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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)
V8    3.8.9.5

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.  (MarinMap.org)  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 nytimes.com 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.

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