Dear RIM Blackberry Playbook People: Please Put that Shit on a Button

Dear RIM Blackberry Playbook People,

Thank you for sending me a Playbook. i like it very much. i didn’t very much like the steps involved to put my work on the device, though. It was the most needlessly complicated thing i’ve had to do in all my life. i’d like to see the Playbook succeed, but you need to put more effort into helping your developers succeed first.

Here are a few of the issues i ran into while porting my game Heads to your platform:

  1. i had to download Many Things, and sign up for Many Accounts. Each Thing and each Account came with 15 pages of legalese with an “I Agree” button at the bottom. I Agree … that this stinks.
  2. One of the Many Things i had to download was Adobe AIR 2.5. i followed the link on your site to Adobe AIR 2.6, which i downloaded instead. When i tried to follow your workflow, i was told that only AIR 2.5 would work, so i had to cast about the Internatz to find the 2.5 download, which wasn’t made immediately and obviously available on the Adobe site. If i’m creating something for your platform, everything i do should ideally be immediate and obvious.

    Click here

  3. i downloaded VMWare and your VMWare Playbook profile so that i could run a virtual Playbook. But the emulator stalled at the startup screen for a very long time. i checked message boards, and found two possible solutions:
    1. Leave it overnight.
    2. Alternatingly restart your computer or VMWare multiple times (some reports said “six or seven”) until it works.

    i opted to restart VMWare and my computer multiple times until it worked. This was very frustrating. i’m not the only one who experienced this problem, as evidenced by this web comic by my Twitter pal @IQAndreas:

    Developing for the Playbook: Chapter 3

    Developing for the Playbook: Chapter 3

    Developing for the Playbook: Chapter 3

    Developing for the Playbook: Chapter 3

    Developing for the Playbook: Chapter 3

    Developing for the Playbook: Chapter 3

    Developing for the Playbook: Chapter 3

    Developing for the Playbook: Chapter 3

    Developing for the Playbook: Chapter 3

    Developing for the Playbook: Chapter 3

    Developing for the Playbook: Chapter 3

    Developing for the Playbook: Chapter 3

    Developing for the Playbook: Chapter 3

  4. In order to deploy my game to the virtual Playbook, i had to know its IP. To get that, i had to swipe the “development” option into the “on” position and punch in my password. i had to use the software keyboard to punch in my password, because my computer keyboard didn’t work. And worse than that, it took about 4-5 tries swiping the slider and punching in my password before the Developer hammer icon would appear on the home screen … for whatever reason, that slider kept undoing itself.

    Playbook Development Slider

    Somebody call Jerry O’Connell, cuz this slider be busted.

  5. When it came time to bundle my files together in a .bar file, i was dismayed to find that since i don’t use Flash Builder (but, rather, FlashDevelop), i would need to use the command line to continue. i hate the command line. HAATE it. i know that eggheads love it, and that you employ Many Eggheads at RIM, but you have to understand that even though the command line is useful and powerful and 1337 and everything, i absolutely can’t be arsed with it. Like, not at all. So knock it off.

    Here is what i had to type into the command line in order to bundle my project into a .bar file:

    C:\dev\BlackBerryTabletSDK\blackberry-tablet-sdk-0.9.3\bin\blackberry-airpackager -package MyGame.bar -installApp -launchApp MyGame-app.xml blackberry-tablet.xml MyGame.swf blackberry-tablet-icon.png -device 192.168.58.128 -password 123456

    This is not a fun thing to have to type. Know what i want to do? Click a button. Can you make it so that i just click a button? Buttons good, typing bad. It may not be 1337, but it also doesn’t eat up my entire afternoon.

  6. i am currently rocking three Blackberry accounts: one to develop my game, one to sell my game, and one to talk about my game on your forums. This is Too Many Accounts. Know how many there should be? One. Know why? Because it’s easier. Know what’s not easy? You.
  7. When i signed my application, i had to download a file that you sent to me two days after i emailed you and asked you for it. That’s Too Many Days. That’s because you also took two or three days to approve my vendor account. Why not do this in one step instead of two? Clearly, a vendor is always going to need the application signing file. See how you don’t make things easy, when you potentially could?
  8. Then i had to use the command line (which, as we’ve already established, is bad) to create a file that i could send to you so that my computer could sign files. At least i think that’s what i was doing. Here’s what the command looked like:

    blackberry-signer -csksetup -cskpass DesiredCSKPassword

    Then i had to use the command line (bad. BAD!) to send you my .csj file to receive permission to sign my other file. i think. i’m not quite sure what was going on, because it was tough to interpret the command, which looked like this:

    blackberry-signer -register -csjpin PinEnteredWhileRequestingCSJ -cskpass PasswordEnteredWhileGeneratingCSK client-RDK-XXXXXXXXXX.csj

    Next, i had to create a .p12 certificate using this command:

    blackberry-keytool -genkeypair -keystore DesiredCertificateName.p12 -storepass NewPassword -dname “cn=MyCompanyName” -alias author

    Then i had to get you to sign the file using this command:

    blackberry-signer -verbose -cskpass CSKPassword -keystore CertificateName.p12 -storepass StorePassword BarFileNameForRIMToSign.bar RDK

    Then i had to sign the file myself using this command:

    blackberry-signer -keystore CertificateName.p12 -storepass StorePassword RimSignedBarFile.bar author

  9. When i finally went to upload my file, in the web form you asked me for an additional icon in some bizarre size (243×717 or something like that). i went away and produced that icon, and by the time i returned, the web form had timed out. Know what would be easier? A checklist!

    YOU WILL NEED:

    • A swf
    • An xml file called whatever.xml – download it HERE!
    • A thumbnail icon – download a template HERE!
    • A second icon – download a template HERE!
    • A brief description of your application – max X words
    • A long-form description of your application – max Y words

    And HERE’S an image of how all this stuff looks when it’s in the Blackberry App World! We’ve LABELLED everything for you, so you know where the descriptions and icons appear and how they’ll look to the user.

    Really, though – how long does that kind of thing take to set up? An afternoon? Why does this not exist yet?

  10. To add insult to injury, my game was initially rejected because it did not contain the icon.png. i figured i must have forgotten to include the .png filename when i created the .bar file, so i went through all of those horrible steps again. For a second time, my game was rejected. Same reason.

    Know what the problem was? i hadn’t added this to the xml file:

    
        whatever.png
      
    

    N’awesome.

i didn’t enjoy doing this, and i don’t want to have to do it ever again. Know what i want? i want a big blank area where i can drag and drop my file, with a huge shiny juicy button that says “GO BITCH GO” which, when i click it, does all the bullshit i just described above. Please get your eggheads on that.

In addition to all of the brilliant software and hardware engineers you employ, you simply need to hire more people to evaluate this process. An egghead will tell you that using the command line is cool and awesome and that everyone loves doing it. A person will tell you the actual truth: using the command line blows, and you need to put that shit on a button.

Please let me know if and when you plan to put that shit on a button, and i’ll gladly continue developing for your device, because it’s pretty cool.

Sincerely,

Ryan Henson Creighton

President, Untold Entertainment Inc.

25 thoughts on “Dear RIM Blackberry Playbook People: Please Put that Shit on a Button

  1. csaunders

    This type of build cycle is a part of the RIM legacy. There are similar things you need to do in order to get applications installed on BlackBerries, etc.

    From what it sounds, at least you didn’t need to reboot the device entirely when you wanted to install a new patch on your playbook when you made a single (line, function, etc) modification to your code.

    On the bright side, you got at least you got a playbook…

    Reply
  2. Matthew Fabb

    I agree a lot of what you just said, there being too many accounts, there being too many steps, the VMWare install talking too long to boot up, AIR 2.5 SDK missing (this hopefully isn’t a problem in the future & that they will keep in line with future AIR releases).

    However, I don’t think you will be getting that big button utlity. Adobe & RIM are working to put various buttons into Flash Builder 4.5 and Flash CS5.5. For FlashDevelop, you will need to get their dev team to PlayBook integration into their tool. The SDK is open, so they could add it, as I think the FDT guys have been adding these kinds of things to their tool.

    I would like there to be fewer buttons in both Flash Builder 4.5 and Flash CS5.5, but that requires RIM to shorten the number of steps (which they really should do). I understand that RIM doesn’t want anyone putting malware on their ecosystem, but I don’t think all these extra steps are doing anything beyond causing developer frustration.

    It’s understandable when a developer has to jump through more hoops than say developing for Android, because Android is completely open with no restrictions of what kind of program you can install. However, when RIM makes a process that is more complicated than the number of hoops you have to jump through to get an app working on Apple’s tightly controlled iOS, then there’s a big problem. RIM needs to not just look at their competition, but step back and ask why any particular step is nessessary or if they can streamline it more.

    Thankfully at least RIM seems to be more reponsive to complaints than say Apple. Example, they have fixed your #4 complaint, in that the simulator now starts out with debug mode turned on. There’s a developer dude icon that has replaced the hammer and you just click/tap it and see your IP address. This is something people complained about enough, that RIM fixed it. People also complained about having to get notarized in order to get a vendor’s account, so they changed the requirements so you just need a There’s still a lot more that needs to be done, but at RIM does seem to be listening.

    Reply
    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      This is good news. From my perspective as a developer, there are many people competing for my attention, asking me to develop for their platform. Simply put, he who gets closest to putting that shit on a single button, wins.

      Reply
    2. Scott Castle

      Scott Castle from the Adobe Flash Runtimes team here: Thanks, Ryan, for a funny but totally on-point walkthrough of the developer experience for Playbook. Adobe and RIM are working on this exact problem as we speak – both eliminating the AIR 2.6/AIR 2.5 SDK issue (fixed in the next upcoming build of the Playbook dev tools) and turning the command-line-heavy workflow into a straightforward, integrated-with-Flash-Builder experience (sorry, I can’t help with FlashDevelop). Our goal is to make the developer experience as easy as Android and iOS.
      I don’t have a solution to all of these problems today, but if you suffer through setting up the Playbook dev environment, there’s a real payoff: AIR apps and Player content run beautifully, IMHO the best Flash experience on mobile available today.

      Reply
      1. Ryan Henson Creighton

        Thanks, Scott. And i agree that the end result is very nice, although i don’t really build things that push crazy degrees of on-screen movement.

        To make it up to me in the meantime, any clues about when AIR 2.7 is due? i have a project that desperately requires it, to the point where i need to actually adjust my schedule to revolve around it. Got some good news for me?

        Reply
        1. Matthew Fabb

          Flash Builder 4.5.1 is being updated in June to support PlayBook & iOS out of the box with Flex projects. Right now Flex runs okay on AIR 2.6 but is still not as snappy as it could be. Adobe has been demoing incredible speed with Flex & AIR 2.7. Also note that AIR is generally released shortly after the Flash Player version it’s tied to (in this case Flash Player 10.3) is released and 10.3 just came out last week.

          All these things point to a June release for AIR 2.7.

          Reply
    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      It’s a start, but it wasn’t really meant to be a tutorial! There’s far better stuff out there.

      Reply
  3. Aaron (EgoAnt)

    I agree, there were way too many steps. I ended up creating .bat files for all the command line stuff so I could run them quickly to deploy / test. Studio|Chris went so far as to make an AIR app to do the packaging for him: http://www.studiochris.us/software/fruit-bat/

    I also had a bunch of problems with the certificate signing on my app. In fact the entire process was just clunky enough that if they hadn’t extended the deadline I would have given up. I did find the @BlackBerryDev twitter account to be pretty responsive and helpful, though.

    Reply
    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      Julian Dolce (@juliandolce) was kind enough to respond to me today on Twitter, so that’s good. i appreciate working with an attentive company that wants to improve.

      Reply
    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      Thanks for mentioning that! i don’t know why RIM can give me a graph of sales/downloads, but not a total # in the bottom corner. To get the total, i have to request a report and have a notification sent to me by email when it’s ready. Whattup widdat?

      Reply
  4. Chris

    I made your button back in October… well one of them, at least if you’re on a Windows machine or VM. This will package, install, launch and uninstall your PlayBook apps with one button. All you have to do is give it your app’s descriptor and make sure all your files are in the same folder as the descriptor. It’ll do the rest, at least for the simulator.

    For an actual PlayBook, there are more RIM hoops to jump through for a debug token, but you should only have to do them once. Then the button works for both.

    There’s even a FlashDevelop template that has icon and splashscreen templates too, so even if you forget your own the first time, they’re there to back you up until you change them.

    http://www.studiochris.us/software/fruit-bat/

    The rest of the command line stuff is planned to be as “one button” as possible. Give me a little time. RIM will have to worry about the accounts and policy.

    Reply
    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      Ah! There you are! i think i answered all of the other people who posted about FruitBat before i noticed your comment. Someone on Twitter (@ptaranto) linked me to it earlier today. And by all accounts, i does look to be exactly the button i’m looking for. Why it had to be you to develop it, and not RIM, is beyond me.

      Reply
    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      Thanks, Philippe. Someone on Twitter sent me the FruitBat link. Am i crazy, or is it exactly what i’m after?

      Reply
  5. Justice

    I nominate you king of the Internet for a day. This is the funniest thing I have ever read! You sir, are awesome. Keep up the great work. I would have committed sepiku long before the end of this debacle.

    Reply
  6. Chris Harshman

    I think alot of this has to do with the fact they went from a foam cutout and buying a new OS company to release in a year, which is increiblely fast for something like this.

    On a side note.

    The Command Line is your friend, you must trust the command line, you must follow the command line help :)

    Reply
    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      The command line is needlessly complex and error-prone, and persists solely due to arrogance and elitism. Button.

      Reply
  7. Damian

    Great article, Ryan. I totally agree. My experience was really similar in going through all the steps. All along, I kept thinking there had to be an easier way. Have you read the blog post by the Waterloo developer who gave up half way through the process? http://blog.jamiemurai.com/2011/02/you-win-rim/
    As a Waterlooian, I also really want the Playbook to succeed. I’ve had mind for two weeks now & totally love it. I’m excited by the potential of tablets. I went to the Blackberry Toronto developer day at the end of March & RIM seemed very keen to get developers on board. Hopefully, things will improve. The programs people have mentioned that greatly simplify the process sound awesome. It’s the first I’ve heard of them.

    Reply

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