Hungry for The Hunger Games?

Not like I spend my life reviewing movies (and yes, this post is about the movie), but when is the last time I wrote a positive movie review? Don’t think I have yet… The Hunger Games has some interesting themes, but to me it’s ultimate claim to fame is just pitting children in a death match.  The author could have just as easily made the age-group 18 to 24, and I doubt the book or the movie would have been so popular.  By choosing to kill 12 to 18 year-olds, the author creates the shock value that drives the sensationalism surrounding this story. Should I be impressed with that? Well, I am not… and I am.

On the “not impressed” side, picking on children is easy. What’s next, 6 to 12 year-olds? Toddlers strapped with IEDs?  See…it is easy to create shock value.  On the “impressed” side, the entertainment industry is fickle… every story has to have a “one line” attention getter that is properly placed to reach a market segment… writing a young adult book about young adults fighting to the death in a market flooded with similar stories targeted towards grown-ups was just good marketing.

Now, with the hook out of the way, if someone’s going to write a young-adult death-match story, I’d prefer they have something of value to share beyond the shock value.  The film at least tried.  Maybe it even succeeded, but then, what would success truly look like?  The movie shines a light on several themes including oppression of the masses by an elite class (near and dear to my beliefs regarding “The Best and the Brightest”), it shows how our species creates self-destructive rules and then lives and dies by them (a topic I haven’t even had time to write about), it pokes fun at the sensationalism that is at the core of the movie’s own success, it puts the shallowness of style/materialism on blast, and even tries for some character development that hints at deeper virtues (maybe the book is more detailed, but the movie was clearly targeted toward action over drama).

I have always been a tough grader, so, my vote for this film is a solid “not bad.”  It is definetely deeper than a lot of mainstream movies, and gets the brain working a little.  The plot was fairly predictable, but for me… plot is typically a catalyst for theme, so it’s not super important to me if there is a twist.  Well, that is, until I go see Avengers.  That’s going to be all plot… hahaha.

BlackBerry PlayBook Paperweight

Yeah, the title kinda sums up my experience trying out a BlackBerry PlayBook.  Maybe it is a bit unfair an assessment, but reality can be a harsh judge.

At least the Playbook works at Hooters in Chantilly

FOSE 2010
I didn’t have time to attend the whole expo, but I made time to attend ONE of the free classes – I wanted to see what the PlayBook had to offer.  The presentation was very insightful, as it explained how the PlayBook was truly set apart from its competition because it had a seamless user experience, but under the hood it was separating enterprise data from personal data. It also had security and encryption baked in via the BlackBerry Bridge to the user’s smartphone which would pick up all the BES policies and apply them to PlayBook.  All in all, that was fairly impressive – enough for me to actually be excited to try one out.

PlayBook Arrives
So, about 3 months later, my office did a trial with a handful of PlayBooks.  I was one of the lucky recipients…or so I thought.  I unboxed it, hooked it up and the ride went south from there!  Come with me down disappointment lane:

  • First thing Playbook did was demand a Wi-Fi connection.  Wi-Fi connections are not permitted at my office, so I had to pack it all up and wait until I could leave work.  If a customer has to leave the office to get their office-issued equipment working, that kinda sets the stage…don’t it? Yup. It do.
  • I took the unit home, and hooked it up to the Wi-Fi at my house.  Luckily, it connected… it downloaded the latest OS and worked whatever 20-30min of magic it needed.  Finally, I thought, I could start using it as intended.
  • I got into the car and drove to a location with a free Wi-Fi hot spot… I figured, the PlayBook should be ready to work on the go, right?  Wrong.  It couldn’t connect to the hotspot.  My cell phone connected.  My laptop connected. Playbook didn’t even SEE the network, and when I tried to connect manually it would complain that it timed out trying to connect.  Fail.
  • I then decided to try my cell-phone as a tether. PlayBook should be able to handle that. Nope. I tried a Wi-Fi tether, and PlayBook couldn’t see the network.  My laptop did, and connected without issue.
  • So, I made zero progress that day and went into work.  I contacted our mobile computing department and told them I was testing a PlayBook. They said, that was nice.  I asked if I could install the BlackBerry Bridge software on my phone.  They said no.  OK, for all the marketing at FOSE, there isn’t much people can do if the folks in charge of the BlackBerry phones say NO to the BlackBerry Bridge.  Again, this is reality…and in reality, not everyone can  install what they want.
  • This left me in a lurch whereby I have a device that depends on wireless in order to be productive, and it doesn’t readily tether or recognize Wi-Fi networks, nor can it be connected to the enterprise.  And this raises another issue… even if I COULD use the bridge software, 3G is not the fastest cat on the block.  It would be better to use Wi-Fi, but then how is BES policy enforced over Wi-Fi?  Answer… it probably isn’t.
  • I didn’t give up yet…I used the PlayBook to take notes in several meetings… but ran into yet more frustration because, there was no way to get my notes to my office network.  No wireless, no bridge, not even a USB port for a thumb drive.  As if that wasn’t enough, PlayBook’s keyboard ANNOYS me because to type numbers and symbols I am forced to go to a completely different screen instead of hit Shift or ALT like other devices allow.
  • Over the next couple of days, I tried the PlayBook at a number of venues.  It basically has a 50% chance of connecting to Wi-Fi.  I was thankful it worked at Hooters… “Sorry dear, I have to go to Hooters, it is the only network that is compatible with the Playbook.”  That’s worth SOME points.  But 50% is pretty abysmal, and to not have it work with my tether is pretty-much a showstopper.
  • Then there is the application selection.  PlayBook does not have nearly the inventory that iTunes and Android have on tap.  In fact, i would bet that Palm has more apps than PlayBook.  What apps are available are sometimes pricey – not uncommon to see price tags of $3 or $6… really?
  • Last but not least is the super stable OS they tout. I was playing Tetris. The OS locked. Nuff said.

The End
In the end, even though the base navigation seems intuitive, the GUIs seem responsive, and the potential seems impressive,  I think PlayBook is too little too late. I’ll be returning mine to the pool – maybe someone else will have better luck with it.  Until then, I am pretty happy with Android or my SSD-equipped Laptop which boots in about 10 seconds.  Better luck next time, RIM.