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Hands-on with Chrome OS

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Day before yesterday I finally got down to some testing business with the Chromium operating system and here’s my report on how it went with the prototype operating system which can well and truly be the future of computing.

Tempted, eh? Just in case if you’re late to catch the news on Chrome OS, read my first thoughts and then you can go through my quick tutorial on how to try the operating system right now.

To be clear, this ain’t the Cr-48s that Google is giving away. Neither is this “the” actual Chrome OS. But Chrome is built on open source Chromium engine and all builds are one and the same except the developing team. Used here was the stable release of Hexxeh’s Chromium OS on the the following hardware…

A Lenovo ThinkPad powered with Intel Centrino processor clocked at 1.80GHz, a gigabyte of RAM and a 120 gigabytes of hard disk storage. As far as Chromium goes, it barely requires high end hardware. Why? Well, the operating system is just a browser afterall and so, just wonder how much resources a browser would eat up? Well not much anyway.

However, the Chrome OS notebooks, the Cr-48s manufactured by Google do boast specific hardware – a specially designed notebook powered with an Intel Atom processor clocked at 1.66GHz alongside two gigs of RAM. A unusable (for now) 16GB SSD (solid-state drive) and also a memory card slot (again, not usable).

The apps

Speaking of my experience with the Chromium, lets start with the upsides first.

THE UPSIDES

  1. The boot time was fantastic. Cr-48s as suggested by various users takes around 20 secs to load. This Hexxeh build took like 30secs to take me to the Log in screen and then 5 secs from there to the browser. The compactness of the browser makes it power efficient too.
  2. The concept of cloud is in itself very niche. The fact that you never loose your work – your documents is pretty much “the dream”.

Regardless of those facts, there are downsides too. And there are a million ones. I, despite that fact, am gonna mention a few important ones.

THE DOWNSIDES

  1. Trackpad: Just as Techcrunch’s MG Siegler mentioned, the trackpad software with Chromium engines really needs a boost up. Its just too slow to be called as a trackpad. For one it takes a million years to reach to other end of the window from any other end. Now this same trackpad works like a *charm* on Windows 7 installed on the machine. Which explains there ain’t any hardware error but a software one and its just tad too disappointing. (In case if you wondered, yes I did tweak the possible mouse settings, did set the sensitivity to a maximum but nothing actually helped.)
  2. Performing sub-basic tasks: Sub-basic tasks like taking a screenshot (I somehow figured it out later on though you can only take one screenshot at a time – if you want more, you have to rename the file name, which again is a horrendous taks cos accessing files on Chromium isn’t as simple as you think, and then you can take another screenshot. For the third screenshot, you gotta repeat the entire process) and playing media were more hard than

    The files download alright though there's no way to run them

    learning a lesson of Quantum Physics. I used digicam finally to get the screenshots, and used my native dell machine to do the music servings. Another sub-basic tasks include mounting removable drives (as mentioned, no way you can use external drives), taking quick notes (Notepad on Windows) etc etc.

  3. The speed: Even if this OS is a bloody browser, I wonder why it acts so erratically. Tabs take more time than on any other machine, very frequent hangs are more than enough for you to get all annoyed. Heavier websites and worse and let alone speakint about flash based websites.

“Restrictions” is the major problem here. The fact that you just have a browser and nothing ahead of it makes the OS kinda lame. Just as I mentioned, its a PITA to play media files. Its a pain to take quick notes, and its a PITA to access documents from some alien media (flash and optical).

As I’ve already mentioned, the idea of cloud computing is good enough but is the idea of present Cr-48 good enough? No it’s not. Not even if Cr-48’s are available for a meager $300. Why not buy an iPad instead, eh? You can browse the web and well, that is pretty much everything possible on a Chromium machines. The idea that you couldn’t do if you have no internet is very poor. How about power failures? Downtime? That is why the native Cr-48 come with a 100MB free Verizon data. But what if your country has no Verizon? Arey what if your country has no proper Wifi infrastructure?

The cloud computing model is awesome, sadly the Cr-48 model is no good. It’s very good as a research prototype but is just not commercially viable. Not even at $200. Not at least this version.

It is expected that Google will go commercial somewhere early in 2011, which explains the early testing they’ve undertaken. The expectations were high but you see everything’s all shattered. Let’s hope that the unused 16GB SSD and memory ports are used to a good cause in the next update of Chrome notebook.

A whole lotta photos of Chrome OS to come up soon, in some next post. Wait for it…

P.S.: With the help of @Mistcrafter, I somehow managed to install the Linux filemanager Nautilus on Chrome OS. Right now, I’m trying to take some print outs from this bastard. And yeah, you can’t take out prints from this unless its via cloud prints and well these cloud printers then again are dependent on normal machines – the easy ones boasting “real” operating systems. So cloud printing also sounds lame, at least right now.

Written by rahulbhagchandani

December 21, 2010 at 12:51 am

Try Chrome OS on any machine

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Google Chrome OS has been making the news columns since awhile now and Google is infact giving away free Chrome Notebooks for beta testing, however only if you’re in US.

So what if you’re outta US? Or what if you don’t wanna wait for your name to be randomly selected from all those million requests?

Well, here’s how you can give Google Chrome OS a try and you don’t even need any additional hardware.

But of course, you’ll need a 2-gig flash drive (USB drive) as far as hardware goes.

Download this image – this is a stable and tested build. If you are looking for something more adventurous, you can download some dirty, untested builds of the same here.

But take my word and go for the stable release. The dirty ones turned out to be really dirty for me. Wasted like hours, let alone some precious bandwidth.

After you’re done downloading image, use Win32 Disk Imager to burn this to a 2-gig flash drive. Download Win32 Imager here.

Once burnt, restart your PC and change the boot settings of the BIOS at the restart. Usually this can be done by pressing F12 key. Alter the boot priorities and make USB HDD the first choice preference.

Plug in the USB and you should be all set to go.

An image like the one on right will welcome you. You should have an ethernet connection to log in. Well, wifi didn’t particularly work well and it won’t, at least the first time. But once logged in, you can alter the settings and browse via wifi.

Log in with your Google account and if you don’t have one, make one before starting the procedure it.

And there you go, here’s a browser which in fact, is an, Operating system!

To be clear, this isn’t actually *the* Chrome OS. Chrome OS is for now running only on its particular hardware. However, this is just like Chrome OS. Chrome OS is built on an open source project Chromium OS. Anyone can get the source and build a Chrome Os and try it. Or instead of building it yourself, you can follow this simple procedure and play with it!

Wait for tomorrow when I come up with a full Google Chrome OS hands on .

P.S.

1.) 2-gig flash drives are alright but I’d recommend to use one with a bigger capacity. Some forums did point issues with flash drives of 2-gigs. I personally tried it on an 8-gig drive.

2.) There seems to be some issues with Dell machines. And so if you’re a Dell user, it is recommended not to waste time and bandwidth of yours for now cos it just won’t work.

Written by rahulbhagchandani

December 17, 2010 at 11:27 pm

Posted in Chrome Notebook/OS, How to

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A few words on Chrome Notebooks

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Google recently unveilved the longly awaited Chrome Notebook. For a general PC user, “Chrome Notebooks” might still be a newish term. So what is a Chrome Notebook? Well, it’s a notebook having a Chrome

The Chrome OS's start up screen. Apparently, Chrome takes seconds to start up and wakes from sleep instantly.

Operating System – this operating system is fast, sleek and clean. The notebook has no hard drive, nothing and whatever you do is done on the “Cloud”.

Long story short, this is a notebook where a Google Chrome browser is natively used as an “Operating System” and whtever you do, is done on the cloud i.e. on the Web. Documents, images, high-end photo/videoshopping, listening to music and every lil bit thing that you do on your Windows or Mac, with a Chrome notebook you’d do on the web.

Tempted?

Don’t be. For one thing’s sure, it doesn’t mean whatever Google comes up with needs to be awesome. No. And if you think I’m talking bullocks here, just try and remember something so-called Google Wave. Right?

So now that I’ve proven my point that “not everything Google does is awesome”, I’d say, the idea of a Chrome notebook is pretty, pretty LAME. At least for now, it’s lame.

Yeah.

Before I rest my points to the case I’d like to tell you what exactly has Google done to a normal notebook in order to build a Chrome Notebook.

  1. Made it looking freakishly tempting. You might say there’s nothing in its’ design but my friend the idea of having a notebook with a classy black matt-finish, no badass company logos and no extra stickers is every high-end, sophisticated computer user’s dream. Google did that.
  2. Chrome Notebook's Keyboard

    The Chrome notebook's Keyboard. Observe what happened to the function and caps lock keys. (Click to enlarge)

    Changed the keyboard layout. Google changed the function keys to standard browser keys – Back, Forward, Home et al. It also tweaked the “Caps Lock” button to a “Search button” – pressing it opens Google.com on a new tab.

  3. Installed the Chrome OS which is well, basically, a Chrome browser but an extended version of it. Still, it’s a browser damn it.

And that’s about it. They did the above three things to make a Chrome notebook and well, I don’t think why it can’t be a disaster.

You see the idea of cloud computing is nice, its niche. The concept of having no hard disk is again reasonably cool, reasonably nice – it saves the power, reduces weight, makes it slim and in short gives you the power of having all of your data anywhere you go, on any machine.

But having a browser as the Operating system? Come on. I mean that’s alright for users who use their machines just for the Internet. Yeah alright for documents and music and video. But what about professionals, what about power users? What about developers?

Now I haven’t dug much into what kinda apps are available on Chrome OS, but I’m damn sure that there’s no way an image editing software like Photoshop can run on a Chrome OS. And well, Photoshop is the daddy.

Not just that. There are internet downtimes everywhere. Come out of the first world countries and you’ll find people are still learning how to use internet. And that’s not it, how about having a power downtime at your place (Boom Wifi’s gone!) and you having no 3G plan? Where will you access your data then? Desktop users might not have a problem about power cuts, but laptop users will.

At least with a normal notebook, you can access your documents anytime, anywhere without any prerequisites, given the fact you have some battery backup, which most of the time is.

Whatever it may be, the looks are rugged, very appealing to the eye.

Cutting the crap, I’d say in simple words, Chrome Notebooks, for now, are pretty impractical. Apart, Google didn’t even care to just re-design the browser for at least fuck sake! A whole OS inside a browser isn’t a good idea. They could have simply shifted the tabs to the bottom on the window just to make it comfortable for the users instead of making it weird. Every bit of your stuff is inside a browser. No taskbars, no docks, no windows. Only tabs. Whoa!

I think instead of wasting their development time on building a notebook entirely for cloud computing, Google should have worked on how the current users can go to the cloud without having to change their notebooks. Sounds impractical but again, Chrome OS is the height of impracticality. Right now we need cloud alright but something more than Chrome OS. We need a platform that allows users to use their native OSs and still be on the cloud. I’m not talking about online storages but well, something in that line though a wholly extension of online storage.

On the contrary however, this is just a beginning. Chrome isn’t available to consumers as yet and if you’re in US, you can get it but only for testing purposes here. Those who have used the notebook have given mixed responses. Chrome OS is expected to hit stores somewhere in mid-2011 around the price range of 400-500USD.

More developments to come in for sure as time progresses and I’ll keep track and let you know if something pops.

Written by rahulbhagchandani

December 10, 2010 at 10:17 pm

Posted in Chrome Notebook/OS, Google

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The kidlike Facebook-Google war continues

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Facebook is seriously an online version of a spoiled brat, let’s say someone like a 9-year old Justin Beiber. And Google, the Internet search behemoth, is no less (well no less as far as this fight goes, else Google is a pretty mature bloke). Let’s say Google is a teen, a teen like a present day Justin Beiber.

Now just wonder what crazy things could happen if two Beibers start fighting? It will be like the brat kid is continuously annoying the teen kid, and sorta winning as well whereas the teen kid is continuously poking around and trying to flaunt his eldership.

*Messy*

So what is happening exactly, you may ask.

Let’s flashback a lil for the entire story.

It was the first week of November when Google changed its’ terms of service. Google guys decided, “We’ll share our user data only if reciprocated”.

This meant – the start of a war between two Beibers. Why? Well, you see Facebook lets you find friends via your email addresses and also lets you invite people similarly. Gmail allows Facebook to access the user’s contact list but on the contrary, Facebook shares no information whatsoever with Google.

Here, Google in return was seeking for contact numbers and email addresses of a particular user’s friends. That’ll help Google to increase its productivity and with Google already having a Voice and SMS functionality in US, it would have in-short led to an increase in Gmail’s overall usage.

But Facebook didn’t respond nicely to this. And so, Google stopped giving the contacts’ access to Facebook.

Here, Facebook tried acting smart and well, they did come up smart. They used a Google feature in order to let users import contacts from Gmail. What did they do? Facebook here allowed users to directly download a .csv (contacts) file to their system and then subsequently asked them to upload it to Facebook’s servers. This way, Facebook kept their feature running.

To this Google decided to do nothing technically and hence, they started the war of words. The official response statement from Google read,

We’re disappointed that Facebook didn’t invest their time in making it possible for their users to get their contacts out of Facebook. As passionate believers that people should be able to control the data they create, we will continue to allow our users to export their Google contacts.

To this Facebook remained quiet for a while, but later, instead of replying with words, they just removed Gmail from the list of services available to find or invite friends. They just removed it literally. How dumb?!

And still now there’s no Gmail as an available service in Friend Finder app. See it for yourselves.

Even though all this happened, peace prevailed all across but only until tomorrow when a third party developer decided to build a Google Chrome extension named “Facebook doesn’t owns my friends” – an extension that allowed users to export the Facebook contacts into Gmail.

The add-on clearly mentioned, “THIS CHROME EXTENSION IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH GOOGLE OR FACEBOOK.”

People felt like freaking awesome then. And more awesome would have felt those guys and gals who actually exported their contacts.

You may ask here, why can’t we feel awesome? We can too, right?

To which I have to say disappointingly – NO. The add-on is out of service already.

According to TechCrunch, that add-on stopped working ten minutes after the news broke on their website. That add-on is still showing “403 Forbidden” error. See it for yourselves here.

It’s still unknown about who stopped the add-on service but very understandably, it’s a block from the Facebook’s end.

My point here is, WTF Facebook is upto? The Lamebook fight and then this prolonged fight. Indeed Facebook doesn’t own our contacts, so why not let us export it altogether at once? Instead what Facebook wants is – we open a text editor, go to each of our friend’s profile, copy their info and paste it in the text editor.

And then manage it accordingly.

WTF?

Written by rahulbhagchandani

November 27, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Do more with Google search

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Eleven years since it’s’ inception and Google just keeps on getting better day by day. Not just that, it keeps on getting better as your savior, day after day. It can help you to be the star in some family dinnertime debate or can certainly help you in virtually anything that you’re doing.

But searching about something doesn’t mean typing it and pressing enter. There’s more to it. There are a few dandy ways you can do to improvise and narrow down your search results and that too without much hard efforts.

You see Google is a legend, but more when it lets’ you do more. I’ve been using these ways to search for like years now and maybe to some, this might be nothing but an already known piece of shit. For many others, this will be totally new, awe-inspiring and awesome!

I found about this years back while I was going through tech books at a bookstore. A guy had actually written a book on it, I’m just going to do a simple cute lil post.

To get into the details, today I’m going to tell you about some Google search tips – some operators that could be life-saving while searching for something specific. Some operators also help in daily life productivity.

Now I’m not telling that when you should search within quotes and when not. That is understood. Still if you didn’t knew when to, here’s it.

If you search something within quotes, that whole phrase would be searched through the database whereas for searches without quotes, just the individual words would be taken care of!

And now getting into the specifics, let’s catch up with the operators.

Basic operators

site: Using ‘site:xyz.com’ in your queries is awesome when you’re looking for something in a specific website. Life for example for searching about YouTube related stuff on pcworld.com, all you need to do is type the following in your search bar

site:pcworld.com YouTube

In this case you get like 13000 results. But if instead you searched for just ‘pcworld.com YouTube’, you then would have had like 4,70,000 results to take care of.

filetype: Okay continuing with the above example. Now consider if you wanted to search all the pdfs on the servers of pcworld.com which have the word ‘YouTube’. Simply writing pdf with the above search query would return like 1600 results but doing the following search would return just “one” result!

site:pcworld.com YouTube filetype:pdf

(In-post tip: If you want to see file extensions in Windows file system – Go to Control Panel | Folder Options | View Tab | Uncheck Hide file type extensions)

cache: This is one of the most handy operators by Google. cache:[some url] shows you a few days old cached copy of the url. This operator is very helpful if you want to catch the glimpse of that site which shut down overnight unexpectedly. Typing the following query in your Google search bar will redirect you to the cached copy of YouTube’s homepage. Google will also tell you when the page was cached.

cache:youtube.com

define: Type this operator, followed by any word that comes in your mind. Google will go through various online dictionaries (trusted) and give you a list of definitions. This is one my favorites!

Cool, right? But wait there’s more to it.

Operators for searching by the location of queries

Generally Google goes through the entire web pages searching for you entered query but if in case you know the position where you can get the best deal from, you have some operators for your service.

Consider you want to search for YouTube just in the page titles of pcworld.com. For such a query, use the intitle: operator. For example,

site:pcworld.com intitle:YouTube

As already suggested above, site:pcworld.com YouTube gives away like 13,000 results but the above query specifies down to like 540 results.

Similarly there are intext:, inurl:; and inanchor: operators. Using YouTube inside intext: operator in the above example would fetch more or less same number of results and hence, using intext or not is more or less the same.

inurl: searches within URL’s while inanchor: searches for texts those describe some link.

Get weather, time, and earthquake data instantly via your search bar

Are you already loving thinking about the prospect of doing more with Google? If yes, well there’s some more lovely operators mentioned down there. Brace yourselves, you’ll love these!

weather: Tired of browsing and exploring different weather sites everyday? Well, don’t be. Just type the city’s name followed by the operator and voila, you have the next five weather!

time: Stop remembering the time difference between you and Spain. Type the country’s or state’s (province) or city’s name after the operator and there you have it, the time!

sunrise:, sunset:, earthquake:, are again self-explaining operators and work alike weather and time operators.

Do some Math!

And now do some Math, thanks to Google!

Calculate: You can use your search bar to do some quick, dirty calculations. Following entry in the search bar would return 10.

(sqrt 25)*6/3+2-2

More complicated problems can also be solved using the nifty search bar. Basic operations like finding the cube root of 27 can be done by simply writing the following in the search bar

cube root of 27

Even entries such as “tenth root of 19”, “99^99” (read: 99 raised to the power of 99), log 99 fetched satisfactory results.

Values to universal constants like Gravitational constant can be fetched by simply writing “gravitational constant” in the search bar. And the values of mathematical constants like ‘pi’ and ‘e’ can also be fetched similarly.

Not just that, you can also perform an operation like “pi+e” which mathematically is, `3.14159265 + 2.71828183` and Google returns exact 5.85987448.

Convert Numbers

Apart of computing, you can also do some conversions with Google. If you want your height in inches but you know in feet, or if you want to your weight in pounds but you just know in kilos. Doing conversions is pretty simple. Just write for example,

185 cm in feet

This returns, 6.06955381 feet as the result. Similarly, you can type and convert whatever you want to.

You can also do currency conversions. Hell yeah. Writing 100INR in USD (which is 100 Indian Rupees in United States Dollars) will return, 2.2427 U.S. dollars (that is of course the conversion rate of today!)

And talking about currencies, you can get stock quotes as well, if you know the ticker symbol of it. But if you don’t know the symbol, you can always type the company’s name followed by the stock exchange’s name. Like the following search returns 55.05 (according to today’s data).

suzlon bse

I have tried covering most of the possible operators but the list is a long one and so I narrowed some more who could be of help at times…

Flight details can be fetched by entering the name of the airline followed by the code.

Directly enter the ISBN and well, you will most probably run luck and know the book’s name.

You can get public data that is population by writing population followed by city’s or state’s or country’s name. Please note, no there is no colon between the operator and the query in this case.

And finally sports scores. Type cricket india or india cricket and voila, you will see the live score, if there is some live cricket game being played!

And finally, there’s an end to this post!

Simple, eh?

If you want some more, jump to Google’s own description page of the Search tips.

Written by rahulbhagchandani

November 12, 2010 at 11:24 pm

Posted in Google

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