Chrome OS for web mapping delivery

19 Dec 11 WebGL in Google Maps – arrives on Linux, but not Cr-48

This surely has to do with graphic hardware limitations in the Cr-48, but tonight I noticed that I was able to install WebGL viewer for Google Maps on Ubuntu.  System requirements have been opened up to Chrome 14+ on Windows, Mac, and now Linux.

No such opportunity appears to exist yet for the Cr-48, perhaps never?

23 Nov 11 Closing in on a first year with Cr-48; Chrome convergence

In the US, this is the start of an odd sort of holiday weekend.  Elementary schools might extend the holiday early through Wednesday, some employers provide a holiday extension on Friday, and most people get Thursday—with reasons for its timing vague and, at a continental level, homespun.  The more aggressive households pull kids out Monday and Tuesday, glom together the weekend before and after, and declare a nine-day hiatus.

However it works out (and for me there’s college class today and it’s been a busy work week already), there’s a sense up here in North America of the year sliding down toward its true close at the shortest-day solstice, followed by a coda of holiday events both de jure and de fides, most phase-delayed by the frailties of human calendar-keeping.  That said, in the northern hemisphere outside the tropics, it’s a fine season for reflection as daylight squeezes in on life’s activities.

This season’s days’ shortness echoes the words of Gilmour/Mason/Waters/Wright “…one day closer to death.”  Though for us using Cr-48s it’s not necessarily a morbid thought—the little machines are getting long of tooth.  Mine is about two weeks shy of its first year of use, and it’s holding up fairly well.  It’s gained a couple of stickers that stick (as opposed to those making just an ephemeral appearance), and it actually has an ironic scar on its face.  The irony of the scar is that it is from a brand-new industrial strength HP Z400 workstation, a twelve-thread Windows 7 machine from which I had removed  the side cover in order to add two USB 3.0 adapter cards.  While I was getting my first look at the Z400′s guts, and before I had set the cover down, an inside corner of the cover touched  the upper-left corner of my Cr-48 screen, and a razor-sharp edge from some Chinese sheet-metal stamping factory caused me to make a five-cm scratch on the display.  Of course, the Cr-48 was open and in use at that moment as a third screen at my desk…  Anyway, the Cr-48 display wasn’t cracked, and I chalked it up to character-building for the little proto-Chromebook.

On topic, In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been keeping Chrome SXS (a.k.a. Google Chrome Canary) updated on four different Windows machines that I use, two flavors of XP and two of 7.  These are usually just a couple of versions shy of a Chromium nightly build, and I update them at the start of most days.   Well, in the past two weeks I had the intriguing experience of seeing  the little wrench icon on SXS display the small green up-arrow annunciator that tells us Chrome OS folks that an update is available.  That small item really drove home for me how much convergence I’m feeling between the versions of Chrome Browser that I work with and the Chrome OS on the Cr-48.  The other hints of convergence that I’m noting are the functionality of Web GL in Google Maps that makes me look forward to a future Chromebook making use of integrated graphics as might be power-friendly with an Ivy Bridge-generation processor, and the Google Remote Desktop that has provided me with some stunningly useful alternatives to centrally controlled installations of VNC that aren’t given out.

Anyway, as I complete a second semester, and total of three classes that I’ve taught while having the Cr-48, the downloads section at chrome://files/  is really filling up and I’m making use of the Ctrl-F search function to locate stuff.  I haven’t yet run out of local storage ;^)  I carry around the wireless router in my Cr-48′s sack in preference to a mouse, and I very seldom use the plug-in mouse.  The touch pad still gives me random annoyance, and my cheeky palms hit it about once every 1500 letters, which is way too often, but the multi-finger gesture responses make up for that, at least in my experience.

On a personal note, I had the pleasure of seeing a certain household member in a Kindergarten class photograph this week; they use MacBooks for computer class but have access to iPads during certain other activity times.  I mention this because in a photo of his group with iPads, he was the only kid trying to use multi-touch—with one index finger from each hand ;^)  Again, it might be a small thing, but the Cr-48 has introduced useful new interface paradigms and use-case experiences not only to me, but also to my colleagues at work, my fellow instructors at college, some of my students, and even those at home.

‘Nuff said.  After at least three updates since my last post, the Cr-48 is now at:

Chrome OS      1324.0.0
Google Chrome  17.0.942.0
Firmware     Mario.03.60.1120.0038G5.0018d
Webkit         535.8  @100508
V8                 3.7.7

So, after a 10-day to two-week lag, my Cr-48 has joined the ranks of Chrome SXS and the more recent Chromium builds, and sits at version 17.x   It’s welcome.  I really like the subtlety of the new add-tab button along the rightmost tab, and look forward to more updates as this first year with a Cr-48 draws to a close.


01 Nov 11 New Month, new version — and Google Maps GL Viewer goodness

A couple of new versions have dropped through in the past 10 days.  Tonight’s bump took the Cr-48 up to this:
Firmware  Mario.03.60.1120.0038G5.0018d
ChromeOS  1193.20.0
Google Chrome  16.0.912.50  with WebKit 535.7 @98493  and V8

During the daytime, I’ve had an annoying hassle with uploads on the web site management interface Web Host Manager (WHM), in just its newly updated File Manager’s upload page.  Normally, a little dialog shows progress of the upload in text form.  In the latest versions of Chrome, be that beta, Canary / SXS, or Chromium in the 15+ version number, the File Manager upload does not complete, and might even invoke a memory leak.  When I left a page open and failing on the Chromebook, later that day I actually had to take the battery out to get the poor thing back to the normal state.  I’ve opened a but report at Chromium, but it’s hard for me to provide the right environment to those who need to see it fail first-hand.  All in a day’s beta testing!

Also during the day, I’ve made use of the new Google Maps Map GL interface that mediates between plain (2d) map views, the “45 degree” view, the Google Earth plugin view, and Street View.  Sounds like a lot until you’ve seen it in action–smooth as silk!  Just a scroll of the mouse wheel and it slides from one to the next to the next.  The transitions between different 45-degree views are mediated using a surface model from Google Earth.  One gets a virtual reality effect in seeing the landscape, with trees and structures modeled as 3D shapes, spinning to the next view.  It is really elegant.  When popping from a 45-degree view into Street View as well, there’s a 3D shape mediating the transition.  Really elegant, and I’ve been working it for several hours a day, extracting information into a GIS system where I have a lower-resolution image that I’m decoding using the sharper views in Google Maps.

20 Oct 11 ChromeOS versions return with new dev update

This morning my Cr-48 decided it needed an restart to complete its new version push.  And version numbers have returned!

Now at ChromeOS dev channel 1169.7.0  featuring Google Chrome  16.0.906.1  with WebKit  535.7 @97251  and V8 at for now.

In the past week, when plugging the machine into a projector, which I tend to do three  to five times a week, I’ve had the Cr-48 appear to balk at syncing with the projector.  It could have been the projector, but I’m rather certain that it gets fewer firmware updates than my Cr-48 gets OS updates ;^)   In any case, it always resolved itself by my unplugging the projector for a few seconds then reconnecting.

It could be that I’m impatient and am inadvertently testing different startup sequences.  Plugging in the to the Cr-48 always makes the onboard screen dark (perhaps this is a power savings for the Cr-48 battery?) No matter for me, as I just position myself so that I don’t strain my neck while looking at the projected screen along with the class.   Anyway, the glitches appear to happen somewhere between my opening up the Cr-48 screen and having it wake up, connect to my wireless router (which is always booted up and has received its DHCP address before I open the Cr-48), and sometimes even get myself logged in.  The Cr-48 hardware continues to do a fine job of negotiating the highest possible undistorted resolution possible from any projector it’s met.  Pushy little Chromebook, it is. ;^)

Whenever my screen is not quite ready to be projected (like it is showing a full list of Google Docs items, or the class grade list) I just disconnect the projector.  In many ways, it has been a helpful safety catch to have the screen go dark, as it utterly prevents me from looking at my screen and inadvertently projecting some grading details to the class.  Chalk it up as a feature, IMHO.

During the day at work, I really enjoyed a beta update to Google Maps+Street View integration, mostly run with Chrome Canary build.  It has really gotten slick and the transitions between vertical orthophoto (“satellite”), oblique imagery (“45-degree”), and Street View are extremely fluid in the new GL interface.

The new interface is really helping me to extract certain public infrastructure features *in bulk* running standard GIS software on an adjacent screen, with both GIS and Google Maps running full screen.  Yea Maps team!

On Ubuntu, this evening Chromium browser has attained version 17.0.915.0 — so there’s something to look forward to in the next week on Chrome OS, perhaps?

12 May 11 Catching up on Google I/O – keynote

Helping us all along with some chosen verbiage–let’s focus on the Open Web as the platform that Chrome is working to influence.

Here’s the keynote that I’m watching right now.

It’s fun to hit the fishIEtank demo and see it rock.  Last week, I was getting better results in IE 10 than in Chrome 13–of course, I hadn’t opened all the stops on GPU acceleration under Windows 7.  On Chrome OS, the Cr-48 hits 21 fps with 250 fish, GPU-accelerated that is.  The Mozilla Fast-Fishie alternative was even more astounding for its rate, although I could not see the sprites on either my Ubuntu nor Cr-48 screens.

I’ve stumbled upon, and am in awe of the interactive film “3 Dreams of Black” by Chris Milk  at , an astoundingly astute domain hack with a transcendent concept demonstration.  Since the Cr-48 isn’t yet WebGL enabled (perhaps soon), one can view the trailer in 720p resolution just fine through this link.  Maybe you can even see it here:

Oh yea, after just 24 hours, the Cr-48 is updated to 0.12.433.38 with Google Chrome 12.0.742.50 — maybe some of the devs checked in their code after coming back from San Francisco ;^)

Wow, talk about playing Angry Birds all day long in Chrome…  in the HD version, the Cr-48 just rocked.  Quite a bit better than my G1 Android device, not quite as smooth as either an iPod Touch 4 or a Samsung Galaxy Tab.  In-app payments will enable “Mighty Eagle” purchases just like the iOS platform does.