HP Chromebook 11 Charging – revisited

The HP Chromebook 11
The HP Chromebook 11

I have had a comment on a recent post from Kathy, concerned that the HP Micro-USB charging port is not living up to it’s potential.  She was concerned by the “Low-power charger” message.

I decided to redo the last group of tests, to be sure.

last night I ran my HP Chromebook 11 flat by playing the Iron-man movie continually until the battery was dead. I do NOT like or recommend ever running a battery below 18-20% as this can damage the battery. I am not an Apple fan, but they have an excellent web page on battery care for laptops and devices with Li-Ion batteries here

I plugged the charger into my basically dead Chromebook four hours ago, and rebooted when the battery reached 9%. The results, with the computer asleep and only being checked every hour where:

  • Hour 1 – 33% up 24%
  • Hour 2 – 56% up 23%
  • Hour 3 – 78% up 22% (with the PortaPow fast  power only cable)
  • Hour 4 – 84% up 6% (with the computer in constant use)

smoothing out the results, this is about 24% / Hr, or four hours to pretty much full charge. The original HP charger does this in a whisker under three hours. not a bad comparison.

Interestingly, temperature is a factor for battery life, and fast chargers heat batteries up, as does fast discharging doing things like playing video at full screen and full screen brightness.  As a result, I have chosen, where possible to charge all my devices as slowly as possible.

Anker 4 Port Charger
Anker 4 Port Charger

My most used option for the HP Chromebook 11, my Nexus 7, and my phone is a one meter illuminated charging cable. I have purchased three different types, and the common factor is usefulness rather than speed. They glow red when charging, and turn blue when charging stops. They charge at about half the speed of the fast PortaPow cables, but I plug all my devices in at night, and by morning, everything has been charged slowly but effectively.

When I travel, speed becomes more of an issue, and I go to the fast charging options.

The HP Chromebook 11 and  the “Low-power charger” message

I have no inside information here, but I see devices described by my HP 11 as “Low-power chargers” charging at a pretty good rate (See the figures above)  My feeling is that the HP charger uses a customized “hardware handshake” or unique resistors between the signal and power lines. I am sure no matter how powerful the charger, and good the cable nothing but a genuine HP charger will be considered the full powered option. It does not mean the the charger is not doing a good job. Slower? Yes, but that is not always a bad thing.

I have worked for days with a 2 amp Nexus 7 charger slowly charging ( and sometimes discharging) my HP Chromebook 11 while it is being used. When I close the lid and the computer is suspended, it charged at a pretty fast rate.

I am currently writing this on the HP 11 with Drive, Gmail and a couple of other tabs open. It has charged only 5% in the last hour. But in my experience, a Windows Laptop being used while charging can often take 8-10 hours to charge. Assuming a 20% starting point, that is 8% per hour, so the difference is noticeable, but not catastrophic.

This computer has now been charging for four hours, three in sleep mode, one in constant use, and the battery has gone from 9% to 82%. Not a bad average, given that my $1800 ASUS Zenbook takes four hours to charge from 20% while not being used.

The thing to remember is, if you use the machine constantly, the charger will keep it going. Any USB charger will bring it back up overnight, and that USB charger can also charge your phone, tablet, headphones, keyboard, mouse and more. And the slower charging rate will preserve the battery in your Chromebook.

Also worth mentioning is that the power-bank you bought to recharge your phone or tablet can also keep the HP Chromebook 11 running longer. Everything from a 2600 mAh lipstick sized charger to the 10400 mAh Soshine power bank beside me (review coming) can keep that HP Chromebook 11 running longer.

My Takeaway:

  • Any USB charger can charge the HP Chromebook 11
  • Any HP Chromebook 11 charger can charge a myriad of other devices
  • Lower powered chargers may take longer, but they will extend battery life
  • The HP Chromebook 11 & Charger is a VERY light travel solution, and can charge other devices
  • pick the best cable for the job you need

If you have doubts, look at the numbers, and, does it really need to charge in three hours? What is your real usage model? In my case, a trickle feed keeping it going all day and an overnight top-up is perfect, and any charger can do that…

Enjoy!

QwertyZen – A Writers Text Editor for Chrome

I spend a lot of time writing in ChromeOS on a Chromebook and Chromebox. I am always looking for a reliable, distraction free text editor, a Writers Editor.

QwertyZen Uncluttered Interface
QwertyZen Uncluttered Interface

I have used several text editors, and all work well but have issues. Some have no save capability, some do not work offline, some have no spell-checker and some are cluttered and allow no font and color options. Some are not persistent.

 

QwertyZen is elegant, simple, and has an uncluttered interface

QwertyZen is elegant, simple, and does all of that. It has an uncluttered interface, saves, works offline and on Chromebooks and Windows machines and has a good spell-checker.

When you start typing the interface disappears, showing just the text and nothing else. Moving the mouse over the page brings up the interface. The file name is at the top of the screen, and the word count, letter count, target, and average reading time shows at the bottom of the screen. A simple menu system appears on the left side. This allows full screen mode (and back) file save, save as, and open, new document, and an additional nice feature, the ability to set a target.

Setting targets

Is there any writer or blogger who is not trying to reach a target word count? Articles need to be a certain length. Most of has have a personal goal of a certain number of words per day. This can be set for each document, and a green popup appears in the corner of the screen when the target is reached.

Settings

The QwertyZen Interface
The QwertyZen Interface

The settings tab is simple and basic. Font and background colour, font size and type and line width and height can be set.

It is also persistent. If I close my Chromebook down, when I restart and open QweryZen, the last document is still there, waiting to be edited and saved.

A small but nice feature is a findable cursor

I set my background to a dark blue and my font to white or light blue. Many text editors show the mouse pointer as a fine black bar, making it impossible to find the mouse location on a dark background without clicking on the page to see where the cursor will appear. In QweryZen the mouse Cursor is black with a white outline, making it clearly visible at all times.

It does not have a built in ability to print, but I can open any text file from Google Drive as a doc and print it, in the rare cases I want to print a .txt file from my Chromebox or Chromebook.

QweryZen cannot be registered in Drive as an App, so clicking on a text file will not open it in QweryZen, but I simply open files from inside QweryZen using the File List option.

I would like to see a search or search and replace capability. A recently opened files list would be nice. Autosave would be a nice option. I can survive without all of them, though.

Other than that, I am VERY pleased after a few hours of use. I have now deleted Caret and Write Space to remove confusion and clutter, and am using QwertyZen as my sole Chromebook text editor.

This review was written in QwertZen

Windows 7 Updates Cause Lost Time & Aggravation

Asus ultrabook
Asus ultrabook

Trying to get my ASUS ZenBook UX31E running this morning has been an exercise in frustration. I use a USB stick with PortableApps on it for mail, so I can move from PC to PC. Most of the time I am on a Chromebook using ChromeOS and Gmail, and there are no delays because of updates and patches. It all just happens automagically. Windows, of course, is different.

Most of the time I am on a Chromebook using ChromeOS and Gmail, and there are no delays because of updates and patches. Windows, of course, is different.

I have not used the machine for a couple of weeks, so there were 12 updates. The antivirus software wanted to update. The PortableApps wanted to update. I am moving from a USB 2 stick to a new 64Gb USB 3 stick. The drivers on the Ultrabook do not recognize the new USB 3 stick.

Bluetooth and USB 3 driver pains

The Bluetooth mouse would not connect. I deleted the last instance and re-installed, three times. Each time I went through the troubleshooting routine that re-installed the drivers. that is SIX installs, still no go.

After two hours the PortableApps are updated, the 12 Windows updates have downloaded, and I am waiting for the machine to install and shut down. In that time that has taken, I have written most of this post on my Chromebook in Google Drive. We are at update 11, still installing. Still no Bluetooth or USB 3.

I keep a wireless mouse just for this situation. The ASUS and Windows 7 is so perverse that I despair of ever having these high tech devices work for more than a few days without having to re-install.

By comparison, the Chromebook instantly recognises the Bluetooth Logitech Ultrathin Mouse and the Sandisk 64Gb USB 3 drive. The Chromebooks are constantly ridiculed by Windows and OSX users as nothing but a web browser.

After all that and 39,386 registry updates, we are running again. The Mouse works! I have had to re-install the the ASUS USB 3 drivers.

Finally running after two and a half hours

Then , finally after almost two and a half hours, the machine is running and talking to all it’s peripherals. Why oh why can’t Windows adopt the Linux driver model that makes Linux and ChromeOS (using the Linux kernel) as fast and reliable as it is!

Make a backup now!

Having finally gotten everything updated and working in a configuration I like, I am now running a backup, saving a System Image to an external USB drive. Another hour and a half gone, but this time NOT WASTED. I strongly recommend making a system image every week or so. It is the ultimate recovery option.

I have two old USB drives, both recovered from laptops that have been upgraded to solid state drives (SSDs) and put into cheap USB drive cases. I alternate backups between the two drives for all my Windows machines. One is stored remotely, and I swap them every few weeks.

Travelling Light for Business – Watch The Carry-on Weights

I flew Cabin luggage restrictionsout of Melbourne at 7 pm on Saturday night.

Nothing unusual there. But between arriving at the airport and boarding the plane I went through a security check, got pulled out of the line to have my backpack and bag sampled for bomb making residue, and had my carry-on bag weighed a the boarding gate by Jetstar’s new carry-on police.

The boarding gate weigh-in is because my carrier, Jetstar have just lowered the carry-on weight from 10 Kg (22 lbs) to 7 Kg (15.4 lbs) and people who exceed the 7 Kg weight are charged $50 to have their overweight bags shifted to the hold as late checked baggage.

The carry-on policeman thanked me politely but looked a little disappointed when my bag weighed it at 6 Kg. To my surprise, they did not add the small bag I carried over my shoulder to put under the seat.

I knew about the new limits, and had weighed my bags near the check-in area, and they came to 7.1 Kg, so when I saw the carry-on police ahead, I quickly shifted my Nexus 7 tablet (and case) into my pocket, taking 400 grams out of the load and putting me safely under the carry-on limit.

Others were not so lucky. I saw several people being ushered out of the queue with over-stuffed bags, headed for the $50 sin-bin of late checked luggage.

The reality is carry-on weights vary from country to country and airline to airline. Jetstar even had different rules for different routes. but now, 7 Kg combined carry-on weight is the rule. In my case, the little shoulder bag was not weighed, but that may well come. With budget airlines trying to increase profits, baggage is a money-spinner. In 2013, 20.6% of Jetstar’s revenue came from “ancillary sources” namely food, checked luggage, seat booking fees, booking fees, etc. This added up to an average of $31.60 per passenger.

Qantas reportedly comes third in the world in ancillary revenue per passenger at $US45.67, But much of that is from selling frequent flyer points to credit card providers and retailers loyalty programs.

Overall airlines extracted $US31.5 billion, or $US16 a passenger from ancillary fees in 2013. These fees are helping to get airlines back into the black.

The moral of this little story is, look carefully at what you carry, and where you carry it.

The night before I flew to Melbourne, I made a last minute switch from the HP Stream 11 laptop I am testing back to my HP Chromebook 11 because it, and its power supply were half a Kilo heavier than the Chromebook, pushing me over the 7 Kg limit. It caused problems, mainly that a selection of video and music I had saved on a Micro-SD card for the trip got left behind. I had other sources, so it was just an annoyance, but it has generated a to-do item to write a couple of travelling checklists.

I have learned a number of lessons. I am the proud owner of a hard-shell wheeled carry-on case. I bought is as a kind of walking stick last year when I had to travel while recovering from a month long issue with vertigo (dizziness & nausea when moving around) I could set the handle low, and lean on the four wheeled case as I pushed it along. It was an unusual color but a very cheap demo model, and it saved my life. Its new cousins are still costing around $300, and other similar devices are as high as $840. But now, its 2.5 Kg shell is too big a price to pay for style and convenience.

Kathmandu Lite-Haul Pack
Kathmandu Lite-Haul Pack

I flew with a 1.4 Kg (3 pound) 38 Litre Lite-haul convertible Kathmandu backpack, and discovered that 7 Kg is a totally different story to 10 Kg. Even with a less than robust back I could carry the 7 Kg bag comfortably. I did not deploy the shoulder straps once. I just carried it everywhere will only minor discomfort. I walked 14 Km in three days, 10 of them carrying the 7 Kg carry-on, and arrived home feeling fine.

I simply did not need the 2.5Kg wheely case. Next time I may carry my Nike sports bag. It weighs in at 0.74 Kg saving more than half a kilo for more important items.

200 Gram (0.44 pound) Day Pack
200 Gram (0.44 pound) Day Pack

I carry a lightweight folding backpack. it weighs 200 grams, or 0.2 Kg (0.44 pound) and folds into it’s own back pocket. It easily fits under the seat on the plane with personal items in it, but is big enough to carry 15 liters of personal stuff, shopping or warm clothing. It may not impress at a business meeting, but for a working trip it worked fine for me.

So spend some time checking that you are only travelling with what you need. Most of us add a host of might needs to the mix, and finish up fighting with too much baggage. I recommend a visit to Onebag.com for some tips on keeping it light.

The Samsung Phone Extended Battery and Back

The Samsung Phone Extended Battery and Back.

Galaxy S3 Extended Battery & Back
Galaxy S3 Extended Battery & Back

While most phone manufacturers delight in offering thinner and lighter phones, some users, me included, simply want more battery life. This is the best answer I have found so far.

I always carry a 4400 mAh power bank that can charge all my mobile devices, and since an embarrassing episode in Melbourne a couple of months ago, when it’s charging cable broke, I have been looking for alternatives.

I am currently using what I think is the best option for me, as a Samsung Galaxy S3 user. The S3 is old, but it works, does what I want, and I have heaps of accessories for it. And there are two of them in my office, so sharing accessories, advice & batteries is common.

Galaxy S3 Extended Battery
Galaxy S3 Extended Battery

I am now using an add-on battery that is 4500 Mha, almost 2.5 times the capacity of the original. It comes with a curved white back to replace the factory back. It adds weight, about 35 grams or 1.23 ounces, and gives a slightly pregnant look to the phone, but fits well and looks fine. Having lived with the original Motorola Brick phone weighing 0.8 Kg or 28 ounces, I will not complain about the weight. It is about one third thicker, and about one third heavier, and for twice (or more) the battery life, that is a good deal.

The phone stays the same width and length, and uses the superb Sony charging controller, with a constant 870 mA charging rate.  It also protects the camera better than the original case. Since the battery fits in the normal battery holder, it will not interfere with the antenna, but does not have the NFC (Near Field Communication) chip fitted. I have never used NFC, but to some users, this will be an issue.

It will not be a permanent fixture, but whenever I travel I will switch to this two day battery for some peace of mind. This is one of the true benefits of using a phone with a removable battery. Some phones, notably, but not exclusively, Apple devices do not have this option.

I am not, and may never be an iPhone user, but I know that many users of this “thin, jewel like, bla, bla, bla” phone look first for an add-on battery. A search for iPhone battery case returns 41 million results… Mac World says: “The iPhone 5’s battery life isn’t bad, but it isn’t awesome, either. With careful use, you can make your iPhone’s battery last all day. If you want to work your iPhone hard, however, particularly when you’re traveling or otherwise away from places to recharge the device, you need a battery case.” The recommended cases cost $80, $100 and $120. and a benefit described is that most cases use a Micro-USB charging port,not the more expensive Lightning cable. And everything else uses USB charging, so you can share a charger. The power case makes the phone not only thicker and heavier, but wider and longer, and must play havoc with the notoriously problematic antenna.

Other phones by different manufacturers have the same problem. For some, it is to reduce weight and size, for others, it is a cost saving measure.

Galaxy S3 Extended Battery & Back
Galaxy S3 Extended Battery & Back

The result is that public power outlets are at a premium. I was amused when passing through Melbourne airport a last week to see five people huddled around power outlets, even sitting on the floor talking on their phones while they charged them.

So if you travel, and have a phone with a removable battery, check out the options for your device.

Charging the HP Chromebook 11 Without the Factory Micro-USB Charger.

Hint: Its all about the cables!

The HP Chromebook 11
The HP Chromebook 11

The HP Chromebook 11 broke new ground by using a fast 3 Amp Micro-USB charger. It also generated a lot of bad publicity early on when the US chargers had to be recalled due to overheating. The USB charging is effective because the computer has a relatively small battery, and thus achieves a fairly rapid charge. To get reasonable battery life despite a very bright 300 nit screen, it uses a relatively low powered processor, limiting it’s performance. At a weight less than a Mac Book Air, it is a joy to carry, and on short business trips, the ability for the single, light charger to charge every device I carry is seductive.

But there are reports that the chargers are difficult to replace if they fail. Any Micro USB charger can charge the Chromebook overnight, but they lack the power to charge the machine while it is running. A 1 Amp phone charger will raise an alert that it is a low powered charger, and the running device will still bleed down slowly.

My experience with a variety of chargers and cables shows that while many chargers will deliver the required 3 Amps, the Cable used is the big leveler. The original HP charger is rated at 3 amps and works fast. I have not dismantled it, but I am sure it uses heavy gauge wire.

Most USB cables use thin #28 or #24 AWG wire. Non-intuitively, lower numbers are thicker and therefore better conductors of current. The USB charger supplies 5 V (volts) and the thicker the wires the better. Thin wires provide resistance, and power coming from the charger is lost as heat in the cable. So as a rule of thumb, shorter is better, and thicker is better. Over the last 12 months I have tested about 30 different cables. Some were quite expensive, many were not. The shortest ones worked best, but at 200 mm (8 inch) cable is not very convenient.

PortaPow fast charging cable
PortaPow fast charging cable

The single best charging cable I have found comes from PortaPow in England. It is the PortaPow Fast Charge Micro USB Cable (Length: 100cm (3.3ft)) Most cables of this length would only deliver 0.6 – 0.7 A. That translates to about 3.5 W, not enough to charge and run a Chromebook. The PortaPow cable delivers 1.75 A or about 8.75 W. from the same power supply. I believe my cable is #22 AWG, but they have since increased the size of the conductors to #20 AWG and I have two more on order.

Lets look at three chargers that work well with this cable. In each case the Chromebook is running with multiple tabs open, multiple docs, Gmail, Drive and some web pages. WiFi is on, and I am using a Bluetooth mouse. Brightness is at about 80%. In all cases they are reported as low power chargers.

Anker 4 Port Charger
Anker 4 Port Charger

My favourite charger is the Anker 40 watt, 5 port IQ+ charger. It has been superseded by a 60 watt version, but mine is working fine and does not need an upgrade. With the PortaPow cable, it delivers 1.75 A and the Chromebook is working and charging steadily. If I close the lid and hibernate for 30 minutes, it will charge up by 12%. Basic arithmetic suggests about 4 hours to go from 20% to 100%. With the computer working, of course, it will be MUCH longer, but will get there.

Kensington 2 amp Charger
Kensington 2 amp Charger

I also have a Kensington 2 amp, 4 port charger that can be plugged into the power socket or be used with a figure 8 cable instead of the adapter. It charges the Chromebook at 1.45 A and has enough power in reserve to also charge my smartphone without reducing power to the Chromebook.

Finally, the ASUS 2 A wall-mount charger that came with my Nexus 7. This small charger is rated at 2 A and pushed about 1.35 A through the PortaPow cable. This is enough to run the Chromebook with a little left in reserve for charging. With my current settings it is charging at about 3% per hour. I would suggest playing video at full brightness will cause the battery to drop.

There is an endless parade of USB Chargers, and the cheaper ones are not worth the time. Ask yourself if you really want a $5 charger between mains voltage and your expensive device, and then move on to a name brand charger.

My summary of the best options:

If you already have a 2 amp charger lying around ( I am sure you do) simply buy the PortaPow fast charging cable, and you are in business. The Nexus 7 charger weighs 62 grams (2.2 oz) with an Australian plug.

If you want flexibility and low weight, the Kensington 2 amp charger (112 grams ( 4 oz)) comes with a range of international plugs, and can be used with a figure 8 cable if the power outlet is inaccessible and can charge four devices (up to 2 amps) simultaneously.

For speed and power, there is no substitute for the Anker 5 port IQ+ charger. It weighs in at a hefty 250 grams (8.8 oz) with a cable but I have been on vacation with four people, a chromebook, three tablets, four smartphones, a USB powered WiFi hotspot and assorted keyboards mice and Bluetooth headsets and the Anker handled the lot perfectly.

My Review of the Anker Charger is here, you might enjoy it.

I also reviewed the HP Chromebook 11, and decided It is my favorite Chromebook despite it’s limitations!

My Office for Today

The Royal Exchange Hotel
The Royal Exchange Hotel

The Royal Exchange Hotel, opposite Southern Cross Station in Melbourne.

This is a quiet bistro and bar below street level and just across the road from the railway station. I arrived for a very late breakfast and ordered the Big Breakfast for $15 with coffee.

The Big Breakfast
The Big Breakfast

The Big Breakfast was indeed big, and came with coffee. Quite a meal.

I set up here and worked for some time. It is quiet, dimly lit and was a battery saver, allowing me to dim the brightness of my HP Chromebook 11 way down. After working for some 30 minutes, the Chromebook was showing 8.5 hrs of battery life remaining.