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Google Chrome CR-48 Notebook First Impressions

This was originally written in February, when I receive my CR-48 in the mail from Google and excitedly tore into the unknown-but-laptop-sized box on my door step.

The moment Google’s announcement about Chrome OS and the Chrome Notebooks was over I raced to the site and signed up in hopes of receiving one of the elusive beasts. I figured the coveted CR-48 laptops were going to tech bloggers and tech journalists. I assumed from the start that lowly me, a nobody in Internet Land would have no chance at landing one of the units.

Much to my shock and delight, Google proved me wrong.

I came home last night to a strange box from a man named Brian in St. Louis on my doorstep. I picked it up, at first assuming it was just another in the line of Christmas presents my wife and I had purchased from one of many retailers but upon checking the label and feeling the weight, I was optimistic. I wanted to believe it was a Chrome OS test machine but I didn’t think I’d be that lucky.

Enough with the shock and awe, it was a Chrome OS Notebook. I had the CR-48 unit unwrapped and sitting on my desk in no time. I took some pictures of it because I am a nerd like that. Being an avid Chrome user, I was really excited to crack it open and start syncing and using the Browser as Operating System.

So far I really like it. The keyboard is just like the original MacBook which I was skeptical of at first, until I tried it and instantly fell in love with its wide, fat clicky keys. They feel nice under my fingers and I can fly across them with greater speed than the current Lenovo machine I’ve been primarily using at home.

The track-pad is another story. While it is a generous size, again taking a cue from Apple, it feels like my original First Generation MacBook track-pad after three solid years of use. It is not very clicky and the two finger scrolling and two finger tap for right-click has some accuracy and stuttering issues. The tracking itself works like a charm as you would expect. However, the track-pad/button just isn’t as clicky as I’d like. The tap to click option is a must, though it ships disabled.

The screen is plenty bright with and crisp. While there is no brightness level indicator when using the brightness button in the keyboard, it goes plenty dark for that late night surfing and brightens up nicely for the daytime. The killer addition to this machine would have been a back-lit keyboard, though being as this is a demo unit, I can see why it is not included.

I love the new window handling in Chrome OS. If you are familiar with Spaces on the Mac or Virtual Desktops of any kind you should feel right at home. Each Ctrl+N gives you new window to the right of your current window. You can Alt+Tab between them though in sequence which is confusing if you have multiple open windows (or as I just found out, two identical sets of tabs open from when I rebooted last night).

The MacBook Air is the crowned king of light computers across the Internet but not having one of those, I can’t get over the lightness of this machine. The whole machine is very slim and light. I want to tuck it under my shoulder like a newspaper and take it everywhere with me.

I also really like the smooth rubbery feel of the case. It feels soft. Unlike how most laptops feel cold and hard in your hand. The rubber gives it a warm feeling when you hold it, or as your wrists rest upon it, like they are doing as I type this.

The lack of Caps Lock is receiving a lot of coverage all over the place. Across the top of the keyboard, where the Function keys would be on any other laptop, the CR-48 features the following from left to right: Esc, Back, Forward, Refresh, Full Screen, Switch Window, Lower Brightness, Raise Brightness, Mute, Lower Volume, Raise Volume and finally Power, which I have yet to hit.

When I first took the laptop out of the box and inserted the battery it powered on immediately, no need to press the power button. The OS has seen an update once since I had the unit, it happens identically to how the browser updates. You get the dot on the wrench and you click Upgrade. Seconds later, you’re back up and running right where you left off. The Chrome browser also updated today so I imagine they’re both in sync or close to it.

The volume is plenty loud out of the speakers for casual use and the headphone jack is nothing special. I have not used the SD Card slot or USB port yet. I’m sort of at a loss for what you’d need either for. The Eye-Fi card in my camera eliminates the need to use the SD card and I’m not even sure what I could use the USB port for, plugging my thumb drive into it last night yielded nothing.

I have seen some random slowdown in the OS as I’ve been scrolling down pages or waiting for things to load. A 1.66GHz processor and 2GB of RAM power the machine. I have no idea what the hard drive is on the machine and I’ve seen no mention or need for it. Perhaps that’s where the USB and SD Card slots come into play.

I’ve also had problems getting certain wireless networks to work with the machine. I tried tethering from my rooted Droid earlier and while the iPod Touch picked it up just fine Chrome OS reported there was an error trying to connect to it. Similarly, on initial setup, I had to remove the MAC Address filtering on my home network to allow it to connect so I could login and get the MAC Address.

I have not yet signed up for the free 100MB of cellular data from Verizon yet because I haven’t had the need and it requires entering a credit card number which I am reluctant to give. I am going to work on the Droid tethering option some more and see if I can figure out what the issue is there.

I watched a lip of the Daily Show from YouTube last night full screen and had minimal issues of minor slowdown with it. It was still plenty watchable though since it does not support Silverlight I cannot use Netflix. My test of Hulu worked fine at the default resolution on the page However, when I tried to make it full screen it ran a bit slow. In this case, I was watching American Dad and the mouths were slightly behind the voices. It was still perfectly watchable but if you were watching something with a lot of fast action, it would be more noticeable.

I’ve not had it long enough to give the battery a proper test. However, I am at 55% and Chrome OS claims to have 3 hours and 27 minutes of life left. I have the cellular disabled, the WiFi on and the brightness maxed out. I have not used the VGA port for anything yet.

All in all I really like the unit and the typing feels as good as typing on my original MacBook. The trackpad, despite its deficiencies is usable. Seeing as how I got this computer shipped to me free of charge with no mention of return, I am very pleased with it and I hope the hardware that will ship with Chrome OS when it gets a commercial release will be even better. This is a very good start to the Chrome OS and I am optimistic to see where it goes and what the first wave of hardware looks and runs like.

Medium over Message

The medium doesn’t matter. Ever.
You could be furiously scribbling into a notebook fueled by black lights and caffeine.You could be typing frantically into Xanga, LiveJournal, MySpace, WordPress, Tumblr, Twitter, Textpattern, or some home-brewed app. The medium isn’t important. It’s the message.

As a geek I tend to get distracted by the newest, shiniest blogging platform. Some new way to get my thoughts out of my head and on paper to share or just to get released. To a degree I’ve cared too much about where and how I display my words.

Writing was always my release. All through school from 7th grade, where I had a teacher who introduced me to the power of my own written words. All through high school and some of college. I wrote.

I wrote poetry. Rambling prose. Techno-laced metaphor mind trips into my deepest fears. In college, humor was the refuge of my passion. I wrote an anonymous humor column for a few years. Until my time ran out as did the funny.

Nowadays, there’s such stigmas about certain places. LiveJournal is as a wasteland of whiny teens penning complaints to their peers. Xanga is practically the lower caste of writers. MySpace is… well… simultaneously the meeting place of musicians and artists and a place I actively avoid due to its eye-bleeding graphics and pages. It’s the worst of GeoCities/Xoom/Homestead 1990s reincarnated.

Then there’s Facebook, the college public square. Now infested with the same skeevy corporations who push credit cards for T-shirts online as they do on campuses.

And of course Twitter, the medium quickly becoming the goto spot for…. everything. Promotions. Announcements. News-sharing/gathering, inane breakfast lists, and anything else you can possibly think of.

It’s not where you write, it’s what you write.

I started a blog in 1998 as a badly coded HTML page on my members.xoom.com page. After NBC bought it up and turned it into nbci.com and killed the hosting I moved to Xanga where I wrote for a few years. Then LiveJournal when I was able to secure an invite. (Remember those days?)

Then I experimented with WordPress/MovableType/Textpattern/Expression Engine and a hand full of others until finally deciding to live in the Textpattern camp.

And now, I’m more in favor of Tumblr’s simplicity and ease of posting and sharing. Mix in a bit of twitter and it’s a delectable soup of inane banter and commenting.

My blog withers away while I try to find my voice and my focus. As this piece wanders haphazardly along so does my writing.

What I’m trying to say is it doesn’t matter where you write or how your words make their way into the world. Just write. Just let out the feelings and stories locked inside your head.

Find a lovely font to type in or a comfortable pen and favorite notebook and let the words flow.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter the medium. It’s the message that’s important.

Osama bin Laden is dead

Osama Bin Laden is dead

It’s been nearly a decade since the attacks on American soil that toppled the Twin Towers, smashed the Pentagon and who knows what else if the brave citizens high above Pennsylvania had not acted when and how they did.

Tonight, in a way brings some closure to this event. To the hunt for the mastermind behind these attacks and many others abroad. Osama bin Laden is dead. I learned about it on Twitter as it exploded with the impending news. Facebook soon followed suit. I switched on CNN after three separate streams failed to offer the President’s words. Not realizing he had not made them yet, we stuck around for the talking heads to rehash their speculation until President Obama strode to the mic and spoke to us. As a nation, as a single family, as a country.

Tonight, just as in that dark morning when I was woken up by my college roommate yelling at me to turn on the TV because planes were being flown into buildings. I will remember this night for many years to come. I will remember nearly falling asleep. Laying in bed, watching Daria and randomly checking Twitter. Seeing the news, I jolted awake and wide-eyed even at this late hour. Even now, it is 12:40 in the morning and CNN is showing the President’s words again and I can’t help but sit up, take notice, and listen intently once more.

He reminded us we are not at war with Islam. We are not at war with a religion. We are at war with those who acted against us in violence and murderous intent. I could not be prouder of our President on this night with his reasoned, level-headed words. His speech writers are brilliant and write as well as Obama speaks.

I just found out that Obama wrote the speech he gave tonight. This adds even more power and brilliance to his words.

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/Adam_Jacobi/status/64902732523376641″]

The High Cost of War

As I watch students, tourists and local residents fill the streets of Pennsylvania Avenue and the similar gatherings in New York City at Ground Zero and Times Square I can’t help but think is this really called for? I am as happy as the next guy that someone who planned such terror against human beings all over the world is gone.

A little perspective from GreaterThanLapsed,

About 20,000 deaths have been US military and civilians (less than 6,000 military, and around 15,000 civilians).

Around 1 million deaths in Iraq, with a minimum of 62,570 civilians killed.

Tens of thousands of deaths in Afghanistan, again with high civilian casualties.

Just to make sure people have a bit of perspective on exactly what it is that we have done in the name of “fighting the terrorists.”

We have paid a very high human price to fight this war. Locating and killing Osama bin Laden is a victory in a battle but the larger war still rages on. Surely we have cut off a major head of the hydra but just as there were evil men before bin Laden, there will be many more to come after him.

Backlash and fallout

Tonight, we are seeing all the news outlets showing the celebrations around the country. However, I worry about what’s going to happen in the long run. Surely those members of Al Qaeda and other terrorists groups are not going to sit back and say, “Well, you got us. Good show. We’re done now.” There are going to be more attacks. In light of the events tonight, there is going to be a reaction to this action.

As much happiness as there is in the air tonight, I am reserving my cheers for another day, a week a month. I don’t want our American arrogance to get us right back into the cross hairs of another terrible attack. We were only hit once. Even if our country at home remains safe, there are still military bases and troops abroad. There are embassies in countless countries. There are Americans living abroad, students studying abroad and American tourists. There are many targets for attacks of terror. That is, after all, the point of terror.

Terrorism is meant to inspire fear and hurt both in the flesh and in the minds of those targeted. Even if there are no further attacks directly following the killing of bin Laden, there may be more things to come. Fighting against terrorism is not a one and done fight. It is and will remain an ongoing struggle.

Jeffrey Goldberg raises a good point:

One more thought: Television-based analysts are already asking if the killing of Bin Laden will provoke revenge attacks by al Qaeda. Is there a stupider question in the world? The implication, of course, is that now, al Qaeda will truly be pissed off at the U.S. Unlike in 2001, when al Qaeda was only marginally angry at the U.S.

Strong on Terror

Throughout President Obama’s speech he reiterated it was his choice. It was hit call to make the hit. It was his decision and his action. The President has been criticized for not being strong on terror or the war. He made it very clear this was his decision and his action as the Commander-In-Chief.

President Obama made no mistake tonight this was his call to make. Sure, he did not actually drop from the helicopter to raid the compound and make the shot. No president does.

Tonight is Obama’s moment in the sun. Tonight Obama got to stand proud and tall and tell us he was successful in locating bin Laden. He was able to locate and eliminate him as a threat to humanity.

As much as I try to remain non-political, this has already been flung into the political ring. If the election season hasn’t started in earnest yet, I believe it has tonight. Obama has just silenced many of his critics (at least the ones that operate with any common sense).

Politics

President Obama is our president. He is a politician. This is a political issue and will reflect very, very positively on him come election time next year. Just as Donald Trump congratulated himself for dredging up Obama’s birth certificate, Obama struck a death-blow to the nay sayers with the announcement that the Armed Forces, under him accomplished what Bush could not. Say what you will about how Obama’s role is a relatively minor one. However, if Bush had accomplished this he’d be patting himself on the back for weeks to come.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how Fox news played the role they always do with a “typo” saying Obama had been killed. Yes, many news organizations throughout the night made the slip in speech or in text. Even as my wife and I discussed the events, we made the same slip. It is a simple verbal slip that’s easy enough to do which is why I give those who made the verbal gaffe more slack than the textual ones. B and S are not that close on the keyboard.

Now, in the light of day following the announcement, the real political spinning will commence.

How do I feel?

I am still wrestling with that question. On one hand, I feel there is a sense of closure to 9/11 that may offer some modicum of solace for the families of the victims.

However, as one survivor put it,

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/palafo/status/64917182995378176″]

There is no closure here. The addition of one more body does not bring back anyone who died on the ground or in the air on that day. It does not replace the missing mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, friend, co-worker, or neighbor. It does not replace the loss in our lives and our hearts.

Was this justice? Perhaps. Was it revenge? Most certainly. Do I think bin Laden got what he deserved? No, a shot to the head is a quick death. I would have preferred a trial. A sentence. Something where he could have felt an iota of the suffering he’s caused so many. I am not calling for an eye for an eye. As Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” I do not wish blindness upon us all. I do wish there was some level of justice which could have been brought upon him that wasn’t a bullet. Suicide by cop taken to the next level.

I cannot cheer at this news. I giggled at the many jokes made last night on Twitter and made a few of my own. I was caught up on the collective moment as those around me in person and online. However, I could not cheer. I could not whoop and take to the streets. My wife and I sat in our beds, laptops in laps following the news as it was announced, waiting for the President to speak.

The moment he became visible we closed the lids and listened, speechless and wide-eyed. We wanted to take in every moment of his controlled and passionate speech.

From the spontaneous celebration in front of the White House last night and the worldwide reactions I’ve seen this morning reported from various places. I have to wonder how much of this was really worth it. We’ve given up so much in terms of freedoms and rights. We remove our shoes when flying. Liquids are now controlled substances in the air. Yet, we’ve done nothing to increase the safety of our train and subway systems.

I am sure threats were stopped before we, the people, even knew of them because that’s how it should be. The degree of security theater versus real security has to be questioned. If this is what winning feels like, the death of thousands of troops abroad, the revocation of personal freedoms at home, the trillions of dollars spent to fund the multiple wars started in the aftermath of 9/11. Have they done more harm than good? Are we any safer than we were nearly a decade ago?

I see people pointing to the lack of another attack on American soil as a resounding Yes We Are! But I’m not so sure. Is another attack even warranted? We are fighting terrorists. Their goal is terror. We sure had a frightened president for 8 years. We’ve been fed a continuous meal of fear for the past decade.

Is a Pyrrhic victory just as good as any other?

Curated Lists

I have a Facebook list, a Twitter list, a Tumblr list. I used to have a well-manicured LiveJournal list and to date myself and at the risk of geek cred, back in the early 00’s I had a Xanga list. All of these lists contribute to the information I get. They’re the structure I’ve built to keep in touch with friends and to follow the writings and art of interesting people. But most importantly, they are how I consume data. These trusted advisors to my news gathering are my information network.

I don’t watch traditional news anymore. I haven’t in years. Probably since I was required to when I was an Advertising student in college. I hate the news. Most of what is on reported is spun and unpleasant. I don’t care who died in a shooting today or a car bombing. I don’t care what the Republicans and Democrats did or didn’t do. Most of these things have absolutely no bearing on my life, daily or in the bigger scheme of things.

In Richmond, the nightly news contained murders. Lots and lots of murders. No longer atop the United States’ list of deadliest cities, at last count it was still in the top 10. Do I need to know who got shot today? I don’t. I know it matters to someone somewhere. But in my life, it does not matter to me.

What if something big and important happens? Then I’ll find out about it through my lists. I found out about Princess Diana’s death via someone randomly popping into the chatroom I was in and announcing it. I first saw the 9/11 attacks via instant message, then a roommate pounding at my bedroom door. I don’t need the talking heads of our national and local news networks to tell me these things. If it’s important enough to warrant my attention, someone else from my lists will bring it to me.

May: 31 Days of Words

May.

In the coming month, I am going to branch out a bit from purely technical issues. I am still wrestling with how much of myself I want on this blog and how much might be better served elsewhere. However, until I figure that out and make a decision you are stuck with me. All of me. The techy me. The emotional me. The Full Carl Experience.

I settled on the name Tech in the Trenches as a name for this site for two reasons. The first was that I am that tech in the trenches of IT Support day in and day out and I wanted to share my experiences, finds, workarounds and information I’ve come across and consider useful to my job. The second meaning is that I am the tech and my life is the trenches.

For the month of May, I am going to post something new everyday. It may be completely brand new and typed by me that day or it might be an older post from my old blog.

I decided I did not want to move over everything from my old space into this one. Instead I am hand-picking an reposting and in some cases updating the more interesting and still relevant items.

So for the month of May, it is my goal to have something new up on this site every, single day. Starting tomorrow morning, there will be something inside your RSS feed that will either enlighten, inform or entertain you.

It may be about technology. It may be about my life. It could be any number of things. I hope you like what you see and stick around to see where the month takes us.

Thank you for taking the time to read my humble words and take an interest in what I am doing.

Enjoy May!