As you’ve probably heard, earlier this week Google held a major event to launch the Chrome Web Store and Chrome OS, its new operating system that revolves almost entirely around web apps and browser extensions. There aren’t currently any consumer laptops that support Chrome OS — and there won’t be until the middle of next year — but Google is running a test program by distributing some unknown quantity of unbranded ‘test hardware’ codenamed Cr-48 to press and select early adopters across the US. We got our hands on one of these devices earlier today, and I’ve been using it as my primary computer since then. Here are my initial thoughts.
Doing a thorough critique of the hardware at this point doesn’t really make sense, given that OEMs like Asus will be announcing their own products over the coming months and you can’t actually buy the Cr-48. But here are the basics: the computer is small but isn’t nearly as light as ultra-portables like the MacBook Air (I find it to be more comparable to the 12 Inch PowerBook G4, circa 2005). There’s a USB port that currently has limited driver support, an SD card slot, and a VGA port.
The keyboard is full-sized and feels a lot like the ones found on modern Apple computers. The mouse trackpad — or at least, the software running the trackpad — is a complete turd. It works well enough for basic pointing and clicking, but anything beyond that has issues. The ‘right click’ feature, which involves tapping two fingers on the trackpad, only seems to register around ⅔ of the time. Trying to select text or drag anything anywhere is an exercise in frustration.
Is it fast? Sort of, but it’s not universally snappy. Click on a tab and you’ll notice a slight lag before the content is displayed — it’s not that noticeable, but it’s the sort of thing that keeps the experience from feeling fluid. Likewise, scrolling around content-rich web pages sometimes leads to a few jitters, and occasionally things slow down for a few moments for no apparent reason.
But all of these things — from hardware to software issues — are sure to improve in the five or six months before we start seeing consumers get their hands on the first production Chrome OS notebooks. The fact that Flash is painfully slow doesn’t really matter, because ninety-something percent of the people reading about those problems will never even have the opportunity to use the Cr-48. By the times these things hit store shelves, all of these issues will be fixed.
But the big question remains: what about actually living in the cloud – are people going to be able to forsake their traditional computers in favor of a lightweight Chrome OS machine?
The answer is “probably”, but, as I’ll get to later, it will be partially out of Google’s hands.
Navigating around an OS that is essentially a browser feels a little weird at first. Your music application is a browser tab. Your email is a browser tab. Your documents are browser tabs. Sure, you’ve probably used some or maybe even all of these in web-based apps before now, but it’s hard to kick the feeling that the application you’re looking for is behind your browser, or minimized in a taskbar, or… something. I know it doesn’t sound rational, but after a decade (or two) of using operating systems with layered windows, this system will take a bit of getting used to. You know that feeling when you start driving a car you’ve never driven before, and everything feels a little out of place? It’s sort of like that.
Fortunately the learning curve doesn’t seem very steep. The key, for me at least, is the ‘Pinned Tab’ feature. This has always been nice on the ‘normal’ version of Chrome, but I’ve found it indispensible in Chrome OS. If you fail to organize your apps you’ll find yourselves sifting through a dozen tabs every few minutes, which is very frustrating. But if you keep the apps and web sites you use most open as pinned tabs — I’ve got Gmail, MOG, Twitter, and TechCrunch for now — suddenly things make a lot more sense.
Chrome OS has a few other tricks up its sleeve to make you feel more at home, the biggest of which is its Panels feature (which is actually pretty slick by Google UI standards). Here’s how they’re described by the Chromium Projects site:
Panels in Chromium OS are used as containers that allow a user to multitask without leaving the view of their current application. For example, with a music player and chat in panels, a user can control the playback of their music and chat with a friend while watching a video or reading a long document in their main view.
As we noted earlier today, Google has wasted little time getting their Cr-48 Chrome notebook machines in users’ hands. Less than two days after Google unveiled the device, there are a ton of reports of users getting them. Humorously, some people who thought they signed up for Chrome stickers are also receiving them — quite a bonus! But the Cr-48 hasn’t been a totally pleasant surprise.
A number of reports have come in saying that trying to play Flash videos and apps on the device more or less sucks. The experience ranges from buggy to not working at all, apparently. This includes YouTube, Hulu, Vimeo, CNN — basically all of major video sites on the web.
Now, it has to be noted that Google has made it very clear that the Cr-48 is meant to be a test machine. It’s not ready for mass production. Plus, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the processor inside, an Intel Atom, can’t fully run Flash. That said, Google has also made it very clear that Flash is an important part of Chrome (and Chrome OS). In fact, it’s baked-in. You have no choice but to have it installed.
Yes, you can disable the plug-in through Chrome, but unlike Apple’s mobile devices, the fall-back is basically non-existent.
Apple made waves when they decided not to include Flash on their new MacBook Airs, but there’s no denying that the machines run much more smoothly (both in terms of battery life and web browsing performance) without it. Maybe Google should consider following a similar route when the first consumer-ready Chrome notebooks roll out.
Ben Kessler woke up to an unexpected surprise on the doorstep of his New York home this morning: a Cr-48. Yes, the just-unveiled Google Chrome Notebook is already rolling out to those who requested one.
It was only two days ago that Google unveiled that the Cr-48 would be the first computer featuring their new Chrome OS. Google was quick to note that the 12.1-inch machine would feature no branding and was simply meant to be a test machine for developers, students, and a few other demographics. They asked people to fill out a form here to request one of the limited-quantity Cr-48s.
Kessler, who is the Communications Director for SeatGeek, says he simply filled out the form on Google’s site to request one. And *poof* less than two days later, here it is.
Google keeps saying that Chrome is all about speed. That’s apparently true about delivery speed as well.
Kessler was nice enough to send us some pictures of the device below.
Today at this morning’s major Chrome event, Google has just announced that Chrome OS… isn’t done. It still has work to do with camera drivers (for notebook USB ports), finishing Google Cloud Print, and more. But it wants to get the notebook into early adopters’ hands, so it’s announcing a new Pilot Program. Google will be distributing a notebook called Cr-48. These are not for sale, they are designed as a test unit.
Consumers will be able to apply for this, however, but Google isn’t giving it away to just anyone. On its Facebook Fan Page, they ran a promotion a couple days, announcing a sticker for a Chrome laptop, if you did that quiz, you get a notebook. If you go to youtube.com/googlechrome and make a video showing why you’re an ideal candidate for this, you’ll have a chance to snag a notebook. And everyone in the audience at today’s event is getting one (everyone claps). And if you don’t fall into any of those buckets, you can go to this page to apply.
The CR-48 is supposed to boot in 10 seconds, includes a webcam, and 12-inch LCD display. It is 3.8 pounds with 8 hours of battery life and an entire week of standby time, according to Google’s marketing materials. Eventually, manufacturing partners will make Chromebooks you can actually buy in stores.
Google will also be deploying this to some partner businesses, including American Airlines, Kraft, Virgin America, the Department of Defense and more.
Back in April, we wrote about a very cool new feature that Google was working on alongside Chrome OS: Cloud Print. Essentially, it’s a service that takes all of the printer drivers you normally need on a computer and puts them in the cloud (on Google’s servers). This way, you can easily print from a machine regardless of the OS. This means you can print from Chrome OS or from any mobile device. And it appears that it’s now just about ready to roll out.
As you can see here, there’s already a live landing page for Google Cloud Print. From this page, you can print a test page. This shouldn’t be too surprising given that Google is believed to be unveiling a beta version of Chrome OS at an event in San Francisco later today.
Tomorrow, Google is hosting a Chrome event in San Francisco for the media. While they won’t say exactly what it’s about, it seems likely that both the Chrome Web Store and Chrome OS will make an appearance. But no shortage of bug reports in the open source code area make me wonder if the latter is sort of a rush-job.
Since they first unveiled Chrome OS to the world last year, Google has said that they wanted to release it this year. And despite some talk of delays, Google reiterated recently that they would indeed have something to show this year. But they would not say if such a product would be in beta form — even though there are many indications in the aforementioned bug reports that indicate that will be the case. And some of those bug reports are a little worrisome.
Further, a report from a few days ago in Engadget had the following to say about netbooks based on Chrome OS:
Again, we’ve heard that the Atom-powered laptop isn’t going to be a mass market device — there will only be around 65,000 units available to Google’s closest “friends and family” — and that the Cloud-based OS is still very much in a beta, non-consumer-friendly state.
So is Google simply rushing the product out there to technically meet their promised 2010 deadline? They had also originally named a number of OEM partners at the launch. But it would appear that this first iteration will be a Google-branded netbook produced by one of the partners (codenamed “Mario” perhaps?), while other units will have to wait until 2011.
Simply scan this page to find any number of bugs currently hampering Chrome OS leading up to tomorrow’s launch. Many are minor UI elements, but plenty are not-so-minor software/hardware problems as well, it seems. For example, check out this report by a Google employee two days ago:
I become mad with rage because the trackpad is so flaky. Sometimes it loses a click, ending a drag somewhere in the middle. Sometimes it decides that I clicked even though my fingers aren’t even close to the trackpad. Sometimes the mouse cursor jumps around randomly.
That’s not good. He continues to say that “The trackpad is way way better than it used to be, but it’s still very hard to use.” As of yesterday, Google had yet to address this issue.
It’s not clear from the report if it’s just one type of machine affected, but the latter quote would seem to suggest that it’s a wider issue. Further, while the report didn’t state the exact device in the correct place, it does note that it’s a “dev x86-mario” machine, likely the one we’re going to see tomorrow, running the latest build of Chrome OS.
And there’s more. According to this bug, as of today, sync isn’t working. This is a vital feature to the whole OS, obviously. Here’s an issue with the power button. Here’s a pretty big cellular/wifi switching issue. Here’s a system update bug. A battery calculation problem. The list goes on and on.
Now, obviously the open-source nature of Chrome OS gives people like me a huge peek into issues I wouldn’t normally see if say a Windows manufacturer or Apple was about to launch a machine. But some of these alongside the various reports of the system launching in early beta mode do have me concerned.
And it’s fine if Google only intends for these machines to go to “friends and family”, but presumably some members of the press are going to get their hands on them as well (we’ll be there tomorrow, for example). Certainly Google has to know that if the machines aren’t up to snuff, journalists are going to call that out.
But maybe Google is confident enough in the big-picture idea of Chrome OS. That is, an OS that is only the web browser, none of that other clutter. An OS that you can sign in to from anywhere and from any machine (with Chrome OS, of course) and have access to all of your stuff. Maybe they just mean tomorrow to be an early taste of what to expect from the OS. And if that’s the case, expect them to reiterate that over and over again. “This is just a test.”
Or perhaps they’ll just make some last minute executive decisions to kill off certain features that aren’t working yet. Clearly, that has already been going on behind the scenes as you can also see in the bug reports. But some of the hardware/software issues will definitely need to be resolved, not pushed.
A lot has changed in the past year since Google first gave us the rundown of Chrome OS. Netbook sales have cooled, the iPad has come into existence, and Android has exploded in popularity. Oh and the key architect of the entire Chrome OS project, Matthew Papakipos, left Google over the summer — for a job at Facebook.
At the time, Google said not to read into that too much, that they have a very deep bench of talent. That’s undoubtedly true, but given the current landscape, Chrome OS needs to be polished at launch, not tarnished.
Back in August, at a conference in Europe, Google showed a little preview of the Chrome Web Store and noted that a launch would probably take place in October. While there were some hints of it coming along in October (including some pricing details that were apparently turned on by accident), it never came. And since today is the last day of November, I think it’s safe to say it’s not coming this month either. But it now definitely appears that Google is ramping up for an early December launch of the store, perhaps alongside a Chrome 8 release or a Chrome 9 beta release.
Earlier today, there was a flurry of activity in the Chromium Issues list. Specifically, there was a lot of activity surrounding the “ReleaseBlock” labeled items. And if you look them over, you’ll notice that most of these 16 issues are related to the Web Store or Chrome Apps in some way. Google appears to be tying up loose ends to get this product out the door as soon as possible.
So what’s being worked on? Well, first of all, as you can see above, Google has created a new logo for the Web Store. This logo has already made it into the latest builds of Chromium, and should trickle in the dev channel of Chrome shortly. Further, a Chrome Apps promo to be shown in the browser is now just about complete — they’re just fixingsome bugs with it.
Meanwhile, Google is trying to finish updating the documents detailing what’s new with extensions. Extensions are going to be a part of the Web Store (alongside themes and apps), so the fact that they’re getting the documentation ready is another good sign that a launch is very close.
Another pretty big feature being worked on is the ability to create desktop shortcuts for apps. You would be able to right click on an app in Chrome and create a desktop shortcut for it. The coding work on this appears to be done and it’s now being implemented.
A bigger change that is only going to apparently be enabled behind a flag in Chrome 9 is the ability to create appswithout using the crx format. This is now slated as a M10 feature. One problem with crx (which current Chrome extensions use) is that they’re limited to 10 MB in size.
Given that these things are labeled as “M9″ blockers, it’s not clear if Google will launch the Chrome Web Store as a feature of Chrome 9 in beta, or Chrome 8 in stable release. Chrome 7 is currently the latest stable release of the browser, while Chrome 8 is in beta, and Chrome 9 is in the dev channel. Again, you can probably expect the company to shift those all up shortly. This may even happen as soon as early next week, which would be in line with whatMediaMemo reported a month ago.
The Chrome Web Store is also expected to be a key part of Chrome OS, so it makes sense that Google would want to get it out there first in Chrome, then roll out the first versions of Chrome OS, still slated to hit before the end of the year.
Well look what we have here … Last time we checked in on the Facebook/Google slapfight, Facebook had removed the option to import your contacts from Gmail and was still holding strong on the whole “denying contact info access to Google” rigamarole that started the fight in the first place. Up until now many no other choice but to use Yahoo Mail if they wanted to mass export their Friends data from Facebook into Google. Well Happy Thanksgiving data reciprocity fans! A third party developer has decided to build “Facebook Doesn’t Own My Friends,” a Chrome extension that lets you easily export your Facebook Friends’ contact information.
Whoever built this is pretty vehement about whose side they’re playing on. Take a look at the sarcastic tone of the “About” description.
“Despite what Facebook says, if someone is your “friend” and you can see his/her email address on his/her Facebook info, they are probably OK with you emailing them.
Facebook doesn’t let you export this data, so they expect you to click on each of your friends’ pages, copy their email address (or other contact information), and paste it into your email client. Kind of ridiculous? Yes.”
I just tried it and it works, scraping and exporting your contacts into both Gmail and CSV files even though it might take awhile and multiple tries if you’ve got hundreds of friends. And while the extension is not officially affiliated with Google (or Facebook), it going to be exciting to see what happens to it after this post.
There’s a lot of hoopla right now that Google’s Chrome OS has been delayed and will miss the stated release date of “this year”. Much of this is based off of the comment that Google CEO Eric Schmidt made last week at Web 2.0 Summit, in which he said that Chrome OS would be available sometime in “the next few months”. So I asked Google today if they were still sticking with the “later this year” availability of Chrome OS — the answer I got? An enthusiastic “yep!”
With so many new extensions uploaded in the gallery every day, we know it can be tricky to decide which ones to try out. We post a selection of the ones we enjoy in the "Featured" section of the gallery, and from now on we plan to update you regularly on new additions to our recommended extensions.
Here are a few new extensions in the Featured section:
Layers allows you to overlay content like sticky notes, images, videos, tweets and even maps over any web site. You can drag and drop your content anywhere on the page. You can also share and discuss whatever you add to the site with your friends across social networks.
The Postrank extension for Google Reader helps you stay up-to-date on the news and posts that matter. The extension aggregates engagement activity such as tweets, comments and votes from over two dozen social networks and ranks stories based on how much engagement each story has received.
With the Ozone extension, you can get suggestions from fifteen different sources like Google, Amazon, your bookmarks, Gmail, YouTube and more. As you type in the Ozone search box, you can see the suggestions change in real time.
Highlight to Search is a new official Google extension that allows you to search keywords by highlighting instead of typing them into a search box. When you highlight words within a web page, you'll see a magnifying glass icon appear below the highlighted keywords. Clicking on the icon or the keywords allows you to search easily from the search box that immediately appears.
These are just a few of the new featured Chrome extensions, and you can find many more in the gallery.
Rhythmbox is, as you all know, the default gnome music player and default music player for Ubuntu as well. Canonical integrated Ubuntu One Music Store with Rhythmbox through a plugin with the release of Ubuntu 10.04 "Lucid Lynx" and the implementation works pretty good. The store has a discreet selection of music if you live in UK or USA, for everyone else it's a very small selection of music, but that's another story.
In the past years I switched through so many music players like Audacious, Exaile, Amarok, Banshee, Listen, Songbird etc. and finally ended up using the default player, Rhythmbox. Why? I'll briefly explain.
The level of modification possible with Nautilus is enormous and some of them were included in our 8 not-so-common nautilus hacks and improvements post. And now, we are going to introduce a bunch of useful Nautilus scripts which can further extend the functionality of nautilus in a big way.
Nautilus plugin for opening terminals in arbitrary local paths. nautilus-open-terminal is a proof-of-concept Nautilus extension which allows you to open a terminal in arbitrary local folders. It adds a useful 'Open in Terminal' option in the right click menu in Nautilus.
sudo aptitude install nautilus-open-terminal
We have been covering different aspects of Blender extensively during the past few weeks. We even featured one of the best collection of Blender made movies and animations few days ago. Now it's time for some real learning. Here is an incredible collection of 12 hand picked Blender tutorials every Blender and animation enthusiast should know of.
Like two weeks ago, we featured some of best and most popular blender made short movies in our 8 stunning blender made short films and animations post. Now, let's take the road less traveled. The blender movies we are going to showcase here are those rare ones which you guys probably haven't seen before.
Big Buck Bunny Outtakes
You don't need any introduction to blender made Big Buck Bunny short film that we featured in our previous article. If you like Big Buck Bunny, you will absolutely love this outtake animation.
If I ever write another book it will probably be about one of three topics. The first is the truth about how the press and journalism really works – the sausage making – to show just how much of a beautiful, subjective and chaotic mess it all is. The second idea is to talk about how perfect blogging is, with its constant feedback loop, as a training ground for mass psychology and manipulation. The third idea I’m keeping to myself for now, but it’s more startup focused.
It’s the second one that’s been on my mind lately. Mostly because it’s become pretty clear to me that any blogger worth her salt could start, say, an extremely successful militant religious cult.
Any blogger will tell you how frustrating the early days are. Getting someone, anyone, to link to you. Your first comment! etc. And as your audience grows you are introduced to the first rule of anonymous human behavior – it’s dark and brutal, and reminds me how thin the veil of civilized behavior really is. If there is something nasty that can be said, someone will say it. Over and over.
Stealth Mode Watch, a searchable data spider of often very revealing SEC form D filings, is the brain child of Denis Papathanasiou, who came up with the idea while researching funding options (a.k.a spying) for his ebooks startup Fifobooks, “I was just using it to keep tabs on specific investors and other competitors in the ebook space, but I mentioned it to a few people, and they were interested enough to want to use it themselves.”
Papathanasiou then added a public API and launched it in beta under its own domain. Right now the site allows a simple search mode which shows results for the past four weeks and then an extended API mode which allows results past that date as well as filtering parameters like “people,”"companies” and “places” (Humans beware: The data is delivered in XML files).
The term “social network” is of course synonymous with online networks like Facebook. But think about what you’re actual social life is like for a second. Are you really closest to the people whose items you “like” the most on Facebook? What about the people you @reply or retweet on Twitter? The people you reblog the most on Tumblr? If you’re anything like me, probably not. Instead, the best indicator of who I actually interact with socially the most in real life are the calls I make and the texts I send — it’s all mobile interaction.
As a longtime Apple TV owner, I’ll admit a dirty little secret: I really like the device. Sure, it has been one of the rare flops for Apple in recent years. And it could be so much more with say, a Blu-ray player or a web browser. But it is really good at its core functionality: bringing iTunes content into your living room. And that’s why this new version of the Apple TV makes sense — at least for now.
When I first bought the Apple TV, there were two varieties: a 40 gigabyte version and a 160 gigabyte version. I was torn between which one to get, but I ultimately went with the 160 GB one thinking I could put most of my movies on it. Big mistake. I basically never use the hard drive on my Apple TV, so it’s a 160 GB hard drive sitting there doing nothing. Instead, I stream everything to the Apple TV.
Can someone please explain this Bloomberg Businessweek story to me? I’ve read it a few times and am still having a hard time understanding what is or what isn’t being implied, or not implied, about a partnership between Coinstar and Apple.
First of all, the title is awful because most people likely don’t know that Coinstar owns Redbox (they acquired them last year), the DVD rental kiosk company. Instead, most people know Coinstar as those machines in supermarkets where you turn in your loose change for cash or silly things, like Facebook Credits. So why on Earth would they be partnering with Apple on some online venture?
Well, again, it’s about Redbox, as they sort of note in the first paragraph. But what are they going to do with Apple?
“I would not conclude we are or are not doing a streaming deal with them,” Coinstar CEO Paul Davis told Bloomberg. Well that clears things right up.