Unboxing the BlackBerry PlayBook

This is a bit of a present to myself. Normally, I eschew buying technology for technology’s sake, but over Christmas last year, I got a BlackBerry Playbook (2 actually, with one for my mom). The price was much less than an Android Nexus and since I already had an Android phone, I figured I’d give the BlackBerry a try. Yeah, I know… lots of people have done this ages ago, but I haven’t. So there!

I got the 32Gb version, mostly for the price. This doesn't have an expansion port, but I don't plan on keeping a lot of media on it. And yes, I did use a tin as a pot... so sue me!

I got the 32Gb version, mostly for the price. This doesn’t have an expansion port, but I don’t plan on keeping a lot of media on it. And yes, I did use a tin as a plant pot… so sue me!

The outer case comes out as a sleeve and underneath is a stylish BB logo box. And yes, I also used a cut up soda bottle and an old jug as pots. I'm a bachelor; I'm allowed to do stuff like that!

The outer case comes out as a sleeve and underneath is a stylish BB logo box. And yes, I used a cut up soda bottle and an old jug as pots too. I’m a bachelor; I’m allowed to do stuff like that!

The tablet inside comes in a typical "sock" like cover. If you use this for any length of time, a book sleeve is highly recommended.

The tablet inside comes in a typical “sock” like cover. If you use this for any length of time, a book sleeve is highly recommended.

Underneath is the documentation and charger.

Underneath is the documentation and charger.

Product info box has the booklet and the "Do and Don't" list in three languages. The charger box also has the USB cable and a nifty screen wipe cloth (which you will use a lot)

Product info box has the booklet and the “Do and Don’t” list in three languages. The charger box also has the USB cable and a nifty screen wipe cloth (which you will use a lot)

The startup time can be almost a minute, maybe more. I've been using it for 3 months now and it still hasn't changed

The startup time can be almost a minute, maybe more. I’ve been using it for 3 months now and it still hasn’t changed

You get to the next screen by swiping. And I can already see the fingerprints

You get to the next screen by swiping. And I can already see the fingerprints

After selecting language and region, you get to your BB ID signup. Note you get 10 tries after which, I think it can lock up. I didn't purposely lock myself out to find out ;)

After selecting language and region, you get to your BB ID signup. Note: You get 10 tries after which, I think, it can lock up. I didn’t purposely lock myself out to find out ;)

During the setup, you will be prompted to go through the "training" phase. Note: You *cannot* skip this part, which I found to be a little annoying. I guess they want to make sure people know how to use it before complaining.

During the setup, you will be prompted to go through the “training” phase. Note: You *cannot* skip this part, which I found to be a little annoying. I guess they want to make sure people know how to use it before complaining.

 I linked my BlackBerry 9930 phone to this tablet so I can use its data plan to browse. This is one feature I wished my Android had by default, but it's much smoother on the PlayBook. I get 3G speeds (that's the 9930 max) and no hiccups.

I linked my 9930 phone to this tablet using BlackBerry Bridge so I can use its data plan to browse. This is one feature I wished my Android had by default, but it’s much smoother on the PlayBook. I get 3G speeds (that’s the 9930 max) and no hiccups.

Update notification came up as soon as I connected to my WiFi. Update itself took about 10 minutes (to download and install)

Update notification came up as soon as I connected to my WiFi. You can keep your phone connected to the tablet while WiFi is on and it will use the WiFi to download. Update itself took about 10 minutes (to download and install)

During the restart after the update, I could see one of the bigger problems of the PlayBook. Now I know why they included the screen wipe cloth (see above). Even my phone isn't this bad.

During the restart after the update, I could see one of the bigger problems of the PlayBook. Now I know why they included the screen wipe cloth (see above). Even my phone isn’t this bad.

After the setup, I got to using the web browser, which I must say was very smooth. There are some issues after a second update with some YouTube videos in that I’m unable to skip ahead or rewind on certain HD videos and/or long videos, but I’m willing to chock this up to poor Flash compatibility than a fault of the PlayBook.

The apps are rather sparse, but does include a couple of games and the NFB (National Film Board) app, which is like the Canadian PBS. They have documentaries, art, culture and history related movies and I found this to be the most used app on it so far.

One thing I did note is that the popup keys while typing can get a little annoying.

Note, how there's a blue popup above the finger showing the key you just pressed. While some people might find this useful, I found it annoying.

Note, how there’s a blue popup above the finger showing the key you just pressed. While some people might find this useful, I found it annoying.

So I went into the keyboard settings (the cog icon on the top of the screen will bring up settings) and turned it off.

Swipe the black border on the top down to bring up the top border with the settings icon (along with the battery status and time), if you have another app running in the foreground.  Turn 'Keypress popup' to 'off'

Swipe the black border on the top down to bring up the top border with the settings icon (along with the battery status and time), if you have another app running in the foreground.  Turn “Keypress popup” to “off”

There was one minor issue with the PlayBook acting up a bit when I had the browser open. The browser would suddenly close for no particular reason as soon as I opened it. I solved this by going into settings and changing the mode to “Showcase” (Settings > General > Application Behavior ). I guess this prevents apps from going into hibernation when running in the background, which may eat into battery life, but so far, I haven’t seen much of a battery issue.

Which isn’t the case with the BlackBerry 9930 which eats battery life like nothing else.

So I think I like my PlayBook. It’s certainly not the biggest at just 7 inches, but I don’t see much of a problem with that considering what I’m using it for; that is browsing, email and maybe a video or two. My biggest problem so far has been that I keep forgetting it in the bathroom. I need to find a way to shorten poopie time or bring a newspaper next time instead.

Site of the Week: BioLite

Ever think to yourself, “if only I could power my USB device by burning wood”?

BioLite Campstove. Power your devices with fire!

If you need to charge your USB device, but don’t want to rely on nasty nuclear or ugly coal that’s powering your house (if you’re not already on solar), then BioLite has the stove to do it. By burning leaves, twigs or what have you, never run out of power.

At first, I thought this was a joke, but it turns out to be a totally serious product. For $129, you get a stove, according to the product page that is able to :

Charge your gadgets
By converting heat from the fire into usable electricity, our stoves will recharge your phones, lights and other gadgets while you cook dinner. Unlike solar, BioLite CampStove is a true on-demand source.

But the real appeal of this is that it needs :

No fuel to buy or carry
Our stoves cook your meals with nothing but the twigs you collect on your journey, eliminating the need for heavy, expensive, polluting petroleum gas. Quick to light, fast to boil and easy to use.

Of course, there are backpack USB chargers in the market these days, but they don’t work well when it’s cloudy and not at all at night. Presumably, these probably won’t work as well when it’s raining unless you’re in a shelter with plenty of ventilation for the smoke, but you can still charge outside when dry, day or night. I’m not sure how eco-friendly it really is since you’re still burning fuel, but I imagine it’s a lot less than the several tons of CO2 expelled by your local coal power plant.

Check out the product promo :

Cloud OS: The Cloud Operating System for Linux and Windows

Yes, it’s finally here! But maybe not what you expected… By gOS (Good OS alternatively) the idea is to move most if not all applications to the Cloud. I’m guessing that’s why they called it “Cloud OS” ;) . A real Google OS or Google Operating system might not be far down the road.

I’m sure Richard Stallman would have a fit, but for the rest of us, it may be one step closer to true decentralization when it comes to computing.

You can set aside the speculation now, and just enjoy the screenshots….

 

Looks like a cross between Mac OS and a Linux system running the Enlightenment window manager.