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.

Chrome 100

Geeky me, I was waiting for this milestorm to drop. In a perfect world, this would have been time for big features to be added to the browser. This time, it wasn’t earth shattering but, with all the security warnings running around, it’s something that needs to be done.

The Chrome update came to Windows first and a few impatiently waiting days later, I was eligible for my Chromebook. I was starting to get worried that maybe it had aged to the point where Google wasn’t supporting it any long. Fortunately, it did land here and I got the update.

There were two things that had me really curious. With the revision moving to 100, the version now has three digits instead of two. There was lots of speculation that we might be in for another Y2K, this time websites checking for two digits instead of the now three. So far, it has been another non-issue for me.

There were a few other changes that were interesting to read about and probably have good features but didn’t reach out and grab me.

The big thing on the user end was that the Launcher was changing. Instead of a full screen coverup with all of the available applications launchable, it was to take on a more of a Windows pop up look. Quite honestly, that wasn’t going to be new for me since it’s been an experiment on my personal unit that I’ve turned on for a while.

Besides the smaller footprint and the ability to see what’s under the menu, picky people like me could right click in the open window and sort the icons by either colour or alphabetically. I went alphabetically which is the only option that made sense to me.

I turned off the experiment and did the reboot and was hoping that there was more to be enjoyed. I was quite surprised when it didn’t work. So, I did what any superstitious computer user would do – I shut the entire computer down. Maybe a harder reboot was needed. No go. I wasn’t a fan of the old launcher so I went in to the experiments and turn the new launcher again. Maybe my Chromebook wasn’t ready for that feature officially but it has always worked and it continues.

So, eventually, I got the update and I was happy that my Chromebook was still supported and I started to poke around. It’s working well, my blog is still available – what’s not to like?

How I sped up my Chromebook

A few years ago, it was time for me to delve into the world of Chromebooks. I didn’t want to get one of those really small ones but held out for one with a larger screen, the ability to have touch, and I went with the Acer Chromebook R13. It’s somewhat comforting to see that it’s still in Acer’s lineup. That’s not usually the luck that I have with technology.

It was meant to be something to experiment with and also something light enough that I could have it in my lap. And, it’s done the job.

When i first got the computer, it seemed lightning fast. It was actually kind of cool that Google and/Acer provide regular updates which gives one the comforting feeling that it’s well supported.

After a while, I started to notice that it was slowing down. I do a number of things to see if I could speed it up and really only had minimal success. I did a lot of reading and wondering. I know that traditional laptops perform better when plugged in but I saw no evidence that this works in the Chromebook world. It did, however, make the screen brighter.

Now, I will make some confessions here; I am one to often shoot myself in the foot as I experiment with this and that to see what would happen. I also noticed that there were three stages for updated capacity so I went with the middle (Beta) one and noticed a number of ongoing updates. I also added a bunch of extensions that would hopefully make it better and that kind of kept growing. I enabled Linux and installed Firefox on the Linux partition.

I still had a working computer but it was noticeably slow so I decided to start all over. One of the primary reasons that I had switched to the Beta Channel was to really use a dark interface. It has now become a flag that is available in the Stable Channel. With the rain on the weekend, I decided to give the Chromebook a fresh start, head back to Stable, and then judiciously add back extensions.

The Chromebook makes it so easy. Just do a Powerwash…

It was a little freaky when it rebooted and the instructions came up in French becaue I chose Canadian English as a language but high school French and no alternative made it easy.

Once booted into Stable Mode, I did a couple of quick things online and it was indeed much faster and also, boy, is the Internet ever filled with advertisements! My next challenge was actually logging in since I use a Password Manager to handle complicated passwords. That was the end of going Extension-less. I know that the common wisdom is that you should tay away from too many of these but they do add a certain functionality for me. But I’m going to be judicious in what I choose instead of chowing down and the all you can install Chrome store buffet.

I add…

  • uBlock Origin – my favourite ad blocker and it seems to do so efficiently
  • a password keeper – not going to tell you which one to maintain a bit of security
  • Diigo – my bookmark keeper
  • Privacy Badger – blocking those invisible trackers
  • Cookie AutoDelete – delete cookies when I leave a website except for a couple I whitelist
  • Shareaholic – my goto sharing utility for morning reads
  • ClearURLs – get rid of tracking element in a URL
  • Web of Trust – a little help to identify the good versus the bad
  • OneTab – great utility to tame runaway open tabs (and I’m going to be better about using it this time)

My extension are in the tool bar looks so bare now that it’s cleaned up to the bare minimum. One of the extensions that I used to have was HTTPS Everywhere which certainly was important for keeping websites on the straight and narrow. It’s now a setting in Chrome and so that’s pretty well made it redundant.

The final step was to go to the screen size setting and set it to Native Mode resolution 1920×1080. Of course, that made everything smaller so I went into the browser settings and upped the Zoom level a bit.

I have to really admit; my Chromebook really flies again. My biggest wonder at this point will be if I have the discipline not to go on an extension installing spree again! Speaking of which, are there extensions that I have overlooked and should go out and get?

Do you have any performance tips and tricks to speed up a Chromebook?

Issue resolved

I hate it when things don’t work the way that they’re supposed to on my computer. Other things too but this is about the computer.

Recently, I was banging my head against the wall with this one. For a long time, I’ve been using the OneTab extension. I love it. It takes all of the open tabs and sends them to a page in the browser and then closes them off. It’s very handy for a person like me that loves to have all kinds of tabs open “just in case” I need to go back to one of them. Or, I’m too lazy to close them. I blogged about my solution here. Saving things The neat thing is that it won’t do its thing on tabs that are pinned in place. So, I pin things like Twitter, this Blog, and a bunch of other things.

The new stuff opens in a regular tab and OneTab dispenses of them, leaving their trace, so nicely.

I’ve been playing around with grouped tabs since they were announced a while ago. This grouping is ok In the beginning, they were awkward and so I’d stop using them. Since the feature was adopted by so many browsers, I’d keep giving them a shot. After a while of going back and forth, I’ve decided to keep them in my workflow.

Then it happened.

I had my full workspace open, bouncing around doing what I do and accumulating tabs. I used OneTab to close them as per normal and everything went away. Had my browser crashed? Had OneTab crashed? I was pointing my fingers everywhere trying to find a solution.

I couldn’t find one so decided that it was just a quirk. I went back to restoring my tab groupings and continued to work.

At the end, I had a bunch of tabs open so I OneTabbed my browser and everything went away again. OK, it wasn’t a quirk. It was driving me crazy. It had worked so well in the past.

Then, I got a stroke of troubleshooting genius. I had “My Blog” group open and caught it.

Do you see it?

It took a while, a long while, for it to click in. In a previous strategy, those would all have been pinned tabs. But, with tab grouping, they were now just regular tabs. So, when I hit OneTab, it did exactly what it was supposed to do – it sent them all to the OneTab aggregator page. I could access them all from there.

I actually considered doing this. It is a neat and tidy way of doing things but it took an extra keystroke so lazy me figured there would have to be a better solution. Could I tell OneTab to ignore everything that was in a Group of tabs? Is there an option to OneTab that I had missed?

As it turns out, not directly but there was a way.

I was tempted with the “Send only this tab to OneTab” option but, quite obviously lazy Doug would never go through and do that to all the tabs that had been left open.

You’ll see from the checkmark what I decided to do. I expanded all the groups and when through and excluded each of them from OneTab. Then, once done. with a big breath, I opened just one more tab and whacked OneTab. My browser and OneTab worked as predicted. All the tabs that were part of groups were left alone and that singleton new tab collapsed as it should.

I could kick myself for not cluing in a little sooner but it wasn’t until I had actually thought through it carefully that I was able to resolve this. I’ll leave the process here in a post in case it’s helpful to anyone else.