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


Lantronix Prints From Android and Chrome at CES

Posted by Andrew at 8:16 AM on January 7, 2014

Lantronix LogoThere are times when only hard copy will do but anyone who has tried to print from a tablet will know that it’s not always easy. The main ecosystems from Apple and Google have their own printer strategies with AirPrint and Cloud Print respectively but support is spotty at best. Several printer manufacturers have gone so far as to create their own printer app which really is a pretty poor state of affairs.

Into this gap steps Lantronix with their xPrintServer Cloud Print Edition, the first Google-certified Cloud Print server which lets Android and ChromeOS devices print wirelessly to network and USB printers. Sweet.

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The unit is about the size of a smartphone and requires no additional software downloads or printer drivers. It’s simply a case of connecting the device to the network and it automatically finds the printers on the network, making them available to users. The xPrintServer Cloud Print Edition supports any device running Google’s Chrome browser, whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, PC or laptop. Apparently there are over 310 million active users of Chrome, so that’s quite a few people who might want to print. Business users of Google Apps are supported too. Details of the printers supported are available from Lantronix’s website.

This new xPrintServer joins the existing Home and Office Editions which provide print services for iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad.

The Cloud Print Edition sells for an MSRP of US$149.95 and will ship at the end of February 2014. Pre-orders are being taken now and potential customers can sign up at lantronix.com for more information and availability. Of course, if you are at CES, you can pop round to their stand for a quick demo.

Philips Hue Chrome App

Posted by Andrew at 7:00 AM on December 29, 2013

Hue Personal Wireless LightingWhile researching the Philips Hue Android apps, I discovered that currently there is a single Hue app for Chrome. It’s called Hueful and while it’s fairly basic, it deserves a mention as (a) it’s the only app on Chrome but (b) it shows that Chrome can support this kind of hardware-oriented app. Previously I would have discounted Chrome from being an option but Hueful works fine on my Chromebook.

Hueful isn’t a very advanced Hue app, being limited to setting colours of selected lamps and colour cycling. Sometimes lamps need to be told twice to take on a setting but they usually get there in the end.

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Hueful is free from the Chrome store.

Microsoft Bluetooth Notebook Mouse 5000 Review

Posted by Andrew at 2:50 AM on October 31, 2013

Wireless mice are commonplace these days but many only work with their own brand wireless transceiver, which restricts their use to devices equipped with USB ports. Less common are Bluetooth-based mice which have the potential to work with any Bluetooth-equipped unit, including Android and iOS tablets, potentially making them much more useful. On review here is one such mouse, the Microsoft Bluetooth Notebook Mouse 5000. Snappy name, but let’s take a look.

The 5000 is fairly typical of notebook mice being smaller than a typical desktop mouse at only 9 cm long and about 5.5 cm wide. People with large hands may find the mouse is too small but for occasional use with a tablet or notebook, it’s fine. I certainly wouldn’t want it as my main mouse as I can’t really rest my hand on it, but this is all subjective and some people may find it perfect.

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Looks-wise, it’s not a Microsoft Arc or a Logitech Ultrathin, but it’s not entirely unattractive. This is the version with silvery-white buttons and dark gray body; there is a version with these colours reversed too. The silver matched my Samsung Chromebook rather nicely but the colour does vary with the light.

Two Duracell AA batteries power the 5000, which are supplied in the packaging and Duracell’s make a welcome change from the generic AAs that usually accompany remote controls and other battery-powered accessories. There’s an on/off switch on the bottom to conserve power when not in use. I’ve been using the mouse for about a week and I’ve yet to replace the batteries.

To pair the mouse, there’s a second button on the underside that needs to be pressed for a few seconds to put the mouse into a pairing mode. After that, the mouse should appear in the device list of whatever computer is to connect to the mouse. I successfully paired with an Android tablet, a Windows 8 tablet and a Chromebook. I imagine that it will work with iPads and other iOS devices but I didn’t have one at hand to test.

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In use, the 5000 works pretty much like any mouse. It’s an optical mouse with a laser motion tracker so resistance will depend entirely on the surface in use. There are four buttons: left, right, middle and “back”, which is next to the main left button and can pressed by your thumb to take your web browser back a page – you can see it in the top picture. Great if you are right-handed, but a waste of time if you are left-handed. The scroll wheel has a bit of stiffness to it but I like that as it prevents accidental scrolling.

Overall, the Microsoft Bluetooth Notebook Mouse 5000 is a good mouse but not a great mouse. It’s nothing special but there’s nothing wrong with it either (except for the back button only being useful to right-handed users) . The 5000 is available from all good retailers for around £25.

Disclaimer: this was a personal purchase.

HP Chromebook 11 Review

Posted by geeknews at 4:09 PM on October 20, 2013

chromeSeveral years ago I purchased the original Chromebook that was made in conjunction with Google and Samsung. So when I requested a review unit of the Chromebook 11 made in conjunction with Google and HP I was excited to see where they where taking the device.

The HP Chromebook is remarkably lite weight, which in my opinion was really smart of HP this feature alone adds to the selling factor. The delta between carrying a tablet and the Chromebook is minimal as it weighs in at just 2.3 pounds.  The screen resolution comes in at 1366×768 which is adequate for the 11.6 inch screen. The Chromebook is made out of plastic that you can order in a variety of colors, with a metal support frame underneath. The lid flexes a little bit if you open it from a corner but not so much that it would worry you.

The keyboard is a very soft touch and actually not that bad, it is slightly recessed but is ok. I have seen a lot of other keyboards on more expensive computers that where worse.  The biggest detractor to me is the touch-pad it was driving me crazy for the first couple of days till i got used to it.. You can always plug in a mouse but I opted not to. With a price tag of $279.00 they have found a great balance here in construction, price and performance. The performance is fine, and even handled multiple tabs opened on the browser and worked fine with the 10-12 extensions I have installed.  The unit I reviewed only had WiFi as a option although you could also connect via Bluetooth which should be a consideration for anyone wanting to buy one. While it will work with no internet connection it is best when connected to the Internet.

It comes with Two USB Ports, a MicroUSB for charging (Same as most cell phones) VGA Webcam & headphone port. You can connect an external monitor to it via the MicroUSB port supporting HDMI, VGA, and DisplayPort video. I actually charged the Chromebook with my cell phone charger one evening which was kinda funny. They do include a charger and cable for it.  Sadly there was no SD Port which is disappointing so you will have to use flash drives to off-load anything. It comes with a 16gb SSD drive so on-board storage like previous versions is extremely limited.

Overall battery life is great 6 hours of usage. I streamed a couple of movies on Netflix on a single charge with 10-15% to spare. This is nice improvement over the Samsung that I still have that is a couple of years old.

I am a geek and I like it when the barrier to entry is lowered and I feel the Chromebook 11 has done a nice job in providing an affordable alternative for folks that still want to have the feel of keyboard and are comfortable working in the cloud. This was a loaner unit so I will have to decide if I want to purchase one as I have gotten quite attached to it over the past week.

First Look: HP Chromebook 11

Posted by Alan at 9:11 AM on October 10, 2013

Earlier this week, HP announced its latest addition to the laptop family, but this time, instead of Windows 8 or 8.1, the little  notebook is running Chrome OS.

The HP Chromebook 11 sports a Samsung Exynos 5 dual-core ARM chip, 2 GB of RAM and a 16 GB SSD. It also has a webcam, full-size keyboard, 2 USB ports, digital speakers, an 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 display, Micro-SIM slot and charges via Micro USB. The whole thing weighs in at just 2.3 pounds.

The little Chromebook retails for $279 and can be purchased now from the Google Play store. For a first look in images, scroll down to view all of the pictures.

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Hulu Plus Now on Chromecast

Posted by J Powers at 2:52 PM on October 2, 2013
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This morning, Hulu Plus updated their website to include Chromecast support. With an update of the App, you can now watch your hulu subscription on the big screen.

Chromecast is Google’s answer to over the top television. For $35, you can plug into your HDMI outlet and use your phone as the remote. With the introduction, you could only send Netflix movies, Google Play content or Youtube videos to the big screen. With the addition of Hulu plus, the Chromecast is starting to feel more useful.

Chromecast has a long way to go from say Roku - with over 750 channels to their arsenal. On the way are apps from Vimeo, Vevo, Twitch.tv and more. Also coming up is extended support for Netflix with iOS apps.

My Assessment of Chromecast

It does make things easier since I don’t have to look for a remote to call up a show. I did notice the quality – at 1080p, Chromecast projects darker on the TV screen. Roku and Apple TV are brighter and more vibrant.

Also, if you are using your phone for something else (like talking on the phone), switching to remote mode is tougher. Good thing others can control the screen with their smartphones…

 

New Chromebooks

Posted by Andrew at 4:51 PM on September 12, 2013

Chrome logoYesterday on the Chrome blog, Google announced that new Chromebooks from Acer, Asus, HP and Toshiba were on their way. Arriving in the next few months the new Chromebooks are based on Intel’s Haswell chips rather than the current ARM processors and the chip’s low power consumption will double the battery life.

Chromebook 14These new Chromebooks are (roughly) the third iteration of the laptops and it’s great to see new entrants, Asus and Toshiba, joining the party. HP’s new Chromebook 14 will be out before the holiday season, cost $300 and come in a range of colours. Although Acer will be bringing out a new model as well, there’s no news on whether Samsung will be refreshing its line-up. The eye-wateringly expensive Pixel seems to remain the only touch-screen model in the range but that could change as details emerge on the new models.

Google quotes that in the sub-$300 computer segment, Chromebooks have taken a little less than a quarter of the market and around 5,000 US schools have also provided Chromebooks to students. For a product that’s just 2 years old, it’s pretty impressive.

I’m looking forward to the new models as I’m currently using a Samsung Chromebook to write this article and I’m bought into a web and cloud-centric view, especially for people who actually want to get stuff done wherever they are. Neat, low-cost, instant-on devices with a keyboard make Chromebooks very handy to have around. More apps are appearing, particularly business ones and if you haven’t considered a Chromebook in the past, you might want to consider one.

Samsung UK Chromebook Offer

Posted by Andrew at 8:01 AM on August 6, 2013

Samsung LogoJust a quickie….Samsung UK have an offer on at the moment that if you buy one of their Chromebooks during August, you can claim a free smartphone. Don’t get too excited as the phone is only a Galaxy Mini but it’s better than nothing and you can always flog it on ebay. There are further goodies if you buy a 3G Chromebook.

Pay attention to the small print as you have to wait 14 days from the date of purchase before you can apply for the phone.

Google’s Chrome browser gets Now…sort of

Posted by Alan at 2:45 PM on April 2, 2013

There have been hints and rumors circulating for several weeks that Google would bring its popular Now feature over from Android and into the Chrome web browser. Now, pun-intended, it seems is that time, but only a little bit.

The latest build of Canary, the development channel version of Chrome, has been updated to version 28 and with it comes a Now feature that users can enable. Canary can thankfully be run side-by-side with a stable or beta build of the browser so that users are not forced to run it full-time — a good thing since it can be buggy at times.

Today, when I fired up Canary build 28 and accessed chrome://flags I found the ability to enable Now (it is disabled by default). You will need to scroll all the way to the bottom of the Flags page to find it, as it is the last entry. Click “Enable”, but do not get your hopes up yet. It is early, and so far it does exactly nothing. The Google Now server URL still remains secret, rendering the service useless for the time being.

Still, this means the service is coming to your computer, though I expect it to be less useful here than on an Android device that moves around with you, but it remains to be seen what Google may add to a computer version of it.

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Acer Announces $199 Chromebook, Can You Still Resist?

Posted by Alan at 6:12 PM on November 12, 2012

Today Google and hardware maker Acer announced the latest Chromebook laptop, following closely on the heels of the recent Samsung release.  Once again, Acer has undercut Samsung on the price by offering a $199 notebook and beating Samsung by $50.

The Acer notebook has been officially named the C7 and packs some impressive specs given the price.  It has an 11.6 inch display, Intel Core processor, boots up in 18 seconds, a 320GB hard drive, 1080p video and 100GB of free storage on Google Drive.  The only knock here may be a rather poultry 3.5 hours of battery life.  On the other hand, it’s a pretty thin device that resemble today’s popular Ultrabooks.

While Chromebooks only run the Google Chrome operating system and aren’t compatible with traditional software like Microsoft Office, they make up for this in speed and simplicity.  The cloud storage is handy and services like Google Docs and web apps make up for this as well.  Plus, if you just can’t live without Office then you can still access it using Office Web Apps or Office 365.

So, will these recent offerings from Samsung and now the even cheaper one from Acer be enough to make you switch?  A full notebook computer for the price of a Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD is certainly going to be tempting.  Plus, Google has been fast at work updating and improving the Chrome OS and things will only get better from here.