I bought a Chromebook

The other day my work Dell XPS 13 which has been running Ubuntu 16.04.1 asked me to upgrade. This message has been coming up for a while but I decided it was time for a upgrade, 18.04 was running well on my server and well it was time.

However the upgrade broke and I was left with Ubuntu 18.04 with Busybox. I had backups but as it was a BBC R&D build of Ubuntu, I needed to go to work for them to reinstall it. All of this was just before I went away to Mydata 2018 in Helsinki. On top of that my ubuntu server also had a problem.

Double wammy!

It was clear I could reinstall Ubuntu quickly but I would need to do a bunch of configuration and that takes time. I have a task to create a live CD with a bunch of configurations just for me, incase similar happens again.

I’d been looking at Chromebooks since I bought one for my parents ages ago and seen how ChromeOS has matured. I’m not the only one. It was the ability to run Android and Linux apps which pushed to get one.

Google Makes it Easier to Run Linux Apps on Chromebooks

So I bought the Asus chromebook flip c302, and I’m quite impressed with it. The size is good and the performance is good. As a backup laptop its ideal. It also kinda a solution to my lack of a decent tablet now my Nexus 7 is pretty much dead. I was tempted with the Google Pixelbook but it seemed too close to what the Dell XPS 13 is for.

I did consider getting a second hand XPS and sticking ChromeOS on it myself actually.

Google reaches deeply into the app data

There is something special about the experience of Google now and now something extremely magical about Google now on tap.

I’ve just gotten a chance to play around with an early build of Now on Tap, Google’s wild new feature that, in essence, does Google searches inside apps automatically. It works like this: when you’re in an app — any app — you hold down the home button. Android then figures out what is on the screen and does a Google Now search against it. A Now search is slightly different from your usual Google search, because it brings back cards that are full of structured data and actions, not just a list of links.

When I first watched the keynote, I thought of the Tim Burners-Lee Semantic Web vision (paid pdf only now).

The real power of the Semantic Web will be realized when people create many programs that collect Web content from diverse sources, process the information and exchange the results with other programs. The effectiveness of such software agents will increase exponentially as more machine-readable Web content and automated services (including other agents) become available.

Its not the semantic web thats for sure, the problem is that its amazing and the user experience is magical but its all within Googles own stack. This rather bothers (even) me for many of the ethics of data reasons. I’m sure app developers may be a little miffed too?

Following my thought, Wired had a intriguing headline Google’s Ingenious Plan to Make Apps Obsolete.

What makes Google Now’s pull away from apps even more compelling is that it was joined at I/O by a series of gentle pushes in the same direction. Google’s doing everything it can to get us all back to the web.

Now if I think the Wired piece is interesting but they are shouting down from the wrong tree. Google are climbing another tree somewhere else. Ok enough with the analogies what do I mean?

If I saw Google on tap working in the browser instead of on top of apps I would be extremely impressed and be really making solid ties between Tim Berners-Lee’s agents in the semantic web. But instead we are left with something slightly disappointing, like a parlour trick of sorts.

Don’t get me wrong its impressive but its not the big deal which I first thought it was. I’m sure the Chrome team are already working on ways to surface semi structured data to Google now, and when they do… wow!

Chromecasts are all go…

Thanks to Jas who tweeted me about the Google Chromecast SDK becoming available via GigaOm.

Google released its Chromecast streaming stick nine months ago, but initially limited support to just a handful of apps, including Netflix, YouTube and the company’s own Chrome web browser.

In the following months, a small number of hand-selected apps was allowed on the platform, including Pandora, HBO Go and Hulu Plus.

Developers of other services were able to access a preview SDK and experiment with Chromecast support, but Google didn’t make it possible for them to actually publish their apps to end users. Google executives said at the time that the SDK necessary to add cast support to third-party apps simply wasn’t ready yet, and Chandra told me this week that Google used the time to improve the reliability of the SDK, as well as respond to developers who were looking for easier ways to send media to Chromecast.

This is great news for developers and users like myself who bought a Chromecast. Be interesting to see what new hacks also come around for it.

Chromefastic

Chromecast on my TV

I bought 2 chromecasts for me and my parents. The chromecast for me was to cover those couple times when I can’t get something to play on xbmc. And I won’t lie I want to hack around with it too.

For my parents its a serious gift because I know the chromebook they have is useful but they don’t really make use of the streaming media feature which I think they may actually like in the end. The idea of having to watch stuff on a small screen is never going to go down well my parents but to relive strictly again on HDMI channel 2 won’t be so bad. Even if they use it one in a while its not a bad buy.

Hopefully they will make use of it like how there finally making use of the chromebook.

So I fired mine up and was up and running in 5mins tops. The setup is simple and quick and while I was waiting for updates to download, I put the chromecast apps on my laptop, tablet and phone.

Its a elegant device and the standby screens are just as beautiful. Can’t wait to see more support but right now it feels a lot like the various xbmc browser extent ions which allow you send xbmc a URL. Of course some URLs xbmc can’t playback because their encrypted while deals have been done to make it work with the chromecast. Also up till recently xbmc remote URL throwers were somewhat buggy. Yaste solved this and much more.

Chromecast has cross over appeal and may be too cheap not to just have plugged into a HDMI input?

To answer the question I had, ages ago. Yes the Chromecast works in the uk without any modifications. It also worked on my Linux PC running chrome and my rooted tablet running CyanogenMod.

So threes nothing stopping you getting one or more… 🙂

Offline support in most of Google Apps

offline google calendar

I just noticed Google Calendar added support for offline viewing and editing.

In the past I relied on Evolution’s iCal calendar support to save a copy of the webcal offline, so I could check my calendar when on a different network. Leaving Google Calendar open in Chrome would allow you to flick forward and backwards about 8 weeks, but you certainly couldn’t read the detail of an appointment or doing any editing. Now with offline support it seems to allow much more control. At some point I may not need Evolution at all!

Being so impressed with the offline support, I thought I’d check to see what other google apps support offline. I already knew about Gmail and to be honest I don’t need the rest so much.

Google IO 2011… My thoughts

Google 2011

About a year ago, I woke up in hospital and I asked my boss Adrian, "What did Google launch at Google IO 2010?"

Yeah crazy times but its weirdly true, maybe its all consistent with my memory of a series of dreams being in a Google run Hospital…

Anyhow, this year I was happily alive to be able to experience 2011’s Google IO (from the stream of course)

These are the highlights I saw…

The internet operating system for real

Chrome Extensions

I switched to Ubuntu over 4 years ago, and its been pretty smooth.

But its recently got even smoother thanks to Google’s Chrome browser.

Why? A lot of people don’t even know Chrome supports extensions like Firefox…

Evernote winds me up no end… I started using Nevernote. Its a java client which mainly works with evernote but to be fair its quite bulky and a little slow. However Google launched there web store and a whole bunch of html5 apps have made it into the web store. A few of the apps include Evernote clients which not only connect to Evernote but also keep a local store of the notes. Making Evernote finally fully usable and reliable on a Ubuntu laptop.

As you can also see, its not only Evernote, its also Tweetdeck without installing Adobe Air (because when I last checked the 64bit version was bad, and who wants it on there machine?). I actually stopped using Gwibber because of Tweetdeck in Chrome (sorry to say…) Readitlater, Dropbox, etc are more like Firefox extensions than full applications. I guess Mozilla’s Prism is more like the chrome applications. I did try a while ago to run Evernote in Prism but it really wasn’t built for it, maybe things have changed now but I’m using Chrome more and more, although I also use Firefox 3.6 still for most of my general stuff.

There’s a lot of low level chatter about the internet operating system but google are doing a great job actually making it happen… you can see why the concept of chrome os is fascinating