PlayBook Beta 3 SDK

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Hurray! The next SDK and simulator for the PlayBook are out. Actually, not only have the Beta 3 AIR SDK and simulator been released, but there's now a Blackberry WebWorks SDK for PlayBook available on the Tablet OS Development site.

The AIR SDK release notes tell us what is new and changed. Here are the highlights, from my point of view:

  • "application control permissions" need to be set in your blackberry-tablet.xml file (note: that's not the same as the application.xml file!) to access certain things, such as camera or microphone.
  • audio is working! Sort of. And apparently video should work, but I don't think it really does yet for anyone.
  • numerous bug fixes (and some new bugs!)
  • Secure SHell (SSH) connections to the tablet, so they've ditched telnet and used something sensible (i.e. secure), not to mention making this an officially supported way to access the device: I don't have to be coy about using telnet any more.
  • custom splash screen for any app
  • Payment Service SDK!
  • the QNXStageWebView is documented, thus basically available, though still flaky

As for the simulator, it now supports orientation changes (using the "bottom right" swipe that I mentioned earlier).

Given how long it took, that's actually a fairly small list of significant items. I was expecting at least to see Notification support, among many other things that are still missing.

There are several bugs to note, and in fact many are thinking this version is showing pretty poor quality control, but given how late it is we're mostly just grateful to finally see it at all.

Some bugs with the auto-orientation support:

  1. When you swipe to rotate, the app appears to be minimized afterwards. You can't just click on it. Instead, bottom-swipe (the regular "minimize app" gesture) and then click on the app. It will now expand with the new orientation.
  2. Although stage.orientation is deprecated, stage.deviceOrientation always contains "unknown" so we have no choice about which to use yet. The orientation event has an "afterOrientation" property you can use, but that doesn't help with the next item.
  3. If you rotate while the app is minimized, not only will it not get an event (which could let it re-render so it can update its minimized view) but after you restore it the value in stage.orientation will not have changed. There's no known workaround other than just re-rotating back and forth again while it's active.

The audio works, at least for, but so far not for the stuff. And lots of people are seeing their simulator freeze while playing audio, though at the moment we suspect it's not directly related to audio. QNX is overly mum on the matter, as before, and so we waste significant quantities of developer time investigating things they probably already know about. I just wish they had a manager in charge who was capable of improving their communications with the dev community. Hey, I'm available!

There are also problems with the SSH support. For now, scp and sftp do not work, because QNX went overboard in their efforts to secure the thing and protected /etc/passwd from reading by anyone but the root user. They must have thought it actually contained passwords or something, which it does not. [They fixed this in the 0.9.3 release. -Ed]

The worst thing from my point of view is that they also set incorrect permissions on the app sandbox folders, so that even with the "-devMode" option on blackberry-deploy you cannot see into your app's data, or the shared folder, when you connect via SSH as "devuser". The workaround here is to do "chmod o=rwx /accounts/devuser" and have your app read and write to the /accounts/devuser folder, for any state that you need to access for testing purposes. [This was also fixed in 0.9.3. -Ed]

All in all, I'm glad it's out, but it could have been so much better.

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