Tag Archives: 3g

Google Chrome OS Notebook (CR-48): One week in

Just a quick update in my ongoing series about using the CR-48. View earlier posts here: Initial observationsa few more observations, and discovering developer mode.

Since my last post,  

I’ve burned through my free 100MB of Verizon. 3G. Attempted to set up add-on data plan online (to tide me over until my free 100MB allotment resets next month), Verizon web form accepted my information and then displayed a “call Verizon” page. Called Verizon to buy add-on data: Long, painful process to finally get transferred to a Verizon employee aware of the Google CR-48 program and special pre-paid data offerings. In all fairness, it’s a new program and Verizon is likely in the process of getting front-line staff trained. Still, wish it had been a smoother process

Continue to use the CR-48 as my primary personal laptop. Surprisingly, the adjustment has been smoother and more pleasant than I expected. After enabling developer mode and installing the developer OS update, the trackpad responsiveness issues seem to be resolved. 

Squashing bugs: I figure if Google sent me a free laptop on the condition all I need to do is use it and report bugs, I’ll do my best to get them feedback on my experience. I’ve found some bugs but since data is saved to the cloud, even those requiring a rude shutdown haven’t really been an issue. It’s a nice experience.

I’ll continue to blog on my CR-48 observations — leave a comment if you have any questions.

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Google Chrome OS Notebook (CR-48): Discovering Developer Mode

After being surprised and delighted to receive a Google Chrome OS Notebook (CR-48) a few days ago, I’ve been blogging about my CR-48 initial observations and day-to-day experience.

Yesterday, I decided to try out Developer mode after reading an article on ChromeOSSite.com. It’s an easy process, essentially flipping a switch located in the battery compartment, rebooting and a few other steps (outlined by ChromeOSSite.com here). When I first rebooted, I was greeted by an unnerving screen that declared the OS unverified. Clicking on this screen took me to screen explaining how to re-load the OS (the provided url mentioned loading the OS onto a thumb drive and re-installing). OOPS!

All I needed to do was to remain on the initial boot-up screen following reboot. By waiting at that screen several seconds, the system beeps a few times and then boots into the user log-in screen (as expected). Whew!

My understanding is that developer mode enables:

  • Shell access & other geeky fun: As I kick around in the CR-48, I may want to delve more deeply — developer mode enables this exploration
  • More frequent OS updates: The “normal” (non-developer) mode provides a beta experience. As soon as I rebooted into developer mode, a new OS update was downloaded — perhaps an OS version closer to alpha than beta?

So far, the Developer OS version seems slightly faster than the beta. The OS still struggles with pages containing Flash plug-ins and chugs a bit when trying to load several bookmarks at a time. But hey, it’s beta (or perhaps even alpha), right? Bugs and rough edges are to be expected…. just part of the experience.

I’m still surprised that I haven’t needed to revert to using my Vaio (aside from a short time on Friday). I’m finding the Chrome OS user experience enlightening in just how much I live on the web.

I haven’t yet used the built-in Verizon 3G connectivity, and may try this out today away from home. I love that 100MB is provided free monthly, but a little concerned about how quickly I could burn through that. Luckily, Verizon has included an unlimited day pass for $9.99 in their CR-48 data plan offerings.

I’ll continue to blog on my CR-48 observations — leave a comment if you have any questions.

Google Chrome OS Notebook (CR48): A few more observations

I was thrilled to receive a CR48 notebook a few days ago, and have used it intensively for the last day. (See my initial observations post.) It’s an interesting device and I’m finding it enlightening as it’s making me aware of how I extensively I use the web.

As a baseline, I should describe how I’m using the CR48 and the laptop it’s (temporarily) replacing.

  • Usage: Home power user. Because my job requires use of business and technical apps not available on the web, I would not be able to use a web-only notebook for work.
  • My own laptop: I have a Windows7 Sony Vaio Z laptop that I love — it’s small, light, and still feels powerful despite being 1.5 years old. After a hard drive failure last fall, I’ve preferred to use web apps (rather than installed apps) whenever possible. That approach saves me from having to maintain current version of installed apps (since a web app will always serve up the newest version), and frees up hard drive space. I use Google services extensively, especially since I’m an Android mobile user (HTC EVO, which I also love!).

Now, a few more Chrome OS observations:

  • Mouse-less: I use a laptop’s trackpad and keyboard extensively, rather than using a mouse. I find the CR48 supports this use case well — there’s even an interactive onscreen keyboard help to provide guidance about keyboard shortcuts. (I think the CR48 probably supports using a mouse, but haven’t plugged one into the USB port to check.)
  • Web vs installed apps: If you rely on installed apps for computing, you won’t like the CR48. Since I have a preference for web apps over installing additional software onto my laptop, the CR48 feels like a natural fit for me.
  • Singular focus: On my Vaio, I’ll generally have multiple windows open and more than one window displayed at any given time. With the CR48, I can have multiple tabs open but only one is visible at any time. I’m finding I really like this singular focus — it’s less distracting.
  • User experience: Despite the CR48 processor being slower than my Vaio (and thus I wait a bit longer for several pages to open at a time), I’m finding the CR48 to be fun to use. In fact, I used my Vaio for a few minutes last night, and found that I missed using the CR48!

I can definitely see using the CR48 as a lightweight mobile notebook. I also think there’s an interesting (and almost polar opposite) use case for the CR48 as a net device used by less tech savvy folks to check email, reading web pages, etc.

I’ll continue to post observations over the coming weeks. If you have a specific question, please let me know in comments and I’ll do my best to check it out for you.

Initial Hands-On Impressions: CR48 (Google Chrome OS notebook)

Today, I heard the UPS truck drive up, the thud of a package on the porch, and wondered: Is this something I ordered from Amazon or could it be the ever elusive CR48 Google Chrome OS notebook? I’d signed up several days ago to participate in this Google pilot and hoped against hope I’d be picked.

Well, I got lucky! Thank you, Santa… er, Google!

Here are some initial impressions — I’ll post a follow up after I’ve used it more –

Set-up:

  • Physical set-up: Open box, slap on the battery, plug it in, turn it on. Easy!
  • OS/Software Set-up: Set-up wizard started out easy, but came to a screeching halt when my WIFI password kept getting rejected. Not sure if it’s due to my router being set to WPA2 security, the special characters in my looooong password (!), or if I just flat out kept typing it wrong. I finally got the WIFI password entered and accepted, and moved forward with the set-up wizard. It was a little nerve wracking at that point since the set-up sequence requires Internet connection to be enabled or you cannot continue.
  • Password entry tip: Clicking on the tiny icon next to the password field will change the password display from ***** to the actual characters you’re typing in.
  • 3G Connection Set-up: When I first tried to activate the Verizon 3G connection, I kept getting a web page error stating some page elements were not secure. Thankfully, a few minutes later an update notification was pushed to the browser (little orange ball next to wrench in browser toolbar). After that firmware update installed and CR48 restarted, I was able to successfully complete the 3G connection set — 100MB free monthly from Verizon for 24 months.
  • Fun fact for Chrome Canary users: The Chrome browser in Chrome OS supports side (as well as top) tabs.
  • Embarrassing fact: When I signed up for the CR48 pilot program, I expected it to be a fairly routine beta program where the hardware would be shipped, tested by user, then sent back. From what I can tell, Google is shipping the CR48 to beta testers to keep. Very cool! As a Portland, OR store used to advertise, “Free is a very good price!”

Hardware (keeping this part brief since the notebook itself is a prototype — Google won’t put this hardware on the market, but rather license Chrome OS to hardware makers):

  • Trackpad: Like herding kittens! Yikes, this thing has a mind of its own. I set it to the most sensitive setting, and that helped some. Still…. oy. Also note, trackpad seems more accurate when using tap to click rather than clicking, not sure why.
  • Rubberized finish: I like it! It feels nice and looks good (albeit minimalist).
  • Screen: 12″ and easy to read
  • Size/weight: It’s about the size and weight of my Vaio Z (a thin, light laptop). Comfortable to use on my lap or at a desk.
  • Speakers: Remarkably decent.
  • Hardware specs: See gdgt.com for CR48’s detailed spec list

OS/Software:

  • Chrome OS = Chrome browser: What you see is what you get. If your data is generally stored in the cloud (especially using Google services), you probably won’t mind that the OS user interface is simply Chrome browser. However, if you use Outlook or Microsoft Office desktop apps, anticipate an adjustment period.
  • Software settings: Click on the Chrome browser wrench to access your network settings, set time zone, review/update privacy settings, set home screen, etc.
  • Software user experience: Seriously, if you’ve used Chrome browser, it’s cake. If your stuff is stored in the cloud, even better!

Some interesting apps:

  • Twitter: The excellent Tweetdeck desktop client has a Chrome web app counterpart available for download. It works well and provides an easy way to view and post tweets.
  • NPR: Apparently similar to the iPad app, attractive layout and easy to use.
  • AOL You’ve Got News: News aggregator. Nice UI.
  • USA Today: Another great news app.
  • Write Space: Full screen writing app, great for journaling.

There are lots of apps in the Chrome app store, so I’m sure I’ll find some more keepers as I continue to explore Chrome OS.

If you are interested in applying for the CR48 Google Chrome OS pilot program, you can apply here — my impression is that Google is shipping these out in waves, so I don’t think it’s too late. If you’ve already applied and are curious how many CR48 have been shipped / are shipping to a certain, here’s a great tool.

Despite it’s prototype status (and thus inherent rough spots), I’m enjoying the CR48 and Google’s Chrome OS. Will be interesting to see how it evolves over coming weeks!

AT&T’s Option Quicksilver USB vs Sprint’s Sierra598U USB (Cellular Modems)

I recently upgraded my laptop to a Sony Vaio VGN-Z610Y (which I LOVE, byz_gallery_two_comps    the way, but that’s another review).

In order to leverage the Vaio’s portability, I decided to get a cellular modem to enable mobile Internet access. But which device and carrier?

I have a generous corporate discount for AT&T via my employer, so AT&T was an obvious option. I had read a lot about Sprint’s data access, and found Gizmodo’s nationwide wireless provider comparison (using cellular modems) especially interesting, so Sprint appeared to be another good option.

Off to the wireless stores I went…

At AT&T, I picked up an Option USBConnect Quicksilver. quicksilver I was actually hoping to get an express card form factor, but AT&T is apparently phasing out them out. That left a PC card format (which my laptop doesn’t support) or USB. I went with the Quicksilver based on reviews I’d read online.

598u

At Sprint, I picked up a Sierra Wireless USB 598U based on online reviews. Also, Gizmodo’s nationwide comparison test was quite compelling since it showed Sprint as having the fastest cellular network, on average, nationwide. I confess, I’ve never been fond of Sprint as a wireless carrier (don’t prefer CDMA due to being “locked into” a specific device for the life of a 2-year contract and Sprint’s customer service and billing accuracy can be underwhelming). I was disappeared to learn post-purchase that although my employer has a corporate discount negotiated, Sprint does not apply discounts to their $59.99  data plan for wireless modems.

Well, what did I find once I got home?

During my at home testing, I felt underwhelmed by the AT&T Quicksilver – speeds were consistently slower than the Sprint 598U. I was disappointed to the point of packing the Quicksilver up for imminent return. Here are the metrics from my at home testing:

AT&T Quicksilver (at home, evening) –
Average download speed:  .97 Mb/s
Average upload speed:  .143 Mb/s

Sprint 598U (at home, evening):
Average download speed:  1.137 Mb/s
Average upload speed:  .243 Mb/s

However, I’m not really planning to use the cellular modem at home. Time to hit my usual haunts and check out performance.

How did these cellular modems/networks perform out and about?

AT&T Quicksilver (out & about, business hours) –
Average download speed:  1.82 Mb/s
Average upload speed:  1.213 Mb/s

PEAK download speed:  2.74 Mb/s
PEAK upload speed:  1.25 Mb/s

Sprint 598U (out & about, business hours)  –
Average download speed:  .829 Mb/s
Average upload speed:  .499 Mb/s

PEAK download speed:  1.77 Mb/s
PEAK upload speed:  .61 Mb/s

Clearly, the AT&T Quicksilver is faster in places I like to visit locally. I don’t travel a lot, so I’m satisfied with basing my purchase on network speeds where I live & work in Connecticut. If I traveled more, my choice might be different.

I’m also quite happy with AT&T as a wireless service provider, and have stayed with them longer than any other carrier (and I’ve tried them all). I logged into my AT&T account today and was delighted to find my corporate discount already applied to the Quicksilver’s monthly data plan. My experience with AT&T has generally been “no hassle”, and buying and getting up to speed with this device has been quick and easy.

Decision: AT&T Quicksilver

How I performed this analysis (for data geeks 🙂
I ran Speedtest.net 3 times per modem in each location, and then averaged the results. When I had reason to think another process could be concurrently accessing the Internet, I re-ran the test.

I was wrong about the Kindle…. musings of a new Kindle 2 owner

B000FI73MA In June 2008, I posted an article entitled Kindle: Still too expensive at $359. I shunned the original Kindle as too expensive and frankly, too ugly. As much as I love books and reading, I couldn’t imagine spending $359 for a device that looked so dated.

There, I’ve said it. Even with my affection for shiny, new gadgets, what’s on the inside counts but what’s on the outside counts, too.

Flash forward eight months to February 2009, when the Kindle 2 was announced….kindle2

Suddenly, what I’d previously thought was overpriced became quite compelling. Was it the addition of text to speech? Was it the prettier design? Was it the influence of my Kindle-owning friends? Those answers and more below, in my initial impressions as a Kindle 2 owner.

What I like about the Kindle 2:
Solid, quality construction: My initial impression upon removing the Kindle from its shipping carton was, “Wow, this is really solid.” Of course, it requires the same care in handling as any electronic device. However, it’s thin but doesn’t feel fragile.

Text to speech: It doesn’t quite sound natural but yet isn’t so digitized as to be unlistenable. This feature will be handy for those times when my eyes are tired from gazing at a computer screen.

Intuitive navigation: I confess, I took a quick look at the user guide but didn’t pay attention to navigation instructions. I just picked up the Kindle 2, and started using it.159175-kindle2-350_188

The screen: Crisp and easy to read. It has a matte (not glossy) finish to reduce glare when reading outside. 

On board dictionary: What reader doesn’t at times encounter a word they’d like defined? With the on board New Oxford America Dictionary, one doesn’t even have to put down the book to look up a definition. Nice!

 

Amazon’s eBook selection: I’m a long-time Audible.com (audio book service) subscriber. As wonderful as Audible.com is, sometimes I want a book that’s just not available in audio format. Enter Amazon’s Kindle book store which offers great variety, and pricing (many at $9.99) is still far less than buying the physical book.

3G wireless connectivity without monthly subscription: Considering the cheapest cellular data plans cost an average of $20 to 30 per month, the Kindle’s always on wireless helps justify the device’s pricing. Of course, this always on wireless has its benefits for Amazon – it makes it incredibly easy to buy books.

What I’d like to see improved:
Variety of Kindle newspaper subscriptions is too limited and most are too expensive considering their digital format: I set up a Kindle subscription to The Irish Times since I love the perspective non-U.S. press offers and I thought the subscription pricing was reasonable at $5.99 per month. I love the Wall Street Journal but my current annual online subscription costs less than twelve times the Kindle WSJ $9.99 monthly subscription – I’ll keep my web-based version, thanks.

And, frankly, that’s all I can think of that I’d change. I am delighted with the Kindle 2, and very impressed with its quality and the attention to detail that has gone into its design and implementation.

January 20, 2009: An historic day

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