The Saga of a Blackberry Praybook … er Playbook

The Saga of a Blackberry Praybook … er Playbook

I remember years ago when people commonly called windows technology “Plug and Pray” instead of “Plug and Play”. Fortunately, the Windows world has evolved beyond this point. But I think Research in Motion has stepped up to reinstate this concept with their new Blackberry Praybook – I mean Playbook.

In my case, I’m still praying…but nothing is happening. Here’s the story.

Becky, co-founder got a 16GB Playbook a couple of weeks ago. Just like being a kid on Christmas morning, she immediately opened the package – excited to check out her new ‘toy’. She plugged it in, pushed the power on button, and started the setup process.

The first step was to connect to our wireless network. Hmmm… let’s try that again. The first step was to connect to our wireless network.

After numerous attempts, Becky couldn’t connect to the network, and asked me to give it a try. I admit. I’m a geek and almost always can resolve technical issues. We both had a lot on our plate for the day, so I told her I’d give it a quick look, and if I couldn’t figure it out within a short time, I’d have to try again later. After several attempts to connect to the network – both automatically and manually – without success, I told Becky I’d try to look at it over the weekend.

Like a kid on Christmas morning who rips open their present, only to find the words ‘batteries not included’ – Becky’s plan to play with her new Playbook, wasn’t going to happen.

• combined wasted time calculator: 50 minutes

But like the kid who couldn’t play with their new toy on Christmas morning, the idea of playing with the toy kept creeping into Becky’s mind throughout the day. Off and on, she would give it a try – with no success.

By some fluke, towards the end of the day, one of these attempts – worked. Sorta.

Step one. Connect to the wireless network. Checkmark. Becky’s persistence made it happen. Step two. Set the date and time. You have the choice to have the Playbook automatically update the date and time. Good option – when it works. When automatic doesn’t work, manual is definitely the next best option. Manual worked.

Next step was the Agreement page. You select your language, and wait for the agreement to appear. We’ll try that again. You select your language, and wait for the agreement to appear. I see a pattern developing. The error read “Unable to display the BlackBerry ID Agreement”. It says to try again. And again.

Once again, by some fluke, it finally worked. Setup was complete and Becky finally got to play with her new toy.

As she started exploring the Playbook, she noticed some issues. For example, when scrolling in the Help menu, it flickered. She checked for a software update, and found one. Her hope was that by running the software update, it would fix the glitches she was noticing. She tried to run the software update. No cigar. No matter what she tried, it wouldn’t connect. Even though the internet connection showed it as connected to the wifi network – it would not connect to run the update. Finally, she put the Playbook aside, saying she had already wasted too much time trying to make it work.

It was not a good first-time experience with a device. Remember, a big part of getting a new toy, is the initial experience. Wasted time? Another 20 minutes. Running total: 40 minutes.

• accumulated wasted time calculator: 1 hour 40 minutes

More than a week has passed, and today I decided to take a look at Becky’s Playbook and hopefully, get it working. I opened the browser to look at a web page. Blank. I checked to make sure I had a network connection, which I did. I check to see if other apps that required an internet connection worked – like YouTube. No go. Non-internet Playbook apps worked, but anything related to the internet would not connect. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that even though the Playbook was showing that I was connected to our wifi network – I did NOT have a viable internet connection. Perhaps a DNS search issue? Maybe an incorrect DHCP IP assignment?

I tried resetting the wireless connection. Once again, it showed connected, but internet apps didn’t worked. I tried setting the connection manually. Same results. I looked at the built in diagnostics, and found I did have a signal. I tried to ping the network – and it worked. But I could not connect to the internet via the Playbook browsers, or internet related apps. It made no sense.

So I started to wonder what I got myself into, and hoped this wouldn’t turn into a full-day project. After a bit of online research, the common suggestion was to do a hard reset on the Playbook (power button/+/- simultaneously). This didn’t work. I saw another post that recommended going to the security settings to reset the Playbook to its factory default settings. Doing so would automatically reboot the unit as a hard reset. This worked.

I was now back to where Becky was when she first got the Playbook. I started to go through the setup process again.
– network connection. check!
– time and date auto set…no go, but manual setup – check!
– Blackberry Agreement page…just like Becky’s initial experience, it wouldn’t connect. The error once again, “Unable to display the Blackberry ID agreement” … the exact issue this person posted on YouTube.

• accumulated wasted time calculator: 2 hours 35 minutes

Cutting my losses.
As a last resort – and more importantly – letting me get on with my Sunday, I told Becky I wasn’t having any luck, and from what I found online, she would need to contact Research in Motion’s tech support for the Playbook. Since I am more of a tech person, she asked if I’d mind doing this for her. And since I can’t hear, she interpreted the call.
After a short wait (about 5 minutes) I had someone on the line. But they couldn’t help me. The Playbook had to be registered first. Which apparently is part of the setup process. Did I mention that I couldn’t complete the setup process? So I hung up, and registered the unit online.

Done. Time to call RIM again. My hope? With RIM’s assistance, it would be a quick fix, and I’d still have the rest of my Sunday.


Here’s what transpired.

Talking to Willie
Willie’s role at RIM is intake. He gets the customer’s name (…and how do you spell Becky? can you repeat that?), Playbook serial number (hmmm…I thought we just provided all this information when we registered the Playbook online…), and other related duplicated efforts.

• accumulated wasted time calculator: 2 hours 45 minutes

Talking to Karen
Willie transfers me to Karen who seems friendly enough – even tells Willie to enjoy the rest of his shift before he disconnects.

I summarized the issue as described above and told her where I was in the setup process…

“Hi Karen. Here’s the issue. (summary from above). So now, after doing a hard reset, I start the setup process and can connect to my wireless network. The Playbook shows I’m connected. But I cannot get past the Agreement page. After selecting my agreement language, the icon just spins and ultimately returns the error: ‘Unable to display the BlackBerry ID Agreement’.”

So we spend the next 20 minutes – repeating all the steps I had already done before calling RIM. Hard reset. Trying to connect manually. Trying to connect automatically. And…just like when I tried on my own – nothing worked. More duplicated efforts.

But I understand. From their perspective, they have to make sure we really did try all the things we said we tried, and that we really do know what we’re doing.

Karen puts me on hold to do some research.

Five minutes later she is back asking if I’m at a computer. You betcha. I have my MacBook Pro in front of me, waiting to check my email and see what’s going on in the world. But that will have to wait – I’m on a tech support call for a brand-new-never-been-used-device-that-should-work-correctly-when-you-get-it-out-of-the-box.

Unfortunately – she explains – a Mac won’t work. It has to be Windows. I tell Karen I have Windows installed on a different computer – my Mac Pro via VMWare Fusion. She asks which version of Windows it was running. I tell her Windows 7. She says great.

I go and boot my Mac Pro. Then I boot VMWare to launch Windows 7. I’m ready to get this baby fixed.

Karen tells me to go to the RIM website and download the Blackberry Desktop Software. When I get to the the page, I see there is a Mac version. I ask if I should just install this on my Mac instead. She explains that the Mac version does not yet offer the ability to download software updates, so it needs to be done with the Windows version.

I download the Windows version, and go through the installation process. I plug in the Playbook via USB. VMWare asks if I want it to connect to the Mac side or Windows side, and I select Windows.

And the Blackberry Desktop Software does…absolutely nothing.

It doesn’t connect to the Playbook. We spend the next 30 minutes trying to make it connect. Go to the USB devices, select Properties, power management, make sure this is deselected….blah, blah, blah. Did I mention that all the settings were correct from the start and no changes had to be made? But still no connection…

When you spend a lot of time on the phone with someone, you start to imagine who they are, and what their work environment is like. Maybe it happens during the time they have you on hold – it provides your imagination with time to wander and be creative. So I picture Karen with a 3-ring binder in front of her filled with pages. She’s reading a page aloud to me that says, “Next, ask the customer to do this. When that is complete, ask them to do this”.

More likely than not, this isn’t far from the truth. Instead of talking to someone who really is experienced with the Playbook, knows its nuances, has a deep understanding of the product, and can actually troubleshoot issues – I’m talking to someone reading from a book.

Once again, my mind goes to how I’m wasting my Sunday. My life is busy. If I have ‘time-off’ I’d rather be riding my bike, at a movie – or in some way enjoying life. The last thing I want to do is spend my minimal amount of free time talking to someone reading from a book.

Knowing there can be issues with hardware connections and virtual Windows installations, I calmly remind Karen, “do you remember when we started this process, I explained that this is not a Windows computer. It is a Mac running VMWare.” Silence. Karen replies, “Can I put you on hold for a few moments…”

Five minutes later, Karen is back again. Guess what? This process doesn’t work with a virtual Windows machine!

With the wasted time calculator quickly approaching the 3 hour mark,  I’m totally frustrated. This was not how I had planned to spend my Sunday. I tell Karen that I don’t own a Windows machine, and since it requires a Windows machine to fix, I would simply like to return this unit and have her send me a new one.

She asks where I got the Playbook from. I told her directly from RIM. She replies that they cannot accept returns, but instead must troubleshoot the issue and resolve it.

NOTE to those reading: If for some reason after reading this saga, you still decide you want to purchase a Playbook…purchase it from a local dealer. You can return it to them. In fact, as I’m writing this, apparently 1000 Playbooks were recalled –  many of which had been purchased from Staples. People got to return them. The issue? RIM determined that approximately one thousand BlackBerry PlayBook tablets (16 GB) were shipped with an OS build that may result in the devices being unable to properly load software upon initial set-up. Even though Becky’s serial number is not on the current list of recalls, this was exactly the issue. My guess is that in reality, more than 1000 units that got out of the gate in the 16GB model have this problem.

Karen is off on another 5 minute research stint. So as to multi-task, I’m continuing to try to resolve the issue on my own as well.

When she comes back, I think she had a new manual in hand. We start the process again. She says:

ok so the problem is that when you are going through the initial setup, you can’t get a network connection“. I wanted to ‘throw the book at her‘ – both metaphorically and literally. It’s good we weren’t in the same room.

I took a deep breath and replied with a raised voice, “Karen, the very first thing I told you when we started this call is that when I go through the setup I am able to select my wifi network, and it displays as connected. I cannot get past the Agreement page.”

Karen replies – with an equally matched raised voice, “I have to go through this process step-by-step, so you need to answer these questions.”

We spend the next 20 minutes going through the process step-by-step. And I mean STEP-BY-STEP. Karen with her manual (no actual device in front of her), and me with the Praybook.

Karen says, “On the page where we manually connected to the network, do you see the little sound wave icon below the “Manually Connect to Network” button?”

“No. There is no icon like that on my device”, I reply. “Is it in the manual connect setup window?”

“Yes, there should be an icon like a radio wave”, replies Karen.

I go quickly go through the manual setup again – searching for the icon. There is no icon like she described. I ask again where it is located. She replies that it is just below the “Manually Connect to Network” button – which by the way, is not in the manual setup screens. I’m looking everywhere, and no ‘radio wave’ icon.

Finally I ask, “Tell me what you are looking for once we find this icon?”

Karen replied, “The diagnostic screens”.

Well, heck. I knew where the diagnostic screens were. As I mentioned earlier – I had looked at these before even calling. This is where I had checked to see if I actually had an IP assigned, had a signal, and could ping the network.

I said, “You get to the diagnostics by clicking the gear icon at the bottom of the screen next to the Hotspot setup button”. Sarcastically, I added, “you might want to add a note to your manual that the Diagnostics menus are located by selecting the GEAR button. There is no radio wave icon.

I assumed at this point we were going to jump to a specific menu, and figure out if this, that or the other – was set correctly.


“From the drop down menu, select Device Information. Tell me what it says there”, says Karen.

I start rambling off…Device OS – BlackBerry Tablet OS, my device PIN, Hardware ID…

And – Karen interrupts.

“You have to speak slowly. I have to write all of this in my report.”, she snaps.

So slowly, I start giving her the information. Cool. Almost done.

“Now, from the drop down menu, select WiFi Information”.

I wait to see what she wants to know from this screen. Silence.

“Well, what do you see?”, Karen asks.

Once again, I start rambling off the info – and once again she interrupts and says I have to read it slowly so she can add it to her report. Channel, Mac Address, Security Type, Signal Level…

Next, she says to go to the third drop down menu. Realizing we had three more menus to go, I couldn’t take it any more and first asked what level support she was (level 2) – and then asked to speak to her supervisor.


Can you believe she didn’t even say anything to me when she put me on hold? Ok, maybe she was equally as frustrated as I was by this point, but a) I’m the customer b) she’s getting paid to do her job and c) I’m wasting valuable time.

• accumulated wasted time calculator: 4 hours 49 minutes. Yes, you read this correctly. An additional 2 hours and 4 minutes was added to the clock talking with Karen in tech support.

Talking to Karen
Karen’s supervisor, Steve gets on the line, and asks how he can help. I explain that I have a Playbook that cannot be used. It won’t go past the Agreement page, and I would like to return it and exchange it for a new one.

Steve says, “unfortunately, we cannot do that. I have to resolve the problem on the phone.”

So I asked if he would be able to compensate me at my hourly rate for the last 5 hours I’ve spent trying to ‘resolve the issue’.

He said, “no…unfortunately we cannot do that.”

It was early on in this conversation that I realized this was going to be a phrase I would hear again and again from Steve – “unfortunately…we cannot do that.” I started imagining what it was like to work there. People looking though step-by-step manuals. Karen asking Steve, can I take a quick break to go to the bathroom? Steve replying, “no, unfortunately you cannot do that.” The clock ticks. The day goes on. You look through more step-by-step manuals…and unfortunately, you cannot resolve any issues.

Back with Steve, he starts going through the same process that I had just gone through with Karen. Oh no. He has a manual too! I ask him to please take the time to read the last 2-hours worth of notes Karen had been taking, as it should provide extensive detail.

Nonetheless, we spend the next 20 minutes trying the same stuff over again.

“Becky, can you connect to your network?” “I understand your frustration Becky, and I apologize that this has taken so long.” You have to remember – because Becky had registered the product, they assumed it was Becky they were talking to. And Steve had taken one of the classes that emphasized the importance of using a person’s name in the conversation. Repeatedly. He got an A+ in that class. ‘Becky’ was in every sentence – at least once!

Even though I never took that course, I thought it was appropriate to answer back in the same manner. “Yes Steve. I can connect to the network but I can’t get past the Agreement page. It returns an error”.

Ultimately – nothing worked. Finally, Steve offered to send out a box to return it for repair.

WWAD. What Would Apple Do. If their customer service was your top priority, you would offer to send a new replacement unit to anyone who had just purchased a Playbook, and couldn’t get it to work. The same experience  you’d receive if you had bought the product from a store like Staples. But I was getting tired of banging my head against the wall. I told Steve this was fine. Send the box.

Steve said, “unfortunately, this means you will be without a Playbook for a while.”

I replied, “Steve, this isn’t a problem. After all Steve, I never was able to use this Playbook anyway.”

When Steve said it would take about 14 days, I suggested that in situations where a customer has spent over 5-hours on the phone, it might be a good policy to offer to expedite the case. His reply?

“Unfortunately, I cannot do that. But the time does depend on how quickly you return the product.”

I said, “believe me Steve, I will have it out of here the minute I receive the box.”

• accumulated wasted time calculator: 5 hours 14 minutes

He puts me on hold. I’m completely frustrated, bordering on tears. I think about all of the things I had planned to do today – both work wise, and a bit of down time.

Knowing I’m at my wits’ end, Becky takes over with the RMA process. Because she’s been interpreting the call, she knew exactly where we were in the process. She completes the RMA process… about 20 minutes later.

• accumulated wasted time calculator: 5 hours 34 minutes

According to Google search query, “Unable to display the BlackBerry ID Agreement” (quoted so as to get exact match results), returns 1,330,000 results. Had I mentioned this is a common problem?

At this point, I was too frustrated to start on a work project. I had to vent my frustrations and voice my concerns. So I wrote this blog post.

• accumulated wasted time calculator: 6 hours 21 minutes

Well, I take that back. If someone learns from my experience, then it wasn’t time wasted. Reverse the clock back to 5 hours 34 minutes.
Now, if you own a Windows computer, apparently you can directly hook the Playbook up to your Windows machine, run the software update through the Blackberry Desktop Software – and you’re good to go.

But if you’re a Mac user…get ready for a very long ride. Or better yet, if Time is of the Essence – get an iPad.

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