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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.

Tech Serendipity

Posted by tomwiles at 8:07 PM on October 19, 2010

Sometimes things no one ever thought of simply seem to come together. Services and devices end up being used to do things the individual inventors and designers couldn’t have imagined.

For some time now, I’ve been thinking about attaching one of the new Mac Minis to one of my TV’s and utilizing it as a home theater PC as well as an over-the-air DVR to record high definition digital broadcasts from the local TV stations. A late Sunday afternoon trip to my local Best Buy and a Mac Mini was mine.

I sat the Mac Mini up with Eye TV and a USB HD tuner attached to my outdoor antenna. Depending on how I have the antenna rotated, I can receive upwards of 17 or more HD and digital broadcast channels. Of course, keep in mind that the Mini is on my home network, so I’ve got complete remote access in a number of different ways.

The Eye TV 3.4.1 software has easy iPhone/iPod/iPad/Apple TV file conversion, so I’m easily able to convert the files to the format of my choice.

A thought popped into my head. What if I converted the files to the iPhone format and put them into my Dropbox? I also have the Dropbox app for Android installed on my Sprint HTC Evo phone. Since I have an 8 gigabyte SD card installed with the possibility of going all the way up to a 32 gigabyte card if I wish, could I synch the exported iPhone files from my Dropbox on the computer to Dropbox on my phone?

To my surprise, I don’t even have to synch the exported iPhone videos to my phone – once they are synched to the Dropbox server, all I have to do is open the file from Dropbox on my phone and the file immediately starts streaming. If I’ve got a decent 3G Sprint cell signal, the video plays perfectly without a glitch.

So, I’m taking multiple different technologies, and using them in a way no single inventor or designer ever envisioned. I can record local TV programming from home, export it as an iPhone format file into my Dropbox folder, and stream the files to my phone. Pretty phenomenal stuff if you ask me.

For sure, there are other ways to accomplish the same end result, particularly if one has adequate bandwidth. For situations where bandwidth is limited and more variable, this solution works surprisingly well.

History Is About To Repeat

Posted by tomwiles at 12:18 AM on July 15, 2010

I remember it well. Back around October of 2004, I first heard the word “podcast” used on The David Lawrence Show via my XM Satellite Radio. It sounded interesting, and I wrote it down on my driver logbook cover with the idea of looking it up later. I heard David mention it again once or twice over the next few weeks. Finally, in early December of 2004 I finally got around to looking it up. I found Adam Curry’s podcast, realized what it was, and knew that I felt compelled to not only listen to podcasts but get involved as a podcaster myself. This was exactly what I’d been looking for for many years – a wide variety of content that I could choose, download, and control the playback/consumption of on MY terms.

Podcasting took previously-existing elements and applied them with a new twist. MP3 files had already existed for a number of years. Virtually every computer already came with a sound card and had the basic ability to both play back and record audio. Portable MP3 players had been around for a while. Apart from Adam Curry’s and Dave Winer’s contribution of the podcasting concept and making it work, the one key element that suddenly made podcasting viable and actually inevitable was the fact that Internet bandwidth got good enough to make it practical.

Practical is an important key.

We have now passed another important milestone in terms of mobile bandwidth. Mobile bandwidth, while not yet perfect, has improved dramatically in both terms of data delivery and coverage. About three or more years ago I had experimented with streaming audio via my smartphone while driving my truck, and quickly determined that it wasn’t viable. I couldn’t listen long at all before I would lose the stream. No problem, I had plenty of podcasts to listen to.

I’ve been hearing a lot of people talk about Pandora.Com lately, so last week I finally tried the Pandora Android app out on my new Sprint HTC Evo. To my surprise, it worked amazingly well – even in Arizona and the western third of New Mexico along Interstate 40 where Sprint still has 1XRT service. The streaming music sounded great, and the few times it did briefly drop out in a couple of mountainous areas, it automatically reconnected and reestablished the playback stream.

(By the way, a side note – I was surprised to learn that Verizon has NO data card coverage around the Kingman, Arizona area – my Verizon aircard would NOT connect in the Kingman area.)

Streaming radio via the Internet in a moving vehicle is now practical. Smartphones have also reached critical mass to the point where they are really beginning to move into the mainstream. Even though streaming Internet audio has been around for quite a few years at this point, I believe the automotive market for streaming audio is about to open up in a massive way.

Up until this point most people have felt that streaming Internet radio had plateaued or was only going to grow slowly. I believe that improved cell networks along with smartphone proliferation will create a new market for streaming audio services. The automobile has been the traditional stronghold of terrestrial and now satellite radio services. An old kid that’s been around a while suddenly has a big and growing shot at a new lease-on life.

I believe opportunities exist for streaming Internet radio stations that deliver highly specialized content. For us geeks, imagine a 24/7 tech-centric streaming station. The sky really is the limit. The cost of running a streaming station can be very low, so therefore it becomes possible and practical to narrowcast to relatively small audiences.

Smart Phone Critical Mass

Posted by tomwiles at 4:34 PM on July 12, 2010

The smartphone is a concept and an evolving device that has been around for a few years, though until now mass consumer adoption has been slow.

The introduction of the iPhone in June 2007 marked a radical improvement in smartphone interface design, usability and device capabilities. The iPhone caused a big upheaval in the then somewhat sleepy cell phone market. Even though the iPhone was an instant hit and unquestionably successful product, Apple’s choice of tying the iPhone exclusively to AT&T in the United States likely slowed the pace of faster smartphone adoption. In a way, this slowing of smartphone adoption has been good because it has allowed carriers to beef up their networks in the interim.

Google entered the smartphone market announcing Android in November of 2007. Initial implementations of Android-powered devices demonstrated promise, but it has taken a while for Android itself to be improved, and smartphone manufacturers such as HTC and Motorola to come up with highly-desirable devices that take full advantage of Android’s evolving and and advanced features and capabilities.

We are now in July of 2010. The iPhone 4 has been introduced. Alongside the iPhone 4, highly-desirable and functional devices such as the HTC Evo 4G, Droid Incredible , Droid X, and other Android-powered devices have either arrived or are shortly to come on the market. Now there’s suddenly a new problem – all of these devices are in short supply, and manufacturers such as HTC are scrambling to ramp up production to meet the demand that seemed to come out of nowhere.

Where did all of this smartphone demand come from? There are several pieces of the marketplace puzzle that have finally come together all at the same time. The new smartphone devices are finally at a point where they are highly usable. Multiple competing cell networks are finally at a point where data connectivity and speed make them usable. Also, millions of consumers over the past few years have become intimately familiar with “dumb” phone models that have had smartphone-like features embedded into them, such as integrated cameras, limited Internet browsing, gaming, text messaging and GPS functionality. They make regular use of these features, and are ready to move up to better devices with larger screens.

The smartphone has reached critical mass and is ready to continue the march towards maturation. Smartphones are becoming a very mainstream product. People who a few years ago would have never considered any phone labeled with the smartphone moniker are now readily embracing the new devices.

As a result of this mass consumer adoption of the smartphone that’s now underway, the market for highly-specialized smartphone apps will continue to explode to a degree in the future we might consider surprising even today. Multiple millions of consumers have millions of different needs and expectations. This exploding smartphone app market lends itself to the development of highly specialized niche applications.

Virtually any type of personal or industrial use a computer can be put to can likely also be done with a specialized app running on a modern smartphone. One tiny example of this is already in use is the area of automotive diagnostics. For many years, automotive technicians have used laptop computers in conjunction with special software connected via a cable to an automotive diagnostic port to onboard vehicle computers. Such software already exists for the iPhone to be used in place of a laptop computer, able to replace the cable connection with a Bluetooth connection. Imagine this realized potential multiplied a million times and you catch a glimpse of the future potential for smartphone apps and the uses these devices can and will be put to.

Living With The Sprint HTC Evo

Posted by tomwiles at 7:46 PM on July 3, 2010

I’ve been living with my HTC Evo now for a few weeks, long enough where I can make a few informed observations about the device.

The Evo’s 4.3 inch multi-touch screen is superb. I’ve been surprised by the brightness and readability of the Evo’s screen even in a vehicle or outdoors in sunlight. The screen is big enough to be useful, yet the device still fits into a regular shirt pocket.

The Evo is fast and responsive. It seems that no matter what programs are open, the Evo remains just as responsive — there’s no wait for programs or configuration screens to pop open. The other smart phones I’ve owned in the past are dog-slow and sluggish by comparison.

The HTC’s “Sense” user interface that sits on top of Android is a winner. Popular social networking sites are slickly integrated right into every aspect of the phone’s functionality, making it possible to share most everything you can think of with a couple of taps.

The WiFi hotspot feature is also a tremendous convenience. It does have its quirks though. I’ve found that if I have opened up a bunch of different applications in the course of using the phone, if I then open up the WiFi hotspot feature, something will go wrong after a few hours and turn off the battery’s charging circuit. Something I have installed and am running may be causing this to happen. If I reboot the phone and then run the WiFi hotspot feature, this problem doesn’t occur and the battery keeps charging when it’s plugged in to AC power.

The integrated GPS is able to quickly find a signal. There are two GPS navigation choices that are included – Google Navigation and Sprint Navigation. Both work exactly as expected. I find myself making the most use of Google Navigation and Google Maps. The ability to search for businesses in a local area based on the phone’s own GPS location is extremely useful and I typically find I use that feature several times a day.

4G is currently not a good reason to buy an Evo because 4G coverage is currently extremely limited. This situation is in the process of changing. In the meantime, I’m happy with Sprint’s 3G coverage. I knew about this 4G limitation going in to getting this phone, so it’s not a problem for me. In reality, it’s likely going to take two or three years before 4G is widely deployed. I’ve been a Sprint data customer for more than 5 years, so I’ve witnessed (and lived with) the process firsthand of them going from 1XRT service that was limited to the eastern half of the country to widely-deployed EVDO Rev “A” 3G service.

Android is light years better than Windows Mobile 5, 6 or 6.5. When Android needs to pull data from the Internet it quickly pulls it without fuss or muss. All the versions of Windows Mobile I’ve dealt with have a “Dial-up Networking” routine they have to go through just as if it was a desktop computer connecting via a modem, which is slow and sometimes prone to fail. Windows Mobile data connections must be manually closed when not in use or they can drain the battery. Android just does what you expect it to without jumping through a bunch of hoops.

The Evo’s main 8 megapixel camera is very good, and the interface allows instant uploading of photos to services such as Flickr and Facebook. The front-facing camera will work with a free program called “Fring” that will allow two-way video conferencing, but I’ve found Fring’s interface confused and somewhat unreliable.

Sprint appears to be blocking the uploading of videos recorded on the phone even through the phone’s integrated browser when signed in to YouTube. However, I was able to email a video as an attachment to my YouTube account.

The Evo’s “HD video” recording capability is not anywhere close to HD standards. Furthermore, the sound quality of recorded video and audio is quite poor. The Evo is not a replacement for a real video camera. It is only fair to note here that all iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads have superior audio recording capabilities. Also the iPhone 4’s HD video recording capabilities are obviously quite superior to the Evo’s.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the HTC Evo. That being said, keep in mind that it requires expensive voice/data plans if you wish to take advantage of all its capabilities. Furthermore as a two and one half year plus Sprint customer I’m satisfied with the quality and speed of the Sprint network.

Can Verizon handle the Droid traffic?

Posted by Mike Dell at 2:05 AM on November 2, 2009

droid_does

Last month, we had the rollout of the iPhone MMS which was predicted to bring down the AT&T network in some areas. That didn’t happen. Now, this month, we will have the introduction of the most hyped new handset since the iphone, The Motorola Droid on the Verizon network. Will Verizon’s 3G network handle the new demand?

Verizon Director of data services for the Illinois-Wisconsin region said that Verizon is not expecting to take a hit to the network because of the Droid. I’m wondering just how many Droid handsets will be available when they launch on November 6th. See the full story over on Unwired View

It just so happens that my contract on my Verizon (Alltel) Blackberry is up and I’m due for a new phone. I’m going to take a wait an see attitude. I am leaning towards getting the Droid. I hope they have enough of them and they live up to the hype.

I will do a full review when / if I get the droid in the next couple of months. Until then, I’m watching!

Sprint Novatel U720 Review

Posted by todd at 5:16 PM on December 14, 2006

U720Well my Sprint Novatel USB Ovation U720 arrived yesterday and after three tries with Sprint was able to get the ESN from my old card swapped to this new one. Overall the performance is great but I was surprised to see that the you have to use a Dual USB Port Dongle with the unit. Thus running the device on your laptop requires the utilisation of two USB ports.

The antenna access for the device is under the flip-up antenna and I am already concerned about the longevity of the card as looking down into the antenna port hole I do not see a lot of supporting material in and around the connection. Only time will tell if the external port will hold up or not.

This card is Rev A. capable but seeing Hawaii does not get Rev A. till the first of the year I will not be able to report on speeds. In download speed test the unit is comparable in transfer speeds of the PCMCIA version of this card.

I think the folks at Novatel would have been smart of they would have provided a power port for the USB card so as to allowed those that were using it in a permanent location to not have to use two USB ports to run the device.

I paid full retail for this card as I had existing service so I am hoping that in the long run this card works out ok. Meanwhile I have a Sprint PC-5740 card for sale if anyone wants to purchase it.

Update: The Novatel U720 does work with the Kyocera KR-1, I was concerned about this, but my testing here validates the KR1 works with the U720!

Kyocera KR1 Mobile Router

Posted by geeknews at 1:06 AM on August 17, 2006

If you have been listening to my Podcast you will know that I have had a dilemma, since the acquisition of the MacBook Pro I have been scratching my head on how I was going to have them both connected to the net when I was on travel or on the move. Yea I am one of those nuts that travel loaded to bear. Well I have been using Sprint EVDO service now for about 8 months and while it is faster than dial up but not as fast as ASDL I really did not like the idea of buying another card or having to pay for another broadband account that just does not make sense.

So instead what I have done is picked up a Kyocera KR1 Mobile Router this thing is awesome and testing it tonight setup took about 5 minutes the evdo card plugged in turned power on setup the wifi and I was in business. This allows me to share one EVDO card with 2 computers.

The box was a bit pricey but rumors are on the street that Sprint is going to be coming out with a USB EVDO card so that you can easily swap them if needed. But I like the setup I have better now.

With the upcoming Podcast Expo we are going to need connectivity in the booth and this will be the perfect configuration in that we will be able to use the the Mobile Router to stay connected and demonstrate things live. This will allow people to setup there accounts etc straight from the floor. [Kyocera]

Sprint EVDO 3G Service in Hawaii Limited!

Posted by geeknews at 3:35 PM on December 29, 2005

Well I am glad Sprint has a 14 trial period, I am sad to say both of the locations I needed 3G service in only has 1G and I’m not paying $79.99 for that. One of the main Sprint Representatives swore to me that the areas I needed where covered. Well guess what he was wrong.

I drove all over trying to find a 3G signal, I actually had to drive 5 miles before I picked up the service. I can understand a mile or so but 5 miles from where they claimed the service was. Pisses me off that I spent a couple of hours getting the service setup. It’s better than dial up but not that much better.

We live in a digital world and these companies better hurry up and get their service rolled out to bigger areas I and many others need high speed 24/7 not just when we are at home.