The importance of being green

I didn’t realize until recently that I was having it bad.

Years ago, when we were contemplating buying cell phones for all of the administrators for the board, my boss got me a loaner to test the concept with me. He was seriously vested in the Apple world and so I ended up with an Apple Phone or iPhone or whatever it was called at the time.

It was seriously cool and also annoying at the time. It was cool in the fact that I could contact him any time and anywhere the urge hit. It was annoying in that he could reciprocate and, quite honestly, he was way worse than me. It was cool in that we had the same security credentials in every school and I could immediately be on the wifi network anywhere I went.

The geeky person in me was blown away with the fact that I could make phone calls anywhere I wanted but also that I could run computer programs on this handheld device. I thought that I had the world by the tail. This feeling lasted only so long, since as with all Apple products, they are great and functional as long as you lived in the Apple world. There came a time when I had to get my own phone and I wanted anything but an Apple phone. First of all, there was a pricing premium to be made and secondly, there was far more that I could do with an Android phone. I switched and have remained switched to this date.

It’s kind of neat when people look over my shoulder at my customization job and ask what kind of iPhone I have.

If you poke around, you’ll see that today, there really isn’t much of a price difference between phones. (Do we even need to call them smartphones these days?) Of course, nobody pays retail; there are always sales on and you can finance them through your phone plan. Or buying a second-hand phone is an option as well.

Recently, in tech news, there has been a real dustup about Apple’s iMessage which is a proprietary solution for chatting. The issue for many is that you get to use the green bubbles for your messages on your iPhone. A quicky tutorial can be found here.

Why are my iMessages green? Here’s the answer

Normally, I wouldn’t give a second thought to this except for the messages that we’re now concerned about with students being “green shamed”. This article from yesterday is interesting and shares some interesting insights.

Why iMessage is actually a failure

Until I got interested in this discussion, I didn’t realize that I was so hard done by. I had to just check my phone to see if I was using the Google or Samsung tool. I can’t remember the last time that I actually used it. I know that I’ve used both of them at one time and really didn’t have a preference for one over the other.

For the most part, people know better ways to connect with me. The family uses Facebook Messenger, a good friend uses Slack, and a lot of people reach out via Twitter. My phone is actually connected to a lot of things – my Windows computer, my Chromebook, and my watch. A quick tap on the watch sends a short message and the other computers have a keyboard that does a great job rather than swiping or voicing my way through a message.

But that’s just me. It is disconcerting that with all that is going on in the world these days, sending a message in a green bubble can be a way to kick somebody out of your clique. Of course, there are other things that iMessage can do like playing games, etc, but kids have their own uses and generally, it’s staying in touch with each other. You’ve got to love peer pressure and the FOMO.

Of course, the hackers among them will have found a way to turn the colour of messages to whatever they want to get a small part of the functionality but that’s not a solution for everyone.

It seems to me that Apple, if it is truly a good corporate citizen, should be on top of this and realize the distress that its decisions are making on others. It could be easily rectified and yet they’ve resisted releasing iMessage for Android to date.

I would suggest that they should reconsider this decision.

More television

You’ll recall that I was late to the streaming media phenomenon. For the longest of times, we had access only to the slowest of the slow and unreliable internet access. We were paying for 5GB and getting about 3GB, provided the weather was good. Television came by satellite and it had its issues as well. Rain or a thunderstorm, forget about using the internet.

So, I sat here in awe of people with their Netfixes and other streaming services. My collection of DVDs got a real workout.

It’s not like I’m a total television fanatic. I just like to have something on in the background while I’m doing some blogging or whatever other project I might have on the go.

Then, things changed. They pulled fibre down the road on brand new poles and we were in! In a heartbeat. The total bill for internet and television was actually cheaper this way and it was way more reliable and certainly faster. It allowed for an interesting feature on the television in the rec. It was a Samsung television and there were all these channels that we could, in theory, watch. With the new internet, we could! It was a nice perk for buying their product.

Like any television service, there are channels to like and channels that you might just skip over. But, they’re there.

Just recently, Samsung has made their lineup available to download and install on your device. So, I snagged a copy and was off. It is kind of handy for those times that I’m not in viewing distance of the television like I am right now.

At times, I feel like I’m really catching up on the streaming game. I’m not one to sit down and binge on movies but I do like to have news, in particular, on in the background and pay half attention to it. The app is downloadable from the Samsung app store here – or here from the Android store.

There’s also a media lesson here. The channels that are available depend upon your location.

It was interesting to compare the available channels – particularly the news channels.

Did I mention that it’s free?

Bizarre crashing

I’m like many people, I suspect. One of the first things that I’ll do when I get a new device is change the background image. There’s this built-in desire to make the device mine.

For some reason, a previous release of Ubuntu came with this background image.

It’s an image of a train station in Copenhagen. I’m not necessarily infatuated with trains or have a fondness of brown things. But taken all together and thinking about how important that mode of travel is, the image has become my current favourite.

I never thought that any image might cause problems with a device. But, recently, there’s been one image that is allegedly crashing Android smartphones when people use it. Many stories have appeared in my news feed warning against using this one image.

What’s so special about it?

I don’t know that anyone knows the one specific answer. But, today, this article takes a run at explaining it. Android: Why this photo is bricking some phones

If you visit the story, you can see just what the image in question looks like. As I look at it, there’s nothing that really stands out. I’ve seen similarly composed images that come with Macintosh upgrades. Ditto for images on the login screen for Windows 10.

And yet, this one image is causing the grief. The explanation in the article makes sense, I guess, but of all the smartphones and all the background images in use, it was this one that made the headlines.

I know that we’re advised daily to be safe when online. It’s still good advice. Don’t click links in email messages unless you are sure of the source.

Who would have thought that that logic now extends to background images? Maybe I’ll just stick with this one forever. It hasn’t crashed anything on me yet.

Virtual desks

I’ve been a longtime user of virtual desktops on my computers. It’s my way of trying to stay sort of organized and not get confused with what I’m doing. Or at least minimizing that confusion.

Up until now, virtual desktops weren’t available in Chrome OS but a recent release now makes it possible. Here’s how.

Enable it. It’s actually something that you need to make happen before the magic happens. It’s easy enough. By now, you should know that there are many things available in the chrome://flags screen when you type it in your address bar. Search for desks and enable them.

You’ll have to reboot your computer to make it active.

Show windows. I’m not quite sure what this key is actually called. You can use it to take screenshots and also to see all the windows that are open. It’s the key just above the 6 on your keyboard! Press it.

Create a new desk

In the top right, there’s a + New desk option that lets you add a new desk to your computer. A thumbnail of each desktop will appear centred on the screen. Above, you’ll see that I have three desks open.

Choose your desk

Once you have as many desks (up to 4) that you want, select the desk that you want to use and away you go. As you work, subsequent show windows actions will show you up to date thumbnails.

Alternatively, ALT+TAB will let you cycle through desks just like you would normally switch through windows. And, if you have content on one desk that you want on another, just drag and drop it where it’s needed.

Personally, I typically have three desks in operation. Two instances of Chrome – each isolated on a particular task, and an instance of Opera open. Periodically, I’ll open another desk to run another Android option if the urge comes.

Try it yourself

If you’re like me, you probably hear and read a lot about this.  “Chromebooks aren’t real computers”.

I always like to challenge back with a why?

The answers are typical – it doesn’t run Photoshop.  Or, I’m not always connected to the Internet.

So, I’ll add a reply to that – “When was the last time you used Photoshop?”  “Did you buy your current computer just because of Photoshop?” “If you could install a program on your Chromebook and could run it offline, would that change your perspective?”

Now, the misconception of a Chromebook’s capabilities undoubtedly stem back to the beginning when it really was a browser in a box needing an Internet connection.  It’s just that it’s come a long way since then but the Internet never forgets.  Neither do some of the silly people who still maintain that it’s just a browser.

In fact, the whole concept like the Chrome browser and Chromebook has come so far.  And, you’re not limited to just that; modern Chromebooks run Android and some are experimenting with Linux.

And yes, it’s not the product of universal choice in schools.  I’d be up in arms if someone indicated that a Computer Science or Drafting or Visual Arts program would be equally as served.  But, there are so many other areas where the Chromebook does a terrific job.

So terrific, in fact, that we’re now seeing that Microsoft is developing a version of Windows to put computers at the same price point.  That’s going to be interesting.

In the meantime, you owe it to yourself to get yourself up to speed.  To that end, you should check out the Chromebook Simulator in your current system.


Even if you are a Chromebook user, there’s always something new to learn.  Maybe a little time in the simulator will change the opinions of some or make others more sophisticated users!