Friday, December 9, 2011

Best Free Apps to Get Started with Your New BlackBerry PlayBook

For those new to the BlackBerry PlayBook, here are a few simple and free apps that I have been recommending to friends and family to go get started fast.  In fact, I'm giving away several PlayBooks for Christmas this year and this is what I am pre-loading on all of them....

Games... After all it's a "Play"Book

1. Super Air Hockey:  Play against a friend or against the PlayBook, this is a perfect example of  touchscreen simplicity.  Fun for all ages.

2. Fruits and Ninjas:  You got fruits.. You got Ninjas...  What else do you need?  In this game you slash through fruit with your finger making the world safe from dangerous fruit.

3. Doodle Blast:  This is a great puzzle game where you use virtual ink to complete the maze and capture the marbles.  You only have so much ink so you need to be strategic on where you draw the lines and let gravity do it's job.

4. Popcorn Rush: Touching the kernals will pop them into popcorn... The more you pop... the higher your score.  Just beware of the bombs!  Easy enough for all aged players.

5. Tile Breaker Free:  The best "breakout" type game on the PlayBook.  Simply move your finger to the spot you need your bat at and knock away those levels.

6. Assembler Mobile 2:  Great gravity based puzzle game.  Here's a hint...  Turn ON your "lock orientation" on your PlayBook to play this game on the higer levels. Otherwise the PlayBook will reorient itself while you are flipping it upside down.

7. Fly Squirrel Fly 2:  Pull back on your slingshot with a flying squirrel... and let it rip...  Silly fun as your squirrel goes flying through the levels picking up points and special abilities!

8. Bubble Birds:  The classic bubble popping game where you need to strategically put the coloured bubbles together and pop the series.  Clear them all and you are on to the next level.

9. Protect The Cheese:  Another puzzle game where you need to make sure the cheese doesn't hit the ground!  Fun for all ages.

Kids Stuff....  The Playbook Slices & Dices and can even babysit!

1. Coloring Book:  Simple colouring book for kids where they get to pick the pictures that need to be coloured and then simply select the shades and colour away.

2. MakeThemLaugh: A sound effects board so kids can make sound effects such as laughter, clapping, gasping, etc. Kids love to use the effects in their skits and plays.

3. Get Growing:  A TVO (TV Ontario) educational game that lets your kids plant and grow their own plants along with other activities.

Other Useful Apps

1. Scrapbook:  With pictures you've taken or downloaded you can use this native scrapbooking application to make scrapbook pages and share them with family and friends.

2. Piano:  Simple keyboard that you can also record your masterpieces.
This is perhaps the simplest of the keyboard like programs but definately my favourite.
3. iSpeech Translator:  Handy dandy language translator for everyday use.  Not only will it translate voice, but you can also translate text!

4. Sketchbook:  Need to quickly draw? Tthen sketchbook is a great app that allows you to do just that.  You can use whiteboard, blackboard or even a picture as the backdrop.

5. Vevo:  Music lovers must-have!  All the major videos and interesting info on your fave artists are all on vevo. 

6. Score Mobile: Sports lovers must-have providing loads of information, stats, game tracking, live blogs and a ton of other  features.

Once you've mastered these and want to transform your PlayBook into a mobile multimedia powerhouse, check out my earlier post on the essential PlayBook power user apps.  But for now, these should help you get started.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

3 Essential Apps to Become a BlackBerry PlayBook Power User

Congratulations!  You just got a brand new BlackBerry PlayBook for Christmas.  Now what are the essential apps you need to become a power user? Well, I've done my best to compile this list of what I would consider the essential apps to really leverage this remarkable tablet.  First, off let me state that I am assuming you already have your basics like BlackBerry Bridge installed and configured.

1. BlueBox:  Access & Manage your files between your PlayBook, PC and BlackBerry

Whether it's videos, music, powerpoints, spreadsheets, pictures, etc.,  BlueBox which provides a gateway into DropBox let's you transfer these files simply across any and all of your devices.  This means you can easily access key content via the cloud without using your storage on the actual devices.  For example, I can take a picture or video on my PlayBook, transfer it to DropBox and share it with just my family, or access it from my home PC in a couple of seconds.  Or I can save my spreadsheet from work, and hope on the train and continue working on it without ever having to connect with a wire.  It's simple, wireless and free!

2.  Orb Launcher:  Stream multimedia from your home PC to your BlackBerry PlayBook wirelessly

Streaming content is simple with Orb.  Basically you just download and configure the desktop Orb Caster on your PC or Mac and then you install & setup the Orb launcher from AppWorld and you are good to go.  Now your 5 Terabytes of videos on your home is accessible to your PlayBook from any Internet connection without taking up any storage on your device.  If you have a 16GB version, this is a must have!  You have access to all your music, pictures, movies, PVR'd TV Shows,  and even your security and Web cameras right through your PlayBook.  A nice aspect of Orb is that regardless of  the format, if your PC can read it, it will stream thanks to the Flash Support of the PlayBook.  Now how cool is that?!

Here is a video by the author of the Orb Launcher detailing how to configure your PlayBook and demonstrating streaming.

3. IMT VNC: Remote control your PC from anywhere!

Anything you want to do on your PC, you can now do on your BlackBerry PlayBook.  If you are like me, that can mean quite a bit.  For example, I have my multi-room sound system completely connected to my PC and with IMT VNC, this means I also have it on my PlayBook.  If you connect your PC to your HDTV you now have a remote control that can completely control everything.  No need for watered down apps, when you can access the real deal app on your desktop.  Now, to be fair I do have to caution that the usability on the tablet can take some getting used to (e.g. right mouse button) but having this control will definitely make you to a power user.

With these 3 essential apps, you are well on your way to becoming a PlayBook Power User.  If you have other suggestions I'd love to hear them.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Determining Which PlayBook is Right for You (16GB, 32GB, 64GB)

One question I hear often is, which PlayBook is right for me?  Is the 16Gb PlayBook enough? Perhaps the 32Gb or maybe the 64Gb?

As you probably guessed, it all depends.  With the only real difference amongst the PlayBooks being storage, (there is no difference in weight & functionality), you need to understand what you will store locally.  This is based on 3-dimensions: Content Consumption, Content  Building, and Fidelity

Content Consumption

The first factor to consider is how much content you want to access.  More storage means more movies and music and games etc.  Remember the PlayBook has the best resolution from a pixels per inch perspective and is capable of delivery video in true 1080P hi-def so having those really big files for optimal resolution and quality is going to take up a large amount of storage locally.  If you are using your PlayBook as a high fidelity multimedia powerhouse a 64GB is definitely the way to go.

Content Building

Considering the portability of the PlayBook and the phenomenal 1080P video recording compared to the iPad's 760/30p video and bulkiness, creating videos is quite popular.  This resolution comes at a cost and recording an hour's worth of footage can easily get up to a few gigabytes in no time. However, keep in mind that with no flash, you will be limited to only outdoors and brightly lit environments and today's video recording devices are so small and convenient that I typically only use PlayBook recording for ad-hoc times, which usually doesn't require hours of recording.  Besides video recording, you are unlikely to create gigabytes of content so from this perspective unless you knowingly are planning on doing a lot of video recording you can get by with a 32gb or even 16gb assuming you will transfer your content elsewhere.

Fidelity and The Cloud...

As a parent,  I occasionally succumb to the need for video to help entertain the kids. At home I have 1TB collection of videos and music files on an external 1TB hard-drive to draw from.  Obviously, I can't fit all of that on my PlayBook.  However, leveraging the built-in flash capabilities of the PlayBook along with some free software from Orb and the fantastic Orb Launcher available in App World, I can easily stream content from my house to my PlayBook so I really don't need all that storage.  The compromise however is fidelity.  If you really need that 1080P resolution, you will lose some of that while streaming a compressed file but the quality via Orb however is pretty decent and I have to say, my kids have always been quite happy that I have access to everything at home. My point here is that if you don't need high fidelity for everything and have either wifi access or a really really good data plan, then a 16GB or 32GB might just do the job.

What do I have?  Well currently I have a couple of 16GB PlayBooks but I will definitely be getting a 64gb once the new models come out.  For most folks though I suggest a 32GB, which will allow you to easily carry a bunch of HD videos so you can plug into HDTV's  along with lots of lower resolution where you don't require as much fidelity.  Combine that with some direct streaming of content from your home or cloud, and you're pretty much set..