New Google Chrome OS: Admission of a Mistake?

In mid-December 2010, I was pleasantly surprised when I was selected to receive a free beta prototype of Google’s Chromebook, called the Cr-48. In return, the only thing Google asked of me was that I test the system and let the company monitor my usage so that it could determine what improvements needed to be made. Within the agreement with the company was the restriction that I was not allowed to sell or give the unit away, and in turn, Google would then provide me with free updates (this has recently been done away with) for the life of the machine.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the Google Chromebook concept and how the system functions, let me provide a very basic description of the project. Google’s goal in designing the Chromebook was to create a lightweight, small laptop (netbook, or notebook) sized computer that would require less hard drive space. To accomplish the latter, Google planned to store the information in the cloud, thus eliminating the need to store all of the operating software on the computer itself. Additionally, Google was searching for a non-Windows based OS that wouldn’t be plagued by constant infection from viruses, malware, and other annoyances that always seem to plague personal computers using the Windows OS.

So when the Cr-48 arrived, I was excited to try something new and different. I am happy to report that, during the past 17 months, I have found the pint-sized laptop to do what Google advertised. I also found that its Chrome browser performed the required functions quite satisfactorily, however, during this 17-month time period, Google provided numerous updates and fixes to the original operating system. One of the improvements it incorporated was the addition of a file system intended to make the Chromebook more ‘personal computer’ like. As a result, the operating system appeared to offer everything that a busy traveler might need while they were on the road and, as of today, my beta product continues to purr like a kitten.

However — and there is always a however — the Google Chromebook has failed to attract an audience. This is unfortunate because the concept was sound, but there was one problem with the Chromebook: the price. At the time of testing, the production team concluded that the Cr-48 price point shouldn’t exceed $250, but the company refused to follow its advice and introduced the first Chromebooks at a price exceeding what the market would endure, resulting in dismal sales. The timing of the release was also against it since it occurred nearly simultaneously with the release of Apple’s new iPad, which immediately began to sell like the proverbial hotcake.

In retrospect, one shouldn’t have compared the two since I know that I don’t need to explain the overwhelming success of the Apple iPad tablet computer to you and the fact that it is just fun to use. However, one does need to recognize that the Chromebook is not a tablet computer but rather a miniature business/working computer. The Chromebook is perfect, though, for those seeking a superior iOS. I have found it more reliable than any other OS currently on the market, including Windows 8, Chrome OS, or Android. So what strategy or marketing ploy could Google attempt to increase the attractiveness of its Chromebooks?

Well, Google has not been resting on its laurels and, just this last week, answered this question when it released a new and improved operating system for its Chromebook. Until this release, the only change I had noticed was that the new Chrome OS was not being made available for owners of the Cr-48. When I contacted the company to ask why the existing Cr-48s were no longer receiving the promised updates, I got no response. However, since that time, we have been assured by our friends at Google that the Cr-48 would continue to be supported in the future.

So what is all the hype about its new OS? To me, it was obvious when the new Chrome OS appeared to take a step backward into the past. The icons on the desktop — yes, desktop — looked like something from Android and it had included a taskbar at the bottom of the screen similar to what Microsoft has used for years. I believe that the company’s thinking is that, while Microsoft is moving on with its new Windows 8 and a completely revamped Windows experience, Google is providing the consumer with an old friend that they don’t have to relearn.

So why did Google change the appearance of its Chrome OS? One can only ponder the reasoning, but my guesses would be:

  • Improving the ability to access files and folders.
  • Improving the ease of use by providing a taskbar for users.
  • Realizing the fact that the Android’s popularity and the Google Chrome OS’s failure is no coincidence.

So while Google tries to pick itself up by its bootstraps, one must wonder if the idea behind the Chrome OS was sound to begin with. On the other hand, one could also ask if the concept for the Chrome OS was just too far ahead of the times and people were not ready for an entire cloud computing experience. To see this as a possibility, one only has to remember why Microsoft’s first tablet flopped, whereas Apple’s iPad has become synonymous with the word tablet.

What is your take on the Google Chromebook?

Comments welcome.

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by blubrblog

Mozilla Firefox 3.7 – Redesign To Suport Windows Aero & More

The folks over at Mozilla, the creators of the popular browser called Firefox, may be working on a redesign of their interface [GUI] in version 3.7. The new eye candy features such as Aero Glass and Aero Peak will only be available for those using Windows Vista or Windows 7.

According to an article over at Softpedia it states that:

Still, it must be emphasized that the initial windows theme mockups for Firefox 3.7 are nothing more than drafts, and that, in this regard, the concepts could differ from the final revamp of the open source browser. “These are not final! they are only for brainstorming/exploration!” a message on the website reads.

Here are the main aspects of the Firefox 3.7 GUI redesign: “1.Embracing Glass: Toolbar and Tabs using Glass. Buttons translucent and slightly glossy to meld with the toolbar. Raised 3D lookachieve tactile ‘feel.’ 2.Tools/Bookmark Bar: Connecting the Tools button to the side of the Window to emphasize the fact that it is used for customizing and changing the UI. Adding a button next to that to toggle the Bookmarks Bar which is turned off by default. 3.Page Button: Connect the Page button to the left side of the tab area. Directly connected to the Page.”

But before you Windows XP people wonder if your version will still be supported, the answer is yes. The new Firefox will work with XP minus the Aero stuff. I look forward to seeing the new GUI for Firefox and I believe it is a step in the right direction.

What do you think?

Comments as always re welcome.


Can Ubuntu Become A Beauty Compared To Apple?

Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Canonical and the very popular Ubuntu Linux operating system, has challenged developers to improve the GUI of Linux to surpass Apple in looks. At a recent conference he stated that he wants Linux to actually reach the status of being art. He also states in an article that:

“There is an emerging emphasis on services – that is the engine to invest in free software applications,” he said. “We [Canonical] are hiring guys to work on the desktop… the rationale is online services. This must be a shared platform.”

According to Shuttleworth, open source provides unparalleled opportunities to generate wealth and create change through innovation. He supported open-source projects like Firefox, which rely on plug-ins to harness other people’s ideas and extend the underlying platform.

He warned that a few challenges exist on the road to greater innovation, wealth and social change via open source.

He also stated that this needed to be done within the next two years. So what do you think? Can open source catch up with Apple? Is pretty what Linux needs to become popular?

Comments welcome.


Microsoft Windows 95 In Case You Missed It

I was reading an article about Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, sharing some thoughts while at the  “All Things Digital” conference. Bill Gates was asked about the high points in his career and he said:

“Windows 95 was a nice milestone.”

Which made me wonder. I wondered how many of the readers who stop by Lockergnome, remember Windows 95, or was it before their time?

Why was Microsoft’s Windows 95 a major milestone? In a nut shell it had a graphical user interface GUI and also incorporated DOS and Windows. It used what was called long file names, up to 255 characters. You could also multi-task, which at the time was a great feature.

But what else did Windows 95 have or do? Refresh my memory.

Comments welcome.


Change Vista's Boot Screen

The boot screen for Microsoft Windows Vista can be changed from the boring sliding bar scrolling across the screen to something you may like better. Included in Vista is another boot screen you may wish to try if you wish to change the look at boot. To change the boot screen, do the following:

  • Click the start menu, and type in the command “run” and than hit the Enter key.
  • Type “msconfig” [without the quotes] in the box and hit the Enter key.
  • Select the “boot” tab at the top, and then place a check mark in the box next to the “No GUI Boot”
  • Hit “apply” then click on “ok”
  • The system will need to be restarted.

If you chose not to use the new GUI, just uncheck the GUI box and reboot.

Let us know what you think.

Comments welcome.

[tags]Vista, boot, screen, gui, change, scroll, bar, [/tags]

FXRuby: Create Lean And Mean GUIs With Ruby

There should be an image here!FXRuby is one of the most popular libraries for developing graphical user interface applications in Ruby. Pragmatic Bookshelf’s new release — FXRuby: Create Lean and Mean GUIs with Ruby — is the quickest and easiest way to get started developing GUI applications using FXRuby.

With a combination of tutorial exercises and focused, technical information, this book goes beyond the basics to equip you with proven, practical knowledge and techniques for developing real-world FXRuby applications. Written by the lead developer of FXRuby, this book will soon have you writing powerful and sophisticated GUIs in your favorite programming language.

Since its initial release in 2001, FXRuby has become one of the most popular GUI choices for Ruby developers. If you’re a newcomer to GUI programming, this book will introduce you to the basics of FXRuby programming by leading you through building a GUI application with FXRuby from start to finish. If you’re an experienced software developer who just needs to get up to speed on FXRuby and what it can do for you, this book will help you put FXRuby to work in your Ruby-based applications.

Author and FXRuby creator Lyle Johnson says, “This book gets you over the initial conceptual hurdles and equips you with the practical information that you need to build your own applications.”

Along the way, you’ll learn how to leverage FXRuby’s vast collection of user interface elements to build visually rich user interfaces. You’ll see how FXRuby uses the concept of sending messages between objects to implement event-driven applications, and how you can most effectively use layout managers to construct flexible user interfaces. Go beyond the basics with proven, practical knowledge and techniques for developing real-world GUI programs in Ruby.

AVG Free Edition Version 8 Available For Download

Today is the day that AVG releases their latest version of AVG Free Edition 8. I went to their web site and downloaded the latest edition and noted that it is 45.6MB [though another link indicated the file to be 46.1MB] in size. I was actually surprised that the download speed was over 370 kb since I thought that the servers at AVG would be overloaded with users trying to get the latest and greatest. Maybe I just lucked out and hit the servers when they were not busy. :-)

I tried doing an install without installing AVG 7.5. Nope. You need to uninstall AVG 7.5 first [I choose to keep my settings and dump anything in the vault] , reboot, and install 8.0. During installation I was asked if I wished to install the ‘toolbar’ to monitor links. I personally choose not to do this since I’m currently using McAfee Site Advisor and testing WOT. But if you have no site monitoring software installed, I would recommend this option as well.

After the install completed an update was compelted and I did a scan of the system which came up clean.

For the next week or so I’ll be playing with the new GUI since everything has been changed, which for the most part, appears to be very user friendly thus far. Oh yes, this is a complete suite. Anti-virus, spyware & web link checker. Not bad for a freebie. But like with any software, time will tell just how good it is.

Review next week.

Comments welcome.

Get AVG Free Edition from here.

PS My buddy Dennis said that he needed to install a patch for Vista in order to get AVG 8 working. Patch is here.  Thanks Den.

[tags]avg, free, edition, new, version, 8, spyware, links, blockers, gui, interface, [/tags]

RealWorld Cursor Editor v2007.1

RealWorld Cursor Editor can create and edit static and animated Windows cursors. A drag-and-drop based interface allows users to easily reorder, duplicate, or append frames to animated cursors. Images in cursors can be modified by drawing tools such as lines, curves, polygons, rectangles, or ellipses.

[9.8M] [WinXP/Vista] [FREE]

Free SUPERAntiSpyware Review

There is a new kid on the block called SUPERAntiSpyware that claims to not only remove the easy stuff, but actually claims to get rid of the hard stuff as well. When I first spotted the ad for this product, I figured this was just another spyware remover product, but I thought I would take it for a test spin.

I will have to admit, the folks who produce this product are very upfront and honest in their product description. The FAQ states:

How does SUPERAntiSpyware compare with the competition?

With any product within a highly competitive and oversaturated area such as the anti-spyware market segment, the most obvious question you may have is “How does SUPERAntiSpyware compare with other existing products?”

Our Philosophy
We at focus on detecting and removing the most difficult spyware infections that other solutions often miss. No single product can detect and remove all threats at any given time. The industry is in a constant state of change with new infections coming out on a daily basis. is in the position to locate, analyze, and remove “zero-day” threats as they appear on the market. We often update our definitions and rules several times per day to ensure that users have the most up to date protection available.

Many competing products focus simply on the “number” of items they can locate which includes benign (harmless) items such as cookies, registry keys, folders and data files. While cleaning up these items may be desired, they do not represent the truly harmful components that can steal your passwords or identity. SUPERAntiSpyware will also clean up these “traces,” but our primary focus is on the actual harmful components.

I found this one statement refreshing:

No single product can detect and remove all threats at any given time.

Anyway, the installation was simple and using the software is very easy. They have done a nice job in making their software very user friendly. So I had SUPERAntiSpware do a complete scan of my system which consists of about 18.5G of operating system, programs and files. The scan process took a tad over 42 minutes to complete. I thought this was somewhat slow, but not terrible. The software found only three [3] cookies on my system.

However, my system is not a good test bed for testing since I keep my system as lean and clean as possible. Three [3] cookies is basically nothing.

Overall I like the GUI and the way SUPERAntiSpyware performed. I’m going to add it to my tool kit for future use. Oh, I just thought of something. It reminds me of the old EWIDO software before AVG bought them out. The best part of this software is that it is Free for home use. :-) Comments welcome.

SUPERAntiSpware site can be found here.

[tags]superantispyware, software, gui, perform, well[/tags]

Help Me, Obi-Wan Kenobi! I Feel Alienated…

First of all: Help me, Obi-wan Kenobi…

Next: If you’ve ever wanted an Alienware PC (and who hasn’t?) but couldn’t afford the bazillion bucks and firstborn kid, you can at least alienate your Windows XP desktop. (Sorry, no Vista. Alienware sticks with reliable operating systems.)

For only your second-born (joking, it’s free) you can download AlienGUIse, which will give you a choice of four desktop skins to make your old Dell rock like an Aurora. Well, it’ll look as though it’s rocking like an Aurora, as long as you don’t move anything. You also get WindowBlinds — although it will work only with AlienGUIse as far as I can tell — and a little docking toolbar that’s apparently supposed to let you clear all the unnecessary junk off your desktop. Fortunately, it can be disabled easily.

You do have to give them an email address so that they can send you an occasional cool online catalog. You can unsubscribe later if you want to, but personally I love the things. Such excess. (Try configuring the Area 51 laptop to see how expensive you can make it. They start at $5300.00 US.)

[tags]gui, skins, alienware, desktop[/tags]

Advanced Touch Screen – You Gotta See This

Back in February, 2006 there was a demonstration by David Han who is a research scientist for NYU. His intuitive ‘interface free,’ using his finger tips only, demonstrates the future of computing. After viewing what Mr. Han did with the computer, I actually said to myself, “WOW.”

What is interesting about this concept is that the user no longer needs to depend on a hardware device such as a mouse or keyboard to interact with the system. This hands on approach would allow us to work more effectively with our computers without having to stop to move objects on the screen using a pointing device.

There was only one very minor problem I saw. I hate fingerprints on my screen! And I chastise those who have to take their greasy paws and point to something by pressing on the screen leaving behind their indentation of swirls and loops.

Which brings up the issue on how to clean a lappy screen. I use a old lint free sock lightly dampened with warm water to clean by laptop screen. Please note the word ‘lightly’. You don’t want water streaming off the screen onto your laptop. And yes, the laptop should be off when doing this.

Mindblowing Demo

And then reader Steve mentioned to take a look at BumpTop 3D, which is also worth looking at. There is a video over at Google UTube. Thanks, Steve.
BumpTop 3D

[tags]gui, interactive, google, utube [/tags]

More Webcam Support Is Here!

It took a little bit of looking, but you know something, this looks pretty reasonable. I have just installed EasyCam2 and I have to say, this think is really, really easy to set a webcam up with.

Now it should be made very clear that I do not recommend rushing out to buy a brand new cam only to get it home and find out that EasyCam2 does not support it. Sure, this is not to stop you from buying it, keeping the receipt and then returning it later on. But for most people, it gives them an option should their existing webcam happen to work with this list of supported cams.

In another article from this series, I showed you a cam that publicly supported Linux. Seriously, it’s on the packaging for goodness sake. So I known that while most US manufacturers have turned their backs on myself and other Linux users, there are those overseas options that are more than happy to work with us.

But for now, this offers us a NDISWrapper kind of alternative for our webcams with GUI goodness once its installed: Forward, pick your driver, Forward, start the install and then wait (remember to be patient upon a freeze) and then apply – it’s just that easy.

[tags]Webcam,Linux,Ubuntu,GUI, support,hardware[/tags]

Windows Vista Opinions

I’ve got tons of Windows Vista posts sitting over on my personal blog – it’s not like my bombastic assertions about the OS come from nowhere. There is a great disturbance in the force, and the underinformed are likely to suffer most. With permission, I’m going to share another part of the email thread that has been bouncing between power geeks all day. This is coming from Anthony Kinyon (though he used to go by a handle many here would recognize):

It’s not just Windows-hating fanatics writing about it. Again, I said not everything in Vista is bad. There are some cool new things. But it could have been so much better, that’s my complaint. Some of it just doesn’t make any sense (even Paul Thurrot said that in his review). It’s a real disappointment. Chris and I don’t hate Windows, we just think that the direction it is going with Vista is in a lot of ways… not the best direction or perhaps even… the wrong one. And Apple does have some good things to offer. There are alternatives. I wish MS had listened to users more and not just done it as they went along and hoped it worked out. The whole “Mama knows best” policy they employ often seems to backfire in their faces lately.

If the company had been broken up during their antitrust case in the USA, imagine how much better Windows would be if there was another, better Windows around the corner (more reason for innovation). MS could have done such a better job and I just feel so let down by Vista. I mean, what’s really that revolutionary or exciting about it? It looks kind of snazzy but besides that, what does it really offer me that I couldn’t do with XP or even Win2000? And again we come back to the strange interface. It just seems weird and things are not at all consistent. I get the strong impression the “right hand” did not know what the “left hand” was doing in many cases with Vista’s UI.

Given 5+ years… they could have done something a lot fancier and more fun. If you gave me 5 years to work on something I’d make sure it was a lot better than what came before it. Again, I am not a Windows hater (though sometimes I feel that way when something like IE crashes doing a simple task). I’ve used Windows since 3.1 on top of DOS. For years of my life I used it regularly (and still do). But they have really dropped the ball on Vista and Office lately. There is all this big marketing hype about how great it is, then you get it, your computer runs slower… and the benefit is what… cooler looking ALT + TAB screens? :) I mean, sure there are other things that are improved but what’s really fantastic about it? I’m sure it fixes a lot of existing issues and things but a lot of regular users don’t care about that. What does Vista offer a power user that XP didn’t? Registry. Check. Device Manager. Check. Display Properties. Check. The only thing I can think of is DirectX 10 which they won’t support on XP (part of the ploy to force gamers to upgrade I suspect).

If Vista didn’t come pre-installed, would many people buy it off the shelf and install it? Let’s say OS X Tiger came instead of Vista. Would that many people really go down and have it removed and Vista installed? Some would, sure. But I doubt that many would.

Continue reading “Windows Vista Opinions”

Underwhelmed with Windows Vista

I’ve been taking a lot of heat for my recent remarks on Windows Vista. As you very well know, I’ve been a “Windows Fanatic” from darn near the very beginning. Times have changed, and I’m now finding myself disillusioned by the lack of attention Microsoft is paying to user interfaces. I could excuse the shortcomings of Windows XP – but I’m not even close to forgiving the development team for slapping together such a hapless, schizophrenic experience in Windows Vista. It’s lipstick on a pig. Vista is nothing new, Vista is nothing revolutionary – it’s full of shims and hacks, and you need to understand that before swallowing the marketing hype. With his permission, I’m going to share with you an email I received from an old friend tonight:
Continue reading “Underwhelmed with Windows Vista”

My Journey With Vista V

After my initial “opportunities” in trying to get Windows Vista to install on a separate partition on a second hard drive, I must say that I am more and more pleased with what I am seeing.

My first reaction when beginning to work with the new OS was one I had not experienced on a computer in a long time: terror! I was so comfortable with DOS, Windows 3.1, then Win98, ME and 98. Beginning with Windows 98, most of the basic GUI that one interacts with stayed pretty much the same. Once you discovered the new features and issues, you were pretty much ready to go.
Continue reading “My Journey With Vista V”