All posts by Joseph Hall

About Joseph Hall

A research addict with a lot of free time, Joseph always is looking for the “next big thing.” He is homeschooled and proud of it, and continues to learn in his free time through online resources. He does not like Windows but cannot afford an Apple Macintosh, so he saw Chromebooks as the way to go. He now uses his free time showing people why a Chromebook can be used as a Windows replacement, and why living “in the cloud” is so freeing.

Teamlab Office Main Page

Teamlab Office solves file formatting problems

Three weeks ago, I did an article comparing two very popular cloud based office suites that are cloud based: Office Online by Microsoft and Google Docs by Google. One of the issues that I discussed is that when switching from Google Docs to Microsoft Office, there are formatting issues. Due to Microsoft wanting to keep people locked into their Office suite, they have created a vendor lock, preventing other programs from creating quality documents for their program. This is an issue that has affected many open source products, and forces people to use Microsoft Office for their work.

Teamlab saw the problem here, and formed a solution in Teamlab Personal. For an example of their solution at work, Teamlab created a video comparing their office suite to Office Online and Google Docs by opening a heavily formatted file. The video can be seen below.

[youtube id=”0S0Op2MbLvw”]

As can be seen from the video, Teamlab does the best job at opening heavily formatted Office files. Though they are not perfect, they are constantly working to improve. Nina Gorbunova, Teamlab Office’s marketing manager, has been discussing with me the different features of Teamlab Office. When talking about Teamlab’s ability to open files so well, she said, “[This] is what we’ve been working on very hard and that’s our main technological advantage possible due to the Canvas element (this is our developers’ point of pride!)”

The Canvas element is the HTML coding that they have been working on that allows Teamlab Office to be able to display documents so well. It allows users to use Microsoft Office formatting while having the features and setup of another office program.

Teamlab is available in the Chrome Web Store here as an app, and is definitely something that you will want to look into. For more on the Chrome Web Store, and how to use it to improve your browsing experience, click here.

My First Impression with Teamlab Office

When I saw Teamlab Office for the first time, I instantly recognized how closely it resembled Open Office. Microsoft Office is well known for the tabs and tiles setup along the top of the program, whereas Google Docs and Open Office both use a button and menu setup instead. Teamlab Office is the same, using buttons along the top of the screen to format the file.

The second thing I noticed is that Teamlab tries to make everything universally accessible. They do this by adding support for four of the major cloud storage accounts: Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Onedrive. This was another shock for me, because it was not a feature I would have expected to see. However, I was immediately excited to see what else Teamlab had to offer, because I knew that this was not going to be like other cloud based office suites.

After working through my shock of the above features, I then had to deal with my excitement at seeing the number of formatting options available for files. Every one of their editors provides plenty of features to the average user. Office Online does not come close to what Teamlab has when it comes to features.

Since I am used to using the Office suite of programs, I had some difficulty orienting myself with the program. However, within a day of use I could easily find what I needed to. Google Docs and Open Office users would have no difficulty in using the program, because it is so familiarly setup.

Teamlab Office Document Editor
Teamlab Office Document Editor

Features

One of the ways Teamlab solves formatting issues is by providing users the ability to download in multiple file formats. Many office programs offer this, but neither Office Online nor Google Docs offer the ability to change a file type, other than converting it to their own proprietary file format (i.e. .docx for Word and .gdoc for Google Docs). When downloading a document for example, you have the choice of downloading it as a PDF, Text, Word Document, Open Office document, or an HTML file.

The program also comes with left and right sidebars, providing users with the ability to change settings. The left sidebar deals with changing the document settings or perform certain functions, and the right sidebar is used to change formatting settings, such as the paragraph and image settings.

One of the functions on the left sidebar is a search function, and it is very useful and simple to use. By clicking on the magnifying glass, then typing in any word or words in the box that pops up, the program highlights that word or words throughout the document. It is very useful when trying to find specific words or topics, and case sensitivity can be toggled on or off before every search.

Like Google Docs and Office Online, files can be edited on with others over the internet using the built in share function. One thing that Teamlab has that Office Online and Google Docs does not have is a chat window. This seems like an obvious feature to have when collaboratively editing a file. However, Teamlab is the first that I have seen to implement this feature into a cloud based office program.

Like other office suites, Teamlab has menus for formatting different elements of files. However, like the new Open Office, these features are placed in a sidebar on the side of the screen.  Clicking on one of the icons opens up a window docked into the side of the program showing formatting options.

The options available, I believe, are more numerous than either Office Online and Google Docs. Using the program, I am constantly reminded of Open Office, though Teamlab Personal is cleaner and online oriented, since it is a cloud based office suite.

Teamlab Office Spreadsheet Editor
Teamlab Office Spreadsheet Editor

Problems I had with the program

Since I first learned how to use an office suite as a child, I have used Microsoft Office for everything I do. I do prefer the setup of Microsoft Office, so for that reason I prefer Office Online. However, I do realize that Office Online is very limited in what it can do, and that the paid version is expensive at $100 a year, especially when the competition offers their programs for free.

Thus, I have used both Office Online and Google Docs up to now, depending on my needs. However, I am quickly starting to resent the limitations posed on me by Microsoft through their simple cloud based office suite. Thus, Teamlab is a solution I will consider using to solve my formatting issues, since they have a full team of developers working on the software. However, I do prefer the setup of Microsoft Office, since it is what I am used to.

Another issue I have with Teamlab is a lack of offline support. Google Docs offers offline support, which is one reason why I have been using them more often, because Office Online does not offer offline support either. Deciding between Teamlab and Google Docs will be tough, because they both offer strong reasons to be the preferred office suite. Teamlab has many features, and works better across platforms and solves formatting issues, whereas Google Docs provides offline usage, and is built into Chromebooks.

Teamlab Office Presentation Editor
Teamlab Office Presentation Editor

Conclusion

Though I do not currently use Open Office, I have used it in the past, and Teamlab seems to be the online version of Open Office. This is something that consistent Open Office users would have to determine, but my experience with both programs has convinced me of this. Whether or not this is what Teamlab wanted, I do not know.

However, I believe that the similarities to Open Office are a good thing, because Open Office users have yet to find a online office program that is similar enough to make a switch. Google Docs was similar, but it still does not offer the experience that Open Office users are looking for like Teamlab does. For an example of how Teamlab works when using it, here is a demo video showing the different formatting options in Teamlab Office’s Document Editor.

[youtube id=”B293u4Vm6yI”]

Despite the number of features available, Microsoft Office users may find the switch more difficult, because the setup is very different from the tiles and tabs that Microsoft has taught us to enjoy. However, the features and cloud integration far outshine Office Online, and makes a convincing case to switch.

Google Docs users could switch much easier, since Teamlab is also fairly similar to Google Docs. However, the lack of offline use could hold many Google Docs users back, that is a sacrifice some could make.

In addition, if losing Open Office was holding you back from getting a Chromebook, take a look at Teamlab Personal and decide if you can make the switch with this office suite available.

Chrome OS

New flag to put Chrome bookmarks in app launcher

Chrome has only allowed the creation of icons in the app launcher by developers for the apps themselves. However, with this new flag available for all versions of Chrome, users could soon be able to create icons in the app launcher for their favorite Chrome bookmarks. When creating icons for the app, Chrome either uses the websites favicon (the image next to the bookmark) or creates one for it.

In order for Chrome to use the favicon given by the website, it must be at least 32px, according to François Beaufort, who had originally found the flag. However, if the favicon is smaller, then Chrome will create one for the icon. It uses the most dominant color in the favicon given by the website, and uses that as the background. Then, it takes the first letter of the domain name and paints it on the front in either black or white, according to the background color.

Screenshot of a bookmark in the chrome app launcher for Windows
Screenshot of a bookmark in the chrome app launcher for Windows

You do not have to be running any specific release channel in order to utilise this flag, and it can be accessed on any platform, whether it be Windows running a Chrome browser, or Chrome OS. In order to enable this flag, you must copy and paste or type the following into the omnibox in Chrome at the top of the screen.
chrome://flags/#enable-streamlined-hosted-apps

After doing this, a page will come up with a list of flags that can be enabled. The one that you want to enable is the highlighted one at the top of your window. After enabling it, you must restart your browser by clicking the restart button at the bottom of the window.

Once Chrome restarts, it is then a simple process to add Chrome bookmarks to your app launcher.

  1. Go to the webpage you want to add
  2. Click on the ≡ (chrome menu)
  3. Go to Tools on Windows/Mac or More tools on Chrome OS
  4. Click on “Add shortcut to this website…”

The chrome bookmarks will then show as an icon in the app launcher, and can be added to the dock for Chrome OS users.

Note to Chrome OS users: After enabling this flag, I could not longer set apps to open as a regular tab, pinned tab, window, or maximized. In my case, this is a feature that became disabled. However, the experience may be different across different Chromebooks and release channels.

If you want to learn more about flags and how to enable them, watch the video below by Christian Cantrell, who does an excellent job explaining how to enable different Chrome Flags, and other advanced features of Chrome.

[youtube id=”QndSTFwwOs0″]

Caution: Before going through any process of changing what a Chromebook does normally, be ready to get unexpected results. These features are still in development, so sometimes can cause problems with your browser, or cause problems in Chrome OS.

Source: François Beaufort

Happy Mother's Day!

Why a Chromebook is the best Mother’s Day gift

Mother’s Day is Sunday, and most of you are about to run out and buy flowers and chocolates. However, I believe that there is a gift that your mother will be more grateful for: a Chromebook. Your mom has probably been using the same Windows computer for years, so it is outdated and extremely slow. She has needed a new computer for years, but is stubborn and will not go purchase a new one. That leaves your mother’s computing happiness and comfortability up to you.

The easy, yet thoughtful, Mother’s Day Gift

You first option would be to go over and install Linux on the computer for free, but then you would have the headache of her calling you every time she gets on the computer. Your other option is to purchase a new Windows computer for her, but that could get very pricey, with most good Windows PCs coming in at $400 to $500 (unless you go bargain hunting, which could take even more time and effort than necessary). Instead, give her a mothers day gift that will simplify her life and requires little to no technical support from you.

Chromebooks are an easy switch for Moms

If your mother has already been using the Google Chrome browser, then the switch will be simple and painless. If your mother is not using the Chrome browser, then there has never been a better time to have her switch. Many mothers day gifts are thoughtless and common: flowers, chocolates, gift cards. These are gifts every mom gets. Giving your mom a Chromebook will not only single her out of the crowd as important enough to have thought put into her gift, but also it will give her something to brag about when she gets with her friends on what their children got them. When she explains what you got her, compared to every other mom that got flowers, she will feel like a queen.

Now, after going over the common sense reasons why your mom would want a Chromebook for her day, here are the technical reasons why she would love a Chromebook. Many of you probably found this article looking for ‘mothers day ideas’ or ‘gifts for mom.’ The reason why a Chromebook is the best of all mothers day gift ideas is because they are the perfect combination of a tablet and a PC. Currently, the tablet market is booming, and everyone is buying one. However, past generations do not like the idea of touchscreens and using tablets as their PC, like the current generation does. These people, like your mom, prefer using traditional PCs because they are familiar, and there is no touch screen that will confuse them and perform the wrong function.

Android and iOS can be disorienting to a person who is used to the point and click set-up of Windows. Chromebooks meet in the middle, being fast and simple like a tablet, but in the familiar setup of a laptop. Since Chrome OS is a browser, your mom already knows how to use it. She probably already has used online applications that would work on a Chromebook, especially if she is already using the Chrome browser.

Some of the Chromebook Family
Some of the Chromebook Family

Simple and Speedy

Chrome OS was built around a Linux kernel, meaning that it is a Linux based OS (operating system). This makes the system lightweight and speeding, only needing Intel’s Celeron chip. Majority of the Chromebooks available now run on an Intel processor, the most popular one being a dual-core Celeron processor. Although these processors have created bad names for themselves on Windows machines, they are great for Chromebooks. I use an HP Chromebook 14 as my personal computer, and I find it to be faster than my Intel Core i3 Windows desktop.

In addition, Chromebooks only need 2GB of memory, though many would agree that 4GB leads to a smoother experience. However, I believe that your mother probably would not need more than 2GB of memory, since she will only be using the computer to get on Facebook and look up recipes. However, if you want to future proof the Chromebook, and just get your mom the extra 2GB of memory, manufacturers do offer Chromebooks with 4GB of memory.

Another reason why a Chromebook would be the best gift for your mother is that everything is saved in the cloud. If she takes her Chromebook to the beach, and drops in the water some how, all of her data and settings are saved in the cloud, ready for her when she signs into her replacement Chromebook. With a Windows computer, if they get destroyed, then everything is gone, unless your mother does regular backups (which I doubt). In addition, she can access all of her data on any computer with internet access, since most of her files are saved to Google Drive. All she has to do is log in to her Google Drive through a web browser, and she instantly has access to all of her files.

Acer's $200 Chromebook
Acer’s $200 Chromebook

Since Chrome OS is Linux based, the possibility of your mother getting a virus, malware, or any thing else that destroys computers, is almost nonexistent. In addition, Google has built an anti-virus into the OS, and Google updates it every time they find new bugs or security holes. Lastly, Google designed Chrome OS to only install programs that are downloaded from the Chrome Web Store. These include all of the apps, extensions and themes available for the Chrome browser. This prevents your mom from being able to download something that is actually a virus or anything else that could damage her computer. Although she may not be able to use her favorite print shop program, the Chrome Web Store will more than likely offer an alternative that has everything she needs.

Great Value

The last reason why you should get your mom a Chromebook is their value. Currently, the most expensive Chromebook available for purchase is the HP Chromebook 14 at $299 or $349, depending on which version you get. This is the one I purchased, since it has the largest screen for a Chromebook, and has Intel’s new Haswell Celeron processors. (For more on my thoughts of the HP Chromebook 14, click here). Most other Chromebooks only cost $199 to $299, and that is if you purchase it new. Chromebooks can be purchased used, and still seem like a brand new laptop, as long as they look new cosmetically.

This may seem expensive as a mother’s day gift, but do not think about it as a one time gift, but as a long term investment. Your mother will never have to purchase a new computer again, since Chromebooks are built to last forever and come with free updates. She will never have to purchase antivirus again, nor any other software, since most of the apps on the Chrome Web Store are free. (For a guide on the Chrome Web Store, click here). By purchasing your mom a Chromebook, you save her from ever having to worry about her computer again. This saves both your mom and you time and money.

Google's Chromebook Pixel with some of Google's Apps for Chromebooks

Google announces new Play Movies and TV app for Chromebook

At the joint Google and Intel event, Google announced that Chrome OS device users should expect a native Google Play Movies and TV app for Chromebook that will allow users to watch their movies and tv shows offline. Google had already offered Google Play app for Chromebooks in the Chrome Web Store, which is the chromebook store for apps and extensions.

However, these were just bookmarks, taking you to the website. With the new Google Play Movies and TV app for Chromebooks, users will have an app designed for Chromebooks and that will allow them to watch the movies offline. With the ability to watch your movies and tv shows offline now available, the question is no longer about how to watch movies on a Chromebook when offline, but, instead, where to put the movies after downloading them.

With almost every Chromebook only having a 16GB SSD, and only some of that actually being open space, Chromebooks will not be able to hold many movies. Can you watch movies on Chromebooks when offline? Sure, but with the space available,  users will likely only be able to store two or three Google Play movies on their Chromebook.

Google Play listing for the Play Movies and TV app
Google Play listing for the Play Movies and TV app

So what is the purpose of these new Google Play app for Chromebooks?

Despite the limitations posed by Chromebook’s hardware, features such as these continue to portray Chromebooks as the perfect PC replacement. Especially if they offer services that other devices do not have. For instance, Google does not have a Play Store for Windows app, nor can Windows users download Google Play movies for offline use. In the past, only mobile users could download Google Play movies and tv shows, since there was never a Google Play Store for laptops and desktops available for download.

This move by Google portrays Chromebooks as mobile devices, like tablets and smartphones, even though they often look like a PC. In my eyes, this seems like a political move by Google, both pleasing users and attracting new customers.

LG Chromebase front and side view

LG Chromebase will be available May 26th

The LG Chromebase, the first all-in-one Chrome OS PC, has been announced to be made available to US customers on May 26. With 2 GB of memory, a 16GB SSD (solid state drive), and a dual-core Intel Haswell CPU, LG has followed the usual specifications found on most Chromebooks. For those unfamiliar with Chromebooks, these specifications would probably be seem insufficient. However, what makes Chromebooks and the Chromebase stand out, is that they run Google’s Chrome OS. Chrome OS is based upon Linux, so is very light and does not need many resources. In addition, since it only runs internet applications, it does not need many resources.

The Chromebase, though, stands out from the crowd of Chromebooks, because it is the first all-in-one PC running Chrome OS. With a 21.5 inch screen that has an IPS full HD display, it is a great all-in-one, and it only costs $349.

Side view of LG Chromebase with keyboard and mouse
Side view of LG Chromebase with keyboard and mouse

The device will be available for preorder on May 12, and will begin shipping on May 26. It will be available for preorder on Amazon, Newegg, and Tiger Direct, and includes a wired keyboard and mouse that have been customized for Chrome OS.

Back of the LG Chromebase
Back of the LG Chromebase

The device has 3 USB 2.0 ports on the back, and 1 USB 3.0 and headphone jack on the side. The bottom is lined with a MENU button for the display, the SD card reader, and power button. In addition, the back has an HDMI in port, so the PC can also be used as a second display. The PC also has built in speakers, and the usual 100 GB of Google Drive storage for two years is also included.

Source: OMG Chrome

Chrome OS

Chrome security increases with changes in security warnings

Over the past few months, users have seen a change in the way Chrome displays security warnings. Adrienne Porter Felt, one of the people who work on the Chrome security team, did a presentation showing the effect that warnings on Chrome affect people’s browsing experience. In the presentation, she uses data that they have collected to show the CTR (click through rate, or the rate at which users ignore warnings and continue to a webpage). She describes some of the challenges they face, and the solutions they have implemented to prevent users from downloading malicious files, and the effect these solutions have had.

Felt’s presentation shows three case studies on different warnings given on the Chrome browser: malicious downloads, malware interstitial, and non-fatal SSL interstitial.

Malicious Downloads

Currently, Google experiences a CTR of 5% for malicious downloads, which is much lower compared to the 30% they used to see before implementing these new changes. According to Felt, “Whenever a Chrome user downloads an executable, Chrome checks to see if the executable matches a blacklist of known bad hashes or URLs. If it matches, we have high confidence that the executable is really bad.” The Google security team has done this for a while, but the CTR was too high, at 30%. In order to bring down the CTR, the security team implemented many changes.

Felt says that, “First, we made the warning statement more aggressive.” This aggressiveness is shown by making users have to now go to the Chrome downloads page to be able to keep the file. However, even getting the downloads page is a process, because you have to tell Chrome to retrieve the file, then again answer a pop up asking if you for sure want to risk keeping the file. This process, and the multiple warnings has helped to lower the previously high CTR.

In addition, PDFs are a common way for hackers to access a user’s computer. As a way to counteract this, Chrome now automatically opens PDFs in the browser, instead of downloading them, so a user is protected due to Chrome’s own built precautions.

Malware Interstitial

Although it seems like a complicated topic, malware interstitial is just malware that is downloaded to your computer when viewing an infected web page, called “drive-by downloads.” Currently, Google is recording a CTR of 18%, which is, according to Felt, “OK but still higher than we’d like.”

When doing their case study on this warning, they realized that the CTR was higher if a user had already visited the site in the past, or if they considered it a safe website. “To dig into this further, we ran a Mechanical Turk experiment,” says Felt, “we asked people what they would do about warnings on high- and low-reputation websites… We used a little-known blog as an example of a low-reputation site, and YouTube as an example of a very popular, family-friendly website.” The results held up with their data, where only 5% of the people who took the survey said they would still go to the blog, but 38% still continued through to YouTube.

Chrome Malware Warning Window
Chrome Malware Warning Window

During the same study, they asked people why they continued through to the website. Some of the answers included, “I frequent youtube.com a lot and I have never gotten any malware,” “I would still proceed knowing I have an anti virus,” and “I use Linux, I’m not afraid of anything.” With this data and people’s answers as to why they would continue to the website, Felt says that, “Overall, we need to figure out how to override normal indicators of trustworthiness like prior experience and brand reputation because even “good” sites can be compromised.”

Non-Fatal SSL Interstitial

This is a full page warning that shows when Chrome suspects a “man in the middle” attack, when there is an HTTPS authentication error. Felt has this to say about this warning. “We show a ton of these — more than a hundred million a month. We don’t know exactly how many of these are real attacks, but likely very few of them are. The remainder are server misconfigurations or captive portals. So it shouldn’t be too surprising that this is the least effective warning in the set, with people clicking through nearly 70% of the warnings.”

This attack occurs once a webpage has loaded, which is why Chrome shows the warning has even loaded. However, Firefox does the same, showing this warning to its’ users, and they have a recorded CTR of 33%, less than half of what Chrome experiences, with a recorded 68%. The security team ran another study, by using the Firefox SSL warning in the Chrome browser, and seeing what the CTR is then.

Here is the comparison of the differnet control standards:

  • Chrome warning 68%
  • Firefox warning in Chrome 56%
  • Firefox warning in Firefox 33%

As can be seen, the Firefox warning is better, but majority of Chrome users still ignored it, at a 56% CTR for the Firefox warning being used in Chrome. Felt explains that, “We think this is possibly because of some demographic difference between the two browsers, or because Chrome users see the SSL warning more… We’re now experimenting with new layouts, strings, etc. to try to improve the SSL interstitial.”

This may be a future Chrome SSL warning page, though it is just a mock-up
This may be a future Chrome SSL warning page, though it is just a mock-up

In addition to improving the way they display the warning, Felt also says that they have changed their focus, “Our focus is on improving comprehension. We’re finding that this is a difficult task: non-technical people find it hard to conceptualize a man-in-the-middle attack to begin with, and it’s even harder when most people will only read the headline before making a gut decision.”
These changes have definitely caused an increase in security for the average user in the Chrome browser, since a user will be less likely to ignore these warnings because of the changes in the way they are displayed, and the process used to ignore the warnings.

Source: Improving Chrome’s Security Warnings

acer_c720_front_side_view

New Acer Chromebook has Core i3 processor

Power is not generally associated with Chromebooks, since they utilize either ARM processors, like tablets, or Intel’s Celeron processors. Google’s Pixel was the only Chromebook that could be described as powerful because it uses one of Intel’s Core i5 processors.

However, on Monday we saw an Acer Chromebook that is powered by an Intel Core i3 processor. This is a large jump from the usual low power processors found in most Chromebooks, and will offer that power at a much lower price than the Chromebook Pixel.

Keyboard of the Acer Chromebook with Core i3 by Brian Fagioli (BetaNews)
Keyboard of the Acer Chromebook with Core i3 by Brian Fagioli (BetaNews)

The laptop is built in a case similar to the Acer C720, which is a very sturdy case. However, no details were released on pricing or other specifications, such as hard drive size or amount of memory. However, the Core i3 processor can handle up to 16 GB of RAM, so this Chromebook has the potential to be very powerful. These updated specifications will raise the price from the current $200 to $300 range that Acer has on their current Chromebooks; however that raise in price could be worth the extra cost for the more powerful processor.

Lid of the Acer Chromebook with Core i3 processor by Brian Fagioli (BetaNews)
Lid of the Acer Chromebook with Core i3 processor by Brian Fagioli (BetaNews)

According to Brian Fagioli from Beta News, who had a moment with the Chromebook itself at the event, “…the new Chromebook has an Intel Core i3-4005U processor. This is a 64-bit, dual-core processor that runs at 1.7 GHz. It offers HD 4400 graphics, which is very capable.” On the bottom of the laptop, he also mentions that it is marked as a “C-720,” meaning that it is not a refresh of their Chromebooks, but might just be an addition to their existing line.

Acer Chromebook with Core i3 processor by Brian Fagioli (BetaNews)
Acer Chromebook with Core i3 processor by Brian Fagioli (BetaNews)

With Acer revealing a more powerful Chromebook, other manufacturers are sure to follow, meaning that we should expect to see more powerful Chromebooks in the future. Eventually, we will see Chromebooks range from low to high prices, just like Windows PCs.

chromebook_pixel_sideview

Presence of Chromebooks in businesses grows with recent deals

Google has been busy the past few weeks, signing agreements with three companies that specialize in providing wholesale electronics for businesses. In the past, this has only been Windows and Mac computers. However, with these three deals, Google has forged a way to provide their Chromebooks in businesses.

Back in January, Synnex signed on as the first wholesale distributor to provide Google’s Chromebook Business Management Console to business looking to employ Chromebooks in their business. These tools give businesses the ability to manage Chromebooks on a large scale, and within the past couple weeks two more business, B&H Distibuting and Tech Data, have also begun to offer these tools.

Google already provided the Chromebook Business Management Console to businesses, but now these businesses can work with familiar companies to use it in their business. In addition, with major manufacturers offering Chromebooks, including Dell, HP, Samsung, Acer, and Lenovo, businesses can stick with a preferred brand and have a wide variety of Chromebooks to manage.

The Chromebook Business Management Console is cloud-based, offering flexibility and accessibility to the list of reasons why businesses are switching to using Chromebooks. The Chromebook’s low cost, ease of use, and increasing potential all contribute to its growing market size. In addition, the suite of Google Apps that many businesses already use are available for Chromebooks, making the switch simple. This is why Microsoft has begun to take steps to prevent any further growth, by reducing their own prices and becoming more cloud-friendly.

google_apps_for_business_banner

With these companies marketing Chromebooks to their partners as a Windows replacement, businesses will be more willing to accept them. For example, Synnex provides training for teachers in K-12 schools on Chromebooks, so that they can use them to their full potential in the classroom. Back in January, Eddie Franklin, vice president of sales at Synnex, said, “We started talking with Google some time ago, and we identified a role we thought Synnex could fill in expanding the Chromebook channel, and we built a turnkey solution for the Chrome Management Console.”

D&H Distributing also is working with K-12 schools, and Rob Eby, the Vice President for purchasing at D&H, said, “When you look across the landscape of our SMB resellers, they list education as one of the top verticals they do business in. This gives an opportunity to offer a solution [from Google]in addition to Microsoft.”

The strong focus on the K-12 is caused by the high demand for Chromebooks in schools. As mentioned before, their low cost and ease of use give schools the ability to quickly place Chromebooks in the classrooms. However, the focus in not just on the education market; Tech Data is trying to get Chromebooks into businesses as well. Vice President of Marketing at Tech Data says that they are very confident about the growth of Chromebooks in business. “We may not have been the first to announce, but we are the largest distributor of Chromebooks in the U.S. We are well-versed in the product and ready to complete the solution and ready to roll. We’ve sold many Chromebooks to date. With the addition of our partnership with Google, this really expands our capabilities of offering the Google solutions.”

This confidence has pushed the business sector to begin adopting Chromebooks as laptops for employees. It allows schools to more easily implement the Google platform of apps for their Chromebooks.

Source: CRN

webcam_toy_logo

Best webcam app for Chromebooks

Almost every consumer electronic comes with a built-in webcam for joining video chats and taking selfies, and Chromebooks are no different. However, usually devices with webcams come with webcam software already installed in order to use it. However, Google does not currently provide such software with their Chrome OS (the operating system installed on Chromebooks). Consumers must then search the Chrome Web Store for an app that will give them control over their Chromebooks webcam. Webcam Toy is one of those apps, and is my personal favorite.

With over 2 million users and 10,000 reviews giving it an average 4.5/5 stars, it is also the most popular webcam app for Chromebooks on the Chrome Web Store.

As with all other Chrome web apps, Webcam Toy is installed from the Chrome Web Store (for more on the Chrome Web Store, click here). After installing and opening the app, it quickly downloads all of the camera effects to the Chromebook and, after giving the app access to your webcam, is ready to be used.

The app looks very simple, and navigating it is very smooth. The window is mostly filled with a live view from the webcam, and a few buttons in a row along the bottom of the window. The first button is settings, allowing alteration of a few basic options, the middle buttons allow the user to change the camera effect, by clicking through using arrows, or switching to a grid view to view nine effects at a time, with over 80 camera effects. The last button is used to take the picture, and then allows you to save the picture to your computer or send it to Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr.

Screenshot of the Webcam Toy app
Screenshot of the Webcam Toy app

The Webcam Toy app also includes keyboard shortcuts for navigation of the app. Here is a list of these shortcuts from the Web Store description:

  • ← → Arrow keys – Go to previous/next effect.
  • ‘G’ – Show the Grid view, where you can see nine effects at once.
  • ‘I’ – Show the Info (settings) menu.
  • ‘S’ – Square the photo (good for avatar/profile pictures).
  • ‘F’ – Turn the camera flash on or off.
  • ‘C’ – Turn the photo Countdown on or off.
  • ‘M’ – Mirror the photo (good for when showing words to the camera).
Screenshot of the Grid view
Screenshot of the Grid view

Although webcam software and apps for other devices may be more polished and have more features, Webcam Toy is more than enough for the average Chromebook user. However, using this paired with an image editor on a Chromebook, such as Pixlr, offers every feature average users need, and most of the tools a demanding user would need. Over time, these tools will grow, and become as powerful as the software for other systems.

android_and_chrome

Unlocking Chromebooks will soon get simpler

Due to Google being the creator of both Android and Chrome OS, they have begun to experiment with these operating systems, combining them to create unique features, like how Apple does with their iOS devices and Mac OS X line of computers. Previously, Muktware mentioned Google working on alternative methods for unlocking Chromebooks, but the Android Police discovered one such development in the works on Chromebooks running the Dev channel. (The Dev channel is Google’s early release channel, through which Chromebook users can get new features earlier but are unstable, so sometimes cause problems).

With this new feature enabled on a paired Chromebook and Android smartphone, the Chromebook will unlock when the Android smartphone is near. This feature, currently called Easy Unlock, will give users instant access to their Chromebook, and still offer them security if the device is accessed when they are not present.

Screenshot of the setup wizard for the Easy Unlock setting
Screenshot of the setup wizard for the Easy Unlock setting

The Android Police tried to test this feature by setting up the connection, and they easily moved through the first two pages of the setup wizard on the Chromebook. However, the setup currently hangs at the screen where the Android device is to be paired. Either Google must release an Android app to provide this function, or include the feature in the next version of Android. For now, this is still a feature to be looked forward to and that a majority of users will find use in.

Google I/O will most likely reveal more on this feature and mark the release of it to the masses of Chromebook and Android users. According to rumors about Google I/O, Chromebooks in general will be one of Google’s main focuses at the event, and their plans for Chrome OS’ future.

Rumors have been churning about tablets running Chrome OS, and more unique devices such as Lenovo’s Yoga Chromebook which will be the first convertible Chromebook. Google I/O will definitely be an event to watch this year, especially on the topic of Chromebooks and Google’s Chrome OS.

Source: Android Police