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My review of trying to turn the PlayBook on.

April 27, 2011 Leave a comment

So yesterday, having literally nothing else to do, I decided to check out RIM’s PlayBook. So I went to Futureshop to see if they had one out on display. They did. Actually, they had two, but despite the efforts of me and one honest-to-god software engineer, the device couldn’t be made to turn on. It was plugged into a power strip, which was turned on. Hitting the play/pause and volume buttons had no effect. Hitting the power button — when we were finally able to hit the power button — had no effect other than to make it go from completely off to off with a red status light. Hitting it again made it go to a blinking orange light. Hitting it again made it go to the red light. Hitting it again made it go to a blinking green light that was promising, but which ultimately did nothing at all.

Friends, let me tell you about the goddamn power button. Others have complained, I know, but their vitriol is nothing to mine. This power button, on the top of the device, is presumably made tiny and difficult to hit so that braindead enterprise users who haven’t yet had their third coffee of the day don’t hit it and start screaming “Wha happened?” again and again while spraying their Starbucks at nearby — and more intelligent — passers-by. The problem is that the button is, because of this goddamn design decision, nearly impossible to press.

It’s half the width of a pencil eraser, and COMPLETELY flush with the device. The PlayBook should come with a crapdamn pin just so you can turn it on and off. It’s ridiculous. Sure, nobody will accidentally turn the device off, but considering it’s apparently the only way to activate or deactivate the stupid screen, the reason no one will ever turn it off is because nobody will ever be able to get the thing turned ON. They’ll get tired and discouraged, and buy a tablet that’s actually designed to be used.

So the first PlayBook — which is, what, two days old? — simply wouldn’t turn on, with no visible indicator that it was even trying. That’s the impression of a solid piece of work, there, RIM. Way to go.

The second PlayBook had a screen that was active, but the Kobo app that was running, was — and I don’t use this term lightly — apparently having some sort of epileptic fit: the book reader software was constantly jiggling up and down as if some over-caffeinated brat-tard was trying to masturbate it, BUT NOBODY WAS TOUCHING THE SCREEN. And we couldn’t get it to exit the app. We had to restart the PlayBook, which took two attempts, involved a fair amount of scotch and swearing — POWER BUTTTOOOOOOONNN — and several minutes of waiting. Inexplicably, as this happened, some poor, masochistic bastard actually bought one of the 32GB models.

I’m assuming he hated himself, and wanted to make his death as slow and painful as possible.

Mission accomplished.

Finally the device came back up. The screen was nice, even though at this point anything smaller than the iPad seems, well, overly goddamn small. I like the idea of 7″ — IF ONLY — but now I’m used to the magically sized iPad.

So the PlayBook was on. The browser was fine, Youtube looked nice, and the videos played well, even though the tastes of whoever was foolhardy enough to try it before us was  terrible. I mean, seriously, soccer videos, you bastard?

Unlike the iPad, the bezel on the PlayBook is smart, which is to say that you swipe your fingers from the bezel to the screen in different ways, and it’ll do things like return to home, pull down the settings pane, and switch between tasks. In theory this is really a great idea, and if you know what you’re doing — I do, because I’m the Goddamn Walt Mosspuppet, shut up! — it’s a nice bit of functionality. But if you don’t know that’s a feature, if you’re just some Joe Schmuck a-hole who came into Futureshop to buy that season of Arrested Development that’s on clearance — like it should be, the stupid piece of crap — and you wander into the tablet aisle because gee, golly, look at them compuuuuters, you don’t know about the smart bezel, and you probably don’t know what the goddamn word bezel means, anyway. So you pick up the PlayBook, and, assuming you’re actually able to turn the screen on and don’t, I don’t know, give up to go home and cornhole a gopher, if you’re in an app, you’d have absolutely no idea how to get out of it. The device would seem crapping broken, and you’d walk over to the iPad, which has a glorious home button that always takes you back to the right place.

I realize this isn’t so much a review of the PlayBook as a whole as it is a review of the experience of trying to use the PlayBook, but considering how goddamn difficult it was to actually use it in any capacity, it seemed worth mentioning.

I’ll close with this final thought: whoever designed the PlayBook’s power button, and whoever let it get through QA without tossing acid in the designer’s face or on his scrotum, should both be forced to listen to Robert Scoble explain the totality of his knowledge about technology. It will only take three minutes, and it will be completely wrong, but I can’t think of anything more painful. Aside from trying to power on the PlayBook.

Shut up.