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.

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?

Chrome OS shortcuts

If you were to look in on me at 5:00 daily, you’d find me sitting in my chair in the rec room watching news on the television with my Chromebook on my lap. As I’m watching the morning news, I’m also reading the latest news on my Chromebook and I do share them to my timeline. I’ve often thought that if someone was tracking me, they’d give up because I like to think I have a random bunch of reading topics.

Since I’m sitting in a chair, using a mouse is out of the question so using shortcuts is what keeps me productive. The nice thing about the Chromebook is that most of the key placement is the same as Windows so new learning really wasn’t necessary to get started.

There are a couple of noticeable differences through. There is no Windows key. Or Apple Key. Instead, there are wider CTRL and ALT keys when makes shortcuts so easy to work with. A complete list of shortcuts can be found here.

Like Windows, these are my most frequent shortcuts.

  • CTRL+A – Select All
  • CTRL+B – Bold
  • CTRL+C – Copy
  • CTRL+F – Find
  • CTRL+V – Paste and the variation CTRL+SHIFT+V
  • CTRL+Z – Undo
  • ALT-TAB – Switch between programs which has a whole new meaning when you’re using Edge as a browser

It’s when you go to ALT-TAB that you realize that there is Google branding. Where every keyboard I’ve ever used has a CAPS LOCK key, the Chromebook has just a search looking button. And, when you think Google, you think search. Tapping it brings up a list of shortcuts and the ability to search the computer for what you’re looking for. It’s such a nice feature.

Back to ALT-TAB, it does what every computer does and shuffles through open applications but the Chromebook is just a little more unique. It supports Android and Linux applications and you can shuffle through them as well. This little machines supports multiple operating system!

On every other computer I’ve ever used, above the number keys is a row of Function Keys. Not so on the Chromebook. It’s actually got a collection of functions that you’d actually use. Like going full screen, audio controls, brightness controls, refresh, and forward/backware. Probably the most used feature though is CTRL-SHIFT-SCREENSHOT which lets me capture part of the screen. For a blogger, that’s invaluable.

Critics of the Chromebook will tell you that it’s just a browser and, around here, it’s probably used that way 100% of the time. But like any browser, I can install Privacy Badger, uBlock Origin, and Cooke AutoDelete to keep the “operating system”/”browser” on task.

I started this series of posts focused on productivity and the notion of shortcuts really does enable increased productivity. With three operating systems, there are the core shortcuts but then those that are unique. If nothing else, it keeps me thinking about things and that’s always a good thing.

A rainy day project

This seems silly to title a post in the middle of winter but our storm last week started with a great deal of rain before the snow hit. The plan was to hunker down for a day to let the storm hit and then dig out.

So, planning to hunker it was.

I had been reading a number of posts from people who were turning old computers into Chromebooks using Neverware’s CloudReady operating system. Now, I’ve got this beautiful computer that I bought in 2010. It’s a Sony Vaio and it was yet another one of the “last ever” computers that I would buy. It had an i7 processor, 500GB hard drive, 4GB of RAM, every port that you could ever think a computer would ever have a use for. It came with Windows 7 and it was a screamer. Those who go back to that time will appreciate that it was my go-to computer for doing presentations. It’s not a light machine but I had a rolling computer bag so it wasn’t a big deal. At the time of purchase, Sony had this promotion where they would engrave your name into the screen frame which sounded great at the time but makes it a bit awkward to recycle to others!

I went to the Neverware site and the only thing I needed to make this happen was an 8GB USB key. I don’t know about you but I’ve always hoarded these things. So, I had no doubt that I’d have one. I have a bag of them and went through – 1GB, 2GB, 4GB, some memories of conferences where I actually got them but no 8GB USB key. I looked out the window and it hadn’t started to rain yet so I quickly decided to go into town to Walmart and buy one. If they had one.

It’s been a while since I’d bought a USB key. There was nothing less than 8GB that I could see. There were some with massive storage amounts. The “cloud” has made me miss a whole technology getting bigger! After my purchase and a $1 Mcdonald’s coffee, I was ready to go. Now, I had checked the list of Neverware’s verified machines and, unfortunately, mine wasn’t one of them. But, the message, in this case, was to just try it and chances are that it would work. The installation procedure was easy enough. I had the power sitting on my key.

Now, I had configured the computer to dual boot – Windows 10 and Linux Mint. It was the Windows 10, upgraded from Windows 7, that was the inspiration for this project. It was so slow as to be unusable. This had really just been a Mint machine for me. So, I was hoping that I could just replace the Windows partition. I booted with the key in one of the three USB ports and quickly there I was in Chrome OS, using the Chrome browser. I kicked the tires and all seemed to be good so I instructed it to put the OS on the hard drive.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t an option to put it on a particular partition. That really wasn’t a show stopper; I figure that I could install it and then create and install a Linux Mint partition later if I wanted. Go!

All seemed to be going well and I was doing something else at the time. After a while, I heard a “snap”. That snapped my head up to see the computer now with a black screen. That seemed like an odd way for an installation to finish. I rebooted without the key and sadly got a “No OS” warning. Perhaps there was something that I had missed so I redid the process, paying attention this time. There wasn’t anything for me to do that I had missed out and the snap happened again. Maybe the third time would be a charm. Snap.

What to do now? I had a computer with no operating system.

I was going to grab a Linux Mint installer and then remembered why I went down this road in the first place. I wanted to make a Chromebook out of it.

I went looking for the “lightest” version of Linux I could find. I had an idea but this article confirmed it. I wanted something that would be a derivative of Ubuntu so that it would be well supported. I’ll admit that I was leaning towards Lubuntu and the article basically confirmed it. Besides; one of the earlier releases was nicknamed “Bionic Beaver”. That was a message for those who can remember the Icon computer!

I know that the “minimum” standards are basically there to get it to boot. 4GB of RAM for Windows just makes it start. You need more to actually do something. With Lubuntu only needing 1GB, I should have more than enough!

The last time I’d done a fresh installation of Linux, I had done it from CD or DVD. You don’t find those on new computers these days but my Vaio had one. All I needed was to burn myself media to do it. Again, I found myself behind the times. As I poked around, I learned that the world had changed for the best. There’s a whole new world of installers for the ISO file that do it right from the USB key – Rufus, LinuxLive, Universal USB Installer – I went with the last one called fondly UUI.

Now, in a perfect world, I would try out Lubuntu live from the USB key before clobbering the data on my computer. But, I’ve already done the clobbering part so I went straight to the install and it worked incredibly quickly. No snapping this time and all looked good. A reboot without the USB key in place and my computer was ready to configure Lubuntu and let me log in. Voila! There I was.

Now, I had the intention of making this a Chromebook but Lubuntu comes with Firefox. I started that and, once I gave my wifi password, I was good to go. Of course, me being me, I was happy but what else came with the installer. LibreOffice, VLC, the classics and then a few other specific things I resisted the urge to play around and just checked out the internet. I needed my Password Manager so that I could actually log into my favourite websites and an ad blocker but those were just momentary hiccups.

I’m constantly amazed with all the Linux that I’ve installed how they recognize all the components. Even my trackpad worked right out of the box. It was kind of neat to use a trackpad with two actual buttons again. As I write this post on my new Firefoxbook (is that a thing?) I realize that I’m where I wanted to be when I started this project.

It was a very successful day. Maybe this truly could be the last ever computer. Who knows? I look forward to playing around and seeing what this combination is capable of.

It might have been disastrous

Well, my crystal ball was pretty accurate with respect to yesterday’s post although I really can’t claim a deep dive for my insights. That’s the nice thing about blogging; you can sit down and write about anything because you only need to be true to yourself. I like the ability to sit down and write to get ideas out of my mind knowing that I can always revisit a post instead of having it festering around in my mind. (I just looked up festering to make sure I was using it correctly, and sadly I was.)

Starting today, schools return to full time academics, albeit online.

Wait, what?

Stephen Hurley and I will be chatting later this morning and one of the topics that I’m going to throw at him is the 2022 list of Banished Words from Lake Superior State University. I took a look at this year’s list and went back to see the 2021 list, smiling all the way. I guess I was sort of pleased to see some of the words there. If only the news and regular conversation would banish them as well to take them out of our regular conversation.

From 2022, here are a couple of their suggestions

  • New normal
  • You’re on mute

and 2021

  • COVID-19 (COVID, coronavirus, rona)
  • Pivot
  • Social Distancing
  • We’re all in this together

Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could get rid of all six of these. There are other great suggestions as well so click through and check them out.

It was the very last one that really bothered me. All that you have to do is turn on the news to know that we really aren’t. Anne Jarvis wrote a nice piece in yesterday’s Windsor Star kicking that one to the curb. Who doesn’t feel like you’re on your own these days?

So, starting today, the new normal will be a pivot back to online teaching and learning because of COVID-19. At least, for two weeks anyway.

This news report from Blackburn News indicates that the two big local school districts weren’t prepared to open schools for student today anyway. The promised heavier duty masks for students and N95 mask for teachers haven’t arrived yet. Even though the plan, before the break, was to have kids take home Chromebooks for the holidays, it looks like that wasn’t complete.

Byrne said principals are assessing current technology requests and equipment will be handed out by Wednesday if possible.

With the closure of libraries and coffee shops, I worry for those without signicant internet access at home. It’s going to be cold sitting outside on benches just for the internet access. But, at the end of the day, you have to do what you have to do.

I don’t think that anyone is looking forward to the new two weeks thinking it’s going to be the ultimate solution. It seems to me that it would be better than having students and teachers returning to a less than ideal environment. I truly hope that the masks that end up being used are of the highest quality.

Given my former life as a computer science teacher and later as computer consultant for the district where I like to think that I tried to get technology used in innovative and interesting ways, it pains me to think that they’re now just a window into a classroom looking at a teacher and classmates trying to make the best of things.

I know, right?

That being said, I hope that none of the readers of this post have to tell their class “You’re on mute”.

Stay safe.

Thanks to Lake Superior State University. With their help, this post just kind of wrote itself. I challenge you to look at their lists and use at least one of their suggestions in a reply.

That being said, just forget it and never use it again!