getting started with the chromebook – part 2

Part 1 covered buying a Chromebook.  I tried setting up Chrome OS (Chromium) on a virtual machine last year.  In addition to covering set up here, I’ll also remark on how it is different for a “real computer” so techies can support a Chromebook without actually having one.

Part 1 ended with me turning on the computer.  Let’s see where we go from there.

The first time you use the computer

  1. Tell the machine how to connect to the internet.   (The dark lines don’t appear on the screen and seem to be an artifact of taking a photo of the screen.  Can’t take a screenshot before logging in.)  *** Important *** you must connect via wifi the first time; you can’t go straight to 3g.  This means you need to take the laptop to a library/starbucks/etc if you do not have home wifi.  This seems like it could be a problem as some public wifi requires a browser to get started.  Luckily, I am at home where I do have wifi.This step was different than the virtual machine since I was already online for the virtual machine.
  2. I selected my wifi network and entered my WEP key.  There is NO feedback at all that something is happening for about a minute.  If your key worked, the continue button becomes enabled.  If not, you see a yellow message saying it couldn’t connect.  However, either of these takes a little while – in which you are left wondering if the Chromebook is doing anything.
  3. Accept terms and conditions.  I unchecked about sending crash data to Google.  If I’m paying based on bandwidth used, I don’t want to waste any.
  4. Oh, did you want to use your Chromebook?  Sorry.  The first thing that happens is a system update.  It’s a large download.  I don’t have the fastest wifi, but the progress bar appears to be going slowly.  And I can tell it is busy downloading, because the internet speed on my “real computer” is crawling implying the Chromebook is using it all.  I really hope it doesn’t do this for each update!  It took 35 minutes.
  5. After ChromeBook reboots automatically, logon with your google username/password.  From here on, it is similar to the virtual machine setup
  6. Interestingly, you get prompted for an image even if you already have with that google account from another ChromeBook. 
  7. The “home page” screen is a list of things you might want help with for the ChromeBook.  (This screenshot is my first taken on the Chromebook!) 
  8. To get started you click on the gmail or chome icons at bottom.  Once you are in a browser, you can add more tabs and surf the internet as normal.  The icons to use as starting points are:
    1. Chrome (browser)
    2. Gmail
    3. Google search
    4. Google docs
    5. Youtube
    6. Tips and tricks
    7. Downloads folder
    8. Current browser tab
    9. Apps – like a desktop with more icons as shown here:

Issues

  1. You have to be on wifi the first time.  Since the laptop supports 3g, it would be nice to go right to 3g
  2. The icons at the bottom of the screen have text under them.  However this text is cut off using the default resolution.  Odd since everything else seems to work out of the box.

Part 3 is about getting on 3g

getting started with the chromebook – part 1

When the Chromebook came out last year, I blogged about the target audience; one of which was people who literally just use the internet.  My mother does four things with her computer:

  1. Internet (email, news, research, etc)
  2. Update firewall/virus scan
  3. Deal with problems
  4. Listen to CDs

I think the Chromebook is for her!  It handles #1 well and eliminates #2/3. (rebooting solves all problems as near as I can tell.)  While it doesn’t do #4, that can be replaced with a standalone CD player.  You don’t need a computer to listen to music on CD.  Being the good daughter that I am, I bought the Chromebook earlier myself to “set it up” and get used to it so that I can provide good tech support.

Disclaimer

If you are a regular reader of this blog, the Chromebook is not for you. You need a “real computer.”  As such I will not be trying to use it as my primary computer for X days as many of the reviewers do.   I will be using it regularly for email/web surfing to make sure I encounter any problems there are and get familiar with how it works to answer basic questions.  I also bought a copy of My Google Chromebook (see review)

Think of this blog post as “how to get someone else going with a Chromebook”.

Picking a Chromebook

Google’s site shows the choices of Chromebook.  There are the original Acer and Samsung 5 models (wifi only or 3g).  In the last few months, there has also been the Samsung 5 550. I was waiting for the “second generation” to buy the Chromebook as I didn’t want my mother to be a true early adopter.  A year after initial release and early in the second generation wave seems like a good time.

I picked the 3g model because my goal is for her to not need home internet.   I’m hoping paying for 1GB data per month will be sufficient.  That’s one of the things I’ll learn in the next month or so – whether it is feasible to rely completely on 3g and not wifi.

Also, note that there is a ChromeBox now.  This is not a laptop.

Buying a Chromebook

You can buy a Chromebook from Amazon or BestBuy.  I was originally planning to buy from Amazon.  Then I read the reviews and learned a few people had problems with the 3g.  I then decided to buy from BestBuy instead so I could return/exchange in store if the 3g was dead on arrival.   About 100 BestBuys in the country actually have the Chromebook in stock where you can buy same day.  Mine does not.  However it was easy to order online and have it delivered in store.  It took just under a week to arrive and I was given a little over a week to pick it up.  My Best Buy did have a floor model of the Chromebook pictured above.  This is quite a change from a visit to BestBuy last July (when it came out and “BestBuy sold it”.)  A year ago the BestBuy floor sales hadn’t even heard of it!

Unboxing

The box is 14.5 x 14.5 x 2.5 inches and not heavy at all.  Good for carrying home from a physical store.  The box even references Samsung’s Chromebook website and the fact that Verizon gives 100MB 3g per month for two years, which is very store friendly.  (And yes, 100MB is hardly anything.)

The box contains:

  1. Chromebook (laptop)
  2. Google chrome sticker
  3. Warranty (call Samsung before going back to the store)
  4. Safety precautions (don’t put the chromebook in the bathtub)
  5. A welcome sheet advertising google services (docs, talk, google+ etc)
  6. Quick start guide
  7. A brown box containing the power cable and AC adapter – the way this box was setup near the hinge of the bigger box, I didn’t see it for a few minutes.  I knew it had to be in there of course so I kept looking.  It is also lighter than I expected which didn’t help.

Assembling

  1. Take the plastic wrapper off the power cord
  2. Unvelcro the power cord and AC adapter to make the wire longer (the AC adapter is 1.5 x3.5 inches or so which feels tiny compared to my “real computer”
  3. Connect power cord and AC adapter
  4. Connect AC adapter to laptop and plug in power cord
  5. Press power key – a real keyboard key – not a button.

To be continued…  Part 2 is where I compare setting up a real chromebook with the chromium OS in a virutal machine

running chromium os on the mac on virtualbox

Now that the Chromebook is out and I’ve speculated about the target audience, I wanted to give running the Google OS a shot.  The closest I know that you can get is running Chronium OS which is the open source version.

The VM

This is the first time I needed a virtual machine on my mac.  I decided to start with VirtualBox since it is free for personal use.  It met my needs, so I’m done.  I should try Fusion at some point, but I didn’t need it for this.  I started by downloading the 82MB download for VirtualBox.

Setting up the VM

Since the “versioned” copy only provides a VM Ware and USB stick image, I tried following the instructions to convert the USB image to a vgi virtualbox file.  (The USB download is 324 MB.)  Launching the VM that way just gave me a black screen.

Next I tried getting the nightly snapshot build for VirtualBox from the “vanilla” site.  That worked well and I got the Chromium login screen.

I created the VM both times. using 512 MB RAM and Linux Ubuntu 32 bit.

Taking a screenshot

The only thing that that wasn’t obvious in VirtualBox was how to take a screenshot.   Thanks to this Techmix post, I learned you need to press left command to return the keyboard to the host mac and then use the right command key (with shift + 4) to grab a screenshot and have it sent to the desktop of the host mac.  And you have to do this every time because the keyboard focus returns to the VM every time you command+tab back to it.