chromebook on the road

I’ve been testing out a Chromebook at home for a while now.  Friday was the first time I took it “on the road.”  In other words outside my apartment.

Connecting to 3g

At times, 3G connectivity takes a bit longer to start up.  (This probably happens at home too periodically; I just don’t watch startup there.)  Waiting seems to solve it.  Once I had to force it to reconnect by turning off the 3G and then turning it back on.  I also had to click the X to close the message that 3G wasn’t available.

The keyboard

At home, I’ve been using an external keyboard and mouse when doing anything non-trivial.  On the road, I realized I didn’t remember a keyboard shortcut:  alt up/down is paging.

Overall experience

The Chomebook was easy to use.  I was able to:

  1. Check email
  2. Check a website
  3.  Open a word doc
  4. Post on coderanch
  5. Check the address of a restaurant.
On a cell phone you get a dropped call every so often.  On the chromebook, this manifests as a few seconds loss of connectivity.  This happened to be twice. On a google site, you get a nice message that “the application is unreachable.”   On a non-google site, you get a long message about the dns entry not being available.  While this is true, it seems like a scary message for the lay-person.  The solution is to refresh the browser page in either case.
Bandwidth usage
I used the internet for about an hour total on Friday and went through only 4MB.  Granted I didn’t do anything bandwidth heavy, but I still expected it to be higher.

getting started with the chromebook – part 3

We’ve finished part 2 and I’m still happy with the Chromebook itself.  Today I’ll be walking through the process of activating 3g service from Verizon and my impressions of it.  I’ll post back some time from now how bandwidth usage is over time.  In particular, I’m concerned with how often/large the software updates are.  So far it has been 10 days and no updates so I know it isn’t a weekly thing.

Setup

“My Google Chromebook” has instructions on how to get started with 3g. Unfortunately, it is already out of date.  It says to click the network icon on the top.  It is no longer on the top.  Instead click on the bottom and choose “settings and help”.  Or go to chrome://chrome/settings/ in a browser.

  1. Pull down mobile access 

  2. Fill in a straightforward form.  It doesn’t require a credit card if choosing free plan  No dash allowed in mailing address though .  This is always fun.  My address has a dash.
  3. Terms and conditions warn you will be charged for video buffering even if you don’t watch it.  Sample bandwidth is shown.  10K for an email.  1MB for a webpage. 3mB for a PowerPoint.  200-500 MB for a Windows update.  (Wonder how much a Chrome OS one is).  More at verizonwireless.com/datacalculator.
  4. A month is considered 30 days
  5. See verizon.com/privacy and s at www.verizon.com/privacy/#limits
  6. You get a wireless #.  apparently the computer is treated as a phone nobody can call
  7. They also provide a # for Chromebook connectivity tech support: 800-922-0204.  Once you enter your #, it knows you have a Chromebook.

Checking your bandwidth usage

Verizon offers the following options to check your bandwidth usage:

  1. There are a few ways on the Chromebook.  I find the easiest to be:
    1. Click on network connection icon.
    2. Click on connected to Verizon Wireless
    3. Click on Verizon Wireless
    4. A pop-up comes up with the bandwidth remaining for the month and the number of days left in the month.  I’ve noticed sometimes the data doesn’t load on that screen.  Try again.
    5. Alternatively click “my account” on that page which opens a browser. That always works.  However, this data has quite a lag.  The pop-up tells me I have 50MB left and the browser says I have 75MB left
  2. My Verizon – This only works from the device not via a URL.  And if you are on the device it isn’t the easiest way.  I tried to register with verizonwireless but it says, “We’re sorry but you cannot register you tablet on MyVerizon.com.  Please setup your account information on your device.”

I also got a warning in the lower right corner of the screen when I only had 50MB data left available.  And when I ran out, I got a warning in that spot saying I was out of mobile data and a link to buy a plan.  Not sure if I had a plan whether I would get charged for overages or it would just stop. I  imagine the former.

I can’t find a way to check bandwidth from a different computer.  I asked in a forum.  I can get it by phone by calling 800-922-0204 or 888-294-6804 and entering my phone #/4 digit security code.  It’s a lot of info to enter and you have to talk to a human though which means it is easier to just ask my mother to check.  Note that I haven’t paid for the 1GB plan yet so it could get easier when I do.
Is it hard to connect?
I had trouble once so far.  It was during a thunderstorm; don’t know if that matters.  I wound up clicking the button to disable 3g and re-enable 3g and all was fine.  That or I waited a few minutes.
How is the speed?
For regular browsing it is fine.  It isn’t quite as fast as my home wifi but not noticeably different.  (Note that I have pretty slow DSL to compare to.)  I was able to watch a few videos on youtube without hitting any buffering.
Do I think 3G is enough?
So far so good.  It wouldn’t be enough for just me.  But I think the 1GB plan will be enough for someone who just browsers the internet and doesn’t listen to music/watch video.  To use up the free 100MB in 10 days, I uploaded a bunch of screenshots and watched some videos.  But I did most of my real internet surfing on my Mac.  Next month I’ll try to use it for internet more actively to see what happens.  But I will be buying the 1GB plan before giving the Chromebook to my mother giving her 10 times the bandwidth.  Unless OS patches are huge!

logging onto a chromebook with two factor

I have 2 factor authentication set up on my gmail.  Needless to say signing on with my id was not the first thing I did with the Chromebook!  But now that I’m content that easy things are easy, it is time to try something hard.  [turned out not to be hard at all]

I’ll be back with the getting started with the chromebook series.  2factor isn’t something most people have set up so I’m posting this one standalone.

Step 1  – Add a user

Click the “Add user” button in the lower left.  It requires network access for this.  I was worried, I’d have to re-enable wifi, but it lets you click Verizon for the network and activate over 3g.  It is only the initial user that requires wifi.

Step 2 – Sign on with password

This is where I was expecting trouble.  I typed in my password.  When I enter my password in gmail, I get prompted for another code (my 2 factor code.)  I was thrilled when the chromebook prompted me for the 2 factor code.  This is great!  I can logon to the chromebook using two factor just as easily as I can logon to gmail using 2factor.  Good job!

Alternate approach

I was expecting my fallback to be logging onto the Chromebook as a guest and then using two factor normally from the browser.