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.

OnePlus Releases A Minor Update to OxygenOS

OnePlus has rolled out another small but significant update to OxygenOS 4.0 for their OnePlus 3 and 3T.  The update bumps the build up to 4.0.3 and contains a number of bug fixes and patches.  Two of the items addressed in the release have to do with Wi-Fi, with IPv6 now supported and an improved Wi-Fi Switcher.  This feature will switch your connection over to data if your Wi-Fi signal is consistently poor.

The camera app has also been updated, increasing stability in the app according to the release notes.

Google Pixel XL Finally Back in Stock at The Google Store

If you have been wanting to pick up the Google Pixel XL, you need to go to the Google Store.  Like, right now.  I’ll wait….

For the first time in weeks the XL is in stock and available for order.  Google has a mighty time keeping up with demand on both the Pixel and the Pixel XL and usually the phone shows out of stock in all colors and variants.  Right now at least, you can pick up the XL in Silver or Black with 32GB of storage.  The 128GB variants still remain out of stock as does the Really Blue color.

Review – Noreve Griffe Laptop Case – Elegance, Style and Protection for Your Laptop

When it comes to laptop sleeves and cases, there are plenty to chose from that give you protection.  But many of them lack in overall quality and style.  Afterall, if you are going to be carrying such a case into a meeting, you want it to look the part, not just be utilitarian.  That’s where Noreve Griffe 2 laptop case becomes the case of choice.

Noreve is based in Saint-Tropez, France and makes hand crafted cases for a wide range of devices as well as travel and office accessories.  All of their products are created out of exceptionally high quality leathers, assembled and stitched by hand and are some of the most luxurious cases you can find.  I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing several of the couture cases over the years, most recently the Ambition Folio cases for the Nexus 6P and Nexus 9 (which are available for other devices).  This, however, is the first time that Noreve has sent me a laptop case to review and it is just as impressive and stylish as their mobile device cases.  No matter what you carry for a laptop – Windows PC, MacBook Pro or Chromebook – the Griffe 2 case will provide great protection and look good doing it.

Microsoft Groove Music App Gets A Healthy Update

Microsoft has rolled out a sizable update to the Microsoft Groove app, their music streaming and subscription service.  The update brings a lot of changes to the app that frankly, catches it up to other services that are out there.  This update is rolling out now so if you have the app installed, expect the OTA today or tomorrow.

The biggest new edition is that you can explore relevant artists, albums and songs for a particular genre.  This not only allows you to see your favorite artists but also expose you to some that you may not have heard of before.  It is a great way to discover new artists in your favorite kind of music.

Angry Birds 2 Gets A Big Pig-Popping Update

Rovio, the developer team behind the Angry Birds franchise, has pushed out a big update to Angry Birds 2 for Android.  The update brings 80 new levels to the game, Hamsterdam and Mississpiggy River chapters.  There are also improved treasures with bigger awards for players.  Perhaps the most noticeable change is the completely new home screen in the game.

The new home screen completely changes from the old, world map view that has been in the game since its initial release.  Now you see all of the birds in your flock in the center of the screen.  The world map, the arena and the daily quest are all large icons on the right side of the display.  It is a much cleaner and simpler design.

Today’s Deal – Amazon Fire 7″ Tablet for $39

Today’s Deal is one that is hard to pass up if you are looking for a inexpensive and solid little tablet.  Right now you can pick up the Amazon Fire 7″ tablet with 8GB of storage and in a variety of colors for just $39.99.  This Android tablet, which runs Amazon’s Lollipop-based Fire OS, is tied to the Amazon ecosystem like the Amazon Underground App Store, Amazon Video and Kindle.  If you have a Prime account, all of these services along with Amazon Music are there for you.

Specs of the Fire 7″ are solid for the price.  It’s powered by a quad-core processor running at 1.3GHz, has 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage.  That storage can be expanded up to an additional 256GB thanks to the MicroSD slot.  Display wise, it has a 7″ display that renders at 1024 x 600, giving about 171ppi.  So no, this Fire 7″ isn’t going to set the world alight with its specs.  But for $39?  It still a great deal for those who are tied into the Amazon ecosystem.

Google Fit Update Fixes Low Distance Estimates

Google’s health and activity tracking app, Google Fit, saw a minor update yesterday but it contains a big fix for users.  To be clear, this is not the update that brings a lot of new features to the app to support Android Wear 2.0 devices.  That update is expected once the 2.0 devices get out there, which starts on Friday, February 10th.  So for those of you who have Fit installed, don’t expect to see a lot of changes visually.

The big change is a bug fix that had to do with mileage estimates from the app.  When you were on a walk, run, biking or I’ve found it even in skiing, there were times that the mileage estimates were off.  Sometimes they were off by a little bit, sometimes by a lot.  This update appears to address those issues based on an evening walk I made last night after updating.

Google Photos Update Re-Enables Casting

There is an update to Google Photos for Android that is now in the Play Store that addresses a bug with Casting your photos.  Late last week, the photo app was updated but users began experiencing a problem with it continually prompting for Google Cast credentials and a PIN, even for users who didn’t have a Cast nearby.  On Monday a small patch went out that disabled Casting in Google Photos and the update today fixes that bug and re-enables the feature.

If you were one of the users impacted by the Casting bug, you certainly need to download this update as soon as it is available on your account.

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.

Today’s Deal – Samsung EVO 64GB MicroSD for $22

Today’s Deal over at Amazon is on the zippy Samsung EVO MicroSD card.  The 64GB version of the card is down to $21.99 today while the 32GB model is only $10.99.  If you are looking to expand the memory of your Android phone or other devices, these are solid performing cards that can keep up with an impressive 48MB/sec throughput.

Whether you pick up the 32GB or the 64GB version, both cards are UHC-1 certified so you can record Full HD to them as the write speed is fast enough.  The cards will be supported by the vast majority of Android phones as well as other recording devices (like a GoPro) but be sure to double-check the specification requirements of your device before you make a purchase.

For those of you who are Amazon Prime customers, you get free shipping on the cards.  Head over to Amazon to get all the details.  Prices are good while supplies last.

Microsoft Teams App Update Brings Single Sign-On for Office 365

Microsoft has rolled out an update to the Microsoft Teams app that has a lot of new features and improvements for organizations who use it for collaboration.  The update’s biggest improvement is Single Sign-On (SSO) so that users of Office 365 will be able to sign in easier to Teams if they are already signed into other apps on their phone.

OneNote files can now also be shared in Teams.  If a OneNote file is being shared, it can be viewed in conversations.  Previously OneNote files couldn’t be viewed in Teams.