Friday, November 30, 2012

The Chromebook Revolution

The Chromebooks have landed.  They cannot be considered a toy or an experimental fad by Google, any longer.  Now they are here to stay as the new and revolutionary intelligent terminals of the Cloud Centric Age.  In the past, we used to installed all apps in our computers, and run them locally.  For that we needed faster and faster PCs with more and more memory, both ram and hard disk.

Now, as in the beggining, the apps are installed on servers, somewhere in the cloud and we just need an intelligent terminal to access and use them.  This approach allows these apps to be more powerful, and save us the work and pain of keeping them updated and well configure. That job is now in the hands of the experts.  We just need to subscribe to the appropriate sites and choose powerful passwords to keep our data safe.

Obviously, not all the traditional locally installed applications, like Photoshop and Microsoft Office have equivalent online apps.  But the development of online, web based apps, is moving rapidly and as of now there are apps for creating and handling documents, photos, images and even videos that offers most of the functions that most of us would ever need.  And as time goes by, they will only grow more numerous, capable and powerful.

We could still use a traditional PC to access the Internet and connect with all those new and exciting web based apps, but PCs are not configure and optimized for that.  Personal Computers are best used to run local applications where we, the end users, need to keep configuring and optimizing them for whatever task we are running.  Even more, PCs need lots of maintenance.  Over time, a PC used to access the Internet will get slow, infected with viruses and loaded with documentation and data that may be lost whenever the PC starts to misbehave.

So we need a new kind of web access device.  One that is not bug down by viruses.  One that does not require continuous updates, optimization and reconfiguration.  One that does not requires a lot of maintenance.  One that is optimized and configure to run online apps.  One that turns on almost immediately and just keeps running.  One that allows you to forget about the PC and concentrate on the task at hand.

Google, the online search and services giant, have design and develop that kind of intelligent terminal: The Chromebook.   It took them years of research, development and implementation.  This is not the result of a weekend hack by a bored hacker.  The Chromebook is a well design, implemented, and verified device.  It went thru various iterations, both in the Operating System, Internet Browser and hardware, till the new generation of Chromebooks has become ready for mass deployment.

The Chromebook, the intelligent Web-Cloud terminal of the 21st century is here! Tested, ready and willing to take over the world. And backed by the main Internet search and services company.

So it is about time you get yours.  And although all Chromebooks use the same Chrome Operating System, based on Linux,  there are various models at various prices, starting at just $200. There is even a Chromebox, a small form factor desktop unit, that you can use to replace your aging Desktop Tower.

Chromebooks are not only fast, mobile, and web optimized; they also consume less energy than your traditional desktop or laptop, and because of their low price, the savings on electricity alone will cover the cost of the unit within a short period of time.

So my friend jump into the bandwagon of the immediate future.  Get your Chromebook today. At their current prices they make a great second computer.  One that will immediately become your primary (Internet access) device;  leaving your old desktop/laptop, gathering dust, waiting for you to run that  piece of software you don't want to run online.  Mine has been collecting dust since the summer of 2012.

I swear to God, one of these days I will bring it back from under the bed, set it up on the Desktop, and installed the latest version of Debian, PCBSD or a similarly powerful, conventional Operating System on it.  I still miss the old days... reconfiguring, optimizing and recompiling the entire Operating System... and, yes, there are things  you might  not want to run online.  But even then, is nice to have the Chromebook around to get back online,  whenever you want.

So my friend, welcome to the new online, Chromebook based world.

Have fun.

God Bless.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Multiboot Capability for the Chromebook, Please!

A couple of Months ago I found a CR-48 at ebay, just an hour away from the auction deadline.  So I place  my bid, not to exceed $140, and guest what! I won it.  Thus I Finally got my own Chromebook.  The first couple of days were rough.  A previous owner had installed a new boot loader into the machine, so that you could run others Operating Systems from the usb port and even install them into the Chromebook if you wished.

The problem was that this hack was preventing the unit from updating the ChromeOS Operating System automagically.  At that time the current version of ChromeOS was version 20 and the one on my Chromebook was 13.  So I went online, search for and found the instructions for restoring the Chromebook to its original state.  I follow them with trepidation fearing that I would mess the thing up, basically losing my $140 investment. Thanks God everything went OK and since then I have enjoyed all the benefits of the ChromeOS operating system.

Many of the limitations originally ascribed to the CR-48 were due to the limitations of the original ChromeOS, late on 2010.  By now, late 2012, the new versions/revisions of ChromeOS have overcome most of those limitations.  The unit works  great and has, as a matter of fact, replace my Desktop as my primary computer. The Desktop is taking a long vacation, tugged safely under the bed.

Now, I most clarify that what I do online is research, writing, for my 4 blogs, forum participation on a myriad of subjects, and online marketing via traffic exchanges and PTC site. My life and work has moved online. So, a web based operating system running on a properly optimized laptop is ideal for me. Another advantage is that my older system, running 8 to 16 hours per day, was consuming a lot of electricity, raising my electric bill.  Since switching to the Chromebook my electric bill has gone down some 20 dollars per month.

Before, on my desktop, I needed to spent time updating, configuring, maintaining the system, and resisting the temptation to install the latest linux/bsd, or alternative operating system distribution on my PC, in a secondary partition, a usb stick or thru Virtualbox.... for "testing" purposes.

Many a times I would wake up a Saturday morning, turn on the PC, go online, check out distrowatch, find a new distro, (Ubuntu, Gentoo, FreeBSD, etc. etc.), decide on the spot that I wanted that on my pc, and spent the next day or so, downloading it, erasing the hard disk, installing the new distro, testing it for a while, deciding that, after all, I loved Debian to much to move away from it: ending up,  re-installing, and re-configuring Debian to my hearth desired.  All in all my weekend would be gone, It would Monday morning, and some file or data or info I had forgotten to back up properly was irrevocably lost.

None of that had happened since I switched to the Chromebook.  My concentration has been on the things I do online. Not on the computer or the operating system I use to get there.  Besides, election day is next Nov, 6, and, here in PR, politics is the national sport.  So I have been busy promoting the ideas and ideologies I believe in, and the parties and  candidates that more closely agree with them.

Anyhow, last week the new Chromebook came out.  Hardware-wise it is way more advance than my beloved CR-48; but having spent $300 on a tablet a year ago and another $140 on my CR-48 two months ago, I am not willing to spent more money on another computing, internet access device, for a while.  Besides the combination of Android tablet and Chromebook I now have is serving me well, I see no need to upgrade.

If you however, don't have a Chromebook yet, the new Chromebook at just $250 is a great buy!

But going back to my CR-48 and Chromebooks in general, I just thought about a feature that would make the Chromebook the most popular PC in the world  As I told you before it is possible to hack the Chromebook installing a new boot manager so that you  can install a second Operating System like Windows, debian, ubuntu PCBSD, etc. etc.

Then you would have the beauty and efficiency of ChromeOS and the local power of a more traditional Operating System. The problem is that by doing that yourself, you risk the risk of misconfiguring or totally disabling your Chromebook.

So it occurred to me that it would be great if Google itself were to add this functionality to the Chromebook.  More specifically I propose that they configure the Chrome Operating System and/or BIOS so that it will allow us, the end-users, to download any Operating System Image we may find online and  copy it, using the dd command or equivalent, to a usb stick so that, after reboot, we can choose to run either one, ChromeOS or the Operating System Image copied to the USB stick. If you like the New Operating System you should be able to installed it to an sdcard.  This way you would be able to use your Chromebook to run and installed to an sdcard atached to the Chromebook any other operating system you wish,  without removing or altering your ChromeOS installation.

To protect the ChromeBook and the ChromeOS from hacking, messing with the internal SSD drive should be off-limits to the user (unless he is willing to go inside the physical unit and push a well hidden switch to go into developers mode).  Nothing the user do by downloading another Operating System, copying it to a usb stick, running that other operating system after reboot or installing it to a sdcard; nothing of that nature, should be able to, or allowed to, remove and/or alter the internal SSD drive and the ChromeOS image installed on it.

This way the ChromeBook would become the first,  one and only PC that provides  a safe environment where end users can install, test and use other operating systems, while safeguarding the ChromeOS installation itself.  Adding his functionality requires no bigger investment, just a well develop, implemented tested and verified code modification.

My bet is that, after installing, configuring, testing, and playing with  any other operating system, be it Debian, Ubuntu, Windows (in any of its versions) BSD, in any of its variants, or any other of the dozens of alternative operating systems being develop worldwide... my bet is that the end-user will always return to the always there, always safe, always reliable ChromeOS... for their daily online activities.  But is always nice to know that you do have that other operating system you feel you need always available in an sdcard, in case you actually need it.

So Google, please!,  add this functionality to ChromeOS ASAP.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Simultaneous Left/right Dual Mice Config Option, Please!

I do have two usb mouse connected to  my computer.  I want to use them in combination with a virtual keyboard as the main input method in my computer. They would control the same on screen pointer. While trying to configure my system to do that (now I am running Linux Mint Debian Edition) The main difficulty I have found  is that the GUI does not give the option to configure each mouse individually. So I end up with two right mice or two left mice. 

The index finger is the best one for clicking. But with two left or two right mice I am forced to click with my index finger on one mouse and with the middle finger on the other. Either that  or held one mouse in an awkward position to be able to click with the index finger on it. To be clicking one way with one hand and another way with the other is uncomfortable and prevents you from from clicking in a relaxed manner. Besides, after 10 minutes of holding the mouse in an awkward manner to click with your index finger, your hand and wrist will start to hurt. For a heavy clicker, sooner or latter, this may lead to injury. So I need to configure one mouse as left mouse and the other as a right mouse.

How can I do that, and save this configuration so that it it will be permanent?

Would this be useful, you may ask? Well, just a few minutes ago I was surfing Eight (8) Manual Traffic Exchanges at the time, each one in its own tab. Using both hands to move and click on the pointer allows me to do it faster; way faster. Plus the virtual keyboard is useful for the occasional typing of passwords, catcha codes or tidbits of info while surfing. Much better than having to switch from the mice to the physical keyboard and back, time and time again.

I am not the only one who spend time surfing Traffic Exchanges. There are thousands of Traffic Exchanges and millions of users who spend most of their online time (from one to 24 hours a day) surfing Traffic Exchanges and similar sites.  Anything that will help us to surf faster and easier, while protecting our  hand/wrists from related injuries, will be welcome.. and supported.

The two mice and virtual keyboard combination would be great for Traffic Exchange users, provided that a simple way is provided to configure one mouse as a left mouse and the other as a right mouse. And just remember we, Most Traffic Exchange users, are not geeks, gurus or hackers willing to spent our time hacking away at our system to get it to behave as we want... today... to have to do the same thing tomorrow. We want a simple config option/program that will allow us to set the two mice, left and right behavior, use it, and never have to worry about again.

 It is about time the Graphical User Interface designers  [I am talking about you guys at Gnome, Kde, Xface, XORG, etc, etc] include this simple config option in their GUIs... And if they wont, or while they finality decide to do it, would  an individual programmer please stand up and do this  for us? 

Thank you!