Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Move to cloud computing

First things first. Today in not Wednesday. Today is Thursday, so that means my post is a day behind.  I'm sorry for that.  Yesterday was...... um interesting and hectic.  What did I learn from it? Write posts a head on time so you can easily post them on time!!!  Time for the blog it's self.

I have been attempting to move all of my computer usage to the google (1) good old world wide web.  I have been doing things like uploading all my pictures to Picasa, my Music to Audiobox.fm, and my documents to Google Docs.  And the best part of it all is that I can access all of my information from any computer that has an HTML5 supported browser. (Window's fan boys will be happy to hear that IE9 is now in beta, and its supports HTML5, but thats not the point.) As a matter of fact I am writing this post from a Generic computer at school, but I still have access to most everything that I would have at home.  But that is the problem, most everything, not everything.  I still can't do a lot of things that I can at home because they don't have (or I haven't learned about them) web apps that can't replace the desktop apps that I have.  Take Skype for example.  I have yet to find a good web app that I can use to replace Skype that runs fully on the web.  (If anyone knows of one, please post it in the comments!)  Its also a pain right to have to reboot out of Chrome OS on my netbook just to print out a paper, but that is being worked on with Google Could Print.  I just hope that comes to end users soon. So far the move to cloud computing as been a smooth one overall.  I highly recommend making the move yourself, even if you have a high end computer and laptop.  You will never know when you won't have access to your computers, but still have access to a web enabled computer.

If anyone else out there that reads this blog (All 5!) wants to share a cool web app or their move to the clouds, feel free to post a comment!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Music anywhere anytime! (And Google newest feature)

If you have been following my blog, or just read my last post, you would know that I am been using Chrome OS and the primary OS on my Starling Netbook.  It is trully awesome, but there was one flaw that almost made me not install it.  I could not listen to my music!  With Chrome I was unable to play my music library like I can on Arch Linux, so I needed to find a solution.  Did I ever say there is nothing Google can't find? Well its true. A quick little Google and I found a neat little web site called audiobox.fm!

Audiobox.fm is a HTML5 based web app.  Its your itunes in the clouds.  It everything that you would expect in a music player, playlists, shuffle, repeat, and they even have plans to include a marketplace. It can integrate with YouTube, last.fm, twitter and even dropbox if you have one.  If you have a mobile phone with web access, you can open up audiobox.fm and listen to your music on the go. If you have an iphone or android phone, they have apps for those as well.  So with all of these cool features, you would think that this would cost a lot of money right? Wrong.  For people who no money to spare, you can get 1gb of music storage along with unlimited music streaming for free.  If you need a little bit more space, 11gbs is 3.99 a month, $7.99 for 26, and $9.99 for 151GB of space.  With the higher plans you get more features, but they all have unlimited streaming.

The beautiful thing is that you can listen to your music on any web enabled computer.  You dont need a fast connection for it, but you cant use a slow one either.  For anybody who loves to listen to music like I do, and switches off between a lot of computers, I highly recommend it.  The plans are cheep and you get access to your music on the web, even on Chrome OS.

Unrealted to audiobox.fm has everyone tried out Googles newest feature? Google Instant search! It is still being rolled out, but basically what it does is it starts to search before you even press enter.  Google says it can save about 2-5 seconds on every search, which for most of us is pretty minor.  I personally love it already, and it while is usefulness is questionable if you ask me, it is just plan fun!! It is faster that your normal Google search, but enough to affect your everyday life. (but it is enough to make you want to Google trivial stuff, just to play with it :D )

Well thats all for this weeks post, come back next week for something. I don't know yet, but something.
~Vrekk the Google Addict     

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Google Chromium OS Review

I have had a lot of free time lately. Probably way to much, but whenever I get free time I always like to mess around with (and break) my computer trying to improve this and that.  Well the other day I decided to try Chromium OS on my netbook to see how it ran, and well I like it.  The netbook used for this test is a System76 Star1 with a Intel 5100 wifi card.

1: Making a bootable flash drive.

This is probably the hardest part of getting Chromium on a netbook.  Because it is not released yet, you have to go to the project page and build it yourself, which franly takes a while, so if you build it from source, I recommend your computer has some real horse power behind it.  BUT, even if you don't have a super powerfull pc, the time, skill, or will to build it from source, Hexxeh has been kind enough to host nightly builds for us!  You can grab one over at http://chromeos.hexxeh.net/vanilla.php As of right now, and nightly build built after 8-17 fails to display anything on the screen, so you should grab one older than that if you want to test it.  Hexxeh also overs a modified version of chromium that he calls Flow. It is not as bleeding edge, but it supports more hardware and is more stable.  His site covers everthing you need to make a bootable flash driver, so I'm not going to cover that here.

2:  First boot!
On my first boot from the usb, I was impressed. It took about 15 seconds to boot from when I pressed power, and I was greeted with a screen asking me to connect to a local network then into my Google account.   Unfortanlly I was unable to grab a screen shot of that, so you will have to see for youself what that looks like.  Installing chromium to my netbook was a little tricky because I didn't want to blow my current archlinux install away, but if you only want chromium on your netbook, it is a very easy install, just one command from command line. (It WILL format your hard drive and you WILL lose data if your not careful)

3: Second boot!
Once chromium was installed on the computer, it booted in about 9 seconds, which is very good considering my computer was not built to run chromium.  This time I did not need to choose my local network, and my username was already filled in for me.  But enough about installing and booting it, lets get down to the good stuff.

4: The Pros:
Chromium OS booted lightening fast and got me online in seconds.  After loging in, you are greated with the chromium browser and the web at your finger tips.  One thing that I really liked was that when I went to open my Gmail, I was logged in already because I had used the same google account to sign into the OS.  Overall web page viewing was fast and stable, with things like youtube and HTML5 working flawlessly.  I was able to edit files online with Google Docs, and even play music with a neat little program called AudioBox (Next weeks blog).  The browser is stable enough to do anything I wanted online, and I am even writing this post on it.

5: The Cons:
Any OS and every OS has its flaws, and for being a developer build of Chromium, it has surprisingly few.  The biggest problem I had with it was being unable to find the shutdown button.  I can't find one anywhere in the GUI and pressing the hardware power button didn't do a thing, so to power it off I had to login, press crtl - t, type shell, then sudo poweroff. It was not to big an issue for me, because that is normally how I turn my computers off, but it is kinda of a lengthly process just to turn it off.  Another gripe of mine was trying to take screenshots for this blog!  It took some googling to find out that once you press the PrtSc button, that a screenshot is saved, (with no feedback given) to /home/chronos/user/screenshots.  Its not a big deal but knowing that a screenshot was taken correctly is normally nice.
I'm not really sure if this one counts as a con really, its more of a missing feature, but you can't yet print with Chromium OS.  Printing using Google Cloud print is moving along, but with no way to add a printer, it is really kinda useless. As you can see, the list is printers is, well empty.


5: Hardware support:
So for Chromium has supported my netbook very well.  All of my leds work, my sound works, and even my webcam works out of box.  One thing I did notice however, is that even though my wireless card supports Wireless N, the driver used my Chromium does not seem to support it.  As a test I swapped out my Intel card with the Realtek card that came with it, and I was shocked.  I was able to connect to my Wireless AP from my room flawlessly, something that I just can't get to work with any other distro. 

6: Overall
This is quickly becoming my primary OS for my netbook.  Its fast boot to web gets me where I'm going and really just gets the job done. No fancy bells and wisells that I don't need, just chromium.  If you have a netbook and all you really do is surf the web, I encourage you to grab a spare flash drive, download a hexxeh build and test this puppy out.  It is really a lot of fun.  If you got any questions just email talk@vrekk.us or leave a comment!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Taking Apart the System 76 Star1

School is back in for me, so that means its time to bring the good old System76 starling netbook back out! But due to the, well, shakey at best, wireless driver for the built in RTL8187B chip, I can't get wireless Internet in my room and it is only wireless G. I decied that because I will be upgrading to wireless N soon and that my schools and friends place use wireless N, that I should upgrade my wireless to an Intel 5100 Wifi Link. I was able to do this fine, but then I figured that why should I be to benfit from this (and get a few people to visit my blog), I decied to make the System76 Star1 disassembly guide!

Required Materials:
A System76 Star1 Netbook
A small Philips screwdriver
A small flat head screwdriver
Guts
New Mini PCI express wireless card (if you are planning on upgrading your wireless)

Step One:
The first thing you need to do is...
WAIT. Before I continue, I feel the need to warn you that this WILL break any warently on your device, and that I am not responsible if you Computer quits working, breaks, or kills your friends and family. If you take a part YOUR computer YOU are doing it at YOUR own risk. Now that thats clear. The real step one!
On the botton of the Star1 netbook, you should be able to see a grand total of 8 screws, all of which need to be taken out. 1 the of 8 is hidden under the removeable panel located right about your QIN pin and SN. Once you are done with that, it is time to remove the keyboard

Step Two: Keyboard
This one can take some guts to do, and you can damage your keyboard durring this step if you are not careful. Take your flat head and look right above your f8 key, f12 key, and f1 key. There are little tabs that help hold your keyboard in place, and that is where we need to CAREFULLY pry the keyboard up, as shown in the pic below. Once you are under it the keyboard pops out. You will need to lift the black tab holding the keyboard cable to the mother board to fully remove the keyboard (shown below)



Step Three: More Screws
Now that the keyboard has been removed and all the screws from under the netbook have been removed, its time to remove the ones that were hiding under the keyboard. There are a total of 6 that get removed just like any other screw out there, but pay attention to where the screws are because you need to put them back where they were. There is a pic before for reference if you forget.
Step Four: Removing the upper casing
Now that all the screws are out, its time to remove the the upper part of the case. The first thing you will want to do is remove the ribbon cable holding the mouse in. It comes out just like the keyboard on did so it should not be a major problem. The case, should how just pop off. I recommend using the flat head screw driver to pry it open by the power button, like shown below.
Step Five: Removing and upgrading the wireless card.
There is one screw holding in the wireless card on your computer seen in the lower right hand corner of your computer. Detach the grey cable from the card and remove the screw driver and you can pull the wireless card right out of the computer. If you are upgrading the wireless card, simply put the new one in, put in the one screw, and attach the grey cabel to the spot labeled MAIN. Thats it! Your card is upgraded!
Step Six: Reassembly
While it is possible to disassebly the computer farther, if you main goal was to replace the wirelss card that you have done so. If you want to rebuild you computer now, you just follow this guide backwards. Anything that poped off with snap back into place with a little push (Keyboard and case) any cables that were removed can easily be put back in, and all screws should be put back in the computer. If you want to disassemble the computer futher for some reason, just start unpluging cables and removing screws. Its pretty simple. Below you can see just how far apart this computer can be taken. You should be able to go as far as upgrading the hdd and ram, but that is at your own risk and may not work.
Congratulations! If everything went well, your netbook is online with your new wireless card. If not, leave a comment or email me at help@vrekk.us and I'll see what I can do, but remember, you rebuilt your netbook at your risk, so please don't email me if you didn't read the whole guide or chose to ignore something. Any emails insulting me or yelling at me for breaking their computer will get forwarded to my automatic mail sorting program, /dev/null. Thanks for reading this how to, and enjoy you upgraded wireless ability!

Haven't Posted in Forever.

I know I'm posting on my blog about how I haven't posted on my blog. Lame right? But I now own the domain name vrekk.us, which means that it is much easier to find this page, and it should be easier for me to update it and blah blah blah. I have a new idea for a post as well. I have a few actually. Hopefully I can get this blog moving again and maybe even get a few people to view it!

Wish me luck!