when you hit the end). Apple zealots (I won’t use the word fanboy since that always evokes negative emotions) have been quick to deride Samsung for stealing Apple’s innovations.

I challenge that these “inventions” are worthy of a patent. Is the world’s self-professed most innovative company really suing people for copying the “bounciness” of their lists? Is that really the level of innovation that we have come to expect from technology companies? The original iPhone was not innovative because the lists were bouncy or because the device was rounded. It was innovative because it was the first truly accessible touch-enabled device. The innovation came by way of the app store (as a former BlackBerry user who was trying to download apps, the iOS store was truly a cool invention).

Filing for and receiving patents for the shape of a device and minor user interface effects and animations is pathetic, more pathetic than suing a company for violating said patents. In my humble opinion, the biggest long-term effect of this litigation and judgment is the filing of frivolous patents by technology companies instead of any actual innovation. Imagine if Alexander Graham Bell had filed a patent on the curliness of the wire connecting the various parts of a phone–that is in essence what these “design patents” amount to.

Nokia Lumia 920 and PureView “Scandal”

This is only really a scandal if you are a tech-geek like myself and follow several tech blogs every day. The “scandal”, if it can be called that, is that Nokia, in an advertisement following their Lumia 920 announcement, presented optical image stabilization (OIS) in a way that suggested that they were using the Lumia 920 for the media in the advertisement. Basically, their ad showed clips of a person on a bike shooting another person on a bike using a Lumia 920 and then cut to how the video would look with OIS on and off. People (including myself) made the incorrect assumption that the video of OIS on was shot on a Lumia 920.

It turns out some super sleuths were able to catch a couple of frames in the video where the magic of reflecting light showed that the OIS on stuff was not shot with a Lumia 920 on a bike but a full camera rig on a van. The internet temporarily exploded into chiding Nokia about incorrectly leading people on. Nokia even issued a public apology and shared actual video shot with the Lumia 920, compared with video not shot on the device.

Seriously, people? Are we now in the business of calling out advertisements for not being 100% accurate? I don’t own an iPhone 4S, but 90% of my friends do and no one has told me that Siri is perfect, or anywhere close to it. I certainly don’t expect to ride on a horse backwards when I buy Old Spice deodorant and I don’t think anyone would allow me to pay them with Orbit gum. It’s an advertisement–it’s supposed to pique interest about the product.

When I watched the original commercial, the fact that Nokia used the “OIS on” and “OIS off” textual overlays in their video made me wonder if one could actually turn the feature on and off on the Lumia 920–which suggests that they weren’t malevolently claiming that the OIS on video was shot on a Lumia 920. If that was the case, they could very easily have replaced the captions with “Lumia 920″ and “<insert competitor phone here>”. Yes, there is no arguing that they were trying to “trick” consumers into thinking that the OIS on video was shot on a Lumia 920, but that’s the point of advertising…

Windows Phone 8 + Windows 8 and Microsoft marketing strategies

As much of an MSFT fan as I am, I have always held onto the belief that there are some really dumb people running Microsoft’s PR campaigns. Surely they should be able to find a firm that does the job half as decent as Apple’s marketing team. Thinking back over Apple and Microsoft advertising campaigns, the only reason I remember MSFT ones are because they were utterly SMH-worthy (that’s shaking my head, for the acronym-challenged). Apple, for example, had the the Mac vs. PC campaign, which, although it made me cringe, was memorable and to the point (and very effective in developing the Apple zealotry). Their current campaigns, while not as powerful, are still pretty effective: close-ups of beautiful looking devices with an abundance of hyperbolic adjectives in the background along with some indie music.

If I think of Microsoft’s ad campaigns over the last few years, the two that come to my mind are the “Windows 7 Launch Party” and the “WP7: A phone to save you from your phones” campaigns. Both were supremely cringeworthy and didn’t really cast the product in a positive light. What the heck was a Windows 7 launch party? I watched several of these commercials and had no idea what they were trying to portray. The WP7 campaign was an attempted assault on other phones but one that didn’t make any sense–why would I want to spend a bunch of money on a phone that I then didn’t need to use?

Anyhow, that’s all old hat. MSFT is trying a new strategy now, which also sucks, of announcing products 2-3 months before launch. They don’t have the marketing prowess to sustain that hype over such a long period. And, unfortunately, it seems like Nokia is following a similar plan. The Microsoft Surface tablets were announced a while back but in the announcement, there were no information about pricing or availability. The same thing happened with the Windows 8 announcement, the WP8 announcement and the Lumia announcement. Tomorrow, Apple introduces the iPhone. I am absolutely certain they will announce the price, shipping date and will begin preorders as soon as the event ends.

That’s it for now. Time to get a few hours of sleep!

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6 weeks out of surgery

Day 46 PS

Hello, my name is Jamtarnet and I am Jack’s Sohum’s new ACL. I am only 46 days old and also casually known as Jammy. I was named after Sohum’s hamster, the late Jamtarnet Jockeroewelxery. I guess that makes me JJII which kind of makes me feel like I’m dyslexic whenever I write my name but since I actually do not know how to write, this is not really going to become much of an issue.

I was actually going to write a post about the way I celebrated my first month of existence but unfortunately Sohum never let me get on the computer. He told me I should stop being so kneedy. I told him he shouldn’t have to resort to crappy puns to be funny and that he should let his fine sense of humor guide him. I think he thought I was being sarcastic because he proceeded to douse me with hydrogen peroxide.

Anyhow, I feel like my time in the world that will mostly be spent holding two bones together should exceed my predecessor’s. And I don’t mean just Jammy, because that would not be a very confidence-inspiring statement (Jammy couldn’t last through one summer). I have my eyes set on my competitor in the other knee–Portubus Pinternnacle–but only in an Olympics sort of competitive way. For those who don’t know what that means, it means that I will spend my time watching him every weekend for about 20 waking hours.

The recovery is on target. The doctor inspected me and told Sohum that I was looking spectacularly solid and that I wouldn’t need to be seen for another 2 months. I’m counting down the days to January, when I will be allowed to support Sohum as a friend in knee(d). Until then I will just have to watch basketball and hope that my contemporaries in Ricky Rubio’s and Derrick Rose’s respective knees make as strong a recovery as I will be making.

Until knee-xt time!

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crutchlessness is the way to be

Day 25 PS

If you’ve noticed the frequency of my ACL-rehab posts going down, it’s because the frequency is inversely correlated with how good the rehab is going. The last week and a half have definitely been mostly positive and I feel like I’m getting back to a mostly normal lifestyle, minus the ability to really exercise with my lower body.

Last Friday, I was finally told that I can ditch the crutches. That was not entirely surprising and it was in fact something I had been expecting for a while. What I was also told is that I could unlock and even get rid of the brace if I was feeling up to it. I most certainly was because that brace may have been one of the most uncomfortable and annoying things I’ve ever had to wear. So this weekend was the first weekend without any sort of weight-bearing aid.

My walking gait has been a lot better though my knee extension has stagnated with about a degree or so remaining to be straightened out. Part of this is my fault since I have been lazy on doing the rehab at home. Knee flexion is returning slowly–I’m up to about 120 degrees as measured today at my physiotherapy appointment. I even managed to play some really poor badminton in my backyard this weekend–provided the shuttle was hit directly to me!

At PT, the rehab has got somewhat redundant. The only new exercises I’ve been introduced to over the last few sessions has been related to the balance board. This is basically a square piece of wood that has a kinda half-cylinder attached below it which it can pivot on (kinda like a see-saw). You can position your feet either perpendicular or parallel to the underlying cylinder to have two different forms of balance. The exercises I’ve done included tapping forward and back for a minute, just balancing for a minute and almost tapping forward and back for a minute. Last week I also did an exercise where I was on the balancing board and throwing a basketball at one of those spring-nets set up on the ground and catching the returned ball. That was kinda fun. It’s a great calf workout.

Right now, it seems like PT is kind of stagnating and the main reason I’m coming back is to make sure I actually rehab since I’m not doing it at home. However, I’ve now been given the greenlight to workout in the gym, including some lower-body exercises–such as the stationary bike (up to 20 minutes) and light-weight leg presses (single and both legs) as well as calf raises. Now, I just need to find a gym.

I’m approaching the 4-6 week period where the graft is supposed to be at its weakest. Or that may be the 6-8 week period. Who knows? Either way, at 6 weeks the graft should be at its weakest and I’ll need to take it easy. That is going to be around August 26th or so and thankfully I have nothing physically exerting planned for then.

Future updates to this story will probably be in the form of any new PT exercises or any other major developments (such as finding out that they injected me with some sort of liquid metal that will make me a Wolverine-Transformer hybrid).

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bmi is a crappy measure of healthiness

Day 16 PS

Yesterday, I stepped on the scale for the first time since my surgery to check my weight. I was down to 150 lbs which, combined with my height of 5’6″, meant my BMI was down to 24.2. That happens to be on the very edge of a “normal” or “healthy” BMI. This is probably the first time I’ve been down in that healthy category in a loooong time. For the longest time, I’ve been right on the boundary between healthy and overweight. I blame my height. And my superior muscle mass.

But yeah, measuring my weight kinda quantified how much muscle mass I’ve lost. I’ve done absolutely no resistance training of note since the Tuesday before surgery, when I did a few bench press sets, and I’ve eaten a lot more calories than I’ve burnt. But I’ve still lost on the order of about 5-6 pounds. This would be confusing until I look down at my left thigh and see how depressing it looks. My right thigh is still kinda holding it’s own (it may even have gotten slightly stronger because it has been carrying more weight) but my left thigh is just a fraction of what it used to be. Luckily, that muscle matter is slooooowly coming back. But I’m impatient.

Watching the Olympics is probably one of the worst ideas when rehabbing an ACL injury because I’m (a) seeing people who are (mostly) at the pinnacle of their physical fitness and (b) not really being inspired by it (or, at least, not being able to transform that inspiration into actual results).

Okay, so all that was slightly negative.

The good news is that I have finally been able to get my left leg straight independently. 0 degrees, baby! Which means that by the end of next week, I should probably be  cleared to be crutch-free every where. The pain is down to about a 1 or 2 at the max and a 0 in most cases. I still haven’t been able to get full flexion but apparently getting that leg straight is a lot more important.

On Friday at the PT, I got on the stationary bike for the first time. It. Was. Extremely. Painful. Apparently 105 degrees is what I needed to be allowed on the bike. I had 110. It still caused shooting pains. All part of the rehab process, I suppose.

I’m looking forward to next week, though. I’ll finally be painkiller free, antibiotics free and hopefully crutches free (by the end of the week). I’ll also be able to cut down my PT appointments to once a week, which will be a welcome break for my wallet. Until then, I guess I’ll be reduced to watching the Indian athletes crash and burn at London and not feel as bad for myself.

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