managing

I’m going to go ahead and change the number to a post-surgery day so I have a better idea what is going on. Surgery happened on Day 52 so if you want to calculate days since injury, just add that number.

Day 13 PS (see what I did there?)

Before surgery, I greedily read up all the blogs I could find on the internet about people commenting about ACL surgery. Well, that’s a lie. I greedily read up around 5-6 blogs before tiring and thinking that I’d be some sort of unique scientific case to whom all the common symptoms/recovery processes wouldn’t apply. Of course, this wasn’t true. But it was nice to think about it.

Anyhow, I’m digressing.

The common theme that I think should have been prevalent in all the blogs but wasn’t, possibly because of the attitude the writers were trying to present, is that at some point or another, you’re going to feel sorry for yourself. It’s inevitable. And the reason I say this is because I think the vast majority of people who tear their ACL and actually elect to have surgery are active. My (unscientific) thinking behind this is that:

(a) It’s kind of hard to tear your ACL while being non-active. It’s not something that you just pull. Considerable force must be at play.
(b) Surgery is recommended only if there are additional tears that have long-term effects (such as meniscii) or with people who are young and don’t want to change their lifestyle.

An ACL surgery makes you go from some amount of activeness to no amount of activeness. It sucks.

Personally, in the weeks following my injury I laid low from a fitness perspective. When I got injured, I was in the best shape of my life (which is not a huge compliment to my fitness regime, by the way, because there was still lots to improve). I was playing basketball about 3 times a week and running about 3 times a week. My vertical had improved by at least a few inches in the past few months and I was about an inch or 2 from touching rim… which, for a guy who barely hits 5’6″, was pretty exciting. All that changed in the matter of seconds.

Following my injury, my leg didn’t really permit me to engage in any form of exercise. Thankfully, the initial swelling finally subsided and I had the chance to dedicate some much needed time to my upper body. I swapped out my fitness regiment to basically lifting 3 times a week and additionally alternating between shoulder sets and arms sets on those days. Once my legs became stronger, I added some stationary bike and leg presses. I was losing lower body muscle but I was still relatively fit since my metabolism was higher whatwith all the resistance training.

In the two weeks since surgery, my only exercise has been my rehab exercises. And. It. Sucks. As a person who was trying to get more active and actually enjoys it, ACL tears and surgery sucks. It doesn’t make you depressed but it makes you pretty damn annoyed. I went from exercising 5-6 days a week to working out my upper body 3 times a week to spending most of my day with my leg raised on a couch watching TV. The metamorphosis is unreal. My body hasn’t caught up with me yet, but I’ve lost most of the muscle mass I gained over the last few weeks in the form of fat. I’m afraid if this continue for a few more weeks, I’ll start actually putting on pounds on top of those pounds I already need to lose.

Anyhow, the rambly nature of this post is basically trying to say: if you are going to get ACL surgery, prepare yourself for at least some point in time where you feel really shitty about the situation you are in. For me, I have so far experienced this in the lack of an active lifestyle. But I know that when basketball season starts, I’ll be absolutely aching to get back on the court to play the sport I love. And it’s going to kill me to know that I can’t play until I’ve healed up well enough. It sucks.

Okay, back to regularly scheduled programming. Today marked the third straight day of going to work for a full day and it was also the first day since I got prescribed the new painkillers that I didn’t take any. My appointment with the PT also went well and I was cleared to walk without crutches at home. The walking is still a little rickety but I have good gait. New exercises at PT included balancing on one leg (both my good leg and my bad leg) and walking on the treadmill at a very slow speed for about 5 minutes (no crutches). It’s definitely nice to see concrete progress. My unknown-units measure went up from about 74 last time to 120 today. So that was a huge leap.

I’m guessing I’ll be allowed to walk without crutches, but with the brace, sometime next week. The criteria for having to walk without a brace is to do a perfect straight leg raise. Right now, I’d say my knee has about 3-4 degrees of flexion when it’s the straightest I can get it. I need to get that to 0. Apparently the only way to do this is to do a lot of straight leg raises.

Today, I also found out that the thing I thought was a nail in my leg is actually a pin that will eventually dissolve away. This is good to hear because it would be pretty annoying to have a nail in my bone for the rest of my life. I have provided photos below for people who are not Facebook friends with me.

Anyhow, that’s it for this long, rambling post. The gist of it is that I’m struggling to come to grips with my temporarily new lifestyle. But the progress has been positive and hopefully I can get back to the way things were sooner rather than later.

why i love windows phone 7

The internet, in general, hates Windows Phone so I decided to write a quick post to explain why I’m completely smitten by the platform. For background purposes, the Nokia Lumia 900 is my fourth smartphone after a BlackBerry Curve 8310, the iPhone 3GS and, most recently, the HTC HD7S. I’ve been using the Windows Phone platform since about July 2011 (the HD7S) and there’s no looking back, for me. Let’s go into details.

It’s Freaking Beautiful

The UI is absolutely stunning. Yes, the screen resolution doesn’t allow for “retina display” and WP manufacturers have not entered the ongoing pixel arms race, but the actual presentation of the operating system is beautiful. Metro is easily my favorite user experience on any piece of software I’ve used. The large tiles are bold and bright and the sharp edges gives them definition. Compare this with the grid of tiny icons that iOS/stock Android presents you (along with a number-based notification system) and the difference is massive if you allow yourself to believe in it. Of course, iOS and Android are making strides with an improved notification system and widgets, respectively, but I’m a fan of the WP presentation. It’s sexy and utilitarian. If I want to check the weather, I just need to unlock the phone and the live tile tells me the current weather and the next two days. If I want to see if anyone has posted anything on my Facebook or tweeted anything at me, once again, the live tile grabs all this information.

Everything is integrated

When I was using an iPhone, I had:

  • My contact list on my phone
  • My music playing off of Spotify with the Spotify app
  • My Facebook notifications coming through the FB app
  • My Twitter notifications coming through the Twitter app
  • Any synchronization being done through the shitty iTunes interface
  • QR Code/barcode scanning being done through third party apps
  • Pandora for live radio
  • Shazam to do song recognition

And it goes on. I use my phone primarily to keep track of my social networks, to text my friends, to listen to music and occasionally make a call or two. All the above things I mentioned are integrated into the core Windows Phone operating system. When I first set up my phone, I logged into my Windows Live and Facebook accounts. This grabbed all my contacts and even matched them up with the relevant Facebook accounts. I did install the third-party Facebook app but I hardly use it (also, it is extremely buggy).

The Windows Phone search button (a dedicated touch button that can be pressed at any time) allows you to not only search for text but to scan a barcode or QR code or even listen to music. Yup, the Shazam feature is automatically built in. Pandora still needs a third-party app (wpFandora does an excellent job) but more importantly, all my music is tracked through the Music & Videos hub. This means that if I heard a song on Pandora and then listened to other stuff on my phone, I can easily find the track in my music history as if it were being played from the same source.

I cancelled my Spotify subscription in favor of the Microsoft Zune Pass, which is the same price. The advantages? I don’t have to use iTunes again, ever. I can’t put into words how huge this advantage is for me. I absolutely detest iTunes. Zune is a more than worthy replacement and is about 1,452,530 sexier than iTunes. You know how OS X has been building up all these “full screen, immersive apps” the last few months? Well Zune has been doing that since… well, a long time. Another positive of Zune Pass is that it is essentially iTunes, Spotify, Spotify Mobile and Pandora rolled into one. I can listen to any song on Zune through subscription, and I can download it to my phone and play it offline. Of course, if I haven’t downloaded a song, I can look it up and play it from the marketplace section on the phone and even download it and save it to a playlist. Without having to buy it. Without having to download Spotify. The Pandora equivalent is “Smart DJ”. You can search for any artist and click “Smart DJ” and it will start playing related songs. Sure, their algorithm is probably not as good as Pandora’s, but you can get started with it immediately.

The hardware and software are unique… “different”

I find it most hilarious that I’m using Microsoft software and being “different”. It seems like only yesterday when Apple was forcing “think different” down everyone’s throats. For those not in the know, Nokia is using the slogan “beautifully different” to drive Lumia sales. And it’s ironic, but Microsoft’s product offering here is really unique and different. The iPhone is now the go-to smartphone for most users and the marketing advantage that Apple had with Macs of having “something cooler than yours” has not carried forward to their phone product line. Everyone has an iPhone. Except those people who have Android, which, in my opinion, basically means that you want (/need) to tinker with your OS to customize it to your needs or you are just to cheap to buy an iPhone. Or you hate the fact that Apple makes minor improvements to their product every year and then sells it as if it’s the greatest new thing. Android buyers have the latest technology available at a low price now, instead of next year. Alas, it comes at the cost of a fragmented marketplace that is struggling to deal with all the different versions of the operating system on their hardware, now.

Windows Phone has a minuscule market share and one that Microsoft, I think, should increase only enough to become the Mac of the smartphone market. The Lumia 900 is a fine hero device because it’s not just Android hardware with the WP software on it, but a device built from scratch to match the sexiness of the WP7 operating system. Of course, MS has historically operated on volume so they are trying to give the device away for free to try and get it in people’s hands. I suppose this works, but at some point I think MS should try to make Windows Phone a luxury device, rather than the Dell of smartphones.

And finally, the negatives…

Of coures, there are several negatives with the platform. The two that have been brought up the most are (1) “there are no apps” and (2) “this is last year’s hardware”. Yes, the app offering is fractional compared to the iTunes App Store and the Google Marketplace (or whatever its name is, right now). And the bigger problem, in my opinion, is that most big-name developers don’t even consider developing for WP. Which is mindblowing to me, as a developer, because Microsoft’s developer suite (Visual Studio) is heads and shoulders above iOS’ (XCode or Mono Touch) or Android’s (Eclipse or whatever Java editor you choose to use). .NET technology has been around for ages and most developers already know how to code in it. One would expect there to be a lot more Windows Phone developers, but I guess they are driven by market needs.

But going back to the crux of the issue, yes, there is an app problem. Any Windows Phone user who tries to tell you otherwise is just lying to himself or herself. I want to play Draw Something on my Lumia. I want to be with the “in” crowd of whatever game ends up being the next viral craze. This is a work in progress and it’s only going to change if there is a sufficient shift in market share for Windows Phone. All that said, the apps for WP are legitimate in themselves. There are several really nice apps that take advantage of the Metro UX and understand Microsoft’s vision with the operating system.

The second negative is, in my opinion, mostly just FUD. Yes, current generation Windows Phones are babies compared to the technical specifications of Android. Isn’t there an Android phone out there which is going to be quad-core? And really, the first thing that comes to my mind is, “why the hell do you need four cores on your phone?” It sounds like either the developer SDK is not efficient or that the developers are dumb. Windows Phone works like a dream with a single core. Everything is snappy and I have encountered little to no lag. That said, I do think that a few of the software requirements/implementations could use improvement. For example, I’d like to have higher resolution graphics and better camera software. I’m hoping Apollo will change some of this. And if Apollo does include dual-core support, I can’t imagine how awesome the platform would be. If WP’s performance is already comparable with iOS/Android with a fraction of the cores, a multi-core experience is only going to be better (especially given that MS has software pedigree in developing successful multi-core operating systems).

Alright, I’m gonna step off my soap box, now, since this was a fair bit longer than I expected. Keep in mind that these conclusions are drawn based off of my Lumia 900. A few of my opinions would be very different if I had been writing this article whilst using the HD7S, which is essentially just an Android phone with the Microsoft OS on it.

Feel free to comment with your opinion! I completely understand that my love of the MS offering is highly subjective. As with taste in music and preference for beer styles, I respect the fact that people like different things.

RIP KTRU… Rice administration has screwed themselves

As anyone who cares would have known by now, the Rice administration has okayed a $9.5 million deal for the sale of KTRU radio frequency (specifically the license and the tower) to the University of Houston, so that they can set up a classical music channel (KUHC) and convert their current KUHF frequency to a dedicated news channel. Several people have commented on this situation already (see additional links at the end) so I figured I might as well contribute my opinion.

First of all, let me preface this by saying that I was anything but an avid KTRU listener. I didn’t have a car at Rice so I didn’t really have the option to tune into any radio station so the only music I heard when I was a student was on the internet or through recommendations from other people. The one show I did follow somewhat closely was MK Ultra, which was an electronica show hosted by Paul Thompson, my roommate junior and senior year every Friday night that featured 1-hour sets from 2-3 professional DJs in Houston.

That said, most of the problems I have with this whole situation is the procedure that was followed. I first learned about this at around 10pm last night from the aforementioned Paul. There were a total of 2 news articles on the subject, online. One a rumor published by houstonpress and the other a more concrete piece by the Houston Chronicle. This morning, things are much more publicized and out in the open, and the Rice admin is beginning to see how many people they upset by the poor process they followed.

KTRU, as I understand, has existed as a student-run enterprise for 40 years. The new 50,000 watt transmitter has existed for 19 of those 40 years, serving out content to the city of Houston. But the administration didn’t think it would be a good idea to engage students or alumni or really anyone, whilst potentially destroying the work put in by all those volunteers throughout the decades. The decision certainly makes sense from a financial perspective, but it reeks of arrogance and a continued disconnection from the people who actually comprise Rice.

When I decided to attend Rice back in the spring of 2005, the primary factor in my decision was the relatively cheap cost for a great education. In my four years at Rice, the annual tuition grew 16%. That may not seem like a very large number, unless we look at it contextually. The tuition grew about $6000 from 2005-2009. Right now it stands at a bit above $40,000 a year. Over a standard 4-year curriculum, kids that are matriculating today will have to pay about $25,000 more than I did 4 years ago. That is a mind-bogglingly large number, especially given the fact that we are in the middle of an economic recession.

The current administration is trying to shape Rice into something that is completely different from the Rice that I researched when I was applying and the one that I attended. And I don’t think it’s for a particularly appreciable cause, either. It’s not as if a Rice degree in the 90’s or early 00’s was worth less than one now–in fact, ironic as it may be, I think a Rice degree was actually worth more back then than it is now, despite causing a fraction of the cost. Providing smart, young individuals a longer rope than most conventional colleges do actually worked and as the old adage goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Yet, that’s exactly what they’ve done. The administration has trekked down a path of expansion without concern for how it will affect the quality of education for the individual. They’ve built 2 new residential colleges and expanded more within a matter of months but academic buildings are continuously ignored when it comes to upgrades or new additions. The administration is constantly meddling in cultures and traditions that are entrenched in the history of the university and KTRU is just the newest one in what is likely to be just one more in an unending wave of destruction.

In Leebron’s email (which conveniently has not been sent out to all alumni–it didn’t get delivered to my mailbox), he claims that the station will be sold so that the money can be better used to augment facilities that affect more students. Such as using the money to build the new East Servery. If you ask me, it seems like the administration is quickly finding out that it’s plans for gung-ho expansion of the university weren’t thought out very carefully, and with the economy severely affecting their endowments, they’re in a bit of a cash-press. They can’t back down from their major investment in the expansion of the school as that would appear weak, so instead they have targeted a cultural institution that most students won’t care about. In doing so, they’ve successfully cannibalized the KTRU radio station, a goal it seems they shared with the previous administration, and created a new generation of disgruntled alumni.

Additional Links

Facebook: save ktru
Twitter: @savektru @ktruriceradio
Web: savektru.org petition
Blogs: BurnDownBlog houstonpress

apple and flash

Steve Jobs posted an open letter today about why Flash is not and will not be supported on the Apple mobile platform. You can follow the link to read the full article, but basically he gave 6 reasons. Let me look at each of these one-by-one. And before I do, I would like to remind everyone that I’m not really a big proponent of Flash. Back when I was web-developer, Flash was the one platform I detested and never took the time to learn. I think web-design through Flash is a poor design choice except if it is being done for some sort of portfolio or niche-website. Anyhow, with that out of the way, let’s look at Jobs’ six reasons.

First, there’s “Open”.

Jobs’ claim here is basically a fact. Flash is a proprietary system. Not only do you need to buy expensive software from Adobe to be able to create professional-grade Flash applications, but you also need to download a third-party plug-in from them any time you want to view it. There’s no complaints I have about this statement except that it reminds me of, you know, pot-kettle-black.

Apple is possibly the most proprietary technology developer out there right now. Not only is the iPhone OS system completely closed and regulated, but even going back to the OS X operating system, you legally need a Mac to run that. It sounds highly hypocritical of a CEO of such a proprietary company using “openness” to attack Adobe. To Jobs’ credit, he accepts that Apple is proprietary, but he wants the web to be open. How benevolent of him to allow us this luxury!

Second, there’s the “full web”.

Adobe has counter-claimed Apple’s claim that the iPad is the best way to experience the web, by suggesting that those users do not have access to the full web. Jobs’ counter-argument to this is that Apple supports HTML5, CSS and the modern H.264 format for viewing video. He also rattles off a list of 16 sites that supposedly support video on the iPhone OS (although at least one of them–Facebook–at least check, does not).

As I said at the beginning of this piece, I hate it when a website has used Flash for the purpose of web-design (especially when they haven’t offered an HTML alternative). So from that standpoint, I’m happy that Apple has gone ahead and blocked those websites. However, when it comes to videos, Apple is just ignoring the problem. Sure… they support these 18 sites that now allow HTML5-based streaming. But about the 1000 other websites that people actually visit? How can you advertise a device as being the best way to browse the web when it falls annoyingly short in multimedia presentation? Companies have paid millions of dollars implementing their current content delivery platforms–not everyone has the financial resources that YouTube, for example, has, to begin supporting H.264 video overnight.

Third, there’s reliability, security and performance.

I have heard several anecdotes about how Flash causes Macs to barf. Jobs labels Flash as the number one reason for Mac crashes. Obviously Adobe has a part to play here, since they are the ones that are writing the actual plug-ins. But I don’t buy the whole “reliability, security, performance” argument for the iPhone OS. Just like I don’t buy the justification that Apple fanboys give for keeping the App platform closed or for keeping OS X locked down to Mac hardware–to preserve the quality of the system. How dumb do they think consumers are? The App Store is already plush full of useless applications (I believe Fart Apps deserve their own category going by volume, right?). In fact, I can count the number of apps I use regularly on my iPhone on one hand.

This destroys the perception that it is impossible to create low-quality applications staying within Apple’s development platform and regulation. The theory that it is impossible to create a quality application outside of the Apple-allowed platform is similarly debunked by the “black market” that is Apple jailbroken apps. There are several quality applications developed there that would deserve their place in the App Store if Apple had put it’s draconian policies aside. Not to mention that they’ve actually supported the novel (not really) idea of evaluation software. Instead of Apple allowing evaluation periods, they decided to go with “Lite Apps” (there’s actually a section in the Apple Developer Center that recommends releasing a Lite app, with stripped out functionality). There have been countless times that I have been partially interested in an iPhone App only to find that is not free and the “Lite” version doesn’t allow me to actually test what I want to. Some developers, like Remember the Milk, have gone about their own methods of providing a trial period enforced by a web-service.

Fourth, there’s battery life.

Jobs claims that on an iPhone, an H.264-encoded video will play up to 10 hours whereas a software-decoded video will play only up to 5 hours. This may well be true, but I don’t think Apple is in any position to preach about battery life. I have had to charge my iPhone, without fail, every night. If I don’t, I’ll get into the red midway through the next day. I don’t make that many calls, either (if I could exchange my rollover balance for cash value, I’d be a rich man), so it’s not like I’m using my phone all that much. In fact, I check in to Twitter about 3-4 times a day, the same with Facebook and occasionally I play Racing Live for about 5 minutes (this is not a graphics-intensive game, btw, it is more of a “simulation”-type game). Yet, my battery is toasted by the time I reach home. I can’t imagine how life is going to be when multi-tasking is supported.

I guess Apple does have a claim to make here, they’re prepared to do anything if it increases battery life.

Fifth, there’s Touch.

A side-note, I wonder if Apple has actually trademarked the word “Touch”. Why else would it appear capitalized? Anyhow, Jobs’ claim here is that Flash was designed for mouse-based input whereas the iPhone OS introduces a completely new touch-based interface. The point is well-taken. I’m not aware if Adobe has made any forays into touch input, but my feeling is they would have, if they were expecting to release the Flash CS5 Deploy to iPhone App feature. Which leads nicely into Jobs’ final point, the most important one, supposedly.

Sixth, the most important reason.

Besides the fact that Flash is closed and proprietary, has major technical drawbacks, and doesn’t support touch based devices, there is an even more important reason we do not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods and iPads. We have discussed the downsides of using Flash to play video and interactive content from websites, but Adobe also wants developers to adopt Flash to create apps that run on our mobile devices.

This is referring to the Deploy to iPhone App feature that I talked about in the previous point. Basically, Adobe is planning to release, in Flash CS5, the ability for a user to deploy a Flash animation as an iPhone App. Flash does all the heavy-lifting of converting the ActionScript code into the archaic Objective C format, compiling it as required by the App Store, etc. However, a few weeks ago, Apple modified their developer contract to state that creators of iPhone Apps must have originally created that code in Objective C. This basically makes any app that was generated by Flash CS5 in violation of the developer agreement. The same is the case for apps developed using MonoTouch–the commercially available tool that allows .NET developers on Macs to create iPhone Apps–as they are also not originally Objective C.

Jobs then goes as far as to suggest that developers won’t have access to the newest features when they become available, etc. I have a huge pain-point with this. In my previous discussions about Apple and it’s products, I always bow out of the discussion when someone brings up the point that Apple is not targeted primarily towards technical consumers. What this means is that I can go and build a computer for less than it costs to buy a Mac–that’s why Macs aren’t targeted towards me, specifically. I can understand and accept that–Apple does a good job in marketing a product and keeping their profit margins wide. However, Jobs, in this case, actually is trying to run the same argument by, except targeting them towards the actual technical users.

He hypothesizes that if Apple were to allow third-party code to be converted into Objective C, developers would become clueless about how to take advantage of the newest features released in an Apple SDK. That’s not only extremely inaccurate, but it is extremely insulting to many parties.

It is insulting to developers because we have to be ahead of the technology curve (for example, the iPhone OS 4 SDK is already out for iPhone developers, but not for end users) and have to have an understanding of how a system actually works.

It is insulting to consumers because it suggests that they will not be able to tell the difference between a good app and a bad app. As I’ve said earlier, it is a fallacy that all apps created within the Apple-permitted spectrum are good and all apps created outside that spectrum are bad. Why not let the user decide what is a good app?

Finally, it is insulting to the actual Apple staff involved in the app review committee. Jobs is basically suggesting that they will not be able to adequately test an application to determine whether it is good or bad, without knowing if it was originally Objective C or not. This basically throws hot water on the whole app review process, because it claims that the process will not be able to test an app’s usability independent of the development platform.

As a whole, I understand why Steve Jobs does not want Flash on the iPhone OS and I have no problems with it. I’m not a major Flash proponent and there are only a handful of websites I visit on an iPhone anyway. I would have a problem with it if I owned an iPad, but that, and several other reasons, have contributed to me not being even a bit interested in owning one. I do have issues with the lock-down of the development process, though, for no reason whatsoever. iPhone developers still have to purchase a Mac to develop their software on, because iPhone apps use a bunch of frameworks that don’t have cross-platform ports. So it is not as if Apple is losing a revenue stream there. It is not as if Apple is losing the developer account revenue stream either–since the developers of those apps would still have to pay their annual fee to be able to sell on the App Store.

On the whole, that move by Apple just seems like a reaction without provocation.