Google Docs / Drive Now Has Add-ons

Drive Add-ons
Drive Add-ons

The big news for Google Docs / Drive users this week is that Drive now has add-ons or plugins.

Go into Drive, Create a new document or sheet and you will find a new menu option, “Add-ons”, and from there you can see a list of add-ons that can be installed in Drive.

Add-on list
Add-on list

The current crop of add-ons include label printing, mail-merge, faxing, grammar checking and inserting graphs, charts and mind-maps.

This ability to add what you want, and exclude what you do NOT want is a shot across the bows of Microsoft Office. Office has, famously added everything including the kitchen sink, and then charged a small fortune for the privilege of upgrading to the next, even more bloated version.

Add-ons menu
Add-ons menu

Google is allowing third parties to build tools that many people want, and then plug then into the Drive ecosystem. I hope the ability to sell these add-ons is there, because good software should be paid for. It takes a lot of work to write and maintain these tools. Many developers fall back on ad supported software, but this often provides a poor experience for the user.

I want to try before I buy, but am happy to pay for tools that I use.

So instead of hundreds of dollars for each copy of Microsoft Office, the idea of paying nothing, or a couple of dollars for each feature I actually want is compelling.

Check out the video here:

Google Docs just got ADDINS! this is a huge step forward:

 

Slimport Issues on the HP Chromebook 11

MyDP Slimport Adapter
MyDP Slimport Adapter

In my last post, I described how pleased I was with the HP  Chromebook 11 coupled to the Slimport to HDMI adapter. Unfortunately, after about 10 days, I began to have problems. The HD monitor I was using via the SlimPort adapter began to flick on and off. as the problem worsened over a few hours, I switched to a new HDMI cable.

This improved things significantly, so cable quality is a big issue. In the interests or reliability I purchased a high quality lead from a local retailer. The problem continued to get worse.

I did some reading. The SlimPort specification indicates that it is designed to put up to 0.5A or 500ma into the device via the charging port. The HP 11 power adapter provides 3A. I wondered if the charger was overloading or overheating the SlimPort adapter.  I began to fear I may have permanently damaged th adapter. None of the local retailers carry SlimPort. I orders two more, of different designs from the Internet.

Apparently the SlimPort standard changed recently, so I may be using out of date hardware. The latest ones have a red “P” logo. The two I have on order have that logo. The one I am using does not.

While all the swapping and connecting was going on, I also lost access to ALL USB devices, I did a power-wash. Everything came back except my passwords, they had to be re-entered.

I removed the high powered HP adapter and connected the 2A Nexus 7 charger. Despite warnings, it holds my HP Chromebook to about 2% power loss per hour while the laptop is running.

The Slimport adapter and cheap cable are currently working faultlessly, But I will report on the adapter I have ordered as soon as it arrives.

It removes the need for an HDMI cable by supplying a cable with a SlimPort adapter on one end, and an HDMI connector on the other!

More soon.

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Asus Zenbook Windows 7 – Boot Issues

Asus ultrabook
Asus ultrabook

I have lost almost an hour by starting this Windows 7 Computer.

It took 5 minutes to start. The Logitech mouse driver had to be downloaded and installed. The manufacturer of the PC downloaded a critical update. The Logitech webcam downloaded an update. Windows began downloading 95Mb of updates. meanwhile I could not open a web browser, for reasons unknown. One of the updates hung at about 80% and after making a cup of coffee and doing a clean-up around the office, I decided to reboot the computer.

The PC stopped in the “shutting Down” screen for about five minutes, and then I held the power button down to kill it.

When it re-started, I chose to start normally, and was back up pretty quickly. Now more updates where coming, and a virus scan was under-way. I could at least get Google Keep open and begin typing this. I am a little frustrated, so the keyboard is getting a bit of a pounding, but soon I will close this machine down and go back to my Chromebook.

Well, the updates failed the first time, so I re-ran the installer. After 15 minutes and a re-boot, Windows 7 is finally working.

BTSync has synced files from another machine, and I can go back to being productive.

Ahh! The Serenity!

HP 11 Chromebook – Slimport Adapter

The Google HP Chromebook 11  does not have an HDMI port for an external Monitor, it uses a Slimport video adapter. This uses the micro-USB port to connect to an external monitor.

The HP 11 also charges via the Micro-USB.

Slimport Adapter
Slimport Adapter

The need to charge and use the external monitor at the same time felt like it may be a deal breaker. I spend long hours with a 22” external monitor connected, then I need to pick up the Chromebook and go. It needs to be charged when I unplug the monitor and walk away.

Hewlett Packard have covered my needs.

Slimport is an interesting technology. Previously I purchased a rather expensive MHL adapter for my Samsung Galaxy S III phone. It was expensive, and would not work at all unless a USB charger was plugged into the MHL adapter to power it. This was cumbersome and annoying, and I have rarely used it.

The Slimport is different. I had to order a Slimport adapter online, because Harvey Norman do not have Slimport adapters in stock. It took two weeks, but the adapter finally arrived and I began experimenting. My adapter is Slimport to HDMI (you can also get Slimport to VGA) and has a micro-USB charging port on the side.

The Chromebook finds the Monitor
The Chromebook finds the Monitor

I plugged the Slimport adapter in, and immediately the Chromebook detected the 22” E2250 monitor and extended the desktop. I was able to click on the notification and go to the settings screen.

There I was able to establish the physical relationship of the two monitors. Music and sound automatically switched to the speakers connected to the monitor.

When a USB charger other than the 4 amp charger supplied with the Chromebook is plugged in, a warning pops up the the charger is low-powered and may not charge the Chromebook while it is running.

Low Power Charger!
Low Power Charger!

When I plugged the original 4 amp HP charger into the Slimport adapter, I got the same message. However the laptop charges happily, if a little slower, while I am using the Slimport adapter and monitor. I suspect the HP charger uses some unassigned pins to charge via the micro-USB at a higher rate.

One of the impressive things about the Chromebook is it instantly re-configures if anything is unplugged. Unplug the monitor, and all windows are squeezed down onto the laptop screen. Plug it back in, and they move back to where they were.

I tried this with my Acer Zenbook, unplugging the micro-HDMI cable and the computer crashed when it woke up on the road. I was confronted with the full Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD) that has pretty much disappeared with Windows 7 and up.  The machine was useless, and I had to work most of the day with my phone. When I got home, the Zenbook took over an hour to scan drives and get itself working again.

Windows 7 – 0  to Chromebook – 1

I continue to be impressed with the robust nature of the Chromebook experience. The odd crash is recovered and re-started in less than 10 seconds, and I have yet to lose a word due to a crash.

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