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.

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.

Arlec 3.1 Amp 2 port Fast USB Charger + GPO

Arlec DA30 USB Charger
Arlec DA30 USB Charger

A good USB Charger is essential for the Small/Mobile Office user.  Australian users will be impressed by the Arlec DA30 High Powered USB Charger. These are advertised on the  These are advertised on the Bunnings web site.

The DA30 has has 2 USB ports, charging at 3.1Amps plus a GPO (Power outlet). That makes it a pass-through power outlet. This allows two USB devices to be charged, while still providing a power point for another device. This is a Get Out Of Jail Free card for someone in a place where they can only access a single power point.

The label says USB 1 is 1 amp and USB 2 is 2.1 amps. Unfortunately, the outlets are not labeled, so I used a current meter, and found the left hand port is the 2.1A and the right hand port is 1A.

My research has shown that USB charging ports are not all equal. This device is advertised as being for an iPad and iPhone. I do not own Apple devices, only Android. I am testing charging rates on other devices to see how well it performs there, and it seems to perform quite well.

It has matched the best charging rate for each cable and device across all the chargers I have tested. In reality, most devices will not allow charging at much above 1.5A, so the DA30 is a good, quick charger.

I TRUST Arlec, an Australian company based in Sydney. The products may be manufactured overseas, but an Aussie brand used heavily in building and in industry will maintain it’s quality and protect it’s brand. Arlec, and Australian manufacturer, will maintain standards that many importers will not. I am using two of these chargers, and  recommend that Australian based nomads, both Gray and Digital, support Arlec and buy this product.

I have purchased two, and will soon buy two more. One thing I cannot get enough of is USB charging ports.

This device is a fixed 240 volt Australian pin layout. International travellers need chargers that work form 110 to 240 volts and fit multiple power sockets. This WILL NOT work safely overseas, but here in Australia, this looks good.

My only complaint is the Blue LED is a little bright in a dark bedroom.

For use inside Australia, I recommend this charger for daily use. Beside the bed, in the office or in the suitcase, car or caravan while travelling, this is a great device.

For international travellers or those flying with severe weight restrictions, you should look further.

Would the SONY Hack Work on a Google Drive Based Business?

Your Information IS your business, Keep It Safe

Google Drive & Docs
Google Drive & Docs

A modern business of ANY size is largely the sum of it’s data and documents. Keeping them safe and private is crucial for the survival of your business. Are you safe if you use Google services?

Security in the Post Sony Hack World

The Sony Pictures hack has shone the spotlight on the security issues posed by Internet connected systems, particularly those using Windows desktops. Sony, it will probably be revealed, got hacked via a spearfishing attack. Spearfishing is aiming a carefully crafted attack at an individual using personal information to make the attack seem like an email or document they expect, know, or want. Once they have allowed it into the network, lax security procedures and poor passwords gave them access to everything. However they got in, poor security procedures will ultimately be revealed to be the main culprit.

Sony Hack
Sony Hack

Passwords were stored in unencrypted files named “passwords”. Thousands of email messages stored in Microsoft Outlook .PST data files were copied. massive numbers of documents were just copied off the Sony servers and out to the web. It is obvious that security was lax, but the reason all this was copied is basically that it was all sitting on Sony servers, and the passwords were weak or available to the hackers.

This was a failure of the classic server-client network on a huge scale.

Security in the Google Cloud World

Google Drive Logo
Google Drive Logo

On the other hand, a business that keeps it’s workers on Chromebooks and stores data in the cloud is going to be in a better position to defend it’s data.

The documents, spreadsheets and mail are all stored on Google’s secure and backed up servers. Access is via individual user passwords. Documents can be private, shared with individuals, shared with domains (everyone in the business) or publicly.

There is one huge security advantage to this. Instead of documents being emailed around the company, they can be shared via email. This means that all that is sent is a link. A document in an email can be forwarded, copied and stolen. The document link will only work for someone logged into Google Drive as the recipient of the document. Anyone else that gets the link will not be able to access the document. This is a huge step up from emailing documents.

An Example of the Dangers of Sending Documents

Some time ago, I worked for a very large organization that used Microsoft Office. Everyone used Outlook for email. People inside the company sent contracts, proposals, memos and other documents as Word documents attached to emails.

In one large department, Instead of saving documents on the corporate servers, they began to go back to Outlook to find the last version of the document and worked on that. Then they sent it or saved it back to Outlook. Corporate data was not being saved on the file servers. Outlook .PST files grew to huge sizes.

Then, one Sunday night, the mail server for that department ran out of disk space. It tried to alert the Sysadmin, but there was no space on the server to process the email. The whole system collapsed at 2:35 AM and no-one knew anything was wrong until they arrived for work on Monday.

The lack of disk space had also prevented backups from running properly. Tape backups had failed weeks before, but no-one had checked the logs. It took two weeks to get the mail system running, and many users had lost hundreds of documents and revisions of documents. Some lost their entire email history, address book and calendar. For weeks, email flew around the organization begging for recent versions of contracts, proposals and other documents to be sent back to the originators. The fallout went on for a year or more.

As the Sysadmin for my department, I began monitoring the size of Outlook data files, and began delivering scathing warnings if they began to grow to large.

It was a lesson I never forgot.

And the Winner Is…

If Sony had been using Google cloud storage, how may this have played out?

E-mail would have been protected by storage in Google’s cloud. Google mail is accessible by web browser. The connection to Gmail is by a secure HTTPS connection. This would have made intercepting e-mail difficult to impossible. Attachments would have been replaced by links, and not accessible to the hackers without the relevant passwords. Email would have remained secure as long as passwords remained secure.

I have mentioned secure passwords a few times. A cloud based solution needs good password security. Sony obviously were using bad passwords and poor password procedures.

For Google Docs (the business version of Drive) User policy is controlled centrally by the Administrator and allows policy like good passwords and two factor authentication to be enforced.

Lastpass
Lastpass

A corporate account with Lastpass would have saved a lot of grief. Lastpass creates and stores secure passwords. Instead of using “Monkey” or “123456” everywhere, Lastpass will generate a real, unique and secure password for every site and then store it for you. Every time you visit that site while logged into lastpass, it will paste the password and username into the browser for you.

And even better, it is really secure, really cheap, and uses two factor authentication.

Singing the Praises of Two Factor Authentication  

Two factor authentication simply means you need something other that the password. The password is easily stolen, but a second form of identification means the password is not enough

The second factor or token can be one of those key-ring devices that shows a number every thirty seconds, a fingerprint, a retinal scan, or a usb dongle that has to be plugged into your computer before you can log in.

Every teller at my bank has to swipe a card and type a password before they can use a terminal. That card is their second factor.

The simplest one for most of us is an app for our phone or tablet. I use Google Authenticator. I have registered my Google Mail account, and when I login, I have 30 seconds to type in the six digit number displayed on my phone or tablet. I also have a sheet of six emergency codes. I keep that paper very safe, and have never had to use it. I always have a phone or tablet in range when I sit down at the computer.

The Cloud IS Secure

00131-drive-iconsAs we can see from this, using a cloud service like Google Docs is no less secure than storing everything on a local server.

Is it absolute security? No. No-one is even sure such a thing exists. It is all relative.

If the FBI, NSA, ASIO or GCHQ want your data, they will get it. But Google is working hard to make this process more difficult for them, and is making great strides.

This is a low friction, low cost option to provide secure storage and sharing of your data with high reliability, and no cost for a big IT team to keep it working.

REALLY Secure Information in the Cloud  

Some things really are secrets, rather that just private. There are ways to put the absolutely most secret things in the cloud to. They just require a little work to get them there.

More on that later – Enjoy!

Logitech T630 Ultrathin Touch Mouse

Logitech T630 Ultra-thin Touch Mouse
Logitech T630 Ultra-thin Touch Mouse

For many users of touch devices such as phones and tablets, mice are a thing of the past. For me, the mouse still has a huge place in my toolkit. It is essential for laptop and desktop computing, and even editing text on a tablet works better with a mouse.

I use a number of tablets and computers on a daily basis, and wireless mice have three drawbacks. They require a spare USB port for the dongle, they require AA or AAA batteries, and they are mostly fairly large.

I spend a lot of time using Laptops, Chromebooks and Tablets. None of these have a lot of spare USB ports, and some have none at all. So Bluetooth is the only option to get full functionality on all devices. If I am doing serious typing on my Nexus 7 Tablet, I connect a Bluetooth keyboard, and at times, having a mouse is handy.

If I am travelling, I will have a Chromebook or an Ultrabook. Long hours working on one of these devices on a table or on my lap is a sure invitation for a stiff neck, and back pain. So I carry a stand that tilts the laptop up to a level where the screen is comfortable.  This may require a Bluetooth keyboard, but always makes the trackpad difficult to use, so I always use a mouse if I have the room.

I have been using a Microsoft Sculpt Touch mouse, simply because it was the only Bluetooth mouse I could find here in Tasmania, Australia that was reliable. The Sculpt Touch is a good size, but has a tactile bar that replaces the wheel that drives me absolutely crazy. It is impossible to control on non Windows computers, and just plain bad on Windows. Scrolling becomes an exercise in frustration that has on one occasion literally driven me to throw the mouse across the room (onto a lounge chair, I was frustrated, not stupid) and resort to the touch pad. It also uses 2 AA batteries, and therefore is quite heavy.

I do not like mice that require batteries. When I travel I must take spare batteries, and/or a charger. I like everything I use to charge from a USB port. This makes it possible to travel for an extended period with only one charger. I have a USB powered AA/AAA charger, but it is another device, and unless I carry spares, I have to stop work and wait for my mouse batteries to be charged, or do without the mouse

So I went shopping for ANY mouse that was Bluetooth enabled and has USB charging. I took a few deep breaths before I paid out $90 for a mouse, and kept the receipt in case I could not use it, but I have found THE perfect mouse for me.

The Logitech T630 Ultrathin Touch Mouse

Logitech T630 Ultra-thin Touch MouseThe Logitech T630 Ultrathin Touch Mouse. I confess, if I had seen one, I may have gone for the T631 white mouse, but other than that, this is mouse is ideal for me. It is very small, 59 x 85 x 19mm and weighing only 70 grams.  The tiny size had me worried that it might be difficult to control, but it invites you to place two or three fingertips on top and control it that way. There is no wheel, the entire top surface is touch sensitive, and stroking the top surface up and down or sideways provides a scroll effect. The provided software works on Windows & Mac, and adds multi-touch functionality, but since I use Chrome OS, Linux and Android as well as Windows I have kept my use to the basic functions that work on every device.

Scrolling is smooth and effortless, and can be done almost anywhere on the top of the mouse. The Bluetooth setup is a function of the operating system, but the mouse seems to reconnect on wake-up very fast. It has been faultlessly reliable.

An added feature that a number of Logitech keyboards have is the ability to pair to two or more devices, and switch between them with the flick of a switch. The Logitech mouse has a switch on the bottom of the mouse that allows two connections. I would love the ability to connect to three devices, like my Logitech K810 Keyboard, but two is enough for most situations.

To keep the mouse clean and small, the micro-usb charging port is on the bottom, so the mouse cannot be used and charged at the same time. This is not really a problem. One minute of charging will run the mouse for an hour. I have only had the mouse go flat once, I plugged it in for a minute to get it working, continued worked until I wanted a break, and re-charged it the few minutes I was away from the computer. Basically I charge the mouse & keyboard up once a week, and just forget about it after that. I do not bother to switch it off unless I am travelling.

I am far more concerned with function than looks, but it is still a pretty mouse. it is small, works on everything (better if you have the Windows or Mac software, but I am happy without the extras) and has a simply beautiful scroll surface.

Watch out for the Click!

Logitech T630 Ultra-thin Touch MouseI have seen criticism of the buttons sticking down. The do NOT stick. The buttons are under the chassis of the mouse. There are no buttons on top of the mouse. It is a single, unbroken touch surface. The entire mouse moves down when you click a button. If (like me) your fingers hang over the sides of the mouse, and touch the desktop it is possible that when you click (press down) your fingers, resting on the desktop, will grip the mouse tightly enough to stop it coming back up. This is a user error, based on the very light, small and short travel of the mouse. As you become aware of this, you learn to be a little gentler in handling the mouse, and it then moves perfectly.

I became comfortable with the tiny, light and sensitive nature of the mouse quickly. the button held down issue took a few days. but now, when I have to use a normal mouse it feels monstrously big, and awkward. Having to deal with a shrunken tendon in my right hand makes this mouse even more friendly.

Overall, this is my choice for the best ever portable mouse, and in my case, the best mouse ever.

The quick and simple connection with Chrome and Android devices as well as the usual Windows and OS x devices makes it very versatile. Frankly, the best ever! It is small, light and a little different in use due to the tactile to surface, but once you use the mouse for a few days, you will not want to go backwards to an old, traditional mouse.

I am writing this on an ASUS Chromebox, with a Logitech K810 Keyboard and a Logitech T630 Ultrathin Touch Mouse in Google Docs. Despite the high price, I am trying to convince my wife that a second T630 Ultrathin makes sense for my office, where I use multiple devices on a daily basis.

The jury is still out on that second mouse… But I am hopeful…

ASUS Chromebox Review – The ASUS Chromebox Is A Winner!

 

ASUS Chromebox
ASUS Chromebox

The last step in my conversion from “Full” PCs running Windows or Linux has occured. I pre-ordered the ASUS Chromebox with the Intel Celeron 2955U Processor and it arrived two days ago. I have been using it constantly, and I am very impressed.

It took me a long time to decide to try a Chromebook. The “It’s just a laptop with a browser” crowd kept me away for quite a while. Once I bought a Samsung Chromebook, I was hooked. I Took the 31 day Chromebook challenge,  using nothing but the Chromebook for a month (well, I did give in a couple of times) and I was hooked. I love ChromeOS! I have gradually moved further and further away from Windows and Linux.

The ASUS Chromebox is a not very exciting looking black square, about 120mm square and 35mm high. It is surprisingly heavy, with the ASUS logo and Chrome logo on top, and an Intel inside hologram sticker on the front. The back is an array of connectors, including the ability to connect two monitors, one by HDMI and one by Displayport. I have connected mine to the HDMI port. It has Ethernet, 2 x USB3, Audio out, and power in. On the left side is an SD reader, and on the front two more USB3 ports. It has vents on the bottom and back, and in use is just a little warm on top. It seems to be fanless.

ASUS Chromebox
ASUS Chromebox

There is also Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11 a/b/g/n wireless. It ships with the VESA mount that allows mounting it on the back of a monitor, but my monitor does not have the mounting point, to my dissapointment.

Having the power switch in the corner creates a psychological urge to mount the box at a 45 degree angle with the button facing forward. This makes sense in many cases given that then the right and left sides would have the connectors for SD card on the left and 2 x USB on the right at 45 degrees to the front, and quite reachable. In my case it does not work because of the direction cables must be laid to reach desktop openings.

It boots to a logon in five seconds or less. I am using a 1080p monitor, and the screen scrolls smoothly. I am impressed by the speed. I can play video, edit, and browse with multiple windows open. Scrolling is limited by load time not CPU. I have not yet seen the checkering that is common while scrolling on my HP Chromebook 11. I bought the HP for its light weight and USB charging, not the speed, and I am happy to compromise when I am mobile. But the flicker free, fast performance is a great on a desktop computer.

I am not a big fan of benchmarks, but I ran the Octane test and it runs at about 11,000. That is similar to the speeds I am getting using Chrome on a high end Core i5 Ultrabook running windows, and considerably faster than the HP Chromebook 11.

The (small) manual said I can sleep the Chromebox by pressing the power button, I am not seeing that happening though, it just seems to lock the screen.

It came with a Microsoft wireless keyboard and mouse. I do not like the keyboard, and have replaced it with the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse I have been using for my Chromebook when it is up on its desk stand.

I am currently spending a lot of time in the office, so I have been using it constantly and It has performed flawlessly.


For a Chromebox of this performance, costing $250 (in Australia) delivered, with wireless keyboard and mouse, I consider it an excellent buy.

You might like to read my assessment of ChromeOS at the end of the 31 day challenge here:

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:

 

My 31 Day Chromebook Challenge Ends Today

Samsung Chromebook
The Samsung Chromebook

The 31 day Chromebook Challenge has been… challenging. There have been some failures. I have learned a lot and developed a huge respect for Chromebooks as a daily work tool.

I have also gone back to Windows or Linux on several occasions, and then realised there was an alternative that could have been used on  the Chromebook.

The Lessons – Chromebooks Offline

I spend a good part of my day on the road and away from Internet connectivity. That has been one of the challenges I faced with the Chromebook. It rose to the occasion beautifully. It is lighter than my Asus Zenbook, and a lot cheaper. I feel no fear of damaging it shoving it in and out of my backpack. I have saved hours on sleep and wakeup time.

ASUS Zenbook UX31E
ASUS Zenbook UX31E

My Zenbook crashes if I suspend it while it is connected to an HDMI port and external USB drive. Often it will not disconnect the external drive without me shutting the computer down and rebooting it. On one occasion I lost and entire day when I had to wait to get home to allow it an hour to go through recovering from a nasty BSOD when I woke it up after unplugging the HDMI cable to my external monitor. A day lost.

The Chromebook handles peripherals reliably and instantly

My Chromebook desk setup
My Chromebook desk setup

The chromebook goes to sleep instantly. If the external monitor is disconnected, all open windows are re-sized and appear on the Laptop screen. When the external monitor and USB devices are connected they are found and activated immediately. Open windows can then be dragged back to the the external monitor. The screen resolution is identified correctly and silently. I simply have to go into settings to identify the orientation of the second monitor once, and ChromeOS remembers it.

The Chromebook is Fast

Asus ultrabook
Asus ultrabook

My Zenbook is A quad core i5 processor. It is fast, it is hot. The fan runs much of the time. After a month with the totally silent Chromebook I find that the fans and heat have become quite distracting.

The Chromebook boots faster than the Zenbook despite the humble Exynos processor. It simply has less work to do. Google us using the Linux kernel for ChromeOS and have stripped alls sorts of un-necessary stuff out of the system. It boots fast, goes to sleep instantly, wakes up instantly, and then spends a few seconds discovering anything plugged into the ports. It takes about 5 seconds to identify and activate the HDMI monitor, USB network card, mouse, 3Tb western Digital drive and my 64Gb Kensington USB thumb drive, if they are present. Otherwise I just lift the lid and start typing.

There has been criticism of the Exynos based Chromebooks browsing slowly, and I notice that scrolling can be jumpy when multiple tabs are open. The graphics works fine, I can play full screen video with no problems. The number of tabs seems to be the issue. Chromebooks need more than 2Gb of RAM for heavy users. But I am using a music player, countdown timer, Keep, Drive, a couple of docs, and perhaps a dozen tabs. It runs faster that the Zenbook with a similar load of applications. There is simply less overhead.

The Chromebook Cannot do some things

  • Evernote cannot be used offline. I am now using Evernote much less, and relying on Keep and Google Drive
  • Truecrypt cannot be used on Chrome, so my secure volumes are closed to me.
  • Chrome does not support Scanners, so OCR is a problem. But using the Drive app on Android to photograph a document makes it a searchable PDF.
  • It cannot capture or Edit audio or video while offline. There are apps that work online. I will continue to use Linux to edit video and audio.
  • I cannot access files stored in Dropbox unless I download them while online

In Conclusion

This post is getting too long, so I will simply say, The Samsung Chromebook will continue to be my daily carry. It will travel with me, be used constantly, and be connected to a monitor and charger when I get home. The Zenbook will be used once or twice a week for the things I simply cannot do on the Chromebook.

I am very interested in the HP 11 Chromebook. It has similar specifications to the Samsung, but is lighter, has a better screen, and charges from a micro-USB adapter.

I will follow up with a later post. – Enjoy! – Phil Stephens

 

Chromebook Challenge Day 3 – Remote Support – A Problem Overcome

Chromebook
Image by Zoinno

The Chromebook challenge began badly. On the second day I had to provide some technical support for a friend in another state. Unfortunately she is barely coherent, technically, despite having a degree in another field. As a result I soon had to fall back on accessing her machine remotely to make some configuration changes to her wireless router.

I know remote management of another computer is possible on a Chromebook using Chrome Remote Desktop.

This requires the installation of Chrome and the Remote Desktop plugin, on the client or host machine, and this was more than I thought we could manage, so I booted a Windows laptop up for this situation.

There is another solution, the new Google Hangouts Remote Desktop. This is an addon, easily accessed in Hangouts, even while a hangout is in progress. Unfortunately either the Samsung Chromebook, or my bandwidth was not adequate, and the remote connection was painfully slow, and audio was reduced to a Cylon snarl. I gave up fairly quickly.

The Chrome Remote Desktop option, however is improving, and works very well. There is now an option to install the Remote Desktop software on a PC in Permanent Access Mode so that you can connect to it even before it is logged in. (Chrome Support shows how here: https://support.google.com/chrome/answer/1649523?hl=en )

Chrome remote login
Chrome remote login

I installed this service on a Windows 7 Netbook and logged in easily as soon as it booted up. 

Logging into Windows 7 Remotely
Logging into Windows 7 Remotely

If you are required to do remote support, I strongly recommend installing this service and appying a STRONG PIN to protect the host computer. Once done, you can log in at any point from any computer with a Chrome browser. That obviously includes a Chromebook.

Another problem solved!