In my last blog post I wrote how I was given the opportunity to play with an early build of the Pacemaker app on the Blackberry playbook at Over the Air 2012…
I won’t comment on Over the Air 2012 which looked frankly amazing and how great it was to catch up with old London friends even for a few minutes. That was all great and I look forward to catching up with people in the week when I’m down in London.
This is about the playbook and the pacemaker application.
The top line is… almost unusable, shocking and sadly uninspiring!
First of all it took ages to get the files on to the device, for some reason the playbook wouldn’t mount on my ubuntu thinkpad laptop, even though the machine which the guy was using was the exact laptop. Yes even he had a Thinkpad X220 but was running Windows 7 and had installed some magical playbook driver. So we had to copy most of my collection over to his laptop over USB sticks and my Android phone. That problem I blame RIM/Blackberry for… No mass storage mode, even MTP would have been a start. So I assume no Linux support is coming?
Once the files were loaded on to the Playbook, the guy started the Pacemaker application and I was a little underwhelmed to see they had gone with the two decks and a crossfader approach. I was expecting something a little more clever specially with the pacemaker under their belts. The guy whos playbook it was, didn’t know how to use the application and certainly didn’t know how to dj. However there were common interfaces elements with the pacemaker which made it understandable for me. But there were bits like the legendary P switch which was missing. So it wasn’t till half way through that I found out how to change the EQ and Gain. That problem was certainly Tonium’s.
I started with my pacemaker and tried to mix from the pacemaker to the app and it was the most painful mixing I’ve heard in a long while. The problem was the app not only kept skipping and pausing on beats but there was no monitor/headphone out. This for me make the whole thing pointless to use! Not only that, unlike on the pacemaker which showed every beat using an highly efficient system to show you the next 4 beats of both tracks, so you can almost dj without monitoring with some knowledge of the track structure. Tonium opted for the Virtual Dj/Tracktor/etc whole track waveform (forgot to add how long it took to render each wave form, although you can play it blind while it renders). Not very useful when your beats are galloping like some runaway horses. I even tried to use the sync feature but frankly that was rubbish too. The mix was all over the place. Once again Tonium’s fault, as I’m sure the playbook is capable of playing two tracks together at the same time. However RIM/Blackbery need to get 2 discreet outputs otherwise its always going to be a joke (stereo splitters deserve to die, and as I said to the guy. No club is ever going to let you plug in if your splitting the audio! Further rendering it as a bit of fun).
The latency of the touchscreen of the Playbook made the whole thing a total joke. The only time I’ve ever had such bad latency when djing is while trying to mix on a piece of glass during the Thinking Digital conference 3 years ago (by the way the blog about thinking digital is coming soon).
If you don’t understand what I mean by latency go have a look at this great Microsoft research demo where they got the latency of a touchscreen down to 1ms. But it wasn’t just that… As switched back and forth between the Pacemaker and the app, I could feel something was missing. Even with the touchpad of the pacemaker, I could do multiplate it in ways which were just ignored by the playbook. Honestly the interaction rant about pictures under glass was never more apt for this moment. Whos to blame for this? Well both and everyone. Although the trackpad of the pacemaker could be seen as the same as the multitouch screen, its certainly not.
I know a few of you are saying, yeah yeah give it a few weeks and you will also like it But honestly no I won’t. Of course if RIM/Blackberry want to give me one to fully try out over weeks or months then great I won’t say no but I think the end result will be the same. Even if Apple or even Google were to release a Dj app for iOS or Android, I would be saying pretty much the same. The problem isn’t RIM/Blackberry or even Tonium’s, its pictures under glass. You can’t get away from it…
The guy who’s playbook it was, said the later versions he had seen was more stable but frankly if it was bulletproof… Theres far too many other problems…
If I was Tonium, I would scrap the copying Virtual DJ, Tracktor, etc and take advantage of the beat chart system they enabled on the pacemaker. You need to be able to mix without hear the track, because I’m sorry to say the splitter option is a instant no for any self respecting DJ.
Tonium claim they used Blackberrys’s QNX platform because it was quicker and more responsive then others out there. If thats true, then make it so! Right now I’m not seeing anything advantages over the other platform. Even having dual outputs would have put Blackberry well ahead of the game and made the platform much more attractive to djs and artists but right now it looks no different to the rest except there are few apps, few developers and fewer buyers. If RIM/Blackberry really want to do something radical, getting Tonium to build the pacemaker software for them isn’t going to fly unless theres serious hardware changes too.
It hurts me to say it because I really wanted Tonium to go on to a winner and heck if the blackberry platform was the place to do that, then great. But instead what they have done is aped DJ software already out there, added a few bits from Pacemaker and done an very disappointing job.
The thing which is never meant to happen while djing happened! Yes the Pacemaker software crashed and left me scrambling for my pacemaker. Not only that, there was clear machine/software distortion through out when you feel the system was under-stress.
I believe nothing can save this pacemaker app unless its a new blackberry playbook (with low latacy and 2 outputs) its going to run on?