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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Review - BlackBerry PlayBook

OK. I'm going to jump on the bandwagon and write a review about the BlackBerry PlayBook.

I wrote recently about how I wanted one; and so, I went out and got one.  Having read all the reviews I could find, and seeing how many were quite disparaging; then getting the opportunity to actually use one; I couldn't understand the negative comments.

So, here, for what it's worth, is my personal view of the PlayBook.  I have the original iPad, so will compare against that (but I know the iPad 2 offers slightly better specs).

Build and Size
The PlayBook is solid.  It's half the height of the iPad (in portait) and the same width, weighing just 425g (under 1lb)

With a 7" screen, offering a resolution of 1024 x 600, it's a great size for carrying around.

There are 4 external buttons - the power switch, and media controls (start, pause and volume +/-)
I've read complaints about the power switch being too recessed. RIM must have heard, because on mine, it's flush with the body, which is ideal.

There is a headphone socket, and along the bottom, a micro USB port, a micro HDMI port and a port for a fast charger.  It's not possible to expand the memory; like the iPad, it's a fixed storage volume.

Operating System
RIM went back to the drawing board when they designed this baby.  Using the talents of the folks at QNX, they have designed an OS that is so fluid and intuitive, I'd be surprised if it doesn't surface on their smartphones in the not-to-distant future.
Running a dual-core 1GHz processor, with another 1Gb of RAM, this is a quick beast.

With full Adobe Flash built-in, this is a machine that shows the web they way it's meant to be seen.  That's one thing that the iPad can't do; and is a major selling point.

Whilst I'm talking web, I also compared the speed of loading websites, and the PlayBook was quicker on every site I tried.  A definite winner.

Since there is no 'home' button, everything is operated through the use of 'gestures'.  Swiping across the screen (up, down, diagonal) brings up various context-sensitive options, keyboard and settings.  The bezel (the black screen surround) is part of this, and is a clever use of the otherwise wasted space around the screen.

The fluid way the apps switch; not to mention the true multi-tasking ability, makes this a beautiful tablet to operate.  The web browser allows for multiple tabs too.

Offering 1080p HD video, and two high-definition cameras (3MP on the front and 5MP on the rear) the picture quality is flawless.  There is no flash.

The built in media player is good; but I have to admit that the iPad has the advantage.  Watching a film, the sound and picture quality is great; however, the iPad remembers where you are when you stop watching; and resumes where you left off.  The PlayBook doesn't do that.  It's not a big thing (and in the grand scheme is certainly not a deal-breaker!)

On the subject of sound, the PlayBook offers stereo speakers - a definite improvement on the tinny speaker on the iPad.

The initial release of the PlayBook is Wi-Fi only (3G is due later this year) and it works very well.  It's possible to tether any mobile phone (via bluetooth) to get online, or use a Mi-Fi dongle outside of a Wi-Fi area.

Of major criticism has been the lack of native calendar and email applications.  I thought long and hard about this, and tried the BlackBerry Bridge that RIM devised.  This allows you to pair the PlayBook with your BlackBerry and use the applications on that.  It's a clever idea, and it works. You can also access files on the smartphone.  Once the connection is cut, the access to the apps is removed.

Cleverly, you can use this bridge to access BBM, and use the larger screen and keyboard to write messages.

The other criticism is the lack of apps.  These days, the world of tablets is governed by the applications available for it.  However, allow me to counter this by saying, when the iPad was released, the majority of apps were for the iPhone, and didn't scale properly on a larger screen (take facebook as an example).  Over time, apps were built and Apple have managed this to great success.

No-one is pretending that BlackBerry will grow to the heady heights of the App Store; but there are apps available for the PlayBook; and with the promise of an Android player, then the number of apps will increase quickly.

There's plenty more I could write, including being able to wirelessly update the software, copy files wirelessly between the PlayBook and PC; and the fact you're not tied to an ecosystem like iTunes.

It's a beautifully designed tablet.

To all the Apple fans out there; who just want to knock something that isn't created by Mr Jobs; take a proper look at how a tablet can be all things to all men (and women).

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Lot On My Plate(s)

Here's something you may, or may not know.  I made a big deal about it on facebook when it happened, but thought I'd tell my story here too.

About six weeks ago I was stopped by a very lovely policewoman, in her car, who told me that my number plates were illegal.  Now, I knew this (the spacing was incorrect) and it was just a matter of time before I was pulled over.  However, I hadn't counted on there being a fine! I thought maybe a friendly warning, and I'd get them changed.

It must have been a slow morning, because the officer decided to write me a ticket, with a fine of £60.  Sixty quid for illegal number plates!! Then, add on the cost of the replacements (another £35) and all-in-all I well and truly paid for the misdemeanor!!

Imagine my horror when, three weeks later, I had a phone call, from my sister-in-law, which went something like this:
"Hi Jools.  I've just driven passed your car. Did you know your number plates are missing?"
"Both, back and front are missing"
"They were there an hour ago, so must have been taken very recently"
I think you get the drift.

Some thieving little (deleted expletive) had removed my number plates.  It's not a quiet back street.  It's a busy corner, with traffic passing constantly.  The nerve of some people.

Guess what? That'll be another £35 to replace them!!

I called the police to report it - I had visions of an early morning visit by the boys in blue, after a car with my plates had been used in an armed robbery, or some other equally outrageous stunt!

I gave all the details, and they told me not to worry - "oh, but expect to be pulled over, as now it's on the system you may get stopped - again!!"

Needless to say, as yet, I haven't been stopped, and I haven't been made aware of them being involved in any crime.

I must say, the crime squad have been quite attentive, with weekly phone calls to update me, and remind me that my plates might still show up somewhere - can't complain about the service.

So, if you see my number plates on a car similar to mine; check to see who's driving - if it's not me, then call the police and tell them.

If it is me; then a friendly wave will do.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hey Fever.....

Notice the play on words in the title?

Hayfever.... something that over the last few years I have suffered quite badly.  Nose streaming, eyes streaming, scratchy throat... all the symptoms that tell me summer is here.

This year, however, has been quite different.  Just as quickly as it started, this year I have not suffered.  The strange thing is, I don't know why?

Having said that, we're having another strangely sun-less summer. Yes, there have been sunny, cloud free, moments; but what happened to the sunny days I remember when I was growing up?

There was a time when you could guarantee that June, July and August would, in the main, be sunny.

NB - I did grow up on the south coast, so maybe my memories are slightly biased towards a southern summer!

Even Wimbledon is wetter than in the past (thank goodness for the roof).

So, my hayfever hasn't returned this year; but the summer is absent too!

Monday, June 27, 2011

AFC Bournemouth - End Of Season

It was one of the most exciting 'end of season' matches that will set The Cherries up for the new season, in August.

Having been in second place in the league, for much of last season, and dropping back at the beginning of the year; the loss of manager Eddie Howe (to Blackburn) and the appointment of Lee Bradbury (initially as caretaker manager, before being given the job full-time) it was a roller-coaster season.

Having managed to maintain a place in the play-offs; it was Huddersfield against whom they were pitted, for the semi-finals.  Having already played them twice, during the normal season; and both matches being drawn; it was a nail-biting end; which culminated in a penalty shoot-out.

At this point, I should say I'm not a fan of penalties, to get the end result.  I appreciate that there isn't really any other way; unless they re-introduce the Golden Goal.  It is such a shame that two evenly matched teams have to resort to seeing who can score the best of 5.  Might as well forget the previous 2 hours and just line up in front of the goal!!

Personally, I'm extremely proud of the boys; they've worked hard, played well (most of the time) and have shown that they are a force to be reckoned with.  Maybe immediate promotion to the Championship would have been too much; but they are well placed to start the next season.

The cheque book is out, and Eddie Mitchell is spending as he sees fit.  He's also selling; which is good for the boys moving up to bigger clubs; but let's hope they are replaced with equally competitive players.

It's also been noticed that league one is predominantly northern, which means two things:
1. There is less chance of a full-house at Dean Court; reducing the gate receipts
2. More travel for the team (and less chance supporters will follow)

How will they do?

Only time will tell.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Constant Reading

Here's something I've noticed recently; especially since I've been so remiss at writing new posts!

My blog is still being read on a daily basis - maybe it's inertia; and in some cases the posts have appeared in search results, but somehow, people are still reading what I've previously written.

I'm surprised, because my last post was back in May; and it was a repeat at that!! Lazy, but it covered a subject I wanted to talk about again.  I also wrote an article about BlackBerry Messenger; and that still generates requests from people to 'be my friend'!

So, here I am, back again, after a long, unintentional, break; and with some new material up my sleeve, be prepared for more general posts and nonsense from me!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Formula 1 - Sebastian Vettel storms to European Grand Prix pole

Yet again, Sebastian Vettel has taken his place on pole position for the European Grand Prix tomorrow.   It was another packed qualifying session, and again he has shown how dominant he is this season.

The full details are available here: BBC Sport - Sebastian Vettel storms to European Grand Prix pole

The race is on BBC One and BBC One HD, tomorrow from 1pm.


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