BlackBerry Playbook Review

What kind of BlackBerry Booster (as per my Twitter bio) would I be if I didn’t write about the company’s tablet I picked up over Christmas? A very bad one. So here are a couple thoughts on everyone’s favourite 7 inch tablet.

First things first

We all know BlackBerry had a horrible year last year. However I’m surprised that they didn’t sell a ridiculous number, like 1 million of these Playbooks. And I don’t know why not. The build quality is awesome, it fits nice in your hand, (key for reading in bed or lying on the couch) and the OS (Operating System) is slick.

Furthermore, video looks great on it  and its in black (my favourite colour, which isn’t a moot point because even though I’m not an Apple guy, their old black MacBook looked sick) and the price for a 16GB model at $199 (the model I have) is now changed so all three are priced at $299. It just doesn’t make sense. Ah well, they should sell more because of what’s coming.

What’s coming

The Playbook update in February, OS 2.0, will introduce native e-mail, a video store for downloading content (only available to start in the U.S), more apps via Android, and autocorrect/predictive text. As well,  talking to a fellow student I met on campus, who has this own web development/app company, the Playbook might even have support for Windows apps in the future. For more on OS 2.0, A really good in-depth review courtesy of mobilesyrup.com is available here.

It’s simple

With the attractive price point, great quality, and fluid OS, the Playbook is a nice, powerful tablet. If the update comes on time, with everything working as RIM says it will, it’ll be hard to see why they won’t sell a few more Playbooks, which will require me to do less BlackBerry boosting.

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Thoughts on Blink, learning from Gladwell

I did it. By finishing the book "Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell yesterday, I am now done all of the Canadian author’s fourblink1 books (The Tipping Point, Outliers, and What the Dog Saw being the others ). All of them were entertaining reads although Blink, the #2 book in the quartet, was probably the least enjoyable of them for me.

Blink’s main message is whether it is better for us to rely on our instincts when making decisions or whether studying a situation for a long time, then making a decision is a better idea. Gladwell, as he does so successfully in all of his books, is able to sway your opinion to the former being true and throughout the book he points to examples as to why this is the case. One striking example in the book Gladwell uses is the real story of a group of 4 police officers in New York City and their misjudgement of a “criminal” who they shot  at 41 times to death. The “criminal” was merely an innocent civilian. Gladwell goes on to argue that if the officers had studied the situation better, particularly his face, which would allow them to read his mind, they would have seen the man as not a threat, and would not have made the decision to kill an unarmed man in cold blood.

This was the most fascinating part of Blink. Some other parts of it gets repetitive at times. Perhaps this is because I was so used to Gladwell’s writing style. Nevertheless Blink sticks true to what is typical of a Gladwell book by being  thoroughly researched, thought provoking, with a great, tight narrative.

So with that said, and now having read all of Gladwell’s books (thus far), what you come away with from this quartet of books is the common themes of very interesting social experiments, stories, and case studies that allows you access into a deeper understanding of the people, situations, and world that we find ourselves in. It is fascinating how oftentimes we tend to view things as completely open and shut, but through Gladwell’s books he continues to refute this notion showing that , in fact, there is really another way(s) of approaching things. For me, who has a strong interest in research, building relationships, and being a part of my community, my interest in the books was constantly piqued. I couldn’t put any of them down while reading them mostly on the commute to work. I’m glad a friend of mine, who was chided by his boss to read more, has taken that challenge and recently started Outliers. He is in for a treat.

Book Review: The Tipping Point + Why I love Malcolm Gladwell

I just recently devoured author Malcolm Gladwell’s first book “The Tipping Point” (2000) and now I am one third of thetipping_point way through his latest book “What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures” (2009), leaving his two other books, untouched for now, and noticed we have 3 things in common. Firstly, we are both Canadian. Secondly, we both have Nigerian roots. Thirdly, but hardly the least most important is we are both writers. Me on this blog and an possible e-book (if I can get off my butt and make it happen) and him and his aforementioned 4 books, as well as a distinguished career as a journalist at The New Yorker. That’s a lot to like, but I rather just say love, because after reading The Tipping Point, you can’t come away not loving the book, as well as Gladwell. He is an amazing writer.

Whether you have heard of the term “tipping point” before or not it doesn’t matter. Gladwell explains the concept really simply, something that he is able to do with everything we encounter in The Tipping Point. What Gladwell looks at are social epidemics are things which start off small and but spread extremely quickly, through word of mouth, that they “tip”. Examples of social epidemics that Gladwell references in the book, are Paul Revere and his midnight ride to warn Americans of the incoming British invasion in the late 18th century (American Revolution), the rise of Hush Puppies as a fashion trend, and the spread of sexual transmitted diseases in Colorado Springs.

Gladwell continues by pointing us in the direction of three special personality types he wishes to highlight: “Connectors”, “Salespeople”, and “Mavens” and their influence in making social epidemics tip. These people are elite activists in what their name description implies, really exceptional people (as you will read in the book), that are able to help social epidemics reach the masses as well as direct people to information. Gladwell also talks about “The Stickiness Factor” which helps to show why Sesame Street was so successful. In the case of Sesame Street, Gladwell talks of the way in which in the early days of the show, the 1960s, the creators tested children’s attention spans. What they did was have a slide show which ran random slides such as a rainbow  or a leaf floating through ripples of water, every 7 seconds. Then, children would be brought into a viewing room, in pairs, to watching an episode of Sesame with the slide show running as well. The creators then would take note of when the children looked at the slides or Sesame. Every time the slide changed, the staff would make a notation. From this information, they would have a very detailed account of what shows held the attention spans of children, The Stickiness Factor, thus allowing them to create shows that would capture children’s hearts for decades.

In addition to having Connectors, Mavens, and Salespeople and The Stickiness Factor, the final thing which aids social epidemics in tipping is what Gladwell says is “The Power of Context”. Gladwell describes this as being the how our surroundings, shape the lens in which we view the world, and how they may actually have more impact than our individual personality traits and dispositions. This is the whole nature/nurture debate and Gladwell expertly dances us through this idea using case studies, which are very gripping and perhaps some of the most interesting parts of the book. For example how an murder on a subway in New York City in the 1980s started a crime revolution in the city and the reason why children are increasingly smoking cigarettes.

Add all these concepts together and this is the essence of what the The Tipping Point is all about. Gladwell is able to shed light onto why things happen in this world, that things are not merely of random coincidence, and how small things lead to big changes or social epidemics. What you take away from reading the Tipping Point, is you become more aware of the world around you, as perhaps the numerous preconceived notions you may have had on things are broken down by Gladwell’s logical analysis and interaction with experts in a variety of fields.

Gladwell is able to weave all these pieces together so well, which makes reading the Tipping Point a breeze. His storytelling, without unnecessary words or jargon, is one I can appreciate, with every sentence making a point and leaving you eager to read the next. In my eyes, Gladwell’s agenda is a simple one. By sharing The Tipping Point, he is able to empower you with knowledge of the world around us, an extremely valuable resource in our ever increasingly complicated and interconnected world.

Tech Review: Sony Vaio EA Series

I took a quick glance to the Sony Style website the other day and I noticed something. New Sony  Vaio laptops. With Widi (wireless display). Sigh. Widi (wireless display) is the newest technology available for laptops, allowing you to wirelessly display images from your laptop onto your TV screen. No HDMI cable. All done wirelessly. It was something I was hoping which would be available for my current laptop. Unfortunately it came a year later, so I had to “settle” with another Sony product, the Sony Vaio EA series. If you could call this settling.

When I was looking for a new laptop last year ( I had a Gateway one previously) it took me a long time. The whole summer actually and then some, about 6 months till last Christmas. When my Gateway went down last summer, I vowed to get a laptop that would not suffer the same fate.

I went to cnet.com, redflagdeals.com, computershopper.com, online laptop forums, pretty much everywhere that they were discussing new laptops and reviewing them. I learned a lot. So much that if you need recommendations on what to get, I’m your man. But it always comes back to your personal needs, and being the picky guy I am I had a few.

They were:

  • Good battery life (at least 3+ hrs)
  • Good video card (not the standard one available in most laptops found in electronic stores)
  • Core I3 processor or better
  • 14” screen or smaller
  • Great keyboard and touch pad
  • Larger than 320 Hard drive (that my old Gateway had)
  • Black
    Quite the list. My Gateway was about $770 (taxes in) so I decided I’d up the budget and settle on one which was around $1000. With my criteria in place, 6 months of research in place, it came down to two: The Sony Vaio EA and the MacBook Pro.
    The reasons were simple. I knew both were excellent brands with a very informed following, way more than the other brands I looked at such as Asus, HP (have heard horror stories), Dell, or Compaq. In terms of reliability, Sony and Apple, seemed to stand above those aforementioned laptop makers so it made me even more comfortable with them being my top two.

However, I could only get one laptop so I had to decide. And from criteria I was pushed into Sony’s direction. Firstly, I’m not a huge fan of Apple. They are one of the companies you either love or hate. You’re  PC or Mac. Although I love innovation and would consider myself creative, I’m a  PC guy. All day. So that was the first thing. Second, the Sony was customisable! Yay for choice! I was able to put in a Blu-Ray player (The Dark Knight looks fantastic on this laptop), and upgrade the battery to an extended battery. They even threw in Photoshop suite which was a nice bonus. Finally, It came in black. Colours matter and black > silver (MacBook Pro) sealed the deal. If they had the MacBook Pro, like the MacBook before it in all black, maybe it would have changed my mind…

So with that here is my video from last year, giving a quick look at the Sony Vaio’s EA’s unpacking. Enjoy! PS I sound a little nerdy.

Tech Review: Blackberry Torch 9800

Blackberry has finally joined the smartphone party. That’s the best way to put the arrival of their newest smartphone, the Blackberry Torch 9800. Having had the Blackberry Bold 9000 previously, 3 of them in fact, since I’m really bad with phones, the Torch is a huge upgrade. Honestly, having the Bold 9000 was like being in the Stone Age. Having a touchscreen phone is really that big of a difference. As well, the Torch is more compact, slick, and comes in a nicer form factor (slider) than the Bold, which allows great functionality for both the touchscreen and the iconic Blackberry keyboard.  So thats a little preview. I suggest you take a look at what GSM Arena (top phone review site) had to say about the Torch here. Now onto my review, on what I like, what I don’t so much, and final conclusion.

What I like

The phone is sexy. How about starting there. With a curved shaped body the Torch is stylish, leaving the simple rectangle of the Iphone 4 way behind. In fact if I didnt have this Outter box case on my Torch, you would always be able to notice the smooth lines on this pretty device in all seasons. However phone protection is key. Smartphones don’t come cheap.

Moving on from the looks, the Torch really is a great meld of  keyboard/touch capabilities all in one device. Starting with the keyboard, for longer messaging it is a must. Trying to type really long messages by touch and with T9 prediction can be a disaster. But when you start to look at web browsing, that  is where you really see the advantages of touch.  Simply put, touch was made for web browsing. Being able to minimize or maximize images on your favourite websites gets you really involved on the web on such a tiny device. It’s cool and browsing on the Torch is an enjoyable experience because of touch.

Before phones were made to surf or text, they were made to answer calls. Reception is clear, probably due to the Rogers network but nonetheless no concerns when calls are placed, local or longdistance (best friend in TO remember?).

Finally, the new Blackberry operating system (OS) is a welcome addition. All the top smartphones, the Iphone 4 and Androids for example have their distinctive OS’s. Now Blackberry is no different with Blackberry 6 OS. It does a good job and makes the OS on the Bold 9000 look extremely dated. Probably the best and biggest improvement for Blackberry were changes in the OS. I know owners of Iphones and Androids who rave about their respective OS’s, as they should, but with Blackberry starting from such a behind position, you gotta give them two thumbs up for this improvement in this area with Blackberry 6.

What I don’t like

Things can get a little sluggy. What I mean is when you are navagating through your apps, menus, or going through playlists things can tend to get a bit slow. These are the types of concerns I had with the Bold 9000 as well. Since I have a lot of music and apps on the Torch this is probably why this is the case. Hope things are a little smoother in the next Blackberry.

Lack of apps. Some of the apps that I was able to get on my Bold 9000 , Yahoo Finance and RBC mobile, crucial for a guy like me, aren’t available on the Torch. Sent a tweet to @Blackberry about that. Got no response. I had to use the alternative Bloomberg Finance to track my stocks instead as a replacement. Still awaiting to get RBC mobile on the Torch. Developers get on it!

The charger can get fairly hot when you leave your phone charging for a long time.

Conclusions

The Blackberry Torch 9800 is an improvement over the Bold 9000 or any other Blackberry available. This alone should make you want it and having the touch incorporated with it seals it. It measures out great in all the things that are important: text messaging, browsing, and calling, while still having everyone’s favourite feature and probably the reason they get a Blackberry, BBM. Its slick, compact and stylish so no complaints there. Even different colours such as white and red are available. Overall, grab it if you need a dramatic upgrade and are a lover of the Blackberry brand. You’re missing out if you don’t!

Book Review: Six Pixels of Separation

Let me start off by saying that reading and I have had a rocky relationship. I remember when I was younger getting hauled to the library with my three other siblings. They would be taking home piles of books while I would take home one or two which I wouldn’t end up finishing. Reading was exhausting for me back then. My already imaginative mind did not need books to come alive. I found it a tedious endeavour and didn’t see the point.

Fast forward to today and things have totally changed. I find reading useful for a variety of different reasons. It helps you become a better writer, allows you to pass gaps in downtime, and of course helps you learn about something new. I also think as a professional it is important to read books pertaining to your field, allowing you to gain new insight and perspective. One book which fits this description is Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation, the first book I read this year.

Six Pixels of Separation, with the title borrowed from but not to be confused with Six Degrees of Separation (I confused them a lot when describing this book my friends), is a book about the value of getting online and connecting yourself to the online community so that you can better position yourself as an individual or business. Joel shares that by leveraging the internet to your benefit, primarily through blogging and social networking, you can make new connections, find your niche, and ultimately build your own unique personal brand of who you are and share it with the world.

A quick read at only 270 odd pages due to the simple conversational language Joel uses, Six Pixels of Separation explains that making your presence online, for example by blogging,  is more than just writing entries (text). It is also about audio (podcasts) and video. Joel encourages you that when you are starting to develop your presence online, to not just limit yourself to text but to use these other ways of connect as well.

Since the relaunch of my blog, Six Pixels of Separation is exactly the book that I needed to read. It tells you how to get started, get connecting, and just plain get out there and get acquainted with the tools and people to help propel yourself forward as an individual or business. Six Pixels of Separation is about going beyond your geographical boundaries and exploring online where you can find resources to advance yourself as an individual or as a business.

This is perhaps the most compelling part of the book, using it as a resource. There are a variety of interesting case studies (I do enjoy case studies very much so) of men and women who were able to leverage the internet to create a niche for themselves. Using my memo pad, as I wrote about here, I was able to come jot down the names of these creative people in PR, marketing, and communications, to check out on Twitter (Mine is @FFasoyinu if you don’t have me already) as I went along in Six Pixels of Separation to do further research on later.

Overall, Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation, was an interesting read for me. It really got my mind going in the direction that I wanted to go deeper in in 2011 in regards to entrepreneurship, finding a niche, and developing my personal brand. Couldn’t have been a better match for me and my book to start the year. I think I’m going to enjoy this book review thing.