Jan 4 2011

The Google Chrome Notebook

Google publicly announced Chrome OS in back in July 2007. They’ve been busy building a lightweight browser-powered and cloud computing-enabled Operating System. Recently in, December 2010 Google announced a test pilot program for a Chrome OS notebook dubbed Google CR-48. On the day of the announcement, some insiders already had the CR-48 in hand but Google also opened up the test pilot program to the general public via a signup form. The signup was targeted to developers, educators, and individuals alike. By way of a Christmas miracle, I was able to land a Google CR-48 and have been using it for days now.

As soon as the details of the Google Chrome Notebook were made available I was immediately in love with the Google CR-48. It’s basically an ultra light weight cloud computing client running a slimmed down web enabled Operating System. The CR-48 is as portable as an iPad but with a full keyboard. The CR-48 has a smart track pad that supports iPad-like touch gestures. The CR-48 is always on, just like an iPad or Mac Air, so there is no boot up time when all you want is just check your email or post a tweet. That said, the CR-48 is not a official product and that is evident by the simple black frame, it’s even without a trace of corporate logo or Intel inside sticker. Because the CR-48 is not a official product, I won’t say much about the industrial design and finish of the hardware other than to say that unlike the iPad, it has a USB port and a SD slot.

Google Chrome CR-48 Notebook

Google Chrome CR-48 Notebook

As soon as you open the CR-48 it turned on magically and prompted me to sign in. Unlike the iPhone or iPad, the CR-48 doesn’t require you to connect to a computer before you can use it. After some setup steps, you can sign in and take it for a run. As soon as you log into the device, you will see a Chrome browser taking up the whole screen with a single tab. It does take some time to realize that the CR-48 is a laptop with just one application, a browser. That is all it is, a browser. There is nothing to see, move along, it’s only a browser. Your desktop is your default page as shown in a Chrome browser. It merits repeating, the Chrome CR-48 only has one installed application, a Chrome browser.

As soon as you log into the CR-48 you find a browser in full window mode and if configured correctly with your home’s WiFi, you can start surfing the net. I’ve been using the CR-48 for reading blogs, checking email, liking status updates on Facebook, and accessing the web applications I use on a daily basis. Google does have a Chrome specific Web Store where you can install free and paid applications but I’ve not found anything of interest.

Aside from the technical specification of the Google Chrome CR-48 notebook, what is more interesting for me is that this is the first cloud computing client, a sort of Web 2.0 Thin Client. I am a avid user of Google Docs, GMail, WordPress, and other online services that have a large amount of my data in their respective ‘cloud.’

Realizing that this is a cloud client, privacy issues and data mining concerns immediately become apparent. It is already known that Google saves user searches and that with this and other identifying data they modify search results. It is already known that Google Adsense ads are targeted to the sites you visit. Can you imagine how valuable your browser history and usage statistics is to a company like Google? Google has a large amount of identifying information with from all angles of your browsing experience, from Google Search, Google Adsense, Google Analytics, and now Chrome and it’s Chrome notebook. I can see a future where Google would be giving away Chrome and Android-based devises for free because they can collect so much valuable information and up sell users with highly targeted ads.

The CR-48 is a great little notebook but a machine like that would never replace my laptop. At this time and with it’s current specifications, it can’t handle the hundreds of pictures I am known to take over a weekend, it can’t handle the gigabytes of video I take on a trip, and as great as Google Docs is it’s still not Microsoft Office. I see the CR-48 as a great web surfing machine while TV surfing.

Dec 30 2010

Apple Ruined My Neighbors Christmas

I just caught up for the first time since Christmas with my next door neighbor. They know I “work with computers” so they stopped by to see if I could help them with a small technical issue. One of their kids scored an Apple iPad from Santa but they haven’t been able to play with it. Apple requires you to connect your new iOS device, iPhone and iPad, with a computer and sync with your iTunes account before you can use it. You can’t even write a new text memo, watch videos on YouTube, surf online, send an email, much less purchase, download, and play games and music from the iTunes store before you connect your new iOS device with a computer. For five days now, their new iPad has been the best gift and the worst gift they received this Christmas.

I prefer the iPhone over any of the available Android phones, but the one thing I love about the Google Nexus One is that you don’t even need to plug to play. Just turn it on and you are on your way. Even updates are done Over The Air (OTA) so you don’t ever have to connect your Nexus One to a computer. The whole premise of Cloud Computing is that you don’t have to be shackled to a desktop.

I just had to walk through what my neighbor needed to do to set up their new iPad and you should have seen the confusion and disappointment in the parent’s and kid’s faces, respectively. In a nutshell, they have to download and install iTunes, create an iTunes account, connect the iPad with their computer, and then they can play a song or surf the web.

I can’t believe that Apple can revolutionize the user interface of the iPhone to have one button and yet have a complicated user experience of setting up their new iOS device.

Nov 16 2010

App Engine Learning Library

One of the most interesting technologies right now is Google App Engine. Google App Engine is a framework that runs Google’s cloud. Developer and programmers can program in Java or Python and upload their applications to be hosted in Google’s infrastructure. Google has a generous free plan, but if your application picks up traction you to buy additional bandwidth. Google App Engine has some decent documentation but I also like to follow in a book or two. Here is a short list of books on Google App Engine in hopes to get you started.

Sep 4 2010

Use Google Forms For Building Simple Surveys and Polls

I use Google Documents to manage drafts of blog posts, to keep track of house hold finances, and even to manage an invite list to gatherings at my house. You can do a lot with nothing more than Google Docs. Recently I had to help a friend create a small informal survey to use with her clients and we choose Google Docs from her Google Apps for Domain account. In this article, I’ll go through the motions of creating and using a simple form in Google Docs which can be used in polls, surveys, or questionnaires.

Create New Form in Google Docs

Create New Form in Google Docs

Log into you Google Docs account and create a new Form document. Creating a new Form document takes you to the Form builder which allows you to enter a title and description for your form and any number of questions. For each question, be sure to enter the question itself, any short description to describe the question further, and the question type. There are several question types, most common are the text, multiple choice, checkbox, list, and scale. You can use the text question type for things like persons name, addresses, city, etc. The multiple choice question type is also known as the radio button, meaning that out of several choices you can only select one. The checkbox allows you to check multiple choices at the same time. The scale question type can be use to identify a range between 1 and 5 of how much a person liked the product or service being asked about.

Google Docs Form Editor

Google Docs Form Editor

Once you filled out your form, you can choose a theme. As of this writing there are over 90 themes available, from plain to whimsical. With the form done you can email the form, make it public, or embeddable in a blog or website. If you reopen the form, you will be presented with the spreasheet view of the form. The form data is saved in the spreadsheet, to view or edit the form again, click Form | Edit Form under the main menu.

Google Docs Form Sharing Settings

Google Docs Form Sharing Settings

You can have three basic sharing options. You can make the form public to everyone in the web, or available to only those that have a link for it, or those you explicitly grant access to.

If you run a small business or a large family, you can use Google Docs to create forms for surveys, polls, questionnaires, or even a small customer relationship management system.