Leaving Chrome

Updated on Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Leaving Chrome

My Chromebook was stolen over the weekend. The good news is that I didn't lose anything given the cloud only nature of the device. The bad news was that I didn't really want to get a new one.

I loved the cost and the boot speed and being able to do nearly everything I needed to with a browser-in-a-box.

But the nearly was a deal breaker. I sometimes need to VPN and the Chromebook wouldn't. It just wasn't compatible with our flavor of VPN and I didn't want to buy another Chromebook on the off chance that Google would eventually fix this. I also have to use Skype (I'd rather not) and this isn't really possible on the Chromebook either. Imo.im was good while it lasted. IM+ is horrible.

I've abandoned the Chrome dream and picked up a Surface Pro 3.

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

Google PageSpeed Insights hates Google Analytics

Updated on Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Google PageSpeed Insights hates Google Analytics

I so want to get to 100% on Google PageSpeed Insights but I'm getting dinged for loading Google Analytics!

Tedious Feed Update

Updated on Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Tedious Feed Update

If you subscribe to I Thought He Came With You via RSS please switch to this new feed and delete the old one.

Longer version... this blog has used FeedBurner for ever but I managed to get locked out a couple of years ago. I upgraded to Google Apps for Domains and part of the process was transitioning various services over to a temporary account and then back to the new one. Most of them made it over but FeedBurner got orphaned somehow.

I've emailed, left forum posts etc but no luck. Google doesn't really do customer service so despite actually paying them I seem to be out of luck. Also, Google hates RSS so FeedBurner probably isn't the right long term tool even if I could get back into my account.

I've been meaning to do something about this for a while but as it was working it wasn't a top priority. This changed when my blog got hacked a couple of times in a row - I'm not sure if it was the software (I'd been using BlogEngine.net) or my hosting provider but it's painful to fix and I decided I needed a change. I Thought I Came From You is now running on a home grown platform. It should be more stable, faster (some quick benchmarking suggests twice as fast so far) and not get hacked quite so often.

So switch to http://ithoughthecamewithyou.com/syndication.axd for updates (I can't recommend Feedly highly enough) and delete the old feed. If you have any problems leave a comment below or send me an email.

Staying Chrome?

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

Staying Chrome?

I've been using my Samsung Chromebook at work for around ten months now. It's not my main computer but it's a meeting survival powerhouse for email, instant messaging and note taking. The battery lasts approximately forever, it boots immediately and the decent keyboard and trackpad are just miles ahead of fumbling around on a tablet.

There are two problems for me with the Chrome universe. One will probably get fixed, one could be a deal breaker.

The first issue is VPN support. Apparently we use some sort of old, fiddly Cisco VPN that ChromeOS simply won't talk to. I filed Issue 261241 in the Chromium bug tracker and hopefully it will get fixed soon. If you're struggling with the same thing please star the bug report.

I can work around the VPN problem by using LogMeIn or Chrome Remote Desktop. But I can't live long without Skype. Actually I'd be perfectly happy to never use Skype again but my company runs on about fifty thousand Skype chats. I used Imo.IM for a while but they were forced to drop Skype support. Right now I'm using IM+ which as far as I'm aware is the only working Skype option for a Chromebook (please tell me if I'm wrong) but it's buggy and can't restore a connection between sessions. I either need to find a way to kill Skype at work or wait for (or write) a better web-only client.

Probably worth sticking it out, Gartner reports a 8.6% fall in PC sales but predicts Chromebooks growing to over 12 million units by 2016.

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

(Image by he4rtofcourage, CC).

Google Spreadsheets API and Column Names

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

Google Spreadsheets API and Column Names

I had a play with the Google Spreadsheets API recently to feed in some data from a C# application. The getting started guide is great and I was authenticated and adding dummy data in no time. But as soon as I started to work with real data I got:

"The remote server returned an error: (400) Bad Request."

And digging deeper into the response:

"We're sorry, a server error occurred. Please wait a bit and try reloading your spreadsheet."

The original sample code still worked so it didn't seem like any sort of temporary glitch as the message suggests. After much hair torn it turns out I was getting this error because I had used the literal column names from my spreadsheet. The API expects them to be lower case with spaces removed. If not columns match you get the unhelpful error above, if at least one column matches you get a successful insert with some missing data.

Error messages are one of the hardest parts of an API to get right. If you're not very detailed then what seems obvious to you can leave your developers stumped.

Hope this helps someone else...

Finally Gmail

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

Gmail is taking the compose window out of the corner of your window.

Previously

Google Maps Ate My Battery

Updated on Friday, May 22, 2020

Google Maps Battery Usage

I've been slowly becoming aware that Google Maps is eating up a lot of the power on my phone (an HTC One X with Android 4.1). Yesterday as my battery was near death I saw it was up to 25% of total usage on a day when I hadn't even run the app. Something had to give. I'd already turned off Google Latitude a few months ago so the culprit had to be whatever secret-squirrel location sniffing the phone does behind my back.

Android Location Options

Android has about a million different incomprehensible weasily location options. At least in 4.1, I've seen some evidence that 4.2 is a bit better. The bargain with 'Google's location service' seems to be that if you don't send your data to them they won't send it to you. At least I think so, the description changes when you check or uncheck the option. I've had this off for today and my battery has a lot more juice. It means that Google Now doesn't work, but so far that doesn't seem to be a loss. It might hurt other apps as well, but so far I care more about not having a dead phone at the end of the day.

Chiroopractoor

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

Chiroopractoor

Google's use crime of a new compose window is going to become compulsory soon.

I suspect this is because it will soon be revealed that Google is rolling out a chain of high street Chiropractic facilities to treat the crick in everyone's neck from composing email in the bottom right hand corner of one's screen.

Either that or it's a bid for mobile dominance by forcing PC users to work in mobile screen sized portions of their screen until you just give up and use your phone.

Going Chrome

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

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)

Fight Facebook with Email

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

I was a little saddened to read today that Diaspora is transitioning over to some form of community manged slow death. I joined a pod a while back and was pretty impressed with the design. It was very similar to Google+: clean, nice features, nobody home. 

I've also joined app.net. The concept here is a social network that you pay for, so the owners are aligned with the interests of the users and developers rather than advertisers and lame brands. I wish app.net well, but it's not the future. Best case (and it's not a bad one) it could be the new WELL - a community that people care enough about to pay for (I was on the WELL in the early 90's, splitting the tab with a friend so our handle was abft, account built for two). If that is the direction it goes in then simply having a slightly longer post limit than Twitter isn't really going to cut it. And cool as it might be most people aren't going to pay for a social network. 

Any attempt to displace Facebook has to solve the problem that anyone interested in sharing anything with anyone else is already using Facebook. The only platform that is in any sense comparable is email. So someone needs to make email into a social network.

This could be an interesting startup. Create some account - [email protected] - anything you send directly to that address is a post. Anyone you copy is a mention. Reply to a thread with this email address included and you're replying on the social network as well. Anyone copied on such an email gets invited to the network if they're not already.

You've got a killer viral component and an instant social network that is supported on every platform with no investment needed. Everyone has email, and everyone is a member as soon as they claim their email address or get included in a post. 

Maybe someone has tried this already and I just haven't seen it. I'm half tempted to have a crack at it myself. 

What would be more interesting would be layering a social protocol over email, and implementing that protocol by proxy on top of email providers that don't or won't support it. This creates a core social service practically out of thin air. Facebook and Twitter are the new AOL and CompuServe. There has to be a way to leverage email into a free and open alternative.