Posts Tagged ‘blackberry’

A friend of mine was having issues setting up his Christmas gift: a 32gb BlackBerry Playbook. So I offered to help out.

Having always been one to enjoy fiddling with new(ish) tech, I looked at it as an opportunity to explore the world of BlackBerry that I had left behind many, many years ago when I fell in love with what an iPhone could do and my BB Curve got tossed into our electronic junk drawer.

First off, if you are going to compare it to an iPad2 then forget it, it loses hands down.  But if you judge it for what it is then it has its merits and uses.

If you are a BB user (I know there are still some of you out there who swear by them and not just at them) then you will probably like the way it works.  It just feels BlackBerry-ish.  Be prepared for a large download as soon as you start the wi-fi setup process.  You can’t avoid it either, it has to be installed, but from what I understand its replacing the OS and it makes the PlayBook much better to use.  Be forewarned, it’s just over 360 mb and you need a good clean connection, so don’t think you’re going to set it up at the local coffee shop.  In fact it stopped a couple of times for me, but after kicking everything and everyone off the home wi-fi, it managed to chug on thru and finish.

its a fair sized download, be patient

tutorial gives you all the basics

Once you are done the setup, which can only be done using wi-fi which kinda sucks IMO, then the rest of the setup is dead easy.  The tutorials are short and sweet and show you the basics in just a few minutes.  The screen is clear and bright, and the sample video in HD that is pre-installed looks so realistic you’d almost think it was 3D, at least according to my youngest daughter.

The multitasking is impressive and try as I might, opening tons of apps all at once didn’t seem to cause any trouble.  Even the pre-installed racing game that uses the built-in gyroscope worked flawlessly when flipping between it and any of the other apps I had open.

smaller than most other tablets

good clean interface

The PlayBook has almost all the features you’d expect of a tablet, including access to a music store and an app store, its just that they are not iTunes – the unchallenged king of media.  I flipped thru the store quickly and it seemed to have a lot of current media with comparable prices to the iTunes store.  Speaking of price, the PlayBook itself is about half the price of an iPad, and if you are looking for a smaller form factor then it might be just the thing for small hands.  Kids for instance would appreciate that when it comes to holding and typing on it.

There are front and back cameras for stills and video, which according to the specs should be better than that of my iPhone4, or the iPad2 but in side by said comparison it just didn’t measure up.  The photos looked flat and needed much brighter lighting to capture a good image. No flash either.  Not the flash that Apple hates, the type that lights up your subject is what I am referring to.  This little tablet does support Adobe Flash when you are on the web, but doesn’t have one for photographs.  Why can’t we have both?

taken from "BlackBerry_PlayBook_Specs_ENv4.pdf"

One thing that does annoy me though, is the lack of an email app.  Without bridging your PlayBook to your BlackBerry smartphone there is no calendar, email, or contacts.  This may be something that is about to change if you read the PDF specs of the PlayBook.  One little word “will” makes me think there are newer versions on the not-so-distant horizon.  Who knows, maybe the $299 price tag is to try to clear out the older models and make way for the next one.

If this product had come out without needing an update right out of the box, or hadn’t tried to come off as an iPad alternative, then maybe it would have been received better.  Also with all the uncertainty about Research In Motion (RIM) many people who might have welcomed BlackBerry’s first foray into the tablet market have held off, and that trepidation seems to be keeping people’s wallets closed .  Even at the lower prices, they are not exactly flying off the shelves the way you’d expect.  Hopefully with the right publicity and advertising RIM can increase their user-base and get back some of the huge investment they put into development.

Bottom line, would I buy one?  Yes.  Heck I’d like to buy a couple of them as travel-sized media players.  They are perfect for that.  Is it a full-blown tablet?  No, at least not yet.  Maybe after the next OS update (version 2.0 is close to release and hopefully won’t require new hardware), because it seems like there are still too many features missing that I want in a tablet.   You are not going to replace your laptop with this, but it will make a welcome addition to your electronic family whether or not you are a BlackBerry smartphone user.

tcg

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Maybe it’s not the intended purpose, but I’ve used @NatalieMacLean ‘s wine app  (check it out here) a few times this week to check prices on bottles of wine when in a restaurant to see the crazy markup they charge. A $12 bottle of wine in the LCBO costs about $40 in a restaurant? That’s a little ridiculous, there should be some sort of governing body that allows a certain maximum markup on a bottle of vino that you can buy at the LCBO when resold in a restaurant.  Probably not going to happen though, since I’m sure the argument would be that if you don’t like the prices, don’t buy the wine.

Getting back to the app (which is available for iPhones, iPods, Blackberrys and Android devices), another maybe not intended usage although I’m sure she doesn’t mind, is checking to see what Nat says about certain bottles of wine we have in our cupboard (sorry no cellar here, we’re just not that classy) to see which is suitable as a gift.  We typically have a few bottles on hand as last-minute gifts, or just in case gifts, or sometimes “its been a rough week” bottles.  Her app proves especially handy at Christmas time since its always nice to give a well suited bottle of wine rather than just guessing, or even to prevent you from giving someone a cheap bottle of wine thinking it was better than it is.  The LCBO prices listed for the bottles in her app come in very handy to help prevent that.  You can also pop over to her website and see what she says about the bottle in question http://www.nataliemaclean.com/winepicks/ in her reviews.

Like I said, maybe it’s not the intended use, and the app does so much more than I mentioned here, but  having a pocket sommelier to help you select a bottle of wine at a restaurant, or as a gift, or to bring to a party is a great thing to have any time of year but especially useful during the holiday season, which always seems so busy and so short.

As Simon Fowler put it  “Get up and dance, get up and smile, get up and drink to the days that are gone in the shortest while“.

tcg.

I’m of two minds with the whole RIM layoff thing that’s going on right now.

I hate to see any Canadian company struggling, I’m a proud supporter of all things Canadian and not just because I live and work here, I honestly believe that RIM was doing a great job as a company, at least in the beginning, but they did bring it upon themselves by not staying current.  It’s hard to feel too sorry for them when they’ve had plenty of opportunities to update their products and stay competitive with the other newer upstarts, you know, like Apple and Android.  RIM’s BlackBerry line has been around since 1999* but the competition seems to have surpassed them in features, capabilities and innovation.
They had a controlling lead in the smart phone market.  It might actually be said they created that market.  In fact their products were amazing for the time and were the go-to device for most business types on the go, but they stopped innovating and that’s what causing the current toppling of their ivy-tower.  That and rushing products to market too soon.  The playbook comes to mind most recently, but that’s been covered ad-nauseum by the blogs since its release so I’m not going to rehash it here.
I hope they take this opportunity as what it is – a chance for them to retool rethink rework everything to make their products better and get back some of that market share they lost.  Not only for the sake of a great Canadian company and the town of Waterloo which has a lot of people’s lives depending upon Research In Motion, but also because competition in the market makes all the players work harder, which means the consumers win with better products and better pricing, and who doesn’t like that.  Well, besides the CFOs of the manufacturers maybe.

tcg

*edited.  RIM has been around since 1984, the BlackBerry was introduced in 1999

Some things are free.  Some things are good.   Rarely do you get both combined in one.  Evernote is one exception to this rule, and now its even better.

If you don’t know about Evernote you may want to wander over here and take a look at what it is and what it does.  To sum it up, its a great place to store info and notes that remain accessible across your devices for easy access.

I use the program on my Mac almost daily – many times just as a temporary way to keep info on hand while I write blog posts or research things, but what really makes this app so helpful is the way it shares info with my iPhone.  It’s not limited to just the iPhone and Mac OS X though.  This program works on Windows PCs, Blackberries, Windows phone, Android phones, Palms, etc.   ( In fact the Blackberry app was just updated about 2 weeks ago)  All you need is an account, which is free to set up, and then you use that account on whatever devices you want to keep all your info synced and accessible anywhere.

old home screen

new version

The iPhone app was good before, but the latest changes (version 4.0 is the current one at time of writing) have tweaked the interface and its now much easier to see what it is you have stored as well as create new items or organize the ones you have in different ways to make it easier for you to find what it is you are looking for.

The way it creates new notes and allows many types of attachments to be added to them so you can keep all the associated info in one note is extremely helpful.

You can even add audio recordings and location tags to your notes right alongside your photos and text notes.  Perfect for when you are in a meeting or at an event and want to keep all the pertinent stuff in one place.

old notes listing

new notes w/ snippets

The new snippet view is stunning and shows so much more info about the notes you have stored that it will undoubtedly save you time when looking for a particular note, or you can use the improved search function and get lightning fast results.

I’ve been a fan of this program for a while, and even more so now since everything about the user interface just screams polished and refined and improved.

This is one of those apps that makes you wonder what you ever did before you had it in your arsenal.  Did I mention its Free?

Useful and free.  Two words that you don’t hear together often enough, but describe Evernote very very well.

tcg

I’ve been thinking about the future a lot lately, both from a business perspective, a family perspective and a technology perspective. The business perspective is easy enough, just work as hard as i can and as long as i can to get ahead. Family? well, that is easy too. Just survive the tween years and the teen years and we should be good. (I know i’m oversimplifying, but bare with me) Technology is where it gets interesting and a little more unpredictable.  Or does it?

Technology changes so fast.  Just take a look at all the new products that come out nearly daily. Sure, some are just tweaks of existing products, but many are total overhauls using the latest innovations and advances to their fullest.

So who knows what’s coming next? Well, there are a few people that seem to. Mostly because they drive the market, sometimes with products we didn’t even know we needed.  Apple is a great example of this, as are Samsung, Sony, Motorola and even HP.  Take for example the Walkman in the early 80’s.  That created a market, that has since been changed into the Discman for Cd’s and its offshoot the portable DVD player, and then finally the MP3 player (which if you ask most people, they would simply call it the iPod since it practically rules that market).

Cellular phones are another example.  They are changing so often who even knows what model is the newest when companies like Samsung release half a dozen different models at practically the same time.  Subtle differences within them allow the manufacturers to see which features are the most preferred and continue to develop along those lines.  Sort of a survival of the fittest within their own manufacturing lines it seems.  When you think of the name Samsung, everyone thinks of cel-phones, probably digital cameras and video-cameras, and more than likely appliances, but they are also the world’s 2nd largest manufacturer of printers.

Sony is constantly trying to create better products than those on the market, whether its TV’s, Cameras or Computers, they always are trying to one-up the competition, and in my opinion, spreading themselves a bit thin in doing so.  Did you even know they have a Reader similar to the Kindle? (check it out here).

Motorola is another company that has so many product models on the market that it’s difficult to choose.  They are really concentrating on the cel-phone market, and their Droid offerings are quite impressive alternates to the iPhone or Blackberries.  Most of their products are communication based, but you never know if that will change.  Kodak for instance was one of the original manufacturers of film stock and very big into cameras and optics for some time, but is now mostly dealing in digital image capture, storage & manipulation as well as printing.  You have to stay current and roll with the times or end up slipping away into obscurity.

predecessor to the dvd

Speaking of obscurity.  Remember the laserdisc?  It was ahead of its time in some ways, but never found its market for a number of reasons mostly dealing with cost of the players and the discs.  There were other options and other tech that did the same thing for less, which spelled the end of the laserdisc. There are still some people out there with working players i’m sure, and from what I know the picture quality was very good and probably still is if you don’t mind watching movies from the 80’s.

videotape. an old idea that is past its time

This same weeding out process happens all over the tech world.  VCRs for instance.  You had the choice of Beta or VHS for a while, but Sony backed the wrong horse on that one (the BetaMax), and i’m sure its still a sore spot that doesn’t get mentioned by corporate very often.

So what do I think is next? Aside from the obvious “smaller, better, faster” there is also the multi-purpose-multi-function devices.  While it seems that this type of thinking would make some companies’ product lines smaller, it’s also refining the product line to make each product that does survive that much better.  The latest iPhone 4 and some of the newest Blackberry models for instance are pushing that envelope to try and make themselves the only device you need to carry.  I’m all for that, since I really do hate having to carry a cel phone AND a good quality camera.  It’s really a no brainer that these are the kind of products that are going to be evolving for years and becoming more engrained into our personal as well as business lives.

What may not be a no brainer is the move towards integrated tech in appliances and entertainment systems.  TVs in fridges seems a bit extravagant to some, but why not start integrating TV screens into other places?  Microwave doors for instance.  Eye level oven? Why not put a screen in it too.

There has been a steady move towards enabling network access in TVs.  Many are coming with network cards built in, which when paired with a home network that has storage for all your music, photos & movies (both theatrical and home-made) can make getting what you want to see when you want to see it so much easier.  The elimination of all the components beneath your tv is going to enable us to get those clear simplistic lines we seem to be so fond of.  Just a TV on the wall, plugged into outlets for both power and network and you’re done.  Provide this TV with wireless network access and the install get even easier and cleaner.  And further still, remove the need for power to be provided thru wires and now we are getting into Star Trek land.  Wireless power is out there already, but needs a lot more work before it becomes commonplace, but even so, the ability to place a LCD or LED screen on a wall, desk, table, whatever, and be able to display anything in your library without having to run wires to it is going to change the way we interact with and use media in the home and the office.

Take that technology and introduce the ability to use virtual keyboards with it and we are really starting to get beyond the dreams of even Gene Roddenberry and his incredibly futuristic tech ideas.  Imagine calling up a virtual keyboard and typing and swiping in air to get where you want to go, or retrieve the movie you were looking for.  Seems a little out there I know, but a student at M.I.T. (sixthsense) already had a working prototype of just such a thing, “augmented reality” is the term often used, and it’s mind-blowing to see it in action, let alone start to ponder the implications of not being tied down to a device.  Having the ability to harness that kind of processing power anywhere at anytime is truly the stuff that the great sci-fi writers were dreaming about.

Art often imitates life, and Art, when it comes to writing, often steers technology it seems.  So many of the great devices we use everyday can be seen in sci-fi movies and tv shows from yesteryear, and we have dreamers and writers to thank for that.  It’s those ideas that often get the science minded engineering and inventing types working on making those wonderful devices real.

I believe the future IS written. Not in the way that we can’t change it, I don’t believe that philosophy. It’s written by the dreamers and storytellers that help spur on the creative juices of the more technical minded who take that fantastical ideas and make them reality.

To quote Yoko Ono… “We are all dreamers creating the next world, the next beautiful world for ourselves and for our children.”

Dream dear readers, dream.

tcg.