A whirlwind of operating systems


We all knew that it was coming. Microsoft has officially stopped selling its Windows 10 Operating system.

Microsoft Stopped Selling Windows 10, But You Can Find It Elsewhere

My home office, such that it is, is mostly powered by a computer that came with Windows 10 pre-installed. I honestly never really felt that human-computer connection with Windows 10 and the machine became more of a business function. When Windows 11 came along, I jumped and it became a fun computer again. My only complaint is that I don’t use the Edge browser much and yet Microsoft somehow finds loopholes that make it launch in response to particular actions.

I have an older computer that came with Window 7 installed. For me, it was the perfect example of how you should never buy a computer with minimum specifications. It had a very powerful Intel i7 processor but only 4GB of RAM. It never ran Windows 7 all that efficiently. I had to learn to be patient and, if you know me, you know that I’m not a patient person.

Eventually, it became an experimental computer and it has had a number of different operating systems installed on it. They were from the Linux side of the house – Ubuntu, Lubuntu, and Linux Mint were the most recent distributions that got installed.

No matter what I did, it struggled with only having that 4GB at times. If I was just browsing the web, there was no problem at all..

Today, it was kind of cold outside; just the type of day to do some playing around. As I really thought about it, I really do everything in a browser anyway. It was time to play around with an operating system that was just a browser – and I’d read all kinds of things about it – ChromeOS Flex.

Like most operating systems, the instructions to download and install are pretty straight forward – download the installer to an external USB key, boot with the key in it and install the operating system, and away you go. Google even make it simple by providing a browser extension that makes things easy.

I wish that I could say that things went smoothly but I can’t.

I downloaded the installation file four times and each time, the verification of the installation image failed. I was going to give up when I thought of an alternative. Instead of installing the Stable version of Chrome OS Flex, my next download was the Developer version. After all, this was just going to be something to play around with.

This time, things went smoothly. Installation was quick and efficient and when it was installed, all the extensions and settings from my actual Chromebook synched nicely.

I’ve been using my new ChromeOS Flex computer all afternoon and I’m quite impressed with the results. So, this Windows 7 box which was upgraded and then moved to various versions of Linux is now running ChromeOS Flex.

I know that I’m fickle with these things but it is looking good.

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Little things


This morning, I was reading the blog posts for the This Week in Ontario Edublogs, watching the morning news, and eating breakfast when I got a notification on this Chromebook that there was an update. I’m on the Beta Channel and Google wanted me to upgrade to version 104.0.5112.23. https://www.googblogs.com/category/google-chrome-releases/

What the heck? It only takes a minute or two and it’s nice to be running the latest and greatest. If there are bugs to be fixed, this is the place to go! If there are new features to be had, I want them. They call it being on the bleeding edge.

Now, having said all that, usually I don’t get to use the updates right away. Often, they’re a feature or a problem that I didn’t know I needed.

Upon rebooting, I noticed that things looked a bit different. It took me a minute or two but finally I noticed it. It was another icon on my shelf.

29? 29 what?

This was pre-coffee so excuse me for being a bit slow.

Today is June 29. Did they just add a calendar there? I’ve always had a bookmarked shortcut for that. A click revealed that, sure enough, there was a calendar!

Now, don’t be too excited about all the dots. I do have a regular Wednesday ahead.

The little flyout is a bit less intrusive than having the calendar open in an application or in another tab. So, that’s good.

The release notes indicated that there’s easier access to settings and a screen saver. I don’t really have a need for a screen saver but I set one anyway.

The “What’s New” isn’t updated as I write this so I don’t know what else I might just have acquired. Time will tell.

Or exploration.

Lacros


As a result of the latest Google announcements, there has been a lot of talk about the Lacros browser. It’s freely available to test so, if you know me, I was all over it. After all, you can’t have too many browsers on your computer! In this case, it’s on the Chromebook.

This is interesting reading – Lacros

Since its beginning with Chromebooks, basically what you saw was the Chrome browser as the interface that let you do everything. Chromebooks have matured over the years and now you can run Linux and Android applications which open up a lot of options for software, particularly browsers. On mine, I do have Opera, Firefox, and Vivaldi Android versions installed and they work fine, if you want to work like you’re on a phone.

At one point, I had installed Firefox on Linux and played around with it. As with the Android applications, it was pokey. Functional, but pokey. There was nothing that actually ran on the ChromeOS. Until I read about Lacros, that is. If you read the link above, you’ll know that the master plan is to uncouple the Chrome browser from the ChromeOS and Lacros will be the answer. Ultimately, I suspect, it will be renamed Chrome and the old Chrome will go away.

Right now, you can install and have both on your Chromebook. It’s kind of cool to have both icons stuck to my shelf.

These are the flags that I used to make it happen.

Just like ChromeOS, there are different channels that you could choose – Stable, Beta, Dev, and Canary, Since it’s all in the testing anyway, I went with Stable.

After setting those flags, I had to restart the computer and ended up with Lacros on the shelf. I started it; and all the extensions that I use had to be logged in again as the web applications like Twitter, Flipboard, etc. Interestingly, Lacros stole all the extensions from Chrome so I now have them all there and nothing if I load the Chrome browser.

I made the switch to Lacros as my default browser on my Chromebook and it works nicely. The theme and all the settings from Chrome came over nicely. Most everything works nicely.

One of the things that I use on Facebook throws an error…

I would have thought that message was reserved for Internet Explorer. The other issue that I’ve noticed so far is that screen redraws are considerably slower than in the Chrome browser.

The version number is the same as the version of Chrome that I use but interestingly, it indicates that an update is available but it doesn’t actually update.

There is a qualifier than it’s “Experimental (alpha-quality)” so I’m sure that will change at some point. You have to smile just a bit at the name of the browser; it’s not called Lacros but is labelled Google Chrome. So, it’s a hint of things to come.

It was fun to play around with something that will be coming sooner or later when it’s deemed to be ready for prime time.

Are you interested enough to try?

It’s fixed


If you’re a follower of mine, you know that I’ve been complaining and unhappy about one thing in my Chromebook. In Twitter, during replies or looking at my private messages, the text has been pixelated for quite some time.

I wrote about it in one of my Sunday summary posts.


Technology Troubleshooting

I have this issue with Twitter on my Chromebook. For the most part, things are working well but there’s a problem with the text being pixelated in the overlay windows. Replies, Messages.

It doesn’t hurt the functionality but it is annoying. I’ve tried everything I can think of; the best suggestion, it seemed, was to turn off hardware acceleration. That didn’t work. I can run Opera or Vivaldi on the Android side and it works fine.

I thought that maybe it was an extension that was interfering but I’ve tried Chrome with no extensions with no success.

My solution is one of:

suck it up
magnify the screen size to 150% and the problem goes away
Neither are really attractive and so I continue to search for a solution.


It was tough talk, I know, but it still bugged me every time I used it. I bounced between blaming Twitter and Chrome and found that if you’re looking for anything negative about either, you can easily find it. But not a solution for this problem.

Last night, I was curious as to why the Chromeos on my Chromebook hadn’t had that big security update that is making the news. On my other machines, there was an update to fix whatever the problem was but not on the Chromebook.

So, I thought that I would force an update. After checking and being assured by Chrome that I was up to date, I asked it to reboot and switch to the Beta Channel. It only took a couple of minutes and I think I probably forgot why I did this until I went in to reply to a Twitter message and the content was crystal clear. No pixelation at all! How about Messages? I popped up that menu and it was perfectly clear as well.

To be honest, I couldn’t believe my good fortune. This morning, I turned the computer off completely and rebooted and the fix remained. I read the release notes and it hadn’t been noteworthy enough to comment about. I sure wish I knew what they did but I’d so glad that they did what they did.

I’m one happy camper.

Some Chromebook dark things


One of the defaults on my Chromebook drove me crazy. Everything was so bright that it was almost painful to use in low light conditions, particularly in the evenings. For years, I’ve had Windows and Macintosh OS display things in dark mode. I just find it so much easier on the eyes.

A long time ago, the only option was to choose a dark theme to apply to the browser but it only applied to the browser. I wanted more.

I was happy when the same sort of functionality became available on the Chromebook. At this point, it’s a flag that’s accessible from chrome://flags and specifically the flag that is here.

Just go to the flags and search for “dark” and you’ll get there quicker.

It’s just a matter of changing “Default” to “Enabled”, rebooting the computer and navigating to the setting where you’ll find this toggle.

Tapping it immediately switches the menus, tabs, and shelf to show as dark. Tap it again in case you forgot how bright the default can be!

My choice, as you can see from the screen capture above, is to have the Dark theme turned on.

There is another setting that overrides remote defaults on webpages and makes them all dark as well with white and contrasting text.

To be honest, while I’ve tried this, I find it just TOO dark and Chrome makes some decisions about what the contrasting colours are. I prefer to leave it off.

The above looks like this…

When I think about it, I guess that it makes sense. Dark Mode is something that ChromeOS has total control and when you ask it to apply dark to other webpages, it just applies its own rules.

While I prefer dark where I can, I find it nicer to let the application adjust itself. For example, I like the fact that Twitter offers a couple of dark options in its configuration. The designers on the remote end will have done the heavy lifting and arranged things that make sense to them.

I like “Dim” instead of “Lights out”.

Who am I or the Chrome browser to override their design decisions?

I do tend to muck about with settings for things that I use regularly. I’ll admit that I’m kind of partial to a dark background except in the WordPress editor and display. I guess that I like the metaphor of screen display as a substitute for paper.

What are your thoughts about dark mode? Do you use it at all? Do you have a philosophy about what works better for you? I’m not a designer so, if you are, I’d be very interested in your insights.