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The Samsung Chromebook Inspires The Cloud

Posted on 13. Jul, 2011 by . 3 Comments

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Switching one’s computing ways takes a bit of determination and willpower. Many habits that you didn’t even know you had need to be broken. Like a great Zen Master said, “I can’t teach you if your cup is already full.” You have to WANT to do it. The Samsung Series 5 Chromebook offers more than enough reasons to go cloud. All of the great features of the Cr-48 are there: the ultra-fast boot-time, the portability, the streamlined interface. It’s all there and with the benefits of a dual-core Atom processor.

Here are more of my impressions:

The Keyboard:
I loved the keyboard on my Cr-48 and Samsung has improved upon it noticeably. The tactile feedback is snappier. I wish every keyboard felt like this. I just want to keep typing and typing on it. Now implementing keyboard shortcuts doesn’t require the dexterity of a yoga master. Let’s compare keyboards shall we? We have the Samsung Series 5 and we have the Macbook.

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The Samsung Chromebook Keyboard

 

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The Macbook Keyboard

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First Impressions: Google+

Posted on 05. Jul, 2011 by . 1 Comments

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Tired of Facebook? You are not alone: according to a recent survey, Facebook is the 10th most hated company in America. Facebook’s membership is decreasing as well.

Perhaps Google+ is arriving just in the nick of time.

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Andy Hertzfeld, one of the designers of the first Mac and hired by Google to work on Google+’s Circles explains “Everything on the Web can be improved by knowledge of your social connections, so Google+ is an effort to…add a social layer to Google, to YouTube, to Google Search, to every Google property.”

What is the nature of this improvement exactly? Personally, I don’t want “social” to add bloat to my experience of the web. No Farmville for me, thank you very much. (Though I understand that social gaming will be a feature that will be added later.) Google cuts the bloat and aims for intuitive and full social integration with Google services.

I can access all my Google services within the Google+ interface via the black bar at the top of the page. Imagine if your whole photo library was just a couple of clicks away from sharing with your friends and family? That’s what you get with Google+. The all important Google search also received some social integration as well. Just do your regular searching on the Google+ homepage, and if you find something you’d like to share, click “share” and you have the choice of which of your circles to share your particular article of interest.

People in my circle who aren’t on Google+ but in my gmail contacts list can be notified of my update stream via email if I add them to one of my circles. A very nice touch and personally very helpful in keeping touch with some of my family. This is also a clever way for Google to promote the service to others as well.

Perhaps the coolest feature that Google+ offers is “Hangouts.” This is the feature which isn’t offered by any other “social network.” This allows for video chatting with multiple people in your circles. Just invite people from your circle of friends and in your “stream” there will be a button in which those invited people will be able to join you. I tried it out with Daniel and was delighted how well it worked on my Cr-48. Crystal clear and smooth.

Do you think that Google+ will catch on?

I believe so.

Let’s not forget, it took years for Facebook to become the social behemoth it is. Google+ may take some time to catch on and chip away at Facebooks’s dominance. Google isn’t exactly starting from scratch. There are millions already using Google services and Google+ is an extension of them and the features that Google+ sports has the potential to inspire them to use their Google services more exclusively.

Review: WGT Golf

Posted on 24. Jun, 2011 by . 2 Comments

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WGA EmblemLove golf but afraid of those harsh UV rays? Well I’ve got the game for you. And, you can play it right in your browser! The game is WGT Golf which comes in two versions: WGT Golf Challenge and WGT Golf Game.

Don’t know much about golf? The game is designed that you may learn a little about the sport of golf as you play. For example, don’t know what club to pick for a particular shot? You can drag your mouse over the choice of clubs and it tells you in what cases that particular club is used. The one that you will likely want to use is chosen for you.

The basics of the WGT golf game: You are given the amount of yards a particular club will give you and you are given the distance between you and the hole. There is also a tee where you can control the spin of the ball, once the ball lands. (I learned the hard way that you don’t want to shoot for the exact distance between you and the hole, because, well, the ball keeps on going. I think it’s physics or something.) There are a number of other factors such as wind and terrain you need to consider as well. From this, you guess how much power you want to put behind that swing, then you let her rip.

This may sound simple, but it’s not. Take it from me. I became quite familiar with the bunker, the water and the rough. It takes practice, but it’s fun. You can also replay your shots, which can be the source of much comedy.

Both versions of WGT Golf are free to play, but have some differences.

WGT Golf Challenge: This is the game to see if virtual golf is for you. No account is needed to play. It Includes virtual golf video tutorials and explaining the different skills and strategies needed to develop your game.

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WGT Golf Game: This version requires you to sign up for an account. You can either make a new one or use Facebook Connect. With a free account, WGT Golf Game bestows upon you a whole world of virtual golf. In this game, you play on virtual recreations of famous golf courses like Bethpage, Kiawah Island and St Andrews. HD photography and patented technology was used into making these virtual courses, and they are quite fantastic to behold. You can also buy virtual golf equipment is available from WGT sponsors.

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WGT Golf Game also has a social element so you can play golf in this huge immersive virtual environment with your friends and participate in tournaments with people all around the globe.

Try this game out, and let us know in the comments what you think!

Chromebook Guru Program Announced

Posted on 22. Jun, 2011 by . 4 Comments

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A member in the  Chromebook Central Google Group announced in a thread that they were one of  lucky few “Chromebook Gurus” for Google’s Chromebook Guru program. These lucky people will be able to test, offer feedback on the production grade Chrome OS products that will be coming out. They will be receiving the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook for starters.

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The gurus have been notified via email from Melissa, Community Manager at Google, and the Chromebook team.

What an excellent way to keep the “test-pilot” spirit of Chrome OS and show appreciation to the select few pilots of the Cr-48 test pilot program.

You can read the text of the email that was sent to the Chromebook Gurus in the above link to the thread. Would you like to become a Chromebook Guru?

Netflix Plug-in Appears on the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook

Posted on 21. Jun, 2011 by . 8 Comments

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Hot discussion going on in Chromebook Central, the Google Group for the Cr-48 and now the Chromebook.  (Click image to enlarge)

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It looks like the development channel of on the Samsung Chromebook has “about:flags” for a Netflix plug-in. Apparently, the plugin isn’t available on the development channel for Cr-48s. This might be due to the Cr-48s hardware limitations. The Chromebook uses a dual core Atom processor while the Cr-48s use a single core Atom processor.

According to accounts in the group, the plug-in isn’t working yet, but looks like we are closer than ever for Netflix to work on Chrome OS.

The link to the discussion is here.

A Quick Samsung Chromebook Review Roundup

Posted on 19. Jun, 2011 by . 3 Comments

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Reviews of the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook have been coming in at quite a clip lately. Mashable and The Street seem to “get” the Chromebook and are very excited for its potential. They acknowledge the quality build of the device. The Samsung 5 is a lean, mean Spartan machine. Production costs for the Samsung are $334.32, so you are really getting what you are paying for.

The Street says “it’s the ideal laptop for probably at least 80% of anyone in the market for a 12.1 inch light/thin laptop.” Mashable gushed over the quality build of the Samsung and said it could redefine the modern laptop. As far as price point goes, a comment on the review caught my attention:

“My wife shelled out $1500 for a MacBook a couple years ago, and all she does with it is browse the web. She uses Gmail, Facebook and Google search. That’s literally ALL she does with her $1500 MacBook. “

$500 doesn’t seem that much now that you read that, does it? The reviews suggest that Samsung’s Chromebook is a real upgrade from the Cr-48. The price doesn’t include an “early adoption fee” but a reflection on the quality of the build, which the superficial specifications do not express.

What follows are general complaints from reviewers and my response as a person with hands on experience with the Cr-48.

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Why Chrome Helps Linux

Posted on 15. Jun, 2011 by . 5 Comments

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Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth was recently interviewed and had some very interesting things to say regarding Google’s Chrome project and its affect on Linux. “The work Google is doing with the Chrome operating system, which runs the Chrome browser on top of a generic version of Linux, “is having a hugely positive impact on the performance of Chrome on Linux,” Shuttleworth said. “That’s unusual,” Shuttleworth said. “You don’t often see that in a cross-platform project. We may well be in a position where Chrome on Ubuntu and Chrome on Linux is a better experience than Chrome on any other platform.”

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If what Shuttleworth says is in fact true and Chrome runs best on Linux, considering that more and more people are turning to the web for obtaining digital functionality, and Chrome is getting more and more market share, could this inspire people to switch to Linux? It’s cheap (as in free) and Linux distributions such as Ubuntu are committed to user-friendliness.

Should this talk from Shuttleworth concern Google? After all, one would imagine Google would want to push their Chrome OS.

Google has shown no concern any sign of being threatened by open source, unlike Bill Gates once expressed. On the contrary, Google has shown much support for the open source community. Make no mistake, Google wants to make a pretty penny, but they are not seeking dominance via the “traditional” Windows/Apple model.

What is the Windows/Apple model? Well, it’s pretty basic actually. It’s selling their OS, the money for software model. Apple is a master of this with their app centered ecosystem. Not only do they get revenue from selling closed devices with their respective operating systems, they get 30% from every application sold from the App Store.

Google’s model is different. Google makes money by people using the Internet. Google wants to get as much people on the Internet as possible. The more people use the Internet, the more people will use Google, resulting in more ad revenue for Google. The better experience the Internet is for people, the more they’ll use it. While Google invests a lot in technologies that enhance the user experience of the Internet, it doesn’t matter really whether Google is the company that provides the better user experience or not. Google still benefits.

Whether it is from Chrome OS or Linux, Google may yet take a big chunk out of companies that maintain a hostility to open source. Companies so hostile to open source ultimately shoot themselves in the foot. Less innovation means less utility and result in less people finding value in their technology. If Firefox didn’t come around when it did, Internet Explorer would’ve likely stagnated. If all these browsers weren’t pressuring each other to innovate and take Internet technology farther, I don’t think we would be even considering that a browser could serve as the front end to a thin-client, let alone offering it as a consumer product. Yet behold: Chromebooks are here.

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Innovations in technology continue because the industry remains open and competitive in nature. We all win. Also, consider this: As great as cloud computing is, we need Linux to be the open source, hackable (in the good, legal way), nuts and bolts platform that people can learn computer science from and a platform where people can learn the backbone of the Internet. Someone has to run those huge data centers, someone has to program. That takes very specialized technical knowledge and experience that Linux can foster. Just try taking an old computer, put Linux on it and see how much you learn. So in this sense, what’s good for Linux is good for Google as well.

What do you think? Would you like to see Chrome as the main browser in Linux? How do you think that will affect Google’s other projects?

Customizing Your Chrome Extension Icons

Posted on 10. Jun, 2011 by . 0 Comments

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Extensions: you’ve got to love them. They add wonderful functionality to our beloved Chrome browser. But let’s face it people: sometimes the icons that we click to evoke that functionality, well, they could look a whole lot better. Take the Google Dictionary Extension icon for example.

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No offense to Google, but this icon is a bit ugly. It looks like a toddler’s block, not a dictionary. So what’s a poor Chrome geek to do? Well, I made my way over to www.iconfinder.com, did a search for “dictionary” and lo and behold, I found a snazzy dictionary icon to more fully represent this wonderful resource of knowledge. It looks like this:

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Now that I’ve found my icon, next stop: the extensions folder. Paths differ according to what operating system you are working on. The paths listed for your operating system are found below. (Thanks ChromeStory)

Windows 7 : C:\Users\USER NAME\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default\Extensions.

Mac : ~/Library/Application Support/Google/Chrome/Default/Extensions.

Windows XP :  C:\Documents and Settings\[USERNAME]\Local Settings\Application Data\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default\Extensions

Linux: /home/~USER~/.config/google-chrome/Default/Extensions (thanks to this link.)

NOTE: This is the path for CrunchBang Linux, which is a Debian based Linux distribution. It could be a little different for other Linux distributions.

I just browsed the extension folder to find the icon that was being used currently in Chrome. This one: icon19Dictionary backup1. There may be several icons that look the same, but have different names. The name of the icon that’s being used for your extension is icon_19.png. I renamed the icon I downloaded to icon_19.png and renamed the old icon dictionaryicon_19_backup.png.

I fired up Chrome and this was the result of my efforts:

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Ahhhh….much better.

It’s a good idea to keep a backup of your icons. When your extension is updated, you will loose your customization. Just follow the same steps and your customized icon will be reimplemented.

Pretty fun and easy hack. Hope you like it.

Google Music Beta: Your Tunes in the Cloud

Posted on 07. Jun, 2011 by . 6 Comments

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music beta by google e1305296903620 300x153Ah, music. The wine of life. Yet managing music libraries can be a pain. The way it worked out for me was I had the bulk of it on my computer, and put the rest of it on my smart-phone, due to limited space, of course. Syncing music between devices can be, well, cumbersome. There are the wires and there is the deciding of what music to sync on which device. Music is ephemeral too: what you loaded in your device may not be now may not be what you’ll want to listen to in an hour or two.

Those inconveniences prevented me from really enjoying the music I had.

I got my Google Music Beta invite and was excited to give it a try, and all of the above mentioned problems were solved.

I uploaded my library which over the years has amounted to over 30 GBs, which had gone untouched for the most part for several months. I know there have been complaints about how arduous the process of uploading your music is, but come on people; it isn’t like you have to stand over your computer during the whole upload.

The only music I wasn’t able to upload was the CDs in my collection which I burned to Apple Lossless format, so I converted them to AAC and they uploaded fine.

Previous to this welcomed Google Music invite, I’ve been using MOG, which is a great service. The one thing I didn’t know I missed when I was listening to MOG was access to MY library with all those songs, audio books, etc. which I forgot I had. With MOG, there is the sense of being thrown in to an ocean of listening possibilities. All I had for guidance was a vague memory of the music I liked. I don’t know about you, but my memory is isn’t good enough to hold a database of 30 gigs of music. With Google Music, I saw my music library, with all the familiar album covers, slowly but surely being uploaded and appearing in my cloud-based library, and felt I was being reacquainted with an old friend.

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Google 2-Step Verification: A Good Idea

Posted on 02. Jun, 2011 by . 3 Comments

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Since I rely on my Google Account for so much, I decided to give Google’s two-step verification process a try. I didn’t want one day to come to the unpleasant realization that my Google account had been hacked. Just recently Google disclosed a phishing attack originating from Chinese hackers. As mentioned in the Official Google Blog, 2-step verification is a highly recommended way to protect your account.

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Basically, the way it works is this: two-step verification generates a unique 6 digit code. You then sign in with your regular Google account password then you will be asked to verify. You enter the number you previously generated and bingo! You are in your Google account. It just takes an extra few seconds and a hearty second level of security is added.

Google 2-step verification uses your mobile phone – something you likely have with you all the time – as a tool to give you an extra level of security to your account. Any mobile phone which has the Google Authenticator app can be used. Any phone you have access to really can grant you a second level of security for your Google account, but a phone of the mobile variety is obviously more convenient.

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Chrome OS for a Phone? Rescue Me From the PC First!

Posted on 31. May, 2011 by . 0 Comments

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The Chromebook hasn’t even come out yet, and people are speculating what other devices Chrome OS is going to show up on next. People are thinking phones. People are thinking tablets — even Google.  Yeah, I’ve thought about it too: I for one would love to see some kind of device like the Motorola Atrix or Asus Transformer have Chrome running on it

But let’s get back to the harsh reality: the majority of us still use the traditional PC or laptop — you know those things with a screen and actual keyboard — for the majority of our computing work. I know most of my time is still spent in front of your traditional Windows XP operated PC. And you know what? To paraphrase, Sundar Pichai, they aren’t going away. No matter how tablets you buy, no matter how many quadruple-core cellphones you own, you will have to use a PC.

Yet our experience with Windows has perhaps turned us off from them and sent us racing to focus our love for technology to other devices. Collectively speaking, we need a break.

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Good thing that Google hasn’t forgotten, because it is this that Chromebooks seek to change the fundamental experience of the laptop. Microsoft has dominated that form factor for too long. Google co-founder Sergey Brin was on to something when he said that Microsoft was “really torturing users.”  My theory why netbooks came and went was the fact that it being a convenient form factor aside, people still had to use Windows on them. 

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So.. Chrome OS has no Desktop?

Posted on 25. May, 2011 by . 0 Comments

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Even before the first stable release of Chrome browser was released back in September 2, 2008, Leo Babauta of Zen Habits and mnmlist fame wrote a very interesting article. The title: Firefox OS: My Hardware and Software are Obsolete. In it, he talks of the benefits of using a browser and cloud computing. And this was before HTML5 really started taking off.

In the post, Leo includes many excellent suggestions on how to incorporate the browser into your work-flow, suggestions which can be easily applied to making a Chromebook the only computer you really need. After all, Chrome OS is “just a browser.”

But Chrome OS has no desktop right? You can’t even set your own wallpaper?

It’s one of the simple joys of having a computer: customizing your desktop, picking and choosing your wallpaper. To those concerned about not having this feature in Chrome OS, I have good news for you. There are actually many ways in which you can customize Chrome and Chrome OS. Below are a few. Because with Chrome OS, certain browser features become OS features, though it may not be so obvious.

Themes:
The Chrome Web Store has many themes to choose from and by many, I mean over a couple of thousand. All of these are compatible with Chrome OS.

iGoogle:
You know all those cool widgets you can put on an Android phone that enables fast access to whatever application or data you might want? This is what iGoogle Gadgets essentially are, and you can load them on your personal iGoogle page. There are many “gadgets” to choose from here. Personally I use it to access Google Reader, date and time, tasks, etc. This has been helpful to me: for example, before I got tired of having to open the Windows calculator application on my work computer this would take several seconds to load. Now I always have a calculator handy. Oh, and just for fun, I have a quote of the day and little virtual hamster.

I just set iGoogle as my homepage and access my apps page via Chrome’s “+” button.

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Here are some instructions on how to use iGoogle and set it as your homepage. This is a resource you can use for the iGoogle gadget directory.

Upload Your Own Wallpaper to your homepage:
If you prefer a more minimal set up but still want to add a personal touch, Google gives you the option of setting a wallpaper. You can set wallpaper in your Google start page.

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Click here for how to set a background for your Google homepage. You can upload a picture or even use one from your Picasa album. Oh, and if you dig the cat wallpaper, check it out here.

Of course, all of the above ways to customize your browser aren’t Chrome specific, but it goes to show you that the browser makes for a very customizable, flexible, and light OS, attributes that Chrome OS takes full advantage of.

So there you go. Chrome OS doesn’t mean you need to go without a sweet desktop and wallpaper. Customize to your heart’s content!

What are some ways that you customize your Chrome experience?