Having been a BlackBerry user for 5 years, I had been looking forward to the release of the Playbook. A week ago today, I made my purchase. In short, I am enjoying the Playbook, but there were some frustrating moments with setup. In short, the frustration should not have been with the product, but instead with the instructions and with some items I though tech support should have known but did not.

In this post, I will share what I learned along the way to save others time and stress. Saving people time and stress is pretty much what this whole blog is about anyway!

The Out-of-the-Box Instructions are Simple—Too Simple
 The only instructions consisted of one sheet which told me to:

  1. Get near a Wi-Fi connection
  2. Plug in the Playbook and press the power button.
  3. Follow the on-screen directions.

That was it. The problem I encountered immediately was the Playbook would not log onto my secured wireless home network, even though other computers access that network with no problem. The solution turned out to be one mouse click, but I did not have enough experience with wireless routers to know what that one click needed to be.

McDonald’s is Your Kind of Place
Since I could not get the Playbook to log onto my network, I got in the car and headed to McDonald’s to try their free Wi-Fi. The Playbook logged on instantly. The next couple of screens prompted me to set the date and time. I then came to a screen which asked me select my country and then accept the “terms of agreement.” At that point, the Playbook would not let me accept or decline. And, it would go no further. I was stuck! I pulled out my BlackBerry to search the Internet for a tech support number. I found out they are glad to help, but only after you have registered the product. They did suggest the problem I was having at McDonald’s was due to lack of charge on the battery. Back home we go!

Lesson Learned #1—Register with tech support. Here is the site. Copy the phone number you see on the screen (1-877-644-8410)

Let’s Charge Overnight and Try Again
After allowing the Playbook to charge overnight, we tried and failed to log onto the network. I spent the better part of a day on the phone with Blackberry tech support and we tried everything imaginable with the router—except the one mouse click that would have fixed everything.

One tech support person did accurately diagnose my problem at McDonald’s and sent me this article.

Lesson Learned #2—When logging on at McDonald’s, Panera Bread, Barnes & Noble, etc., etc., look for the “Hotspot Setup” button.

Off to Barnes & Noble We Go
After a nice lunch at an outdoor mall, I took advantage of free Wi-Fi at Barnes & Noble for another attempt at logging on the network. The “hot spot” instructions worked like a charm. Setup was easy, and I came to a screen prompting me to get software updates. The process began, and the screen said the process would be completed in 30 minutes. The problem was the time remaining kept going up instead of down!

Yes, the limited out-of-the-box instructions did say to plug the device into electricity, but I assumed that was because the battery charge out-of-the-box might be low. Surely charging overnight would allow me to get the updates with simply the juice in the battery. Wrong!

Lesson Learned #3—Have the Playbook plugged into electricity throughout the entire setup process.

Back Home to Get the Charger
As soon as I got home, I grabbed the charger and was off the brand new Jacks in town to log onto their Wi-Fi. This time, with the charger plugged in, we sailed through the software updates in 15 minutes. I took the opportunity to explore the Playbook while connected to their free Wi-Fi before going home to attempt once again to connect to my own network.

Here We Go Again
One of the suggestions during my hours on the phone with tech support was that something about the software updates would probably cure the problem with logging onto my home network. Sounds good—but it didn’t work.

Three Cheers for Daniel!!!
I call tech support again and happen to get Daniel, a top-level tech support specialist based in Singapore. We opened a Webex meeting so that he could see my screen. We explored the various router settings. After taking a good look, he suggested one mouse click. That made all the difference.

So What Was That One Mouse Click?
Glad you asked. There was a setting called “Wireless MAC Filter” with options for “Enable” and “Disable.” Mine was set to “Enable.” Realize I had no idea what a “MAC Filter” was all about, and you probably don’t either. If you want to learn a little about the subject, here is an article.

Luckily, Daniel knew what this setting meant, and when we disabled it, the Playbook connected instantly!

Lesson Learned #4—If you cannot connect on your home network, change the Wireless MAC Filter to “Disable.”

The BlackBerry Playbook has been working beautifully ever since. Setting up the “Bridge” was extremely easy. All of my Outlook data housed on the BlackBerry was now also visible on my Playbook.

Yes, I have heard the suggestions to wait and let RIM get the “bugs” worked out. After all, many new products have problems. But since RIM had taken such a long time to get the Playbook to market, my hope was the bugs were worked out before release, or would shortly be worked out through software updates.

So far, so good. The frustration the whole time was not with the Playbook. It was with the instructions. Maybe that’s what needs to be worked out. When folks like you and I share our experience, it deepens the “troubleshooting” knowledge base.

Am I glad I bought the Playbook? “Yes.” Am I glad I bought it now instead of waiting 6 months? Again, “Yes.”

In short, here is what I learned from my experience:
#1—Register with tech support first thing. Copy the phone number you see on the screen (1-877-644-8410).
#2—When logging on at public Wi-Fi, look for the “Hotspot Setup” button.
#3—Have the Playbook plugged into electricity throughout the entire setup process.
#4—If you cannot connect on your home network, change the Wireless MAC Filter to “Disable.”

By the way, 24 hours after getting my Playbook hitting my wireless network, the phone rang. It was Daniel, all the way from Singapore. He was calling to follow-up and make sure my Playbook was still functioning well. Now that’s great tech support!

In the next three posts, I will share my thoughts on the following decisions I have made:
Why Outlook?
Why the BlackBerry?
Why the BlackBerry Playbook?

Anyone else have a Playbook? What are your experiences? Considering getting one? What are your thoughts?