Chromebook the third!

I bought my mother a Chromebook in 2012 and again in 2014. That one lasted longer and here we are five years later. It’s time to replace the Chromebook with her third one. Definitely a happy customer.

I went the Best Buy like the last two times. The number of Chromebooks on the market exploded! I think they had nine in the store. I went with the Acer Chromebook 15. It’s a basic machine with built in speakers. Like actual speakers, not embedded ones.

Comparing the stats from 5 years ago

My mother wants to listen to music now. This means I care about the hard drive now when I didn’t five years ago. Everything is better on this machine except the CPU. The computer is never CPU bound though so that seems ok

Asus (2014)Acer (2019)
Screen size13.3″15.6″
Price$299$240
CPUIntel 2.16 GHzIntel 1.6 GHz
RAM2 GB4GB
Hard Drive???16GB
USB1 USB 2.0 and 1 USB 3.02 USB 3.0
HDMIYesYes
Weight3.1 lbs4.41 lbs
Headphone jackYesYes
Battery life???12 hours

Setting up the Chromebook

  • The Chromebook was set to Sept 18th 1:00 on May 15th 10:21. Maybe that’s when it was built/packaged? It got fixed automatically when I connected to wifi
  • I chose “let’s go” on the welcome screen and connected to my home wifi.
  • I then got the ChromeOS terms page. For about a minute, it showed me a cert invalid page. Then the screen loaded with the terms. Weird.
  • I chose not to send data to Google and accepted the terms. (My mother is bandwidth constrained so don’t want to use up any helping Google.)
  • Signed in. My profile was automatic. Since I signed on as my mother, I got her giant accessibility cursor
  • I accepted Google Play/Google Drive since I want to use an app. I did not enable location services.
  • On settings
    • disabled Bluetooth
    • disabled sync for passwords/addresses/google pay
    • changed time zone to Pacific
    • turned off check if have payment methods saved
    • on site settings, disable microphone and camera
  • Installed Keep Awake browser extension
  • Covered camera
  • Right click desktop and choose “set wallpaper”. Choose light blue under solid colors
  • I tested the USB, HDMI headphones and that a Kensington security lock works with
  • I made a recovery disk. The procedure hasn’t changed
  • Finally, I deleted a bunch of apps (go to the circle icon in the lower left corner). Right click the app to uninstall. The “uninstall” button is blue and looks grayed out, but you can still click on it (I needed a mouse for this – deleting with the trackpad doesn’t work.) I deleted a lot of stuff because it’s less apps my mother won’t use. Which means less stuff that needs to download auto updates
    • ebay
    • Play Movies
    • Play Music
    • Play Games
    • YouTube
    • Google Maps
    • Google Keep
    • Google Photos
    • Text
    • Calculator

chromebook and att wifi – part 2

Two years ago, I set up my mother with an AT&T 4G wifi hotspot. Overall, she is happy with it. The hardware is starting to get less than optimal. It doesn’t keep a charge as long. I think a wire needs replacing. It shut down randomly twice. Since it is two years old, I decided to buy a new one for her and keep the old one for me to play with.

The price came down. Without a contact, the ATT Velocity hotspot is now $60. (two years ago it was $150). And this time, I could buy it from BestBuy rather than AT&T. A far easier buying experience. No shipping so sent right to me.

Setting up an account

Since I bought the hotspot from BestBuy rather than AT&T, I had to set up my own account online. Hardly difficult. The steps:

  1. Go to http://att.com/activateprepaiddata
  2. Enter the SIM number – this is listed as the ICCID on the bottom of the box
  3. Enter IMEI number – this is on a sticker inside the phone (easy to see before putting in the battery). It’s also on the bottom of the box.
  4. The zip code of the user – I used my mother’s
  5. Enter user’s email. I used my mother’s
  6. Pick a plan. I chose the same plan I had before. $25/month for 2GB
  7. Sign up for autopay
  8. Choose a password
  9. Then I went to manage account to set up a name. I repeatedly got “We seem to be experiencing system issues. Please try again later.” on saving. It was true though. I waited 5 minutes and then it saved.

Trying out the hotspot

The battery/case comes separated so I put that together. The device tells you the charge, connection strength and whether you have any new messages. Unlike last time, I didn’t have any messages right away. I had the flashing green light and six messages once I signed up for automatic payment.

New since last time – the device appears to tell you how much bandwidth was used up. This is an illusion. Once I started using data, it directed me to the web for this.

It still shows the number of connected devices.

I connected to the wifi using the default password from a Chromebook and went to http://attwifimanager. I logged in with attadmin (the default) and changed:

  • Network name (it prompted me that I would be disconnected so I reconnected) – I made sure to use a different password
  • The wifi password (it prompted me that I would be disconnected so I reconnected – should have done this with the network name to save a reconnect)
  • Set max number of devices to 2
  • On advanced settings, changed admin login

There was an option to hide the password on the device. I chose this because my mother wanted a password that has other meaning.

Connecting from the Chromebook

Connecting to the new wifi name is easy. Note that the network name is case sensitive
  1. Click the connection from the wifi list
  2. Type password

This didn’t work on the first shot. I tried from my iPad and also no connectivity. So I rebooted the hotspot and it worked.

To remember the connection 

  1. Click the wifi icon and click “Connected to X”
  2. Click network name
  3. Click “Prefer this network”
  4. Ensure “Automatically connect to this network is checked”
  5. Click “close”

 

How fast is the connection?

I ran a speedtest both to see how fast the connection was and to use a chunk of bandwidth to see how reporting worked. The answer was:

  • ping 36 ms
  • download 13 Mbps
  • upload 9 Mbps

Problems

Every once in a while, I have to push the power button on the wifi device for the ChromeBook to connect. I haven’t seen a pattern on this, but it only happens on trying to connect.

Support

Most problems can be dealt with online at att.com/my prepaid, but they do have a phone number: 800-901-9878

chromebook and att wifi

I had upgraded my mother’s Chromebook to a 4g model late last year. I had known that operating system updates didn’t occur over 3g. Unsurprisingly, they don’t occur over 4g either. She’s been taking her laptop to wifi to patch and enjoying the 4g speeds for normal home internet use. Everyone happy. Until now. Her source of convenient wifi has vanished. Now, she could go to Starbucks or the library o use wifi. But that’s not convenient. I decided to look at replacing the monthly 4g bill with a monthly wifi hotspot bill.

The difference

On a prepaid low bandwidth plan, the two are pretty comparable.

Category Verizon 4g ATT wifi hotspot (over 4g)
Where to find the price list Verizon page GoPhone page
Minimum plan per 30 days $20 $25
Amount of bandwidth included 1GB 2GB
Ability to buy more if go over $5 for 300MB $10 for 500MB
Next level plan if not enough bandwidth $30 for 2GB plan $50 for 5GB

In other words $5 more per month for double the bandwidth. And the Chromebook can see it as wifi so patches work.

Trying to buy the hotspot online

The AT&T Velocity hotspot is $149 if you want to use a prepaid plan. (Free with a contract.) I hit two problems trying to buyt it online:

  1. AT&T’s product page either doesn’t work in Safari or is relying on a third party site to render the ability to order the device. Or it’s just broken. I tried reloading the page four times to write this post and it showed up the fourth time. In any case, I switched to Chrome.
  2. When you choose the $149 version, AT&T asks if you are a new or existing customer. I clicked new customer. It then took me to a page to buy a “choice” of plan. The only “choice” was the $50/month plan.

I was able to find out online that while my local AT&T store didn’t have the device in stock, the one at the mall did.

Buying the hotspot in person

This went better. They didn’t try to trick me into buying the $50 plan. They warned me that I had to pay for the first month ($25) while still in the store. No problem. I had planned to buy the first month right away to test anyway.

The receipt was a bit odd. It said the $25 plan was for 1.5GB. Online it shows at 2GB when I check my use so this is just wrong. It also directs to att.com/wireless which isn’t the site to go to for prepaid.

Trying out the hotspot

When I got home, I gave it a shot. It was easy to use. The battery/case comes separated so I put that together. The hotspot is like a cell phone that doesn’t make calls.

The device tells you the charge, connection strength and whether you have any new messages. I had a few from AT&T about the product. It has a touch screen to get messages. Or you can use the website paygonline.com or att.com/mygophone to check them through a computer. You know you have a text because the device blinks with a green light.

The device also tells you how many connections are in use. I went into settings and lowered the max from 10 to 2 by going to http://attwifimanager once connected to the hotspot from the Chromebook. (One for my mother’s Chromebook and one for my iPad when I visit. Being able to use my iPad when I visit is a nice side effect of using a hotspot.) I got a message “The LCD display is in operation, use power button to turn LCD display off and try again” which was easy enough to move past.

I also changed the wifi name from ATT-WIFI-1234 to something more readable and changed the  password to a different set of numbers than the default. It suggests using numbers and letters but then wouldn’t let me choose letters. Once I changed this, my browser hung on saving because it was no longer connected to the new wifi network. Not a big deal, but they could have given a prompt. Once I reconnected, I also disabled broadcasting the SSID.

Note: I had to turn broadcasting the SSID back on to avoid having to enter the password on each connect. Chrome feels it is bad that I’m not broadcasting the network name. I’m annoyed ChromeOS doesn’t work well with hidden SSIDs. I understand that hiding the SSID doesn’t protect it from the bad guys. But it does prevent random people from trying different passwords. But at the same time, I’m worried this isn’t a well supported configuration and my mom will have other troubles later.

Anyway, then I went to settings > advanced to change the admin login so it isn’t attadmin.

I also learned the bandwidth reporting is realtime which is an improvement over Verizon. And that if you don’t use it for hours, you have to press the power button on the hotspot so the wifi network resumes broadcasting. Which is reasonable.

Connecting from the Chromebook

Connecting to the new wifi name is easy. Note that the network name is case sensitive
  1. Join other…
  2. my network with “X wifi” SSID
  3. Security: PSK (WPA or RSN)
  4. Enter password
  5. Don’t click share network

To remember the connection

  1. Click the wifi icon and click “Connected to X”
  2. Click network name
  3. Click “Prefer this network”
  4. Ensure “Automatically connect to this network is checked”
  5. Click “close”

The first Chromebook patch

I did a Chromebook patch over wifi. It took 7 minutes and was approximately 400MB. (GoPhone reports bandwidth use to the nearest 50MB). While that is 25% of the wifi allocation, there is no need to patch the Chromebook every month. Plus my mom has double the bandwidth she used to so it is still an increase.

How fast is the connection?

I ran a speedtest both to see how fast the connection was and to use a chunk of bandwidth to see how reporting worked. The answer was:

  • ping 33ms
  • download 19.94 Mbps
  • upload 11.76 Mbps

Problems

Every once in a while, I have to push the power button on the wifi device for the ChromeBook to connect. I haven’t seen a pattern on this, but it only happens on trying to connect.