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.


“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 Unfortunately, it is already out of date.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
  4. A month is considered 30 days
  5. See and s at
  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  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!

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.


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!


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.


  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