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!

Thinking about technology investments

From the New York Post this morning, check out this story “A Lot Changes in Tech Over Four Years and 1,000 Blog Posts“.

It got me thinking about things.

According to the dashboard for this blog, I’ve made 4,255 posts.  The very first one goes back to January 8, 2008 and was titled “Blogging on First Class“.  It was an encouragement for people to look at FirstClass’ new blogging platform.

The post was actually the second written for this blog – the first one was “I hope this works” and was written just to test WordPress to see if it would do the trick.  While I really hoped that people would use FirstClass for blogging, I needed to test out WordPress.  It turned out to be a better blogging platform.  More importantly, the writing of my first few posts was quite funny.  It was almost infantile which I guess describes my blogging efforts back then.

Anyway, a lot has changed over the course of four years as noted in Bilton’s blog post.  He notes that the iPad wasn’t around then.  Yet, it’s so popular and universally present these days.

It really is the change over the course of four years that is of concern to me.  Four years ago, I bought a computer and, with fingers crossed, assured my wife that this is the last computer I’ll ever need.  It had an i7 processor with 8 cores, 4MB of RAM and a fairly substantial hard drive.  Admittedly, it can run just about anything that I want.  It was, as promised, a laptop that’s a desktop replacement and that’s basically where it’s used today.  Dual booting, I can run Windows 7 and Ubuntu and if you’ve been reading, it’s typically running Ubuntu.

Indeed a lot has changed in four years.  I think of the power and the storage on the machine and it’s a sad commentary that they really aren’t as important to my regular use these days as it was four years ago.

Four years ago, I needed a computer and software to do the word processing and spreadsheet documents (among other things) that I had on a regular basis.  Quite frankly, I can’t remember the last time I opened LibreOffice to do any such work.  In fact, as I type this blog entry, I’ve got a notification that there’s an upgrade to the LibreOffice program.  Four years ago, I would rush to get the upgrade.  Now, I use my Google Apps on the web to handle these things.  Google takes care of the upgrades for me.

Post Christmas, every store that I ever bought anything online is pummeling my mailbox with notifications of great bargains and deals.  I look and don’t feel the need to even wish and dream.  After all, I spend my days in a browser.  As I write this, I’m in one tab with a bunch of others open.

I’d be hard pressed to come up with any plausible reason to go computer shopping tomorrow.

In fact, the more I try to think this through, do I really need something as powerful (expensive) for the future?

How about schools?

I know many school districts are experimenting with Chromebooks and some with Surfaces.  From where I’m sitting, and for my particular use, it seems like a very smart (and affordable) solution.


Screen Capture on Chromebook

I was inspired to do some investigation based on a story I read yesterday about screen capture software.  The original article was called “Collection Of Free Screen Capture Tools And Techniques“.  After my post, @pbeens noted that his favourite app, Greenshot, wasn’t listed.  I hadn’t heard of it so decided to check it out.  Interesting.

I know, myself, I use a variety of tools depending upon the computer I’m using.  It’s a funny thing, you get used to a particular utility and it just becomes part of your routine.  Without screen captures, this blogger would be in trouble.  I’m not an artist so making something online and then capturing it is a pretty common activity around here.  Consider the image I included yesterday, created by CloudArt, as exhibit A!

If it wasn’t for Jing, I don’t know how I would have done!

So, as you poke around, there are all kinds of ways to do the deed in Windows, Macintosh, and Linux but then I started to wonder about those who use Chromebooks.

After all, you’re using a different sort of tool.

I’ve read of people installing Ubuntu  on a Chromebook but that’s for the uber geeky.  There are many districts that are experimenting or planning on an implementation of Chromebooks.  What will they do?

After all, there’s no better way to demonstrate understanding of something than to take an image and use it or take an image, write on it, and then share.  Since the last tool I had used was Jing, I wonder if there was a Chromebook version.  Nope.  Just Macintosh and Windows.

Maybe this will be a checkmark for the nay sayers.

I actually had forgotten about it and moved on to doing something else.  As it would happen, I ended up in the Google Chrome store looking for an extension and thought I would poke around.

Then I found it.

Techsmith has released a solution!  It’s called Snagit for Google Chrome.  They understand where the target audience is too.  The Techsmith page is specifically targeted for Chromebooks and Education.  But that didn’t stop me from downloading and testing it in my Google Chrome browser.

You need to download both the Chrome Application and the Chrome Extension, and when you’re done, a new button becomes immediately available for you.

If you’re a Jing user, clicking the button launches a familiar environment.

Define the area that’s going to be part of your work with the extension and then the application kick in.

Your captured area pops into the Snagit editor and you’re ready to start documenting.

As you can see, you’ve got your arrows, your text, your circles and boxes and the option to change colour as you do your work.

Where did it go?

Don’t forget, you’re using a Chromebook!  It should come as no surprise that Techsmith has a folder for you in your Google Drive.

All of your screen captures end up there.  Once there, it’s just like any other document for editing, inclusion in other projects, Dropboxing, etc.

If you’re using Chromebooks, you’ve got to check this out.  It may be the answer to a question that’s been puzzling you!  You’ll also be an early adopter … according to the stats from the Google Chrome Webstore, there were less than 10,000 users as I write this.


Testing Chrome Remote Desktop

I love it when “Dancing with the Stars” comes on.  It means that I can retreat to the Peterson experimental lab for at least an hour of uninterrupted messing about.  Last night, I messed about with Chrome Remote Desktop Beta.  This extension appeared over the weekend and I’ve been chomping at the bit to play around with it.  It needs the ability to have a couple of computers up and connected to a network and the ability to see a couple of screens at once.  So, the lab was hard at it where from the experimental chair I had my netbook running Ubuntu and my Windows 7 machine ready with Chrome loaded and the extension running.  My Macbook Pro wasn’t part of the serious testing or the blogging because it crashed again on me so was in my computer doghouse.

Ontario Educators have the luxury of the Ministry licensed NetSupport School application that can be installed on any school computer network.  It has some terrific features like the ability to power on/ power off entire clusters of computers, monitor computer screens, have a student screen displayed by the teacher on a data projector for the class to see, lock down any websites you don’t want students accessing, and so much more.  It’s terrific as a tool for classroom management but it’s real education value comes from remote access to assist a student or to have a student screen shared with the entire class.

Its limitation is that it will only run under Windows.  That’s not a bad problem to deal with but in a classroom where there’s more than Windows computers, like in a Bring Your Own Technology classroom with students bringing in their own laptop or netbooks, it just isn’t feasible.  What happens should you end up with Chromebooks in the classroom?  If we’re talking about moving so much to the web, could an alternative solution that lives in the browser be viable?

It was with this mindset that I set about looking at the Remote Desktop program.  It’s a 20MB download that plugs into your Google Chrome browser.  So, I installed it Ubuntu, Windows, and OS X.  You fire the application up on the host and press the button to “Share This Computer” (1).



This process generates an access code.  After all, you don’t want just anyone connecting to your computer.


Walk over to the computer that will be accessing that computer, fire up the application and elect to access a shared computer (2).  You’ll have to enter the access code on THAT computer to grant access and you’re good to go.  On the second computer, you’ll see the screen of the first computer.  With that mouse or trackpad, you control the first computer.  Dizzy yet?  I’m here in the lab and I should be watching the one computer but there’s something compelling about being on the second computer at the control. 


Here, you can see the Ubuntu desktop (1024×578) displaying the desktop of my Windows computer.  Just for effect, I’ve used the resize utility and so the Windows desktop (1600×900) is squeezed a bit to fit.  But, it does a nice enough job.  In reality, you’re more likely to leave the resolution as is and just do a bit of scrolling.  Or, ideally, have both screens the same resolution or some other combination that makes sense for you.


Here is a uncompressed view of my Seesmic Desktop at the time.  It was quite readable in the original resolution.  (This image is shrunk to fit into the blog constraints).

However, I was able to use my netbook to start this blog post on my Windows computer using LiveWriter.  I was able to access the start menu and run a number of different Windows applications and view them on my Ubuntu netbook screen.  I was able to move and resize windows, use the right mouse button on the netbook to activate that function on the laptop, type text, and do many of the things that I wanted to do.  In a classroom, I could then conceivably access another machine and display content for a class on a data projector.  All of this in the browser on different operating systems.

At times, there was a bit of a lag between the time that I typed on the one computer and it appeared on the other but it was in no way a show stopper.

For an initial beta of the software, I was nicely impressed.  I could see this being a workable solution in a scenario where you have a mixture of computers or operating systems but the constant  for them all being the Chrome browser.  I like it – the promise is that this is the first release.  Who knows what more is on the way?  If Chromebooks are going to be functional in a classroom, the developers can learn by looking at existing products and seeing if those features will work in a browser operating system.