Since I made a mistake and bought the wrong Chromebook (see part 2), I got to unbox and set up two different Chromebooks. This blog post compares the experience between the two along with differences from two years ago.
|Size of the box||12″ x 8″ x 2″(was in 14.5″ x 10″ x 3.5″ outer brown box (for shipping)||14″ x 10″ x 3″|
|Look of box||cute white container with a blue ribbon around it.||black box with handle and the phrase “Prepare for Incredible”|
|What inside box||
|What happened when I opened the lid||Nothing. I needed to press the power button as expected||The ChromeBook automatically started up. This caught me by surprise. It’s ok. I just wasn’t expecting it. When I shutdown/restart without shutting the lid, I have to push harder/hold down the button anyway.|
|Initial charging||The little light by the power plug was green for a few seconds and then turned yellow. Then the machine turned on. It was initially at 96% charge. It stayed green when fully charged though.||The instructions said to charge for 3 hours before first use. I thought that meant the battery shipped dead, but it was at 88%.|
|Initial version of OS (approximate age)||Version 31 – December 2013 (11 months old!)||Version 37 – August 2014|
|Initial time zone (before connecting to internet)||California (Mountain view)||Two hours east of me (which is the ocean) – odd|
|Default internet connection setting||Verizon||Wifi|
The first screen has me choose my language (English), keyboard (US) and internet connection. I could choose Verizon wireless or a wifi connection. I chose Verizon Wireless because I wanted to know what the plan options were. This was a mistake as it couldn’t connect to Verizon since I didn’t sign up for a contract in store. Looking at my notes from last time, I see that I was required to connect over wifi the first time as well.
Trying again, I chose my home wifi and WEP key. That worked. I was able to sign in using my google account (which uses two factor authentication) – the extra authentication prompt was seamless. I was worried it wouldn’t work since the computer thought it was some time ago. The date autocorrected when connecting on wifi though.
Then I got asked which image I want to represent me. This year, my Google Account avatar is a choice. Which means my mother will get to see my picture as an alternate user every time she signs on. (Two years ago, I could only pick a stock art image).
I was able to check my email as a quick test. Success! I did get the message “This version of Chrome is no longer supported. Please upgrade to a supported version”. The details say they support the current and latest version of Chrome. (Things work just fine with an older version so this sounds like them covering themselves). I got a “restart to update” message. It brought me to version 38 (the latest) in one fell swoop. After restarting, “mobile data” was disabled in settings instead of thinking I am on a Verizon contract. At this point, I was able to sign up for a 4G plan.
Asus specific: connecting to an external monitor
My mother’s external monitor has a DVI-I port. We bought a VGA adapter two years ago. My home external monitor has VGA already. I bought a VGA/HDMI adapter and tested it successfully on my computer. For my mother’s external monitor, I decided to use the same VGA/HDMI adapter (and use a string of adapters) rather than look for a DVI-I adapter for three reasons:
- I want to test the same way on both my setup and hers.
- If she ever decides to upgrade the external monitor, she will have a more common adapter.
- It was really hard to attach the VGA adapter to her external monitor in the first place. We got it wedged in there so I don’t want to touch it.
Off topic: shout out to Microcenter. I was able to get the parts I needed (and didn’t need since I returned the HP) without having to buy online. And they had a smooth return process. The adapters were in packaging that you could just stick them back in rather than having a pile of plastic.
Anyway, testing on my external monitor. By default (plug and play), it extended the monitor. I wanted to mirror so pressed control and the display key above the five as suggested in help. That did get it to mirror. However, I had black bars on the sides of both screens. I then switched back to extended mode and clicked that popup to check the resolution of both screens. The chromebook was 1366×768 by default and the external monitor was 1280×768 by default. I wasn’t able to fix this with the Chromebook alone because it was a monitor/tv setting. I clicked the picture size button on the tv (external monitor) remote. When I switched it from “normal” to “full”, it expanded to use the full monitor size. The Chromebook screen stays with the 1.5 inch black bars on the left and right, but the monitor uses the full screen. When I unplug the HDMI cable, the Chromebook goes back to full screen mode. That’s fine. We’d be using either the external monitor or the Chromebook screen, but not both at the same time.
Asus specific: Chrome OS updates
On the initial setup, it looked for updates and spent a while on the “Determining device configuration” page. Per this Amazon review, that page stayed for hours. Rather than wait for hours, I pressed the power button to turn it off and back on. After restarting, the error appeared for a few seconds, complained about internet connectivity and then I got prompted for my Google account.
After logging in, I checked email to confirm internet connectivity was fine. I then went to settings > about and saw I’m on Chrome OS version 37. It started searching for updates and slowly started incrementing the percentage. Going from 0% to 1% took a few minutes. Then it started going faster. It took about 15 minutes to complete the download. I then clicked restart to complete the update.
Asus: finishing up
At this point, everything works and I’m just dealing with minor things. Some are for security or user preferences. Some are just to simplify by not allowing features the user doesn’t need.
- Covered up the camera. My mother isn’t going to use the camera so no need to have it operating. Plus I bought a pack up a bunch of little blue foam covers, so might as well use up another one.
- Set wallpaper to blue (my mother prefers a solid color that a pattern)
- For my mother’s account, set up her sync password since sync can’t be turned off on a Chromebook. I exempted passwords and autofill (which are off anyone so there is no data saved.) I disabled more settings for myself.
- I kept the timezone has Pacific since the Chromebook will be going there in a month.
- Prevent sites from accessing microphone and camera
- Disable Google drive
- Set home page to load on startup and not just when click home.. (Hidden in advanced settings > on startup)
Asus: Don’t turn off
I told my mother that when she takes the laptop to wifi every other month for Chrome OS updates, she doesn’t need to watch it. This conflicts with the default 6 minute sleep mode on battery and 8 minute sleep mode when plugged in. For that matter, when plugged in, 8 minutes is a very short timeout. You go to the bathroom and the machine is asleep! I installed the Keep Awake plugin to avoid this problem.
I also checked the Chromebook was up to date and skimmed the latest changes on the Chrome Release blog. There isn’t a way to turn off auto updates, but it is smart enough not to update when on a 3G/4G connection. (or on a wifi hotspot now)