I bought a Chromebook and have been using it/testing it out before actually giving it to my mother. This weekend, I tried to create a recovery disk and hook it up to an external monitor. Here’s how it went.
The Chromebook help page covers how to create a USB drive with a bootable ChomeOS recovery disk. It took me a few tries though:
- Inserted 8GB USB flash drive into Chromebook and went to chrome://imageburner. A third of the way through the 300-400 MB download it would fail with an unclear error message.
- Tried Chrome OS Image Creator on Mac. However it asks for a model number like “Sams Alex2 Gamma0-US 1234.”. I emailed the “Chrome Ninja Team” (google support) as I would like to know the answer to this. I then guessed one and tried to download onto USB. Same error. I’ve used this USB drive for other things but maybe it is the drive.
- Tried a 4GB USB flash drive and created recovery disk successfully.
How to find your chromebook model #
Per the Ninja team, if your machine still works, you can enter:
chrome://system (which shows a lot of interesting other info too; at least interesting if you are a geek)
How to find your chromebook model # – approach 2
Per the Ninja team (parens are mine)
- Follow the steps 1 – 4 via this link http://support.google.com/chromeos/a/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1360642 (I didn’t feel the switch move but it clearly did. I hadn’t shut down fully (or knocked into the power button while doing this and had to do this twice.)
- Step 5) Press the space bar and then you will be able to see your model number. (This worked.)
- (Flip switch back and restart – I got prompted for my internet connection again and given the welcome message so I think it did a partial reset. But all settings are in the cloud so this isn’t a big deal.)
My goal was to hook up the tiny 12.1 inch Chromebook screen to an external monitor. I already have a VGA cable. The Chromebook does not have a VGA or HDMI port. Check what your model has. Mine has a Display Port. I learned it isn’t easy to buy a Display Port to VGA adapter. Here’s what happened:
- Radio Shack: Sells mini display port adapter because Mac’s use it. (I already have one of these)
- PC Richard: “That doesn’t exist; tvs use wifi now.” (Not true and useless advice)
- Best Buy: Sells same things as Radio Shack. Recommends buying it online
- B and H: I suspect B and H does have this adapter in stock. The trains aren’t fully running yet so I don’t feel the need to go into Manhattan to find out. And they were closed today anyway for the holiday.
- Amazon: I bought this on Amazon. Will find out how it works in a few days.
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.
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.
The Chomebook was easy to use. I was able to:
- Check email
- Check a website
- Open a word doc
- Post on coderanch
- 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.
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.
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.
“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.
- Pull down mobile access
- 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.
- 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.
- A month is considered 30 days
- See verizon.com/privacy and s at www.verizon.com/privacy/#limits.
- You get a wireless #. apparently the computer is treated as a phone nobody can call
- 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:
- There are a few ways on the Chromebook. I find the easiest to be:
- Click on network connection icon.
- Click on connected to Verizon Wireless
- Click on Verizon Wireless
- 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.
- 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
- 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!