Going Chrome

Updated on Monday, February 15, 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 It was running OSX 10.5 (Leopard) which is a bit out of date so I thought I'd update it to the latest 10.8 (Mountain Lion) goodness.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)

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)

 

Religion's Kayne West Tendencies

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

BBC News has a report today on a conference held by CERN to bring science and religion together around the origins of the universe. It has some choice quotes including:

"Science in isolation is great for producing stuff, but not so good for producing ideas"

From Andrew Pinsent, and from Canon Dr Gary Wilton that the likely discovery of the Higgs boson:

"raised lots of questions [about the origins of the Universe] that scientists alone can't answer ... They need to explore them with theologians and philosophers"

Let me get this straight.

  • The concept of atoms is first proposed by Demokritos in around 500 BC and realized by Dalton in 1808.
  • Subatomic particles are discovered in the late 19th century, followed by Rutherford's gold foil experiment in 1907 demonstrating that an atom is mostly empty space.
  • The Standard Model is built over decades including the proposal by Peter Higgs (and others) of the existence of the field and boson by which particles acquire mass.
  • An expensive and extensive search by Fermilab and CERN eventually seems to have discovered the Higgs Boson.

A few highlights.

And after hundreds of years of theoretical and experimental physics it's somehow time to turn this one over to the pros?

Another quote from the conference, this time from Prof John Lennox:

"When Hawking argues, in support of his theory of spontaneous creation, that it was only necessary for 'the blue touch paper' to be lit to 'set the universe going', the question must be: where did this blue touch paper come from? And who lit it, if not God?"

Science may never have all the answers. It may not even be possible. But it's the only way to keep pushing back the boundaries. All the theologians have to offer is that they've discovered God, just outside the current resolution of our understanding. Ad nauseam. Bugger off. 

Thank you for choosing HSA Bank!

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

Thank you for choosing HSA Bank!

No, thank you HSA Bank for not giving me a choice and then cheekily pinching $2 on every debit swipe.

etc, hsa

SETIcon 2

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

SETIcon 2

I'm at SETIcon 2 this weekend. It's a mix of science, sci-fi, religion and general speculation.

What really strikes me is that a couple of years ago at the first conference a handful of exoplanets had been found but the Kepler scientists were grinning away, not allowed to say much.

This time round it's hard to find a star without a planetary system. The (silly) Drake equation is falling term by term.

Next SETIcon it has to be some evidence of life...

Petrol & Marks & Spencer

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

I recently got back from a trip back to the UK. Every time I go back these days something about the country has fundamentally changed. This time it's that every petrol station and motorway services has a Marks & Spencer or Waitrose supermarket embedded in it. On the motorway there are generally several large branches, and then a smaller branch in the toilet hand-washing area, and finally a tiny shop selling sandwiches and a small selection of ready-made curries in each cubicle.

At first pass this seems very convenient, but you can't fill up the tank in the smallest BP (paying at the pump being virtually unheard of in the UK) without getting stuck behind someone doing their weekly shop. 

Reviews and Links for May 2012

Updated on Friday, May 22, 2020

No book reviews this month.

Links

#boarding SFO http://t.co/YLDFpmwF

Penn Jillette's rant against Obama's drug policy http://t.co/Ri5HAqxH

Congratulations @SpaceX -- Dragon arrives at space station in historic 1st http://t.co/91suk4ZV via @sfgate

Why your camera's GPS won't work in China (maybe) http://t.co/FQIFN8wI

Sigh, obvious, invalid, bullshit -- BBC News - Microsoft wins patent fight with Google's Motorola unit http://t.co/0PENWTCV

BBC News the secret links between Star Wars and Wales http://t.co/T8yEulCu (is there any tenuous link with Wales you won't publish?)

:) Hot weather to continue next week http://t.co/izAc2yA1

Not Skip's Tavern any more... http://t.co/dPx1NIj8

Reality rocks in San Francisco earthquake exhibit http://t.co/yo82B38b (Looking forward to this!)

BBC News - In pictures: Annular eclipse http://t.co/YA5F6or2 (Check out the Lemurs checking out the eclipse)

ITHCWY: Annular Eclipse at SFO: The only solar observatory outside the international terminal at SFO (some… http://t.co/ZqMXm8Ec

Beer was near, sadly earlier. http://t.co/2BeMAJZj

America's great divergence - American History - http://t.co/zQcVJIcQ http://t.co/fSdtXSvl

"Why won't you answer me?" - Parenting - http://t.co/zQcVJIcQ http://t.co/Ljzg6vpG (I should stop telling Kate about her 'milk head')

1906 earthquake refugee cottage at The Presidio. http://t.co/pof5LotA

+1 Judge suspends US law that provided for indefinite detention without trial - Boing Boing http://t.co/xsBuLyYb via @BoingBoing

Daniel Raven-Ellison, Guerrilla Geographer Information, Facts, News, Photos -- National Geographic http://t.co/DjgJdvMJ via @NatGeo

ITHCWY: Gopher Snake: Bernal Heights Park http://t.co/OoHYDU0y

Turned out nice... http://t.co/G2pHtgbd

RT @CatfoodSoftware: Blog: Catfood Software on Google+ and a Hangout Pledge: Catfood is now on Google+. Once 50… http://t.co/ZC84h8AN

ITHCWY: Open Immigration: I'm increasingly in favor of opening up immigration. Partly it's a general sense that a… http://t.co/cBLQT2rI

ITHCWY: Snake rests on Toad: At the California Academy of Sciences. http://t.co/YTQh682A

New Golden Gate Visitor center - lots of tat, no food :( http://t.co/vXmZn099

Obama sighting on morning dog walk. #fb http://t.co/wZdwN2Mj

President Obama: 'I Think Same-Sex Couples Should Be Able to Get Married'; http://t.co/CtC6k2A8 (shameful that it has taken this long)

Gaia revisited: http://t.co/sHSeFph7 - I'm still in the extreme camp: http://t.co/6dzIjBy7

Post Doyle Drive detour quite pleasant on the way home tonight. http://t.co/fSK8e4v9

THINKWALKS: http://t.co/ToOZo3KQ #todo in San Francisco @myEN

ITHCWY: Bottled Water: A company called Evive launched this week to battle the evil of bottled water with reusable… http://t.co/5X9e3emO

ITHCWY: Pelicans http://t.co/0xoup7z5

It's @KQED pledge yet again. Throw them a bone public radio freeloaders: http://t.co/00UvTamT

Illegal dumping can now be voted to fix at http://t.co/SsliF12n #bernal-heights!

Yet Another Awful Dumping Incident on Bernal Hill http://t.co/35kLDRdn via @bernalwood

+1 AllClear ID Rolls Out First-Ever Social Security Number Blocking Service For Children's IDs http://t.co/wnRILNzQ via @techcrunch

Rejected and controversial New Yorker cover art (the mentos one is very good) http://t.co/afo9AxZd via @BoingBoing #fb

Bottled Water

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

Bottled Water

A company called Evive launched this week to battle the evil of bottled water with reusable RFID equipped bottles that need a special filling station that plays advertising to you while you refill. Sort of like a water fountain but worse in every way possible. 

Concord Massachusetts just started to ban the sale of bottled water, joining several other towns and cities around the world. They've actually just banned small bottles, you can still buy a large one. 

Wouldn't it be better to leave the water on the shelf and ban Coke? 

Photo credit: Joost J. Bakker IJmuiden cc

Kindle: Figure out sorting!

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

I love my Kindle. Loved it since seeing the screen for the first time after bothering a Judge I shouldn't have at an arbitration hearing. These days I mostly read using the Kindle app on my phone. And there's one thing that drives me nuts.

You can sort by author and you can sort by title but you can't sort by the date you purchased a book. When I finish a book and can't quite remember what's next in the queue this makes it impossible to search for it and curse Bezos for being off hunting rocket engines while he could be knocking heads together to fix this.

I'm sure there is a brain dead reason for this. Maybe it's not exposed with the book data and fixing this is festering on someone's backlog. Maybe the fact that some items may not have a purchase date is too hard a problem to deal with (hints: put these at the top, or the bottom, or make the feature only list purchased items). Come on Amazon, I'm sure you can figure this out.

What I really want is a queue. The same way I used to stack books to read on my bedside table I want to manage my to-read list at Amazon.com and then just have a button to load the next book. But I'd settle for sorting that works.

Prophylactic

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

Prophylactic

Absolutely no chance of scurvy tonight.