Google is trying to get into the “device to large screen” streaming space and has just announced (on 7/24) the Chromecast. It’s a small HDMI widget for your TV (tho it apparently requires a power connector). It runs Chrome OS, it has some streaming apps (like Netflix) but the main draw is the ability to cast a stream from a Chrome browser tab (like AirPlay) from a device to the Chromecast via WiFi. That feature works with PC/Mac Chrome, Android, iOS, and Chrome OS (tho limited to the Pixel currently). So, one can apparently send any content in a browser tab to the Chromecast. Initial reviews have been positive, and with a $35 price point, it’s selling fast. First orders came with a 3 month Netflix credit (worth $24 of the $35, for new or existing customers). That’s been withdrawn now (“supplies were limited”) but since I ordered mine on the 24th, I think I get the credit. Should be an interesting addition to the set of streaming solutions, but I think it’s still very much a work in progress. I’ve already got 2 AppleTV’s and 2 Roku’s; we’ll see where the Chromecast fits in. I’ll report here when I get mine and have a chance to try it…should ship by 8/7, says the Play store.
I really like the “immersive full screen mode” that’s been enabled by default in the newest Chrome OS beta. I’d used full screen mode before but hadn’t set the flag for immersive mode. It provides a very nice way to switch tabs while retaining the full screen. You can easily switch tabs, while making it look like the whole screen belongs to the app/tab that you’ve selected. Correspondingly, you can float the mouse over the lower part of the screen and see the status line and running apps. This is the type of UI experience that while simple really adds to the experience. If you are not on the R29 beta 29.0.1547.32, you can enable this through “Chrome://flags” and search for “immersive”
Here’s a snapshot that shows the result on this blog. The thin white bars at the top are the tabs, and they load the “browser” view when you float over them…
First, the update fixed a case of “extensionitis” that was preventing Hangouts from working on my main profile on my Chromebook. This was, I think, a case where one of the extensions I was using being slightly incompatible with the previous beta. Next, it’s enabled optional editing thru QuickOffice. You can now make modest changes in Word-formatted spreadsheets and documents, and that’s a big step forward with the platform. You have to enable this thru a flag on the Chrome://flags page. It also adds the ability to tweak display parameters, something that’s not an issue on a Chromebook (except with a secondary monitor) but is a big deal on a Chromebox. It has fixed bugs and improved stability, and it seems to me that it’s also dramatically improved memory usage (a big deal on a 2GB Chromebook). Here’s the list of release highlights from the ChromeOS blog:
- Kernel 3.8 landed on Pixel and Samsung 550.
- New “immersive” mode – hit the fullscreen button to hide the toolbar and shelf and until you hover at the top for a more immersive browsing experience
- Pin apps to the shelf using Drag and Drop from the Launcher
- Consumer Kiosk Mode allows you to build your own Chrome OS powered kiosk
- Default wallpaper selection will sync across all your devices
- Monitor Scaling allows you to scale the UI
- Two-finger history navigation
- App launcher Search just got cleverer
I was pleased to see that browser access to iWork documents stored in iCloud has been enabled on my account. I’ve tried a few things in Pages, Numbers and Keynote. I was using my Chromebook to access my iWork documents stored in iCloud (it gives an error stating that the browser is not fully supported, but you can click OK and the results are good). I brought up a couple of presos in Keynote to edit and ran thru the presenter mode. Another file gave errors and wouldn’t load, but it was a pretty large one and this Chromebook has limited memory, so that was likely an issue. I looked at some documents in Pages and Numbers. I created a new presentation in Keynote on the Chromebook, saw that it was quickly visible on my iPhone in Keynote, and then ran the presentation from my phone. Very cool. The overall look and feel is very nice. I think that Apple may finally be addressing its long-standing issue of quality in browser-based cloud-hosted software. This just added a lot of value to the $30 I spent for the iOS versions of Pages, Numbers and Keynote. Nice work, Apple!
I’ve recently put to rest an issue that’s bothered me since I first got my Samsung ARM Chromebook in the fall of 2012…why I couldn’t get a headset/microphone that worked on other devices, including on a Samsung Chromebook 5 550 and a Chromebox to work on my Samsung ARM Chromebook.
I’d been trying to find out why it didn’t work, and there was an active thread on the Google Group ChromebookCentral on this topic. There were reports that it was a known bug in the ChromeOS, that Chrome ninjas had been able to reproduce the error, and several folks having problems. There are enough differences between the ARM version of ChromeOS and the Intel version of ChromeOS that I put credence into this. However, time passed, many versions of ChromeOS posted, and no solution arrived. I poked my head up again, and eventually a post surfaced that had the key! It seems that there are two versions of the standard for 3.5mm combo ports, and that the Samsung ARM Chromebook uses the one that’s not compatible with iPhone earbuds. There were reports of boom mics that worked, so I decided to try one. I found the Buddy HeadsetMic Mono – Mobile edition on Amazon, decided to order one since it said it worked with Chromebooks. I’ve been very pleased with this headset/microphone; I’ve had it a couple of weeks, used it several times, and it’s quite nice. Good quality, comfortable, and has a long cord. Supposedly one can get an adapter that switches the ground to make iPhone earbuds work; I tried one without success.
So, if you have a Samsung ARM Chromebook, had tried iPhone earbuds and it didn’t work, now you know why and what to do…
I’ve been generally happy with keeping my Chromebook on the Chrome OS Beta channel to get slightly faster updates. There’s finally a bug in the beta (Version 26.0.1410.28 beta) that’s “bugging” me 😉 tho, since it’s now broken Hangouts. This beta was released on 3/7, and the beta releases have been about a week or so apart (other than during the calendar year-end period). Hopefully, this will get fixed by the end of the week. Going from stable to beta will cause an immediate update, but going from beta to stable requires a USB restore (or waiting until the stable build catches the beta, which might take 2-3 weeks or more). I think I’ll just live with it for a few days. Hopefully I won’t see too many of these bugs that break something that I use. If so, I might drop back to stable.
Not that I’ve been too bothered by the lack of the ability to stream Netflix to my Samsung ARM Chromebook, but there are those who have. Now thru the use of what’s apparently the first use of HTML5 to stream Nexflix, it’s available on the ARM-based Chromebook. I’ve tested it on mine, and it works as advertised…
A good result for Chrome OS at the CanSecWest security conference, as so far Google has not had to pay out on its potential bounty of $Pi M. Chrome was cracked on another browser platform, as were just about all of the pieces of Internet-facing software. I know just enough about how these attacks work to be in awe of those who can make these cracks work. It’s very sobering to reflect on what can be done by a targeted, determined individual or team.
I’ve been reading a number of perspectives on the Chromebook Pixel. As you know from my previous post, I think it’s overpriced and I doubt Google will sell very many. However, as a conceptual product, I think it may represent an important step forward in computing. Touch on laptops will be important, as will integrated wide-area wireless connectivity. Here’s a perspective from CNET that is, I believe, prescient. For many use cases today, the Windows or Mac OS laptop is too complex. It’s full of lots of software (much of which you don’t use) that needs to be patched and maintained. Let’s think about this…what do most of us really do with a desktop or laptop that does not require connectivity to a remote resource? Without connectivity, a great number of the use cases evaporate. Build in wide area connectivity. Keep the network edge device simple, robust, and load software dynamically, obviating the need to manage the device. As for input to the device, Steve Jobs famously dissed touch on a laptop, but why not let it be an adjunct to the trackpad, so that when you touch the screen, it works? Over time, we’ll settle on the combination of pointer movement that works…and it’s likely to be a hybrid. App by app, some things will lend themselves to touch while others to “traditional” input modalities.
There are a few things missing in Chrome OS. A file transfer app (but there are network workarounds), a general purpose text editor for local files, but I’ve found that I spend less and less time working with my home iMac and do most of my computing on my basic Samsung Chromebook. I use Chrome remote access to run the Mac when there’s something that I just can’t do, but in the last few days of updating my WordPress, Drupal, and MediaWiki sites, there’ve only been a couple of things that just really didn’t work from Chrome, and mostly with manipulation of large SQL text files, XML files, and things like that…
Perhaps the Chromebook Pixel is really just Google’s attempt to put a stake in the ground. Google may know that few will be sold this time, but it will give pause to those who say that Chromebooks are cheap little devices and could never be a full-time computational platform. It will set the stage for broader acceptance of the Chromebook and its ilk as the simple, easy to use, reliable network edge interfaces, and the end of traditional desktops/laptops. We need a connected personal communicator and a network portal. That’s it. The network is the computer.
My regular readers (all two or three of you 😉 ) know that I really like Chromebooks and Chrome OS. I think it fits a niche and is the perfect platform to take you toward a cloud-based computing strategy. I’ve just read about the new Chromebook Pixel, and I’m confused by Google’s strategy. I don’t doubt that it’s beautiful (super hi-res display) and well-built (with fast components), and I’ve completely drunk the metaphorical Jim Jones kool-aid about the ease of use and maintenance of the Chrome OS. However, even though it comes with a terabyte of Google’s cloud storage for 3 years, they have priced this at $1300. I just don’t see it. I’m typing this on my $249 Samsung ARM Chromebook and am perfectly happy. What’s up, Google?