Category: Chrome OS

Update – How To Enable Material Design Extension Page in Chrome OS

Material Design elements are making their way into Chrome OS at a snail’s pace. But, when you find something that can be setup in this new, sleek look, it’s kinda fun.  The latest, at least as far as I can tell, is in Chrome 56 which allows you to enable the look on your Extension page. I’ll preface this with two points:  First, I do not recall seeing this setting in Chrome OS 55 or earlier in the Stable channel.  It has been in the beta and canary channel.  Second, I’m assuming, but not sure, that this is in the Chrome browser as well.  I use a Chromebook so I can’t verify.  If you can verify this flag works in the Chrome browser, let me know and I will update this post with proper credit of course.   Thanks to John Borgen for confirming that this feature is indeed in the latest build of Chrome browser!

The new Material Design extensions page is not enabled by default but it can easily be set with a flag inside of Chrome.  That new flag is chrome://flags/#enable-md-extensions or you can just go chrome://flags and search Material Design and find it there (and a lot of other things that can get an MD make over.

What is Smart Lock and How To Enable It on Your Chromebook

One of the great features of Chrome OS is one that few people actually use.  It’s called Smart Lock and while technically still a beta feature in the Stable channel of Chrome, it is a quick and easy way to unlock your Chromebook using your Android phone.  No longer do you have to type in your password on your Chromebook but rather, can simply walk into the room with your unlocked Android phone or click your account photo on your Chromebook to unlock it.  Setting it up is pretty easy and it can save you some time, especially if you have your phone setup as a Trusted Agent.

First, what is Smart Lock?  As the name suggests, it is a way to quickly and easily unlock your Chrome OS device by using your Android phone.  To do this, your phone and your Chromebook have to be linked and trusted with each other which is a quick five minute process.  It is a feature that has been in the Settings of Chrome OS since last year and requires that your phone be within 100 feet of your Chromebook to work.  In this How To, I’ll show you how to set it up and use it.

Chrome OS Update Released – Still No Android App Support

The good news is, a new build of Chrome OS has been released and is making its way to a wide range of Chromebooks.  The not-so-good news, it doesn’t enable Android apps in the Stable channel yet.

Sigh.

Here is the deal:  Chrome OS build 56.0.2924.87 (Platform version: 9000.82.0) is rolling out to all devices except those devices which are already able to run Android apps.  That includes the ASUS Chromebook Flip C100PA,  Google Chromebook Pixel (2015), and the Acer Chromebook R11.  If you have any other device running the platform, the update is rolling out and should hit your device via an OTA update in the next day or two.  You can force the update by going to Settings>About Chrome OS and checking for an update.

 

However, don’t despair:  There are some really nice updates in this build, especially around Material Design.

Opinion – Chrome OS Could Kill The Android Tablet in 2017

As 2017 gets started, one thing has become abundantly clear to me:  The days of the Android tablet form factor are numbered.  Its not that the Android experience on tablets will kill them – which is pretty poor to be fair – but rather the flood of Chromebooks and other Chrome OS devices that are set to hit the market this year.  2017 will be the year that Chrome OS takes off for good with a wide range of form factors expected to be release and the much anticipated support of Android apps on the platform in Chrome 56.  The latter is due within days and the former, with the likes of Samsung’s new Chromebooks, will set the stage for a transformative year.

The push for the tablet form factor came fundamentally from Apple.  With the launch of the iPad, it suddenly became a tool by which you could get more things done on a larger screen.  Add to that portability and a lower cost, generally, than a laptop and you set the stage for a form factor that seemingly many wanted.  But for all the might of Apple, the iPad has never really taken hold.  Samsung, HTC and Google themselves have had the same struggles.  They brought the conveniences of a mobile Operating System and the associated apps but equally, they brought limitations that users did not experience on laptops.  It was, as if, they were a stop-gap measure until a proper merger of a desktop OS and a mobile OS could take place.

That merger is happening now with Chrome OS and Android.

Android apps running in Chrome will be more than just a stop gap.  You will get the benefits of an app ecosystem along with the power and productivity of a desktop OS.  Is it perfect?  No but it is a far cry better than having two completely desparent solutions to meet your productivity and entertainment needs.

I suspect that my usage of my Nexus 9 Android tablet is similar to many of you.  I like the tablet but 90% of my use of it is for entertainment:  Games, movie watching and social networking.  Rarely do I use it for productivity, even with the solid Google productivity apps like Docs, Sheets and Slides.  The only time I really use it for productivity is when I’m on an airplane, in coach, crammed into a little seat with little room to pull out a 14″ Chromebook to work.  If I’m in business class or First class, the Chromebook is always the weapon of choice to get things done.  So the question becomes, if I had my entertainment on a slate or convertible Chrome OS-based device, would I need a tablet?  The answer, in my mind, is a resounding no.

Adobe Creative Cloud Apps Now Optimized for Chromebooks

Earlier today, Google announced some key initiatives around Chromebooks and education at BETT, an event in London focused on technology in education.  The announcement included announcements around new stylus enabled Chromebooks and, of course, the coming of Android apps to the platform.  Adobe was highlighted in the release as being a company who had optimized their Creative Cloud apps to work on these new Android-enabled Chromebooks.

Adobe has released a suite of Android apps optimized for Chromebooks. The Adobe Creative Cloud apps, including Photoshop MixLightroom MobileIllustrator DrawPhotoshop SketchAdobe Comp CC, and Creative Cloud Mobile will be available for free download, expanding creative options for students and the capability of stylus and world-facing camera.

While several apps have already been optimized to work on Chromebooks, the Creative Cloud apps is a big deal.  It will allow those in education – students and teachers – to be more creative in their studies while being touch and stylus enabled as they would be on an Android phone or tablet.

Review – Acer Chromebook 14 CB3 – An All Around Fantastic Chromebook

If there is one mid-range Chromebook that exemplifies how far the platform has come, it could well be the Acer Chromebook 14.  This comfortably priced $286 Chromebook has all of the features you expect from a device running Chrome OS but it has something that so many others lack:  Style and panache.  The all aluminum chassis is beautiful, the Full HD display is easy on the eyes and it has the performance to keep up with your day-to-day tasks.  But the added bonus of this particular Chromebook is that it has the ability to run Android apps and it can do it on the main production line of Chrome OS (the Stable channel).  That makes it one of the best all around Chromebooks out there.

I recently picked up the Acer Chromebook 14 and after using it for several weeks, it is hands down the best Chromebook I’ve used to date.  My reliable and fantastic HP Chromebook 11 G4 has been replaced and without giving away the entire review, I have no hesitation in recommending this offering from Acer.  It is just phenomenal to use day in and day out.  Here is my review.

Chrome OS Detachable Devices Coming Soon?

Some fun food for thought this Monday morning.  There is a new commit in the Chrome OS source that points to a detachable UI design.  In other words, a detachable tablet-like Chrome OS device.  The commit was found by the team over at Chrome Unboxed and the top lines of the change says it all:

poppy: adding DETACHABLE_UI config option Create CONFIG_DETACHABLE_UI option for depthcharge. Will work in conjunction with USE flag in depthcharge ebuild.

While there isn’t a whole lot know about Poppy, this appears to be the first committed change to Chrome OS for a detachable device.  That would give users a wealth of usability options that we can see today in some of the Windows 10 based devices.

All Chromebooks Onward Will Work With Android Apps

For a while now, the Chrome OS team has listed the various Chromebooks that support Android apps on the Chrome OS Systems Supporting Android Apps page.  To this point, the page listed the devices that would be seeing Android app support which has been through the developer and beta channels of Chrome OS.  It is expected that the stable channel will see Chrome OS 56 this month and fully launch app support for everyone.

Over the weekend, the support page changed with a clear and important statement regarding future devices.  Any Chromebook from 2017 onward will have Android app support.  While this isn’t entirely unexpected, the news is good for those who are considering a Chromebook and it further solidifies the relationship between Google’s two platforms.  While it appears unlikely we will see a merger of the two, it is clear their handshake relationship is supported and will remain so for the immediate future.

AOPEN Announces the Chromebase Mini Tablet

AOPEN has announced a new Chrome OS powered tablet, the Chromebase Mini.  The 10.1″ tablet does indeed look like a mini Chromebase and is aimed at the enterprise and retail markets but with a price point consumers can afford.  If you haven’t heard of AOPEN, they have been working with Chrome OS for a long time.  Most of their work has been around digital signage that runs on the platform but they have also had commercial grade Chromebox devices for a while.

The Chromebase Mini has a 10.1″ display that renders in 1280 x 800, has multi-touch support and is powered by a quad-core Cortex A17 processor running at 1.8GHz.  It has 4GB of RAM and 16GB of storage build it along with a Full HD Webcam that shoots at 2MP.

Chrome OS Could Soon Have Model Specific Wallpapers at Launch

An interesting tidbit of code has shown up in the Chromium change log for Chrome OS.  The change outlines that the default wallpaper on a device can be controlled by the master configuration.  In other words, manufactures like Acer, Dell and HP could have specific wallpapers for specific Chrome OS devices.

The ability for an OEM to set a default wallpaper has been in play for some time now.  Both Acer and HP have a custom wallpaper that they have all their Chromebooks show when you first power them on.  Google is incredibly strict with what OEMs can do to the Chrome experience.  To this point, the manufactures had one wallpaper they could add and it was the same on every Chromebook.

Google Chrome Launches Chromebook Education Series on YouTube

The Google Chrome team has launched an education and troubleshooting set of videos for Chromebooks and Chrome OS on their YouTube channel.  The videos, eight in all, cover a wide range of topics from setting up your Chromebook for the first time to troubleshooting Wi-Fi issues.  Each of the videos range from a couple of minutes to nearly 5 minutes depending on the topic.  While experienced Chromebook and Chrome OS users will find the videos to be basic, for those who are moving from a Windows PC or Mac, they can be a huge time saver when it comes to understanding their new device.

Today’s Deal – Acer Chromebook 14 with 4GB/32GB Storage for $269

Today’s Deal over at Amazon is on the well equipped and stunningly beautiful Acer Chromebook 14.  Right now this all aluminum chassis Chromebook is available with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage for $269.  That price is good on either the aluminum or the gold aluminum finish and is eligible for Prime shipping for members.

This Acer Chromebook is powered by a Intel Celeron N3160 processor running at 1.6GHz and the display renders at 1920 x 1080 full HD.  As mentioned already, it has 4GB of RAM which is really handy on a Chromebook and has 32GB of storage for those things (like Android apps) that you need to store locally.  It also has a built-in battery that is rated to give 12 hours of life between charges.  Overall it is a great package and one of the higher rated Chromebooks out there right now.