Monday, December 27, 2010

Chrome saves a puppy!

We're driving to AT's house on Christmas Eve for dinner (awesome dinner), and Angel and I spied a basset hound wandering around on a busy road. Never mind that we have three dogs in the car already (two freakin' out, and one passed out), we belt out a u-turn, and check the pooch out.

He's shivering, but otherwise looks ok. He immediately stopped to look at me, and came when I called to him. The second any proximity was established, his tail starts going fast enough to whip cream. Cold as he is, he sits down, and looks at me with those mournful basset hound eyes. His tag reads "Capone" and a Florida phone number.

After several attempts at the phone number (can't be completed as dialed, not available, etc), we decide to load him into the car (we're 5 minutes from AT's), and figure it out there (I don't like hanging out on the side of busy roads. That's a place people die).

We get to AT's, and everyone is already there, including Lizard's big dog, Adam. Adam is a very nice dog, once he is willing to get to know you. Before then, he comes off as a pretty aggressive puppy. We're bringing our three dogs in, Capone, and Adam's already there. Top it off with AT's two cats... It's a lot to ask.

But this is why I love my family. I walked in, leaving Angel in the car to tend to the animals, an explained what's going on. No hesitation, no questions, nothing, just a "Bring him in, we'll figure it out".

So in we troop. Four dogs, and a quick snag of the Cr-48 (AT's internet can be spotty, and I just don't have time to troubleshoot it). Within seconds, Angel is pulling up local animal hospitals (to check Capone for an RFID tag), and we're calling them. Being Christmas Eve evening, we're not getting any success. Then she's pulling up the local police non-emergency number. They advise us to call the animal shelter (but we didn't get their number). Again, the Chrome-Book is there in a flash, getting us the animal shelter's number. I get on the phone with them, and they dispatch an officer to come get the little guy.

The Cr-48 didn't do anything that another laptop couldn't have done. Well, except all of the searches and interactions were performed by someone completely naive to the system. And the fact that we had anywhere internet helped. No, what made it cool was that it was the right tool at the time. We probably had half a dozen laptops at the dinner, but this was the one we grabbed.

Of course, it happened so fast, we didn't think to snap a picture of Capone.... grrrr

Thursday, December 23, 2010

How long does 100MB last?

It looks like it's going to be less than three days.
I just got a quick little pop-up in the lower right corner, telling me that I've used 49 of my 100MB.

I'm not complaining, at all. In fact, I'd like to commend Verizon and Google for this unobtrusive notification. No surprises, no difficult to find usage summary. This is a far change from the typical wireless service that I've seen, where companies appear to work hard to surprise you with overages.

So, I need to tone down my playing around with this thing, and try to use it for real projects and work. I can do that.

Changed my mind

After showing off the Cr-48, and taking an evening to think about it, I can think of an ideal customer for this system: businesses.

Buy a bunch of laptops, all completely identical, all capable of providing business functions, anywhere, anytime. Set the system up so that the entire computer experience is archived on the web (or your proprietary network). Keep your personal computer IT support costs to a bare minimum.

I'm trying to see what there is not to like.

As a business machine, this thing could be killer. It's going to run into problems when dealing with ultra-proprietary or confidential information, but I'm going to bet that Google is considering that.
It's going to run into problems when dealing with business specific software packages. Again, I'm going to bet that Google is examining this problem (Google Citrix?).
The Google collaborative apps have been a little cumbersome (Google Wave was hard to use, no matter how often we tried to get into it), but their online office package is incredibly easy to share with others. I think the tough nut there is remote, real-time collaboration.

The more I consider it, the more the idea of equipping a mobile business force with these systems is appealing.

And then it's not. I'm an IT consultant on the side (lately, WAY on the side). I need people to come to me with computer problems. This would do away with my tech support costs.

Hey, Google, any chance you're looking for a troubleshooter?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Free data service through Verizon Wireless

The Cr-48 comes with 100MB of free data service, per month, for two years, from VZW. I activated it today, with no problems. It took about five minutes, during which time I furnished my personal information, including a credit card. I don't really have an objection to the credit card. It establishes my identity with the company, and it provides insurance/assurance to them that I won't run amok.

So, I'm on the subway blogger. Bizarre. Not something I ever really considered, and the sound of it makes me want to punch my hipster alter-ego in the face.
Still, I feel that Google provided me with this great piece of tech and great opportunity, I should keep a log of how it's going and impacting my life (and it is a great piece of tech).

So far, I'm really liking this thing. The Cr-48 is not going to replace my primary computer. Right now, it won't replace my primary laptop. However, I frequently have two laptops in tow, One for work, and another to "work from". That second laptop is currently a mini-netbook. I think as an experiment, for the next couple of months, I'll be leaving that on the shelf.

The Cr-48 always has internet access. I can pull down notes, web pages, technical documents (I haven't tried PDF's yet. The lack of PDF capability is a definite e-reader killer. If your e-reader doesn't have it, I won't buy it), run a couple of programs on it, and use it to check a couple of things.

Speaking of programs: Google! Please figure out how to let us run and code Python programs on these things (The Cr-48 and the Android OS). You'll see more amateurs (like me) flocking to the platform because we can make it do what we want.

The 100MB a month is interesting. It's a very limited connection to the net (you can buy more, but I'm broke as hell). You're not going to be playing any of the latest and greatest video games on this thing, but then again, the Cr-48 isn't capable of playing the latest and greatest video games (In fact, as of this post, the Cr-48 is having trouble playing a couple of the games in their app store).

But like I said, the Cr-48 is not going to replace your primary computer. It's going to be sitting there next to you at home while you're fragging your friends. A quiet little chat window will pop up when your other friends are trying to figure out if you want to come out to dinner with them (or which server you're on, so they can join in). It's going to let you check your email when the round is over. It's going to go with you when you leave the house to jump on the bus to go to work.

Let's see how far I can stretch those 100MB.
I'd like to have a bar on my browser, that shows how far I've used my data allotment, versus the time left in the month. Something tiny and out of the way.

Ok, a couple of dings: I still haven't gotten used to the double-fingered right-click. I'm still working on that.
The screen needs to open just a little bit further. Curled up with this laptop can be difficult in some positions, and this laptop begs to be curled up with. Light, and lap friendly.
In that same vein (this is not a ding, but I direction I want to see this go), I really want to somehow flip the screen around, and have a tablet option with this computer. This thing just screams "usability", and I think that would be an addition I would pay extra for.
The system really bogs down if you have multiple tabs open. For an attention deficit disorder guy, like me, this can be annoying. However, you really don't need to have 15 tabs open. Finish what you started, then go play Steambirds (excellent game).
I'm having trouble with the touchpad at times. I love it, but it seems that the cursor jumps around a bit at times. It seems that this is happening more when I'm tired, which makes me think user error. It also doesn't help that one of my fingers is in a massive metal splint, which probably has a near field effect on the trackpad.
I still haven't figured out what the SD card slot is for. I tried loading music onto it, but nothing.
Oh yeah, music. The currently offered music player, mSpot (I think) needs work. Generating a playlist on it was a pretty painful operation (to the point that I gave up, and pulled out my laptop to play music while I was working). Google, please figure out a way to make this a local app.

Big bonuses, and things I like:
The keyboard is just stellar. Engineers, please take note: This is how to do it

The battery life is incredible. On 3g, it's saying that I have close to eight hours remaining on the charge.

Instant on OS, that seems to remember everything that I was doing.

Easy help feature.

I love the documentation that came with this thing. Two pages. I read them start to finish, back to front, and I'm saving them to show to people.

ok, here's my stop. Gotta go

Puppy time!

So, this is Ruffian (Ruff for short. He's barked at his name a couple of times now. Really, really cute).
As I said before, he's a Christmas gift from Angel, and he came a little early (about 5 days early) so that we could try to get him settled before the chaos of Christmas (whether we can pull that off is another story).

A puppy for Christmas... I thought this was the coolest gift I'd get, by far. Then my parents called last night, and just blew me away. They're getting me very nice pet insurance for the little guy. OK, maybe it's not as cool as the puppy (Chicken and Egg problem here), but it's incredibly thoughtful, and massively contributive (does that construction work?) towards the epic puppy coolness.

I was blown away. Very blown away. Like "Dust in my eyes, and kinda choking me" kind of way. Even more so, because I was looking at VPI's website that morning, and trying to figure out how to get the pet insurance thing to happen with my budget. It wasn't a question of not doing it (I'm that idiot that will run back into the burning building for the dog. You read about them in the newspaper and think "What an idiot, it's just a dog). I was just going to be stretched to do it.

Actually, that's really not true. I could have gotten him some basic coverage for just $20. I could do that. That's us eating ramen noodles two more times a month, but I knew I wanted more than just basic coverage.

Awesome job, Mom and Pop. And one of those gifts that I'll be thanking you for continuously.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New Year's Resolution (And why I don't like them)

It's a couple of days before Christmas. A full 10 days before New Year's Eve (Which I'm not working, thank God).

So I'm going to make a resolution. Which is bizarre, because I hate New Year's Resolutions. Not from others. I love self improvement, and if it takes a certain day of the year for people to adopt better habits, I'm all for it. No, I don't like them because I don't see a need to wait for a certain day to make improvements.

So I guess I'm not really making a New Year's Resolution, because I'm not waiting.

I'm going to try to keep up with this blog. That's it. Simple. Small. I should be able to do this.

I've got some incentive, and some reasons to keep writing. First, it's been a rough couple of months. Not just for me, I know, but I can really only write for myself. Money, friends, family, school, even work (and I love work).

But there is also some great good happening. Friends, family, school, even work (You see what I did there?).

So, we're going to start with the good. The pic above is my new family member, Ruffian (Ruff for short). Angel (My girlfriend, who is all sorts of good news) gave him to me for Christmas. Yeah, I know, you should never give pets for presents during Christmas. I'm going to amend that, and say you should never give pets as surprises for Christmas (Or Hanukkah, or any other big holiday). We've now been prepping for this puppy for two months (Well, I think Angel has been prepping for at least six months, maybe more than that).

I'm going to rant and rave about Ruff in another post. Maybe after I've had some sleep. He's been here for two nights, and has only given us a couple of hours (maybe 4-5 over the two nights) of sleep. We're trying to crate train him (he already goes into it voluntarily), but at night he just starts howling. Last night we scheduled potty breaks, but he still didn't sleep more than an hour or two. I finally went over and stroked him till he fell asleep. I know, probably not a good idea, but we're seriously bent right now from sleep deprivation. Tonight, Angel will get some sleep, as I'm up all night for my work cycle change.

Other great news: I'm working at an emergency room again (totally not saying which one, and I'd appreciate it if any commenters kept that information out). After Haiti, I realized how much I needed to continue working in medicine. I know I feel better, all around (lost 20lbs from running around over there).

Med school applications are in! I'm currently working on secondaries (and trying to afford the fees for it). I'm just applying to DO schools this year. I really just like their philosophy better. I'm going to keep writing about that experience.

I'd like to dedicate this post to one other thing, the enabler of this post, if you will.

Yesterday a surprise package came UPS. It's Christmas, so I wasn't sure what it was (I'm so sleep deprived that I wasn't sure it was something that I ordered). I opened the box, and inside was another box that screamed "Laptop".
I got a little nervous. I didn't order a laptop. No one would send me a laptop. I checked the box again. Angel needs a new laptop... Nope. My name.

I opened the box. Yep. It's a laptop! Very matte black finish, on the smallish side. Very thin. Light. And the first piece of paper that I see (one of three, single pieces of paper, one of which is a business card) has a chrome label and emblem on it.

Could it be....?

Yeah, it totally is.
For the less geeky of you (and I'm probably the geekiest guy you know), it's a Cr-48.
Google has created a pilot program showcasing their reference platform (the Cr-48), and their Chrome Operating system (Chrome OS). The whole concept behind the program is a web based OS. No downloading or installing tons of software onto your system. Google has everything hosted on their servers. In fact, go one step further. Store the majority of your personal files on their servers. That way, wherever you go, whichever computer you're using, you have access to your files. Even cooler: Sign on as a guest on someone else's Cr-48, and the computer will behave just like your computer.

So the laptop arrived on my door, unannounced. I have to admit, the effect was striking. I wandered around for a full ten minutes, just saying "Wow". Early Christmas, for a little kid... I already got a puppy this Christmas, so an unexpected, cutting edge laptop..... Wow.

Cutting edge... OK, I'm going to bet that this thing doesn't have an unlocked Core i7 in it's guts, or a multi-GPU setup to drive insane graphics. What it does have is an always on web link (I don't know what deal Google and Verizon worked out, but thank you Verizon for helping make this piece of tech happen. If you're not on WiFi, then a 3G modem kicks in, and you have 100MB of data transfer a month, free, from Verizon. OK, not exactly cutting edge, as other laptops have been doing that for years.
Turn the thing on, and it boots in seconds. Yes, truly, in seconds. Less than 10. From a cold start. That's cutting edge. My current laptop has a Seagate Momentus Hybrid Drive, and it's fast into Windows 7, but not that fast. I'm pretty sure that this thing is using a solid state drive (SSD), but I don't have the details.
No, what's cutting edge is the whole overall product. Everything is coming together in one package, in a novel beta-test (Free laptop! Really?!), in an incredible design.

Let me talk about the design. First, the battery is a Li-Ion pack that is removable. It takes up a full half of the bottom of the computer. Yeah, it's still removable. People, get with the program, and start doing this.... always. Its ridiculous that companies still make non-user changeable batteries.
The laptop itself is completely matte black, in a sexy, good feel rubberized plastic.
This chassis just feels really good in your hands. On the left is a VGA output port (Here, I wish for an HDMI port, just because that's a port that is going to be on every display technology for the foreseeable future). On the right, a power jack, USB port (USB 2? I think), an audio port (single) and an SD card slot. That's it. Simple. I'm sure people will argue that there are not enough USB ports. Maybe... I don't know. This laptop isn't about huge numbers of external devices. It's the internet, everywhere. Already it has an infinite increase in connectivity over an iPad.
The keyboard is great. This is important to me. My number one piece of advice for people looking at netbooks is to demo the keyboard first. In my experience, the keyboard is the make or break factor for netbooks (this thing feels like a really nice netbook). Chicklet style keys, with a great feel to them. Properly spaced, and easy to type with (Oh yeah, this whole post is written on this thing).
The keyboard has some changes. No, the shift keys are in the proper places, no bizarre punctuation keys. Google has made one significant change to the keyboard, that I'm hoping revolutionizes the keyboard as we know it: No CAPSLOCK. That's right. It's gone, been replaced with a "Search Key". I'm just glad that people who use this thing are going to, by default, have to use proper capitalization. Google, if you're listening, please don't ever change this feature. You hit this one out of the park.
Oh yeah, the function keys are gone, and have been replaced with internet keys (reload, forward, backward), screen keys (Brightness), and audio control (Volume, but no "Next Track" feature.... Can't really comment on it yet, I haven't tried audio yet). I can't see a "Screen Capture" key, but it may be in the shortcuts (Control-Alt-?).

So the keyboard kicks ass.

The mouse pad is huge. I mean really big. It's multi-touch enabled, so it allows for two fingered scrolling. It's a clickpad, which I'm not a huge fan of, but I can learn to enjoy. The "clickyness" feels good, I just keep moving my finger slightly when I use it.
However, there isn't a "Right-Click" button. In order to right-click, you have to press with two fingers. So far this has been a major hit-or-miss proposition for me (and my friend who has tried it out). This is a major change for me, and I'm having a fair amount of problems with the right-click interface. BUT, I'll get it.
In their defense, Google has provided all sorts of customization features for the controls. I just haven't had a chance to use them. I'll post on that at a later date.

As I've said, startup is fast. Really fast. When you first boot up, the system asks for your Gmail information (or allows you to create a new account). It takes a picture (I was so excited, I let the thing take my picture. I look like crap. It'll be interesting to see how many geeks, like me, are too excited to groom themselves for their pictures, upon receiving this thing). Then, you're onto the internet.

Security seems to be decent, though I'll admit I haven't delved into it. You have to sign into your Gmail account to gain access to the laptop. I typically have a different password on my computer than on my email accounts, so that hacking one doesn't give you access to the other, but this is how Google set it up.

The screen looks exactly like a Chrome browser window, with some very minor changes. No task bar at the bottom, a bug report button to the right of the "omni-bar", time, signal strength and battery indicator in the upper right. That's it.

Browsing around is easy, and just like Chrome (and pretty much just like every other browser). Open up a new window (Control-N for a new window or Control-T for a new tab) and you get access to your apps, including a small web store. The game "Entanglement" is pretty cool.

However, it's here, that I have a small problem with the whole system. There doesn't appear to be a way to split the screen. You can't consult notes on one side of the screen, while you are working on another screen. This is a great innovation of Windows that I love. Hell, I have a multi-monitor setup downstairs, and I use it continuously. Google, please find a way to do this. If you can set it up so I can split the screen, left/right and/or top/bottom, that would really upgrade my usability for this.

My only other gripe so far is the inability to code Python on this platform. I'm in the middle of a major project, so I need to be able to use a computer that lets me code (And test the code). For this reason, the Cr-48 is in use next to my other computers.

However, the Cr-48 is going to be by my side for the foreseeable future. I'll be posting up my further impressions, as I get them.

Thanks Google, I hope to give you the info you need!