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.

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No such thing as an obsolete browser or OS IV

This is a little update on Steve‘s suggestion. You can view past updates for OSes in 2008, browsers in 2009, OSes and browsers in 2009, and in 2011. And just as before, we still have a few hits from IE 2.0. Though in what seems to be common trend across a lot of sites out there, Safari and Firefox are far ahead of Internet Explorer. Don’t know if this will change with the proliferation of Windows phones and Safari most likely includes a sizable number of iPhones.

On the OS front, Windows is still ahead with XP having the same usage share of Mac OS X. I believe “Windows NT” includes Windows 7/8 and Server 2008.

Browsers visiting eksith.com in September

Operating Systems hitting eksith.com in September

 

OpenBSD: Otherwise known as Marmite

There are a lot of misconceptions about OpenBSD, chief of which is that it’s bulletproof. Well, the default install has had “only two remote holes, in a heck of a long time”, however those of us on planet Earth realise that few people stick to the default install in the first place. If you need your system to do anything aside from being a router or text-only web browser, then sure, default works handily.

The rest may get tedious so feel free to browse away now.

Security is a process

I’ve lost count of how many times this has come up, but it still bears repeating.

It’s not a destination. Never has been and never will be considering vulnerabilities are discovered all the time in other software needed to turn the afore-mentioned brick into a house. Just because you run a very secure OS, doesn’t mean anything else running on it won’t break and let in something bad through the cracks.

From the FAQ :

The packages and ports collection does NOT go through the same thorough security audit that is performed on the OpenBSD base system. Although we strive to keep the quality of the packages collection high, we just do not have enough human resources to ensure the same level of robustness and security.

Introducing any new software to the machine, regardless of a tar download or ports, will create potential vulnerabilities which the sysadmin has to keep an eye on, apply patches and chroot as necessary. I’m sure I don’t need to go over backing up before applying said updates as that’s just common sense.

Current vs Stable

Current is more likely to break, but you also get fixes fairly quickly. Stable is slower to get fixes, but is less likely to break in the first place.

This is pretty much true of any of the BSDs or really most of the Linux distros for that matter so plan accordingly.

Don’t choose current just for needless features on a production system.  Make an informed decision on whether you’re using the full capabilities of a current branch before using it. I generally stick to stable for production systems unless there’s a feature absolutely needed that’s not in stable, which is very rare.

RTFM

The FAQ, the manual and the mailing list are your friends so don’t ignore them.

Always treat these sources from the project site as your primary references. There are many wonderful tutorial sites on the net about configuring, securing (see above), and otherwise using OpenBSD, but the main sources provided on the project site are still your most reliable, up-to-date, and complete reference. Also it has, by far, one of the most comprehensive manuals for an open source project.

I’m by no means an OpenBSD expert, but I’m patient when it comes to learning and I don’t get embarrassed about asking questions if I don’t know something. You never stop learning.

That said, people who say “OpenBSD is pretty easy” or equivalent are pretentious and condescending. OpenBSD has a steep learning curve and downplaying that with statements attesting ease of use only serve to frustrate and offend people just getting into it. It gets “easier” as time goes by and  as you get familiar with the environment, you will end up with a lot of capability in a very secure and stable system.

It takes a lot of reading and familiarization to get your feet wet and even if you come from a *nix background, it never hurts to read-up. OpenBSD’s strong points are security, consistency and predictability. The last two really help when learning the system.

People within the Linux and BSD community can only help their platform of choice by getting rid of the condescension toward novices.

It’s Marmite (I.E. It works for me)

OK, I get it. You don’t have to go on-and-on about how hard it is and how you just don’t understand or how anyone can use it vs, say, another BSD or Linux distro to get the same, if not better, functionality for the same effort.

If any of the other BSD or Linux flavor floats your boat, well then, more power to you.

I’ve been using Nginx + MySQL + PHP + OpenBSD on one particular production site for quite a while and I’ve been very happy. Maintenance has rarely been a problem, albeit it’s more involved due to chrooting, but I’ve had no complaints so far with the site breaking.

If anyone asks me and if it’s appropriate, this is what I’d recommend, not just on security grounds, but also because I found it consistent and reasonably straightforward to keep secure for the forseeable future. And I’m using it on that production site because it was appropriate for my situation.

Quit trying to convert people to your religion in regular face-to-face conversations saying your Kool-Aid is better for everything. You just sound like a bunch of intolerant morons; as if we needed more of those these days. If what someone does with their system isn’t your cup of tea, but doesn’t affect your system or what you do, then mind your own damn business.

Linux vs BSD comparisons?

I’ve gone over this so many times in real life, I don’t have the energy to do it again, but I will say this. Apples and Oranges — Linux is a kernel and you have a zillion different distros (Operating Systems) that use said kernel which specialize in different things or you can roll out your own. Choose or build carefully.

As for how I feel about other people’s opinions on what I choose; I’ll let Denny Crane explain :

No such thing as an “Obsolete” OS or browser – Part III

Well, it’s been two years since I did one of these and it’s always good to look back and see how things have changed. I ended up being taken aback by how little it had, once again proving the point; you can’t force people to upgrade or change if they don’t want to or can’t.

Let’s see what happened last month…

OS Stats for November, 2011 on eksith.com

I have a sneaking suspicion that “Windows NT” includes Windows 7 hits considering the percentage, but I can’t be sure. Vista is no where near Windows XP, as expected, and there’s still one straggler on Windows 3.xx. I’m a little surprised to see no RedHat or Suse hits last month.

Browser Stats for November, 2011 on eksith.com

Firefox is showing the full spectrum of versions once again (except 1.x) from ancient to bleeding edge and, rather worryingly, IE 2.0 hits actually increased from the last time. These were probably from ancient PCs used by people who are only now getting accustomed to the Internet. This would also explain why there are so many zombie PCs as part of botnets.

The last time I did this, I linked the FOSS.lk Conferences page in the comments and I was hopeful that this would be a new trend toward the expansion of Open Source awareness in Sri Lanka. I’m a bit worried that the site hasn’t changed in over three years now and I hope the momentum hasn’t slowed.

Open Source software would go a long way to alleviate budget and security woes and, as a side benefit, would make the rampant software piracy in the country a thing of the past. You know… reputation and all.

Hopefully, the next time I visit Sri Lanka, I won’t have to do tech support at each house I visit that has a computer.

No such thing as an “Obsolete” OS – Part II

A few suprises this month, almost as surprising as the last time I did this tally. Some things, though, haven’t changed in a year. Looks like Vista took a back seat to XP this round. I wonder why…

OS Stats for August, 2009 on eksith.com

OS Stats for August, 2009 on eksith.com

And a lot more Linux users this year. That’s a plesant surprise.

Last time, I didn’t do browsers mostly because there weren’t much variety and nothing that grabbed my attention. This year, there are a whole lot of people using Firefox, almost all versions.

Browser Stats for August, 2009 on eksith.com

Browser Stats for August, 2009 on eksith.com

And that’s a very disturbing cluster close to the top.