Reviews and Links for January 2013

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017
2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

2/5

I always want to like Kim Stanley Robinson a lot more than I do. The setup here is an interesting mystery set in a fascinating fully populated Solar System and if 2312 delivered on this premise it could have been a great book. But it's bogged down with exposition and a lengthy middle section on randomly repopulating extinct mammals and ended up just being a slog for me.

(All Book Reviews)

Going Chrome

Updated on Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Going Chrome

I came to Chrome OS by a circuitous route. Initially I though a browser in a box was a silly, under-powered toy. But then I needed a meeting machine for work.

To start with I decided to use an old Macbook. It was running OSX 10.5 (Leopard) which is a bit out of date so I thought I'd update it to the latest 10.8 (Mountain Lion) goodness. But this turned out to be impossible to do from my desk. Before I could go to 10.8 I'd have to get physical media for 10.6 (Snow Leopard) and patch it up to the point where it would accept an upgrade. This meant shipping a disc or visiting an Apple Store and getting smarmed at. Unacceptable.

So I decided to ditch OSX and install Windows 8. This was a cheap online purchase and a painless install... but Windows 8 is a disaster on a non-touch device. Everything takes an extra few clicks or a half-mile scroll to the right. 

Live tiles seem like a good idea until you realize that you're not looking at the start screen often enough for them to be of any value. If Microsoft had introduced a permanent ticker at the bottom of the screen or a secondary tile screen on all Windows 8 certified devices life could have been more interesting. 

Removing the start button so you have to go into touch and swipe mode to do anything is a pain. A boot to desktop mode would be great for older devices.

The deal breaker though is the increasingly assertive Windows Update. Twice in meetings it decided to reboot the computer. It used to be you could delay updates for hours but Windows 8 just knows that the latest patch is more important that whatever you happen to be working on and cheerfully pulls the plug. 

Admittedly you can figure out how to find the vestigial, non-Windows 8 config for Windows 8 and go to manual mode. And then figure out how to turn off the nagging for not having the recommended Windows Update setting. But but by this point you realize that you've got a operating system that is about updates first and getting work done second. And Windows 8 Windows Update doesn't even update Windows Store apps so you've got a live tile nagging for updates every five seconds as well. 

On top on the Windows 8 horror the Macbook was old, heavy and had a puny battery. Also, after installing Windows 8 the only software I needed to install was Chrome and the office VPN client. Once this sunk in I ordered the new Samsung Chromebook.  

Setup on the Chromebook is: 1. Login to your Google Account (with support for two-factor authentication), 2. Choose a wallpaper (optional). 

I'm not likely to use a Chromebook as my primary machine any time soon. It is however a meeting powerhouse for email, IMs, calendar and note taking. I replaced Skype with imo.im (which I've used on Android for a while). Full Outlook web access took a bit of head scratching - see this post for details. Google Apps and Hangouts work seamlessly as you'd expect. It's light and the battery lasts all day.

The only niggle so far is that Chrome OS doesn't support the flavor of VPN that my company uses. It would be nice to get to the wiki, but it's not a deal breaker (If you have a Cisco VPN that insists on a group name go vote for this bug). 

Microsoft and Apple should be really rather worried.

Updated 2013-07-17 13:54:

Two quick updates.

Providing a group name to use with Cisco VPN devices was added in Chrome 28. Unfortunately it still doesn't work for me. I've filed issue 261241 on the chromium bug tracker for this - you can star this issue if you have the same problem.

Skype has managed to block Imo.im so that no longer works for Skype on a Chromebook. I'm using IM+ for now, but it's not nearly as good - it doesn't remember passwords and it keeps silently losing connectivity so it's easy to miss chats.

(Read the full Chromebook adventure: Part 1: Going Chrome, Part 2: Staying Chrome? and Part 3: Leaving Chrome)

(All Etc Posts)

Full Outlook Web Access on Chromebook

Updated on Monday, April 26, 2021

Outlook Web Access

When trying to load the Outlook Web App on a Chromebook you'll find that you can only access the 'light' version. It's pretty easy to fix, you just need to spoof the user agent. 

On a regular desktop computer launch Chrome and type chrome://version in the address bar. Find and copy the user agent string. 

On your Chromebook install the User-Agent Switcher extension. After this installs click the icon and choose Settings. Enter a new customer user agent - name something like 'Chrome Desktop', the user agent string is the one you copied from a desktop PC above, group is Chrome, type is replace and enter a character or two for the indicator flag.

Next click the Permanent Spoof list tab (still in User-Agent Switcher) and enter the domain of your outlook site (i.e. outlook.mycorp.com) and choose the user agent we just created from the drop down list (i.e. 'Chrome Desktop').

Finally log out of Outlook Web Access. You should now be able to uncheck the 'light' experience and get the full version of the Outlook Web App.

(Read the full Chromebook adventure: Part 1: Going Chrome, Part 2: Staying Chrome? and Part 3: Leaving Chrome)

 

(All Etc Posts)

Last Light

Updated on Sunday, May 3, 2020

Last Light

Last light of 2012 (up Bernal Hill). Happy New Year!

(Recent Photos)

Reviews and Links for December 2012

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017
Phantom (Alexander Hawke, #7) by Ted Bell

Phantom (Alexander Hawke, #7) by Ted Bell

2/5

Sigh. The man can contradict himself in the space of a single sentence. Must stop...

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Clutch, you have no friends...

Updated on Sunday, May 3, 2020

Clutch, you have no friends...

Depress Clutch

How I have to start my car.

(Recent Photos)

Catfood: Earth for Android 1.10

Updated on Monday, May 31, 2021

Catfood Earth for Android 1.10

I’ve just released Catfood Earth for Android 1.10. You can control the center of the screen manually (the most requested new feature) and also tweak the transparency of each layer and the width of the terminator between day and night. It also starts a lot faster and has fewer update glitches. Grab it from Google Play if this looks like your sort of live wallpaper.

(All Code Posts)

.NET 2.0 and Windows 8

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

Inexplicably .NET 2.0, 3.0 and 3.5 are not installed by default in Windows 8 and can’t be installed using the redistributables that worked with previous versions of Windows. You have to go digging in Windows Features to get anything older than 4.0.

(All Code Posts)

Wave Organ

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

The Wave Organ, San Francisco

Like the Internet, The Wave Organ is a series of tubes. Unlike the Internet it groans at you in different ways as the tide comes in and out. It’s also a nice walk on a blustery day with great views around the bay and back over to the Marina.

Kate at The Wave Organ in San Francisco

(Google Earth KML, Google Maps)

Hike starts at: 37.806707, -122.446921.

(Hike Map)

Reviews and Links for November 2012

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017
Tsar (Alexander Hawke, #5) by Ted Bell

Tsar (Alexander Hawke, #5) by Ted Bell

2/5

Good yarn, poorly spun.

 

(All Book Reviews)