Category Archives: technology

My take: Google Chrome CR-48

Image of Google Chrome CR48 NotebookI guess I’m fiinally going to get around to blogging about the Google Chrome CR-48 Notebook. I was one of the lucky ones who received one of the beta programs notebooks. Imagine my surprise when Cynthia let me know that a larger package arrived for me when I hadn’t been expecting anything. As soon as the box was opened and I saw that awesome packaging that accompanied the CR-48 I was overjoyed. Then there was just the painful wait of letting it reach room temperature.

Once it did I pressed the power button the Chrome logo appeared on screen and just a few short seconds I was at the account creation and setup screen. The setup was very user-friendly asking to link a Google account and take a picture with the included web cam. And the guided tour that followed was equally user-friendly. It did a great job of explaining the mostly familiar keyboard. It has the usual QWERTY keyboard but lacks function keys or CAPS LOCK key.

If I have one complaint about the setup it is the fact that the wireless MAC address could not be found on the notebook or in software at the early stages of setup. Since I have MAC filtering setup on my router this is major inconvenience. With the Chrome OS being self contained within the web browser there is no command prompt for using a utility like ipconfig, as in Windows. A blog entry by Thomas Amsler helped me find the necessary information for finding the Wireless MAC address but I had to resort to connecting to a neighbors unprotected Wi-Fi to complete the setup.

Once the setup was complete, I ran the command from Thomas Amsler’s blog and added the CR-48’s Wireless MAC address to my router. From there it was just a matter of adding my router’s security key and the wireless sprung to life. The Chrome tutorial was helpful and user-friendly as I mentioned above and then it was just a matter of playing with all the Chrome CR-48 has to offer. Which is both a feast and a famine.

The Google Chrome CR-48 is entirely Chrome web browser. It’s nothing more and it’s nothing less. And Chrome is my web browser of choice. So you’d think it would be a match made in heaven, but ultimately it is not. I forgot how many of my web browsing daily has to be done in Firefox due to incompatibilities between Chrome and my website of choice. My school classes use a web application called Blackboard. And the main notice on the website is Chrome is not supported. The text-boxes don’t render all of the text editing options and I’m unable to upload anything. That fact alone means that I have to resort to Firefox.

Then there is also the fact that several web forums I visit for some reason have a CSS style that doesn’t support Chrome leaving many images with just a broken image box. Which is a minor thing to complain about but it does present a problem with building an OS around a web browser. Now in fairness to Google, this is more an issue with the creators of the CSS but if Google wants this platform to flourish they aren’t going to be able to sit idly by when they can build a psuedo quirks mode of their own and support some of the functionality that other browsers support, if only for expanding the usability base.

Although that being said, the sooner the web gets away from quirks mode and gets standard the better.

The Google Chrome CR-48 beta is really about running the OS through it’s paces, not so much the hardware. But it’s hard not to be aware of hardware flaws when you’re living your online life and doing the things you do on a normal full-feature operating system. HTML5 videos seemed to run well enough on YouTube despite running at a reduced resolution. Videos utilizing Flash were iffy. Sometimes I’d get a great feed and it would play decently. But a trip to Hulu to watch Chuck produced a bit of chop that was subtle enough to watch if you were hard up to do so but it was still pretty annoying.

And that’s been my experience in a nutshell. I want to like the Chrome OS. It’s a fantastic web browsing solution but the web site support is lacking in some functionally important areas for me personally. Once those areas come around though I can see this being a really powerful convenient platform.

There are some specific use cases that this platform seems ideal for.

The first thought that came to mind as I dug into the Chrome OS platform is: I wish this were out when my Dad was looking to get started on the Internet. It’s nothing BUT Internet. There is no having to mess with resolutions, or drivers. There is no learning where the web browser is. And the troubleshooting is beyond easy. Are you online? No? Is your network cable plugged in? Yes? Internet outage or hardware. There are minimal settings. It’s ideal for the person who only wants a system to reach the web for email, facebook, research, etc. The one area lacking in this particular use case is printer support.

As I sat down to regretfully skewer the CR-48 I was reminded of all of it’s virtues. It has great boot time from shutdown to startup and instant on from a standby perspective. One quirk I’ve noticed is that sometimes upon wakeup I see that I have a wireless connection but I can’t browse any websites. I have to disable the Wi-Fi and reenable it to get connectivity again. The battery life is nothing short of spectacular even with my forgetting to disable cellular service. I haven’t activated this perk yet, but I think I may give it a shot just to get the full story.

But I have reached a definitive conclusion regarding the Chrome CR-48. I’d be suffering from extreme buyers remorse had I paid even $200 for this, but that is tied wholly to what I need to do online and what I need in a netbook, which is competition Google is going after here. But given this was free and I was given a much appreciated opportunity to test drive it I’m still very enthusiastic about the possibilities.

All things considered I am still very much a Google fanboy. They’ve done enough to earn my conditional loyalty. I’m a big fan of Gmail. I love my Motorola Droid. I dig their approach to the openness of the Android platform. Google Chrome is my web browser of choice. When I say I’m going to Google It, I mean I’m going to google and doing a search. In terms of web ads their adwords are as unannoying as an ad can be. And lastly, how can you dislike a company that sends you a free laptop?

Droid does

Motorola Droid

I probably should have just titled this “Cynthia, don’t bother” or “Na-night time, sweetheart” since this post will probably earn me another “eh.. boring” like yesterdays. –grin- But I think I’ll stick with Droid does.

In December my Storm decided to start acting a little funky. Nothing serious, it just seemed like my key presses weren’t as accurate as they once were. Then I started getting random resets which honestly could have just meant I needed to do a rebuild but I decided to call Verizon. I got a really cool guy on the line who offered to send me a replacement. I told him that I was just a couple of weeks from my upgrade date. I said that I’d save them the money of shipping me another Storm if they’d move my date up and allow me to buy a Droid at my promotional pricing. The guy talked to his manager agreed and my journey with Droid began.

I had been spoiled by my BlackBerry and I honestly wondered if I would be able to make the switch after having gotten used to my Storm. As it turns out the switch wasn’t as difficult as it could have been if not for the Android Marketplace. The iPhone has iTunes. The Droid and other Android handsets have Android Marketplace.

I had tried to setup my work email on the phone, which was the whole reason I got a BlackBerry to begin with. It didn’t work. I goofed with every setting I could think of and even copied the settings BlackBerry used. No go. It turns out that my company uses a certificate to authenticate and that the Droid doesn’t have built in support for mail servers that utilize certificates. Blah blah. Boring. Boring. I ended up finding an application that does called TouchDown. It was $20, which is steep, but it did exactly what I wanted/needed to do and that left me with a phone that could now be used for personal stuff.. and that’s where the fun has been.

You may have seen the commercials where Verizon blasts iPhone with a series of claims iDon’t multitask. iDon’t customize. etc. The conclusion of that commercial is “Everything that iDon’t, Droid does”. And while I’ve never had an iPhone, I have friends with them and have heard some of those complaints. But let me tell you about my day today with my Droid.

Today was my first day in the office this year. I work from home a lot and so today was the first day my phone was going to be essential to my ‘away from home’ entertainment.

I looked at my phone before I went out to meet my co-worker today. There is a WeatherBug app installed that displays my temperature at the top of the screen.

My phone beeped and told me I had 6 new Facebook friend requests. They are still coming in from yesterday’s pimping.

Then I remembered there was application I wanted to try but the link was on a webpage. I went out to the website, copied the text, pasted it into my address bar and installed the application right from my web browser.

Then a message scrolls across the top of my phone. It’s a txt msg from Cynthia. A friend is getting rid of his Tivo. I send him a message via Facebook on my phone. He agrees to meet me tomorrow to sell me his Tivo. Great timing considering ours died yesterday! =(

I decide to thank another friend for an application he told me about. I go to my Browser application and it displays the website beautifully. Much nicer than my Storm did and better too than the iPod Touch did. When I checked his history, at the site, he hadn’t been there today. I decided to check IRC.

IRC is internet relay chat. It’s a chat room. So I pop open my Android IRC app and check the chat room. Not there either, but I got to try another new application. This is awesome.

Then I get an email from Cynthia. She wants me to check out this picture she took and played with in Photoshop. My phone brings up the picture in stunning clarity. I’m able to critique the picture on the spot and email her back my opinion from the Gmail application on the phone.

Then I got another Facebook friend request, approved it and opened up Mafia Wars (on my phone!) and approved all of the requests to join my Mafia.

All the while, I’m getting my work mail and meeting requests via Touchdown Pro.

Oh my way home I got a text message that Cynthia had tweeted. I decided to open it in my copy of Twidroid Pro. A twitter client. While I was there I checked out what my friends on Sesame Street were doing as well as the latest tweets of a few other celebrities.

As I was typing this, WeatherBug on my phone just chirped to let me know there is a Winter Weather Advisory for my area tomorrow from Noon to 7am Friday. Unfortunately, I have no choice but to be driving during those hours.

And while this may sound like a gushing love note – and it mostly is – there are some pretty disheartening low points. For me anyway.

The physical keyboard is too compact for my fingers. Now luckily I’m used to virtual keyboards thanks to my Storm and Droid’s virtual keyboard is fantastic. It’s as easy to use as the virtual keyboard on the iPod Touch.

And then there is the camera which may take great pictures outside (I haven’t tried yet) completely sucks inside. For a 5 megapixel camera I expected more. I would have settled for what I had on my Storm, but honestly I think my LG enV may have taken better pictures. You’ve got to be fast to compete with 2-year-olds and it seems like everything is blurry and grainy. If you want your phone to double as a camera… keep looking.

But those things aside. I actually love my phone. It’s actually the first device I’ve actually thought I might hold onto after the renewal period. Now perhaps by then the Droid 3 will be out and I’ll want that. But right now Droid has me firm in it’s tinny grasp and I’m not exactly looking for the exits. This phone does everything I hoped it would and then a few things I didn’t know I wanted it to do.

I really really like my phone.