The Chromebook Offline Challenge – A Week Without Internet.

Drive is OfflineAt 11:45 this morning I walked out of my office with my HP Chromebook 11. I had synced drive and offline Gmail, Calendar, Evernote (the Android app.) and Pocket. I have opened Keep, StackEdit, and other apps that I use while online, allowing them to sync up. Then I turned WiFi off.

“At 11:45 this morning, I turned my Chromebook’s WiFi off. It will stay disconnected for a week”

I will not connect this Chromebook to the Internet for a week. I will write using Drive and Docs, and do all the work I normally do on my Chromebox on this device.

The HP Chromebook 11
The HP Chromebook 11

The purpose of the experiment is not to live without the Internet, but to test the reliability of Docs, Drive, Keep, and other tools for a long period of disconnection. Will they be reliable? Will I lose work? A common criticism of Chromebooks is that they do not work offline. That myth has been debunked repeatedly, but the question remains, just how safe is a Chromebook if it is offline for a prolonged period?

“The myth that Chromebooks don’t work offline has been thoroughly debunked…”

To protect my week’s output, I will copy and paste text into QwertyZen or StackEdit and save to a USB stick in case of total disaster.

The first loss, of course is that spell checking does not work in offline Docs. I will have to wait until I am back on-line, or copy text to another editor that does spell checking offline such as StackEdit, QwertyZen, or Write.

One drawback with gDocs (Google Docs) is that they cannot be copied and pasted to a USB drive or otherwise accessed outside Drive. And another drawback is that non Google files, like .txt, .json or .html are not syncronised automatically. These non Google documents can, however be saved to a USB stick or Dropbox, Onedrive or a Windows share for storage. They can also be set to save locally and synchronize using the ChromeOS Files app. Simply save the file to Drive, find it using the Files app, right click and check “Available Offline”. This will need to be done in each instance of drive where you want this file kept, it does not propagate across machines.

I will update my progress periodically. I do not expect to have a problem, but time will tell.

This post was writted as a Google Doc, formatted in StackEdit, saved as HTML to a USB drive and uploaded via my Chromebox.

Old Hardware Never Dies, It Just Gets Recycled

Two Old Friends
Two Old Friends

I have spent the morning cleaning out some old hardware. A pair of desktop computers that have not been started up for four years or more.

I do not consider myself a hoarder, but letting go of old computer equipment is always hard.

Computers and technology tend to be big purchases. We invest in them.

In this case the machines were ones that I had built, rebuilt and upgraded by hand. I had used them as workstations, sitting for hours, days, weeks, months while they had whirred tirelessly away under the desk.

I wrote software and articles. Thousands of pieces of e-mail flowed across the screens. hours of music had played through the speakers.

Operating systems and software had been upgraded, replaced and, at times re-installed or wound back. Disk repair, defrag and backup software had kept them running many nights.

In each case they had become too slow for the latest software. They had been relegated to workgroup servers (an undemanding job in a small workgroup) and eventually were shelved as “backups” for newer machines.

Today their performance and capacity seems ludicrous, but each machine was a big investment, carefully chosen, and lovingly used.

I name my computers.

Old hardware never diesOver the years I have named computers after moons, characters from books and movies. Currently I am naming them after spacecraft and mars rovers. I am typing this on a Chromebox named Firefly, while my Chromebook, Viking recharges beside me.

These two were named Banichi and Jago. I will leave it for the sci-fi fans to figure out who they were named after.

Today they were carted into the back yard, minus disk drives, that will be destroyed, and added to a pile to go to the recycling depot as e-waste. Finding a home for them, minus keyboards and monitors is impractical.

I will not miss them, but I will remember them as old friends now departed.

00175 – Image Courtesy of Wilson Afonso

Beware – Microsoft is Downloading Windows 10 Without Asking

Microsoft is silently pushing Windows 10 onto every PC running a current version of Windows

Windows 10 Screen

It is now becoming clear that Microsoft is silently pushing Windows 10 onto every PC running a current version of Windows. This is a huge 3 Gigabyte download, silently saved to a hidden folder on your Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 computer.

For those with desktop computers and fast Internet connections this is little more than an annoyance. It may even be a benefit if you plan to upgrade soon.

If you are a nomad, digital or grey, you have a problem.

But if you are a nomad, digital or grey, you have a problem. Nomads are often using very slow  or expensive metered data plans. Often public WiFi is all that is available. It may be free, but is often limited to 200 or 500 Megabytes per day.

Telstra’s pre-paid mobile data plans typically are 10$ per Gigabyte. Mobile plans start at $35 per Gigabyte. And heaven help anyone who is overseas and paying Telstra’s $3 per Megabyte roaming charges!

Microsoft is assuming everyone will want to upgrade sooner or later, so we might as well download it and hide it on your computer now.  This is, in my opinion and  egregious violation of people’s confidence and trust in the Microsoft upgrade process.

Microsoft told the Enquirer: “For individuals who have chosen to receive automatic updates through Windows Update, we help upgradable devices get ready for Windows 10 by downloading the files they’ll need if they decide to upgrade.

“When the upgrade is ready, the customer will be prompted to install Windows 10 on the device.”

Many web sites say that by removing one Windows update, KB3035583 the process can be stopped. Unfortunately, this information is out of date. Microsoft has worked around that, and is once again starting the downloads.

If you are using Windows 8 or 8.1 you can set your connection to “Metered” and updates will wait. Microsoft has an article on Metered Internet Connections here

I can offer no easy solution for those on slow connections or Windows 7. There is one fix discussed on a Microsoft Forum, but it is technical, and a mistake may break your computer. Use it at your own peril.

I have decided that the best way to stop Windows 7 trying to download Windows 10 was to simply remove it.

I have installed Ubuntu 14.04, a version of Linux as a replacement on my only Windows PC. My ASUS UX31E Ultrabook cannot handle Windows 10 properly. Some drivers do not work, and It uses the battery too fast. I will try it again soon, but for now Linux is my Laptop operating system of choice.

Since I use my Chromebooks 95% of the time, this is not an issue for me.

If you Decide to Install Windows 10

If you have decided to go ahead and install Windows 10 despite the privacy and compatibility issues, there is an excellent video on Youtube that steps you through the changes necessary to regain some privacy. Check it out here: