Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


Price of Chromebook Drops. Will You Buy it Now?

Posted by J Powers at 1:00 PM on November 21, 2011
Chromebook Display at Google Places Event

Chromebook Display at Google Places Event

Google announced they are dropping the price of the Chromebook by 30%. Some Chromebooks will be as low as $299. But questions still arise if a Chromebook is in your holiday wish list, when you can get a Kindle Fire, nook Color for less. Even the iPad could be in more stockings than the ultra-portable laptop.

Chromebook came out back in June as Google’s answer to a PC that didn’t have a complicated OS to it. You would load the Chromebook up to a Chrome browser; inside, all your applications would be in the cloud and the data you create would also mostly reside in a cloud drive. However, if you were in a 3G deadspot or didn’t have Wifi, then your work would be rather limited.

Competing with a Tablet

Chromebook’s price drop is pretty much an attempt to counter the prices of the Kindle Fire and nook color tablets, which debuted to the general public last week at $199 and $249 respectively. The tablet – which you could connect a bluetooth keyboard and mouse – could technically become a more functional notebook than a Chromebook itself. And with prices at $100 lower than the device,  will a Samsung or Acer Chromebook even be in your holiday purchase radar?

What is Chromebook’s Market?

Google Chair at SF Airport

Google Chair at SF Airport

Chromebook has to figure out where their niche is going to be. Maybe as a laptop for the kids, or a machine you can keep in the kitchen to call up recipes or as a kiosk in a public place? Back in September, I saw the Chromebook lounge in the San Francisco Airport. Those kiosks would be great for people that have hours to wait but don’t have a computer to check their Facebook profiles or email on.

Remember when the Netbook was a popular item two years ago? What happened to that? The answer is the netbook disappeared fast. You can still get a netbook, but just like the Chromebook, why should you spend $300 or more for a device that is the same speed and power as a Kindle Fire or nook Color?

So now we can start to see the impact of these two new tablets are bringing to the holiday shopping season. Chromebook has to compete with something more compact and useable. Google has not released any data regarding Chromebooks sold, but a DigiTimes report (premium content site) says it all:

“In June 2011, Acer and Samsung launched their Chromebooks ahead of other PC brand vendors, but by the end of July, Acer had reportedly only sold 5,000 units and Samsung was said to have had even lower sales than Acer, according to sources from the PC industry.”

What does that mean to Chromebook? Simply: It’s time to drop prices and hope the Chromebook will sell well in Q4.

Google Releases Chrome Beta 15

Posted by Alan at 5:56 PM on September 23, 2011

Google has released the latest beta version of their popular web browser, Chrome.  Number 15 (for those keeping count) has some real changes – much more than some new versions, which have been simply bug fixes.  This comes within days of Chrome 14 hitting the stable channel.

Of course, the changes have become fewer because the browser has matured.  Over time, though, we have seen it take shape as more of an operating system in a window, as opposed to just a web browser.  That makes sense because of the development of Chrome OS and the introduction of the first “Chromebook” computers.  And, if Android is an indicator, then we better watch out for when the Chrome OS really gets going.

The biggest change in Chrome 15 is the New Tab page.  It’s been completely redesigned to better allow users to optimize their tabs and launch multiple pages.  According to the official Google announcement, “Your apps, bookmarks, and most visited sites now appear in three different sections on the page. You can flip between these different sections by clicking the section labels at the bottom of the page or the arrows at the side of the page. Chrome will remember the last section you flipped to and return to it when you open a new tab.”

The second big change will probably benefit users the most.  Previously, when a new version of an app was available for installation, it would direct the user back to the Chrome Web App Store to download and install it.  Now, “trusted partners” can allow users to install updates on-the-fly with no redirects.

These changes could be tempting for many users, and many potential Chromebook buyers.  They are certainly making my eye wonder from my trusty Firefox browser.  I have Chrome installed, but I can’t tear myself away from Firefox just yet…  However, that Asus Chromebook I have been eying is looking a little bit more tempting today…

You can get the Chrome 15 Beta here.

Chromebook Review Day 1

Posted by geeknews at 11:32 PM on June 8, 2011

Over the past 24 hours I have been using my Chromebook exclusively. I want to share my initial thoughts.

Chrome Web Store – User Experience Negative

  1. Significantly Lacking Compelling Apps
  2. Many of the Apps simply do not work on Chromebook
  3. Unable to tell if App is Chromebook ready on website
  4. Site Navigation sucks

Samsung Chromebook

  1. For a $500.00 Laptop it still feel underpowered
  2. Lid needs to bend back farther
  3. Switched fast between Wifi and Verizon Wireless
  4. Amazing Batter Life
  5. Touch Pad ok but still a bit hokey
  6. Boot Speed Amazing
  7. Have not figured out how to use HD camera

Chrome OS

  1. Feature sets Feels Half Baked.
  2. No way to do screen captures.
  3. Printing is a pain to setup.
  4. File Management System Feels Half Baked.
  5. Javascript Crashes periodically.

I showed of the Chromebook to at least 20 people today and all felt it was more powerful than a iPad but severely laking apps. It is obvious to me that most expected it to be more like a smartphone and that the majority of the folks have expectations set for capabilities similar to iPhone and Android.

I am sure that I am being overly critical at this point, but Google has had a while to get their act together on this. While I am sure they will close the gap, there is a huge opportunity her for app developers to easily get to the top of the leader board if they design a Chromebook specific application.

As much as I am complaining, I will likely use it a lot more than my iPad simply because it has a keyboard and I can type faster with a keyboard and the browsing experience is better than the iPad by a long show.

 

If Chrome OS is to Succeed Attention to Detail is Neeeded!

Posted by geeknews at 1:32 AM on June 8, 2011

Ironically this blog post is written on Firefox on my Computer versus my Chrome browser on my Chromebook because I could not capture or insert images in the wordpress editor.

I know I have my Chromebook about a week early. It is pretty obvious because the boys at Google are not ready for us yet. When I went over to Picasa the site thought I was a Linux machine and asked me to download some Linux RPM file.

Also when you visit the Chrome Web Store and try and install some apps they kinda get confused. I installed a screen capture app made by Google. It will capture the image but it kinda like gets lost when trying to figure out where to save it.

These are the big things Google is going to have to solve and like yesterday. If I install an App from the Chrome Web Store it better work on the Chrome OS aka Chromebook if it doesn’t it just is gonna piss people off.

So here is my advice to Google, flag the apps that will work well with the Chromebooks and hide the rest. I surely do not want to have to figure it out myself..

If these little things can be fixed, then the developers can also see what is missing and start designing apps for the Chromebook and the Chrome OS

Samsung Chromebook Series 5 Unboxing Video

Posted by geeknews at 11:33 PM on June 7, 2011

I received the Samsung Chromebook today and thought I would do a quick unboxing. Had a little screen glare during parts of it but we will get it hooked up to the tricaster for future screen demos.

So far so good but I have discovered one major issue, it fails to connect to my main wireless router in the house on my high speed connection. It will connect to my secondary connections no problem but I have no idea why it refuses to connect to my main connection.

The data plans are not as generous as the iPad, Verizon is offering 1gb for $9.99 per month. There is no 2gb plan at all. I picked the 1gb plan to see how far it will really take me.

Bootup after setup is 3-4 seconds tops.

I look forward in seeing how far we can go with the Chrome OS on “The Chrome Show” launching here in a few days!

Wave Accounting: Free Online Accounting Software?

Posted by J Powers at 11:06 PM on May 3, 2011

I was going through the Chrome Web Store to see what cool apps are out there. One thing most don’t know: You can do a lot without paying anything for it. Case in point – Wave Accounting: the online accounting site.

Wave Accounting

Wave Accounting

I was set back – an accounting program that is FREE? Not a “lite” version, nor a trial, but absolutely, positively nothing but free, FREE.

It looks like the company makes money by working with other banks to help people clean up the “shoebox”. After all, if you get your accounts in order, you can pay your bills on time. If you pay your bills on time, you can get loans. If you get loans, you can make money. Etc, etc, etc.

Wave Accounting came on the scene in November 2010. They have raised $1 Million in funding. The Toronto Canada based business employs 10 people.

Setting up Wave was very straightforward. You sign up for the account, then go straight to a page to enter invoices, expenses and more. You can connect your bank account to the site (which I didn’t do). You can also connect your credit cards and other loans into the system so you have one place to do your accounting.

For a brief time I had Microsoft Money installed on my computer. It was nice to corral all my bills into one system. I guess that this free service is just like Money. Now I know why Microsoft killed the product…

Is Wave Accounting Software Safe?

They boast 256-bit encryption. It does have the Verisign seal. When you log in, you are using an encrypted site, just like you would with your online bank account.

Wave also will back up your data. Since your accounting information is in the cloud, you can access on any machine. Therefore, if something fails, you can still get to your data.

Invoicing at your fingertips.

I hate to write invoices. Before, it was Microsoft Word, emailing each invoice separately. This system seems pretty straightforward, sending the invoice to the customer via email.

This was the main reason I wanted to try the site out. If invoicing was the only thing I used this site for, I would be happy. But the additional option to moderate my expenses and tell me when a bill is due is pretty sweet. I can even set permissions for someone else to view or edit an invoice.

wave invoice

wave invoice via email

What Wave cannot do (just yet)

I don’t see any time tracking. Import features are in beta right now, but I never used Google Docs or FreshBooks for accounting.

The big thing it doesn’t do is give you access when you are not on the internet. Of course, that is always the issue when you are working in the cloud.

I have just started using this software. With any cloud accounting software, you should try to back up your data as much as possible. Nonetheless, if I can get invoices out easier, then I am all for this program. If I can do it for free, well, let me get to work!

 

Day 4 – A week Using Google Chrome OS

Posted by Mike Dell at 11:54 PM on February 24, 2011


Today I took the CR48 out in the field. I went to my local coffee shop (not Starbucks) and got on the WiFi. It was no problem getting though their login redirect. Although the WiFi was really slow, I was able to do my normal web surfing and email. I wouldn’t want to try a youtube video on it at that speed. I was getting just 400k down and 128k up. (so much for “high speed” access which is what this coffee shop advertises on their window. Oh well, that’s not really anything to do with Chrome OS.

Then I tried the “free” Verizon EVDO 3G connection. I turned off the WiFi and clicked the little wrench icon in the upper right of the screen. I selected “internet” and then “Cellular”. It took about 3 minutes to connect to Verizon and then it brought up a form to fill out. That included a credit card number. I guess they have to have that to process the account signup. You get 100mb for free per month. They say they won’t charge you unless you sign up for a higher limit account. I’m not sure how they will inform you that you have used up your allotment for the month. I suppose I will find out. Once I was connected I did a speed test and had 1.4m down and 255k up. Exactly the same speed that my Droid was getting. I didn’t stay connected too long on 3G as 100mb isn’t much bandwidth, but it would be good in a pinch if you needed to do something online really quick.

The only other thing I tried today was loading pictures from my camera’s SD card. That worked well. What it did was bring up my Picasa account and loaded them directly online. It looked as though I could have moved them to the mystery “download” folder but I just picked Picasa. It didn’t look like I could get direct access to the card via Chrome, for what it is, it does work ok.

I didn’t spend much more time with the netbook today other then more surfing in the easy chair. On Friday, I’m going to get another opinion from a friend that is in town for the weekend. I’m going to let him take a stab at using it and see what he thinks. He’s like me, very connected with Google, so it shouldn’t be hard for him.

If you want me to try something in the next few days, drop a comment here and I will see what I can do.

Day 3 – A week Using Google Chrome OS

Posted by Mike Dell at 11:08 PM on February 23, 2011


I learned today that making usable audio on Chrome OS is impossible. I tried several times to make a short voice recording and each time it came out really noisy. The built in Mic is not of high quality on the CR48. So my next try was to record with my Sony IC Recorder. The recording turned out great, but the OS wouldn’t recognize the recorder when I plugged it in. It also would not recognize my USB thumb drive. Not sure if that’s an OS thing or a hardware thing. The device does have a SD Card slot so if you had a recorder that used SD Cards, you might be able to go that way with audio (or video for that matter). I am able to do a complete podcast recording, upload to my server and post it using just my Android Phone. So, maybe there is a way with Chrome that I haven’t found yet.

I’ve been doing a lot of typing on the netbook this week and I have to say I’m getting used to the keyboard. The trick is to keep your thumbs up when not using the spacebar. If you don’t, the curser will jump when you are not looking at the screen and then you are inserting text in another part of your document. I guess this is good for better posture but it does take a while to get the hang of. On my Macbook, I don’t have this problem.

I decided to give it the acid test to see if it was ready for prime-time. I let my wife use it. She had no problem creating an account using her Google account login. Step one went well. Let me tell you a bit about my wife. She is NOT a techie person. She uses computers at work because she has to and is very good at what she has to do but doesn’t tweak things. At home, she uses a Mac desktop to play facebook games and keep up with her friends. She also does some light email and web browsing. That’s about it. I gave her the CR48 to use for a while tonight and she picked it right up. Had no trouble playing the flash games she likes (Restaurant City and Hotel City on facebook) She commented on how fast she thought it was compared to her Mac. I found that part strange as I always thought her Mac was quite fast. Anyway, she used it for an hour or so and said “Nice Laptop” and then she asked me “Why did Google send you this for free?” I think she still doesn’t believe me ;) After I’m done testing this thing, I think I might have found a home for it next to the couch.

For Day 4, I’m going to take the CR48 in the field. I want to try out the free 3G from Verizon and how well it connects to public Wifi.

Day 2 – A week Using Google Chrome OS

Posted by Mike Dell at 7:51 PM on February 22, 2011

On day 2 I have learned a couple more things about Chrome OS. First, I learned how to save a photo (or any other file) to a “mystery” downloads folder on the CR48. So that is why you are seeing the chrome OS logo in this post. I’m not sure where the storage is on this machine or how much storage there is. I will do some research and find out.

Another thing I wanted to try was recording some audio. I sort of succeeded in that I found an audio recording / editing “app” in what Google now calls the “web store”. The App is called Aviary Audio Editor. I was able to record and then save my recording to the “downloads” area on the CR48. I tried using my usb headset plugged into the CR48′s one USB port. That did not work. I’m not sure if it is supposed to work or if that is something that will be added to Chrome OS in the future. I am going to try Google Talk’s Audio and Video chat and I will see if the headset works for that.

The whole idea of trying to record audio is I want to see if it is possible to podcast from the CR48. I am going to do that experiment Tomorrow using my Sony recorder and see if I can get the CR48 and chrome to download the audio file from the recorder. If that doesn’t work, I will record using the app described above and put an audio post on my personal podcast feed. Wish me luck.

A couple of notes about the CR48 Hardware:

The Keyboard looks like an unlighted version of the Macbook Pro keyboard with a track pad that looks very much like the Mac with no buttons. Those who use multi-touch on the Mac will get used to it very quickly as the same gestures work for scrolling and “right” click. The keyboard is missing the CAPS LOCK key and in it’s place is a search key. Also, there is no Function keys at the top. Instead, there are keys that do specific functions but they are not numbered like the Mac or PC keyboards with F1-F12 or whatever. I do find the track pad gets in the way a bit while typing (Like many laptops and netbooks) but nothing you couldn’t get used to if you use it enough.

So far so good and I will report back on day 3 and if I was able to get a podcast up from the CR48.

Day 1 – A week using Google Chrome OS

Posted by Mike Dell at 5:30 PM on February 21, 2011

I’m starting a week of using the Chrome OS to fully experience what can and can’t be done with this cloud based OS.

Basically, the Chrome OS is the Chrome web browser by Google put on a very light weight linux build. Google is positioning Chrome OS to be a Netbook OS that can be deployed on inexpensive hardware. It relies on being connected to the Internet to operate, although, it’s supposed to be able to be used without being connected. I have yet to try that but I’m sure I will get to this week.

I received a Google CR48 netbook though the Chrome OS Pilot program about a week ago. It was real easy to setup. All I had to do was to turn it on, and sign in with my google account. (If you don’t have a google account, it will take you though the steps to get one). If you have a gmail address, you have an account. The first thing you will notice is chrome OS looks just like any computer with the chrome browser running full screen. One other thing you will notice is there is no way to close the browser. This is because it is the only thing that will run. There is a settings panel that you can get into to setup your wireless network (either Wifi or Verizon CDMA 3G). Other then that, there is nothing more to do.

In the browser you can install all the addons that you can get for the Chrome browser for Mac or Windows. I started out with Lasspass and Xmarks. That way I didn’t have to remember my passwords and all my bookmarks were there from my other computers.

There is a chrome “app” store. Really it’s just a fancy way of putting bookmarks to webapps in the opening screen.

My use of a laptop when I’m not traveling is limited to easy chair duty. I normally use a white Macbook running OS X and mostly use the firefox browser. This week, I’m going to keep the Macbook in the bag and use this CR48. I will report back to let you know how the week goes.

So far, on day 1, I have worked on (and by the time you read this), posted a blog post. Read and replied to many emails and will later on, work on a book project I’m working on. Of course, I’ve also checked the weather, read my news and blog feeds via Google Reader. Checked my facebook and posted a couple of twitters. So far, so good.

*** Note: While trying to post this blog entry, I found a limitation of the Chrome OS. I don’t know how to upload a photo for the post (which I normally do). If I figure it out, you will see it on my next post. ***