Chrome OS for web mapping delivery

01 Dec 12 Two years with the Cr-48! Meta-Chromebook in the house…

Although I didn’t find the little Cr-48 on my doorstep until about 9 December 2010, some aspect of the machine have just turned two years old.  I last used the bundled 100 MB/month Verizon data on 28 November 2012, and when it didn’t work on Friday 30 Nov., I had a word with the Verizon folks and learned that my two year Cr-48 data plan expired on 29 November.

It’s not like I rely on the Verizon plan very often, but I’m using 3G right now—at a mildly remote youth camp in Marin County that doesn’t have WiFi in the building.  I realize how accustomed I’ve become to having that little backup of 100 MB/month, and although my phone is humming with Android 4.1.2 Jellybean, the T-Mobile data just doesn’t cover this area so hotspot wouldn’t help.  But here’s how much I value the old plan: it was always there with no marginal cost.  Now that my two years of Cr-48 pilot use is up, my only data options from Verizon are $20 for 1 GB over 30 days, and I think it’s $30 for 5 GB over 30 days and something even more.  So it’s not like I use 3G often enough to even get much value out of the $20/month plan.  Everywhere I use the Cr-48 the most, I either have WiFi access, or I have a wired connection that I can plug my router into.  It’s these remote camp-out weekends where I might want to use either Verizon, or T-Mobile through Android mobile hotspot.  I actually found one camp where Verizon data didn’t work, but T-Mobile did—and I was very happy to have the hotspot capability!

Anyhow, I really have gotten to like this Chromebook.  When I’m teaching, it’s getting heavy use every week.  In the past semester when I’ve had a teaching hiatus, I use the Chromebook to read manga almost every night—probably seen over 10,000 pages in the last four months.  Basically, I’m using it like it was a Kindle  ;^)

But I was so pleased to see that the Chromebook $250 price point has been pierced with the Samsung Series 3.  I was bowled over to see Acer take one of their Windows chassis (Pentium, 320 GB local disk, and Windows-style keyboard) and blow it out as a $200 Chromebook.   Perhaps best of all has been to see the Samsung show up with Verizon 3G for 2 years at $329—suggesting that the Verizon plan has a marginal cost of $35/year for two years.  I truly wish that Verizon would offer something like an “extended warranty” where subsequent years of 100 MB/month for third and fourth years with Chromebooks.

Here’s my key observation about Chromebooks after two years on the keyboard: by turning over much work to the Cloud, and not relying much on the performance of the local hardware, the machine gets obsoleted more slowly.  Where a power workstation is a fine candidate for replacement after about three years, and smart mobile phones are downright stale after just 18 months, somehow the Chromebook paradigm has got the little device in an “ageing gracefully” sort of state.  Sure, I’m ready for something new (see below), but my Cr-48 is just about ready to start its new life as a kitchen internet appliance.

What should one call it if a (Cr-48) Chromebook is used to order a new (Acer) Chromebook through the Google Play Store?  Is that how Chromebooks reproduce?  Will the new Acer, already arrived, be considered a meta-Chromebook?  So many angles to ponder.  ;^)

The long-discussed convergence of Android and Chrome OS really seems like it would take a step forward in an interesting way when we start getting hardware that makes the transition from netbook-grade (like the Cr-48 and its descendants to date) to ultrabook-grade (as with a touch screen).  Since as of this holiday season we are starting to see some nice Asus touchscreen 11.6-inch Windows notebooks at $500, just maybe the WiFi-only touchscreen Chromebooks can drop in at around $350.  One can always hope!

Anyway, to maintain my ongoing logging, here’s where the Cr-48 has gotten to at this point:

Release:  3196.1.0 (Official Build) dev-channel x86-mario
Processor: Intel(R) Atom(TM) CPU N455 @ 1.66GHz
Hardware Class: IEC MARIO PONY 6101
WebKit: 537.19 (@134183)
Build Date: Wednesday, November 14, 2012

So this is the dev channel, and now I wonder if Cr-48 updates will go on hold, in favor of a dev channel on the newer generations of hardware.  I wonder, will there be something like a Nexus Chromebook to follow on the Cr-48?  Will this be the touchscreen version?

One last thought this evening:
What will the next two years bring?  At this point, we’re transitioning from pretty much having a single Chromebook device available, to having the first couple of ones from Samsung, and now there’s two new ones from two manufacturers.  Think back to what this stage was like for Android and there’s a point that matches.  I’ve watched too closely to believe the hyperbole that Android has been on track to stomp iOS since 2008. It wasn’t like that from my perspective—it was a really slow start with just the G1 phone.  I got mine in 2009 and it was a piddling user share that we had.  Then there were a couple of models, maybe the Motorola Droid to really boost popularity, and that was when, 2010?  I guess my point is that these new $250 Chromebooks are analogous to the arrival of the Moto Droid in Android world.

‘Nuff for now.

27 Oct 12 Chromebook usage intensifies — blogging suffers


It’s surprising to note how quiet my writing has been since August.  The Cr-48 did a fine job on the road, receiving an update and returning to functional use of Verizon 3G along the way somewhere in southwestern Colorado. A few days later, the Cr-48 took in a beautiful sunrise from the Cal-Neva Inn on Lake Tahoe, and then came home.  There, things got intense.

But it wasn’t for work or practical use!  It was the diversion of reading free Manga from a variety of web sites.  Where chapters might have page counts between 12 and 30, from the time the Cr-48 got home until now it’s served up 640 chapters of one, 340 chapters of another, and 250 chapters of another (which averaged 32 pages per chapter).  In short, the Cr-48 has had more hours of use as a content delivery system than ever before in the past three months!  Yes, the hinge is a little wobbly on the right-hand side, but the machine gets taken everywhere but in the shower, so it gets set on its side at times.  It’s also gotten regular treatment with sanitizing wipes.  ;^)

Fact is, although the usage is sort of monotonous (it’s mostly been serving up content through free websites) the physical treatment has been intensive.

Cool apps have appeared like Camera, and the upgrades to system have been very regular.  I continue to use dev-Channel for Chrome OS.  As of today’s update, I’m up to

Google Chrome 24.0.1305.3 (Official Build 163672) dev
Platform 3083.1.0 (Official Build) dev-channel x86-mario
WebKit 537.16 (@132013)
JavaScript V8 3.14.5

Holy cow, that is soooo much easier to share than it has been for the past 22 months!  I’ve been quietly appreciating and not blogging about the UI updates that have become a steady stream as Chromebooks become more properly commercialized.
Where in the past it’s been a copy-and-paste exercise for each feature, my favorite status items to share have been stood up on a new
chrome://version/ page and the information there can be copied readily.

Other new stuff that I really like:  On the login screen, a pressure-touch on the touchpad will focus on user for password input, rather than the full button click.  The concentration of system status icons in the lower-right is evolving, and I look there with the same frequency I do in Ubuntu’s Unity interface (in the upper right) on my main workstation at home.

The collection of favorites along the lower left reminds me of system tray items that I look at in Windows 7, and they are really useful to the extent that they’re my most-favorite destinations.   The nine-square icon down there to launch an apps pop-up reminds me of the apps button in Android—and it even has scrolling windows that mimic a graphically flattened version of what I see in Jellybean.

It’s not purely Chrome OS, but the performance of Google Drive has ramped up noticeably in the past three months as well.  I am using G Spreadsheets to handle much of the logging tasks in my regular work that involves spatial data engineering.  In that, multiple tasks are set up and run, and progress or failure noted for each workflow thread.  At capacity, I make use of 15 threads on a (Windows 2008 Server) server through RDP and 12 threads on a (Windows 7 Pro) workstation with a dual-head display.  The problems that need to be solved are vague and mostly related to capacity issues of the ESRI Desktop software that I’m using, so I never really know what will work when I start out, and then I break things up in a quadtree to make them small enough to fit through all the limitations.

Tracking input data, output data size as items make it through a work flow, and logging completion is quick and easy.  I’ve been a major fan of Excel keyboard shortcuts since the mid 1990s, when I had to learn them to work spreadsheets on laptops during airline flights; to this day they continue to be so fast that its actually painful for me to watch people mousing their way through a spreadsheet.  Of course, having all my favorite Excel-style keyboard shortcuts working and functional within G Spreadsheets just melted my heart—Spreadsheets are my favorite Google Drive item at this time.  (Presentations will return to the fore when I’m back teaching next semester)

Did I mention that on my 12-thread Windows 7 workstation, I can launch Chrome Canary browser, then open Drive, and then open my G Spreadsheet and make a new entry within it faster than it takes Excel 2010 to launch on my workstation?  Well, I can. YMMV.

Details aside, I’m using G Spreadsheets for more than 80% of all my spreadsheet uses now, and that’s because I started using them with Chrome OS.  I’m using G Documents to contain text that needs to get pasted into web apps, so that I avoid the heartbreak of lost writing and also to keep a record.  I expect to return to use of G Presentations to set up class slides when I get back to teaching next semester.  And finally, I’ve make use of G Forms for something completely different: the Household Technology Grant Program (HTGP).

The HTGP is how I’m dealing with the chatter around the house by certain individuals of diminutive stature who now desire Chromebooks of their own.  Using some questions adapted from a college technology grant form found on the web, we simply ask the interested parties to fill out the form and justify their desired technology.  Without specifying how much support they might be getting for any acquisitions, in the attractive and simple-to-format G Form they spell out the Hows and Whys of their need for funds to augment our household computer herd.

It’s been a blast watching the Chromebook advertising campaign as we keep an eye on baseball’s World Series progress.  For as long as I’ve been pounding away on the Cr-48 it’s seemed as though $250 would be a catalyzing price point for a browser-centric system.  But in the past three months, I’m excited about Chrome OS’s interface evolution more than just the price.

The assemblage of UI styles from Unity, Windows 7, and Android reminds me of that long-ago time when I saw an amalgamation of desktop shortcuts and UI phrasing in NeXTSTEP.  I really liked it then, seeing how shortcuts from the Mac and early Windows and X desktops were all there on the NeXT screen at the same time.  (And in a first for Steve Jobs, there were two mouse buttons!)  Sure, Chrome OS is not as complete an OS as NeXTSTEP, but my point is that there was strength in that amalgamation.  Anyone who doubts that need only examine OS X and start counting the NeXTSTEP features that have persisted for 20 years.  I think that there’s something very solid about Chrome OS’s UI changes that have taken place in the past couple of months.

So I’m getting the sense that Chrome OS is taking a polish that suggests its ready for the larger world, and I’m seeing devices for sale that hit the sweet spot where even those who (probably wrongly) imagine that they use browsers only 30% of the time would still see the economics work versus a $1000 MacBook.  Perhaps?  If not, then how about versus a $1600 MacBook?  ;^)

21 Aug 12 On the road with Cr-48 in tow

Much of the past week has been a road trip, of the wagon-er-SUV heading east on Route 66.  The location with natural wonders and familiar overcast weather has been a big attraction.  Every day has had small blessings of rain (with a few sparkles of lightning thrown in when we were in Arizona,) bringing out the fragrance of high desert sage.

Anyway, out in the countryside there’s been some familiar roads, plenty of paper maps from AAA, MyTracks and Google Maps.  The GPS works fine (as does Sirius/XM radio) in the open skies, but data connectivity has been sporadic outside of towns.  Every night there’s WiFi, although in some places it’s a meagre thread rather than true broadband connectivity.  Usually, I’ve enjoyed the diversity of T-Mobile or their data partners and Verizon on the Cr-48—but not for the first part of this trip.  Somewhere along the lines one of the dev channel builds seems to have lost a way to navigate to Verizon, or the 3G wasn’t being polled for connectivity.

But no more.  Out here in the northern San Juan Valley I just restarted the Cr-48 to finalize an update.  The start-up was wicked fast and qualitatively seemed like only four seconds to login screen.  And lo!  Verizon is back and working.  Just in time for some road adventures, or at least a Google Maps supplement to the AAA maps.  It’s kind of amazing to see traffic reports on some of the obscure back roads, yet I’ll bet it’s pretty useful to the folks who live around here.

21 Jun 12 Cruising into summertime

The Cr-48 has moved into office and kitchen use after Spring Semester was finished.  There have been a couple of nice tunes to the interface.  My favorite is the seemingly minor but exceedingly useful swap of the apps window out of a slide-to-the-right view in the initial browser window—and into a little icon along the bottom left of the screen.  I really like this!

Now up to:
Google Chrome 21.01172.0
Chrome OS  2430.0.0
WebKit   537.1   (build  120017)
V8   3.11.9

On the hardware side, the Mario battery might be starting to show its age.  It does sit around on the charger quite a bit, and so when I unplug and carry it around the house, sometimes I’m given an estimate of only 5.5 hours at first.  Also, I tend to have the screen on full bright because I’m so used to it being plugged in to wall power a lot.

It really is fun to have the Cr-48 in the kitchen, and occasional visits to certain rooms around the house where its larger screen makes following news links a lot more informative with less effort than on the Nexus S screen.

30 Apr 12 Whoa! That was a fast update cycle

Maybe I’ve kept the Cr-48 a bit too quiet in the past week, but barely 90 minutes after my last post, I restarted Chrome OS into a new version.  The little gripe about the timeout when checking Chrome OS version has been resolved, and there’s a fresh new Google Chrome build in place, too.

On the Cr-48
Chrome OS build   20.0.1116.0 dev
Chrome OS Platform 2199.0.0 (Official Build) dev-channel x86-mario
Cr-48 Firmware Mario.03.60.1120.0038G5.0018d
WebKit  536.9 (@115072)
V8   3.10.5

Really looking nice!  Performance seems nominal.  I think that there is a bit more touchpad sensitivity to a double-tap now than earlier today.   The only thing I miss is being able to see the system time when I’ve got a screen full of browser, because that has moved to the bottom of the screen and gets covered up.


30 Apr 12 Dude, where’d my browser go? ChromeOS desktop on Cr-48

I was intrigued by news items related to the appearance of a desktop behind the Chrome browser in Chrome OS, but for the past few weeks it seemed like only those with the latest hardware would be enjoying it.   No longer.  Today’s update brought that change to those of using Cr-48 hardware, a.k.a. Mario.

Dude, where's my browser window?

Chrome OS has assimilated the desktop metaphor

My new desktop features a default screen background with a suspension bridge and stunningly beautiful tidal channel with a very low sun angle.  The Google Chrome browser will maximize and restore with double-clicks along its the upper edge.  System notifiers like time/date, network connection strength, battery charge icon, and user account avatar thumb are now parked at the far lower-right corner of the screen, which means that they will get covered up by the browser when it is maximized.  All those icons that were large on the New Tab screen now show up in as thin ribbon of icons along the bottom—certainly reminiscent of NeXTSTEP screen layout in color from 20 years ago!

On the Cr-48 now:
Google Chrome  20.0.1105.0
Chrome OS  2153.0.0
WebKit  536.8  (@114338)

There is a minor annoyance where an About > Chrome OS leads to a two-minute cycle of “updating Chrome OS” stuck at 0%, and ending with a “Chrome OS is up to date”.   I can live with that for now, as it’s just a treat to see such a big change to the feel of Chrome OS.  This surely is the biggest modification to the interface that I’ve seen over the past 15 months!

In other versions, on my Windows machines (XP and Windows 7)
Google Chrome Canary  20.0.1122.0

on Ubuntu (12.04 LTS x86_64)
Google Chrome   20.0.1105.0

On mobile, Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich) (IMM76D)
Google Chrome  18.4409.2396
Web Kit  535.19 (@108031)

Android  3.2   (Honeycomb)  Google TVs
Google Chrome  11.0

So there have been updates to Ubuntu (which choked on grub and had to get a new partition—seems like that happens every two years or four upgrades), and Google Chrome version 20 is getting everywhere on desktops and laptops.

All my Google accounts have received their Google Drive conversion, although I haven’t realized any profound changes versus the way that I was using Google Docs before; there’s a new icon, to keep up with the rebranding of Android Market as Google Play.

Maybe that is enough for now; time to get back to work.  It’s a College day for me.

15 Feb 12 Five modes of Chrome – some fairly current

It’s been out and about for a week, but only yesterday did I dive in to Chrome on Android 4.0.3 / Ice Cream Sandwich / ICS.

Monday’s lecture class went swimmingly, and I lectured for three hours with the Cr-48 displaying three different slide sets.  Everything back to normal, performance-wise, with multi-page PDF display.  Cr-48 battery performance continues to be excellent.

Today at work I reached a threshold of need where I truly just wanted to compose a multi-page PDF out of a pile of single-sheet map graphics, and I finally made use of PDF Split and Merge from — after downloading from Sourceforge and finding it clean with AVG virus scan.  It was awesome, and motivated me to create a cover page in a presentation program (OK, it was MS PowerPoint 2010) and then printed the single page in B-size (11×17 inch)  landscape by using Cute PDF Writer to control the layout size.  Thanks to PDF Split and Merge, I could easily work out an arrangement where two-sided color 11×17 landscape printing made a very fine booklet to allow side-by-side comparison of related analyses (present and future viewsheds).  The prints were pretty good when stapled into book form, but the multi-page PDF display was extremely effective thanks to the precise scale control afforded by geographic information systems (GIS) software.  With the multi-page PDF, a simple PageUp / PageDown flick of keys flashes the two analyses for current and future visibility, and allows one to study the changes in considerable detail.

Enough with the PDF viewing thing.

The latest efforts now are to keep up with the Chrome updates.  At work and at the college office, I now use Windows 7 machines; one is a mighty nice new Xeon W3680 with 12 threads and 12 GB of memory, the other is a nine-year-old Pentium 4 HT 2.8 with 2 threads and 4 GB of memory.  One of the home machines is a Windows XP (Media Center) SP 3 with a seven-year-old Pentium D 820 with 2 threads and 3 GB of memory.  Throughout each week I either manually update or let background updates happen to Chrome Canary build.

A bit bigger home machine is running Ubuntu 11.10 x86_64 on a five-year-old Core 2 Duo E6550 with 4 GB memory, overclocked at 3.3 GHz now, although for its first four years it ran fine at 4.2 GHz with air cooling.  It’s wired up to run the latest unstable Google Chrome build that gets pushed out on dev channel for x86_64 Linux.

And now this week,  my ICS phone has a beta channel Google Chrome running on it.  It’s pretty sweet getting a straight-up tabbed interface that is fairly consistent among the various Google services.  I really like the simple way that Chrome on Android is handling the dismissal of deprecated tabs.  Overall it might be slower for some page loads than Android Browser, but its consistency of interface makes me more than happy to use it in preference.  Today I dumped Android Browser and Messaging from my action bar (whatever the best name is for the five icons along the bottom of the Android screen) and replaced them with Chrome Beta and Google Talk.

Also in the mix are a couple of Sony Intenet TVs runing Android 3.2 (Honeycomb)

And as typically, my Cr-48 got an update today.  So here’s the whole spread:

Windows (7 and XP)
Google Chrome Canary   19.0.1042.0

Ubuntu (11.10 x86_64)
Google Chrome  19.0.1041.0

Android (3.2 / Honeycomb) Google TVs
Google Chrome 11.0

Android (4.0.3 / ICS) Nexus S
Google Chrome  16.0.912.75
App Version  0.16.4130.199
WebKit   535.7 (trunk@104610-dirty)

Chrome OS (Cr-48)
Google Chrome  18.0.1025.32
Platform   1660.34.0  dev-channel x86-mario
Firmware  Mario.03.30.1120.0038G5.0018d
WebKit  535.19  (@107639)

So there’s ever more company in my  Chrome world.  The Canary builds might not sound too interesting, but they pull my interest forward and often provide helpful improvements to my usage.  Another aspect here is that I’m running four different user profiles, as a means to separate work from teaching from personal / hobby usage—not to separate platforms!  So I’m making almost daily usage of three Google accounts on all platforms.  In fact, I use yet other profiles to set up Google TV, but those are fairly static.  Since my phone got up to Android 4.0.3, I’ve been really pleased with the way that multiple Google accounts are handled by the Gmail program, and I’m getting very used to the way that Chrome 19 will spawn a new browser to handle different accounts open at the same time.  Google Docs still drives me to log out of the less active profiles to get write access.

After my phone upgrade to Android 4.0.3, but before Chrome arrived there, I was already appreciating the way that my photos and (with WiFi) videos just appeared up in Google+ and that took care of a lot of sharing.  All the same, in the past 10 days I’ve started to make much more use of for sharing work product.  That experience is pretty good across Android and the places where I use Chrome browser.


12 Feb 12 Back on track with PDF viewer! The Cr-48 heads to the woods…

My Cr-48 got a weekend trip to the mountains, and
I experienced the slowest connectivity that I’ve ever had with it…

But first, my thanks to Ken for posting a work-around for last week’s viewer.  When I use the Cr-48 to show slides during a lecture, I only give attention enough to the machine to push one keyboard button for the next slide.  Usually that’s a right-arrow key.
This afternoon I returned from a couple of nights in the barely-snowy Sierra and was happy to find an update staged.  After downloading and a restart, I’m able to view the PDF slide shows that I’ve got locally and open through FileManager.  It’s an enormous relief to know that I can have the Cr-48 back as a tool for classroom use!  The latest build numbers:

Google Chrome  18.0.1025.29
Platform    1660.20.0 (Official Build) dev-channel x86-mario
Firmware   Mario.03.60.1120.0038G5.0018d
WebKit   535.19 (@107116)

For reference, this afternoon’s current build of Google Chrome Canary on Windows is 19.0.1040.0

Up in the mountains, I took the Cr-48 with me to a cabin by a lake at about 1600 meters elevation.  It’s not far north of I-80 so it’s a very easy drive.  Most years it would be nice and snowy.  Last year, I’m told, there was more than 2 meters of snow accumulated by Spring, and people had to dig down to get to the cabin door.  This year, there was barely 10cm of snow when we left this morning.
Normally, I wouldn’t expect to use the Chromebook up in the hills, but last night some conversations turned towards things that my mapping colleagues and I have posted, and I tried to bring up a public site that we have  to help folks.  (  It was very difficult.

In all of the lower 48 states, the coterminous U.S., a.k.a. CONTUS for federal folks, there must be only a tiny handful of locations like the one where I took the Cr-48 this weekend.  We were blacked out for Verizon coverage, but both T-Mobile and ATT worked, although only at GPRS speeds for data.  So after noticing that we had no WiFi to scavenge (no surprise there) and nothing detectable from Verizon on the Cr-48, I confirmed with folks who had Verizon phones that they couldn’t even get voice connectivity. Since my mobile phone is on T-Mobile, I was able to power up the Nexus S’ Android 4.0.3 hotspot and connect the Cr-48 to it, and the phone’s meagre but existent GPRS data link got the Chromebook online.

That worked fine for Google Talk, but when I connected to the map viewer applications, I recognized at once that we were in the slow lane.  I had plenty of time to chat and reflect on days perhaps 15 years ago when I worked in Romania and moved to a select apartment just to get an “International” direct-dial phone line.  I used that so that I could call dial-up Internet services and also have an answering machine in my apartment.  Ordinary phone lines were coupled in pairs, effectively as two-unit party lines—a very bad scenario when an unsuspecting foreigner hooks up an answering machine!  Anyway, in mid-nineties Romania, I was able to get at best a transfer rate of 7 MB/hour.  Plenty good enough to develop a habit for reading the fresh new site, but not so good for downloading software updates.

Those were the days I thought of as I watched my mapping application, which has an interface tuned for broadband, image its screens.  I opened another tab and saw Google Map draw far faster, but it did not have the overlays that I needed, so I was stuck trying to make something work on a bandwidth shoestring.  I gave up after an hour, but by then I’d had some nice oblique views of the site in Google Maps, and a much greater sympathy for those who still rely on dial-up and its associated connection speeds.

Back at home, Comcast is stomping out about 5 MB/sec right now (40 Mb/s).  I like it that way!   Never before have I had a reason to use the Android ICS (4.0) WiFi hotspot where T-Mobile worked for data and Verizon did not.  Always before I have used the ICS hotspot to avoid local WiFi policy restrictions or to listen to a streaming radio channel so as not to burn through my monthly 100 MB of Verizon data in a single afternoon.  This was a case where Android 4.0 had the Chromebook’s back covered.

05 Feb 12 Chrome OS takes a dive with PDF Reader function loss

About a week ago, I experienced a system update after which I couldn’t read multi-page PDF documents.   I stayed stuck on the first page.  This turns my Cr-48 into a quasi-functional object that sort of imitates a black brick. I filed a bug report with Chrome OS team about an hour after I couldn’t find a work-around.   I’ve noticed some blog postings elsewhere that suggest that Safari users may have had somewhat similar issues starting January 21 or so.

The built-in Chrome PDF viewer has actually been a mainstay of how my Cr-48 pulls its weight in class preparation.  Without the viewer being able to handle multi-page PDFs, I can’t use the Cr-48 to display my lecture slides.  Uploading from Libre Office .odp format to Google Docs has so many fine-tuned formatting items botched that it’s a non-starter.

This is sad, because it might be something bad with WebKit.  Then again, it’s one of the more brittle aspects of Chrome OS that I can’t just install the Adobe PDF Reader plugin—although I admit that I haven’t taken time to approach this on the command line.  Fact is, I don’t want to take time to make something work like it did two weeks ago.

At campus, our new Moodle installation is also reducing the degree to which Google Docs is involved in my distribution of files.  It’s a new experience for most of the students, and a welcome return to Moodle for me.   Anyway, the Cr-48 is now at:

Google Chrome   18.0.1017.3
Chrome OS Platform  1625.0.0  dev-Mario
Firmware   Mario.03.60.1120.0038G5.0018d
WebKit   535.19 (@105663)


30 Jan 12 A New Semester – and Chrome OS updates; better mouse action?

It’s the second week of Spring 2012 semester here, and those of us part-timers in the department have been moved into an adjacent office.  I got a personal meeting with the campus IT folks when I installed the router on the second network outlet in the new office.  Unlike the office of last semester, in our new office both network outlets wired into the private network; all I did was to test which one was private, hook up the campus-issued workstation to it, and I thought things would be going smoothly…

Campus IT folks were reasonable in accommodating us and hooking up the other ends of the cable to the appropriate switch to duplicate what we had before, and we’re off again.  Turns out that with the new office location, we’re even better positioned to maintain signal on both 2.4 and 5 GHz in two faculty offices and two teaching labs.   Nearby faculty who have laptops are pleased to have a connection.   Turns out that for those of us using web apps, there’s very little downside to being on the public side of the campus network.  In my case, I choose to use MS Outlook Web Access over the native MS Office Outlook app, so that my interface is consistent whether I’m here, at home, or at my day job.

And this semester, I’m choosing to use a mouse with my Cr-48 whenever I’m in the faculty office.  Today I had another Chrome OS update, and the (Dell optical wheel) mouse was plugged in when I restarted the machine.  On reboot, the pointer was VERY slow.  I had to drag the mouse six times to move the pointer from one side of the screen to another.  When I got to the settings, it was the second notch from slowest, and I moved it up a couple to get back to normal.  I’m not certain, but there seems to be something a little bit different about the trackpad, too.  Sadly, even after using the Cr-48 for almost 14 months I’m still hitting the upper corners of the trackpad and blasting my cursor off into oblivion in mid-sentence, at least once in a while.  I’m hopeful that the pointer speed reset indicates that some updates to the pointer drivers have been installed.

As of this morning, the Cr-48 is up to (oh–I think that we got new fonts with this update, at least how it looks in WordPress)

Chrome OS      1625.0
Google Chrome
Firmware    Mario.03.60.1120.0038G5.0018d
WebKit      535.19 (@105663)

In terms of course documents, mostly quizzes and presentations for me, I’ve been learning to finesse multiple Google accounts to help partition my teaching documents from personal e-mail and documents.  This has been an evolving experience, as it seems very possible to set up Gmail for multiple sign-ons (and Android 4.0.3 does a stellar job of providing a central switchboard for many Gmail accounts)—but things are a bit more partitioned with Google Docs.  I never have trouble when sharing from one account to another, but sometimes I confuse myself dealing with multiple identities.

With Chrome 18 on Windows or Ubuntu, opening Gmail with a separate account will automatically spawn a new browser window, which really helps keep identity management cleaner.  On Chrome OS, I am still learning to recognize what appears graphically like a Workspace switch in Ubuntu.  Without having a desktop background, I need to think a little more about identity on Chrome OS.  When there’s a desktop and the browsers are not maximized, the graphics sort of do the thinking for me.  ;^)

And that just about wraps it up for January, 2012