—Rooting My PlayBook, aka GingerBerry, & My General Dissatisfaction with RIM

February 7, 2012

Oh RIM, ever since I jumped on the smartphone bandwagon four years ago I reveled in this wonderful new ability to get things done on-the-go. I still remember the feeling as I took my Curve 8900 home for the first time. Coming from a RAZR, it felt like I had magic at my fingertips. I mean, it had a qwerty keyboard for crying out loud. Ever the frugalist, I entrusted RIM with the task of being my sole internet provider as wi-fi wasn’t abundant (or rather I was too cheap for a faster ISP). In a pinch I could tether my Curve to Silvia for a quick email, or a light web browsing session. Sure it was slow, but I was “mobile”. Yup, Silvia and “Odie” (yes I name everything) made a great team. Then something happened.

As a tinkerer, and someone who generally likes to unlock new potential in older things, I became wrapped up in the world of beta software. Every now and then they’d add something new to appease my boredom, but nothing really wowed me. By this time I’m sure the iPhone debuted, and I found my phone spinning its wheels trying run all these newfangled apps RIM was trying to catch up with (hourglass reference). I even found myself under attack because of what phone I was wielding. Which was odd to me, I never thought of a tool as an outward expression of self. After installing beta OS after beta OS, it became clear that BlackBerry wasn’t gonna rule. At first I tried to deny it, focusing on the utilitarian and even minimalist qualities in the experience. Less is more. Less distraction, more productivity. Once I got a taste of broadband, I needed more speed. And I had hoped I could get it from RIM.

“Hope is the denial of reality” —Margaret Weis


I went to my carrier and got myself an “upgrade”. The Bold 9780 (Fido). More RAM, slightly bigger keyboard compared to the 8900, 5mp camera, and OS 6. Frick yeah! This was gonna do it. It was faster than my old buddy, and I found a few apps I really liked and found useful. Yup, this was adequate. I hated touch screens; too involving. I liked being able to bang out messages while looking away like some David Blaine trick. But I was beginning to get screen envy.

The iPad came out in full force, thus spawning the tablet wars, and people were getting used to the idea of media consumption on-the-go. I had a serious aversion to all things Apple, but I too wanted to watch Netflix and Hulu while out and about, and put a dent in my Google Reader queue (that thing is unstoppable). The iPad was huge. It was so cumbersome, like walking around with a fancy dinner plate. 7 was the magic number. Out came the PlayBook, which brings me to my PlayBook.

Such potential. Such power. Such portability! If they got it right they could really be onto something I though. I watched with trepidation as the world got to know RIM’s playbook for success (cringe). I was intrigued, but I was also wooed by Samsung’s Galaxy Tab. It was also 7″, ran Android, and you know wasn’t made by RIM. I certainly wasn’t going to run out and buy one right away. But I figured the prices might come down over time, and eventually I could pick one up at a decent price. Soon I too would be touchin’ it up. But which one would I choose?

The Galaxy Tab wi-fi model looked like a winner, although it was a bit thick. I was also pondering getting the 3G model and swapping the SIM card from Fido back and forth for data outside of wi-fi coverage. But I’d have to get a micro SIM adapter kit and wondered: What if my carrier figured a way to block me?

Then there was the PlayBook, which only had wi-fi models at the time (and yet still). But with the BlackBerry Bridge app, I could siphon data from Fido via bluetooth in a pinch. It wasn’t technically tethering so you wouldn’t get hit with extra fees (there’s also a tethering feature). And I love not having extra fees. The big question was: Was I ready go with RIM for a third time?

It seems fate decided for me as I lost my Galaxy Tab auctions on eBay, and found myself the winning bidder of a 16GB PlayBook. I was sure I could use it to its full potential. The only concern was RIM holding it back. Surely they’d do everything in their power to make this a success.

No Netflix, no Hulu, no Amazon Kindle app. What the [blank]? Sorry Mr. Marketing guy but the whole “who needs apps when you have flash and the power of the full web browsing experience” argument isn’t gonna cut it. For one, it’s not the “full web”. I can’t get much use out of mint.com, and a bunch of other sites I use heavily. Hulu blocked access to PlayBook users, and Netflix requires Microsoft’s Silverlight to run. So pretty much I bought a really expensive mobile browser, with a frickin’ dead pixel. Thanks RIM. Way to execute. But hey, it’s a bigger screen right?

An announcement came about the whole Android runtime plan. Bold move. As if to say, our new software platform is a dud, but we’re gonna adulterate Android’s previously released open source OS so you have something useful. Only you can’t get it right now, soon, soon.

I got tired of waiting. I wanted Android now!

To RIM’s credit they made a few beta OSes available, although you had to pretend to be a developer to download them, and through the forums I was able to run a wonky version of Android 2.3. Of course, RIM sent out an OTA update patch to break it. It’s like they don’t want users to have any fun with this thing. I was all but ready to chuck it, when the good folks behind DingleBerry, and another guy who goes by the name Hatax, came through with the tools to not only run Android mostly unfettered, but also with the ability to download and install apps directly from the Android Market AND unblock Hulu. The mighty QNX had been rooted. So much for RIM’s security. Sadly, that Netflix thing remains unresolved.

I made a video of the whole rooting experience, though my camera… isn’t that great for video. Perhaps with a few more donations I can upgrade it perhaps? 🙂 Sufficed to say, it was a lengthy process that took several tries. All that work to get a capable device. Imagine if I didn’t have access to such a wealth of knowledge and still had a plain old vanilla PlayBook? I mean, who’d want that? (Maybe that’s why they’re not selling RIM). Bottom line the PlayBook sucks without rooting. And that’s pretty pathetic, although they seem to think it’s a smashing success. Since I can’t sell it or recoup my losses, I’m gonna try to get some life out of this thing. I eagerly await future updates from the DingleBerry crew.

As for the forthcoming, year overdue OS 2.0 software update with “more features”, I see nothing of interest I haven’t already accomplished since rooting. And that’s strike 3. I will never purchase another RIM device, screw OS 7 (which is really just a re-branded OS 6.1). It sickens me watching their sheepishly upbeat expressions in the media. Patting themselves on the back or giving themselves that self-congratulatory-head-nod. The perfect ‘C’ students. They just don’t get it. Maybe it’s a Canadian thing, or maybe they like the smell of their own poo. I don’t really know or care. I just know it’s time to move on. —End rant.


(The last RIM products I will ever own)

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