Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Cr-48 and Chrome OS

I feel so lucky right about now.  I came home today to find that I'd gotten a Cr-48.  I have, of course, followed Chrome OS from the beginning, so I'm glad to have the chance to try out the first real Chrome OS laptop.

What surprised me about it, really, was the overall polish of it.  I'd compiled my own copy of Chromium OS about a week before the announcement to run on my netbook, and while it was much more complete than it had been when I first started testing these builds, it was still nowhere near the level it's at now.  The animations are smooth and everything just feels snappy.  Of course, the Cr-48 was designed with Chrome OS in mind, so that's to be expected... but even so, it's always nice to see that things work better than you thought they would.

Would I replace my desktop computer and netbook?  No, of course not.  There are things I do on my computer that Chrome OS simply can't do.  For me, this laptop is a quick web browser with the ability to connect remotely to my rack server and desktop at home.  But then again, people like me aren't really the target market for these sorts of devices.

At school today, I realized just how helpful a laptop like this could be for someone who isn't quite as tech-savvy as most people who would be reading this blog.  My guidance counselor was in the room preparing to talk to the class.  She had a presentation that she wanted to display, so she signed into the laptop and checked her "My Documents" folder.  It wasn't there.  She then proceeded to open up Outlook because she had emailed it.  The Outlook setup screen popped up.

She was on a shared school laptop.

It's things like this that remind me of the huge gap between the tech-savvy and the tech-clueless.  Believe me, most people fall into the latter category.  Maybe a purely cloud-based setup could benefit them.  There will always be people who need local storage, so Google's vision of a world completely in the cloud is a bit off, but that doesn't mean Chrome OS is a complete failure.

That said, I don't think the OS will catch on as quickly as Google would like.  For one thing, people have a tendency to resist change and complain when things aren't exactly as expected.  The poor sales of Linux netbooks reflect this - they didn't have a start menu and a big blue bar at the bottom, so they were brought back to stores at an alarming rate because people just couldn't figure them out..  Maybe Google's marketing will be able to overcome this.  We'll just have to see what happens.

Before you techies bash it, though, step back and think about this: does everyone you know have a basic understanding of how computers work?  Do the people in your life understand the difference between local storage and web storage?  Is the big blue "e" synonymous with the internet for them?  Ask around sometime.  You might be surprised.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Google and Net Neutrality

Let me make one thing clear: I am not a Google fanboy.  I love it when Google releases open source software... but that's mostly because it's open source, not because it's Google.  So when Google announced that they've been in talks with a major ISP about the future of the internet, I was a bit uneasy.  (Oh, yeah, and I do hate ISPs.  And telcos.  Yeah.  Verizon's both.)

So basically Google and Verizon want net neutrality for the internet as it is today... but only for wireline providers.  Oh, and they want to fragment the internet by allowing ISPs to offer extra services to their customers in addition to internet access.  Alright, so some are already doing this (think Epix and ESPN3).  It may not really be anything new, but I really don't think it should be encouraged.  A few services are fine, but what we're talking about here is essentially dividing the internet based on your service provider.

Think of it this way.  If you feel your ISP is charging too much or has substandard service, what can you do?  Well, if you're lucky, you can switch to another ISP.  This is one problem with them: there isn't enough competition.  In most cases, you could at least switch to DSL from cable or vice-versa.  But once you've switched, you're back up and running with exactly the same access you had before.  It might be a little faster, it might be a little slower, but you're on the internet.

Now imagine the world as Google and Verizon would like it.  You want to switch ISPs?  Alright, but you can't get to the videos you used to watch.  Oh, and maybe your health care monitoring, smart grid, and advanced educational services might not work too.  See the problem here?

Ideally, as Internet Service Providers, their job should be simply to provide you access to the internet.  This would effectively turn them into dumb pipes, and they are fighting to prevent this from happening.  The reality of the situation is that they do want to lock you in by any means necessary.

Oh, and let's not forget that the net neutrality portion of this would not apply to wireless providers.  They would continue to keep blocking access to whatever they want, slowing down whatever traffic they want, etc.  It's a mess now, and this won't make it any better.

I realize this is a bit out there, but imagine what would happen if AT&T customers could only call other AT&T customers.  Same for every other carrier.  Nobody would switch carriers because their friends and family all use that carrier, and their friends and family wouldn't switch because they wouldn't switch.  You already see this happening with their "in network" free calling, but to entirely segregate the different networks would increase this lock-in exponentially.

It's much like the current situation with VoIP and IM services.  AIM, for example.  If you use AIM, there's a good chance you use it because your friends use it.  You won't leave because then you won't be able to IM them.  There are open IM services (Google Talk, other Jabber/XMPP services), but they go largely unnoticed by the general public because they are either locked in or are not aware of an alternative.  In most cases they don't know how these services are more open than what they use, nor do they care, because they've been using it for as long as they can remember and it's what they're used to.

The situation is similar with Skype, though they are starting to see competition... Apple for one.  (And if Apple does actually make FaceTime an open standard, I will applaud them for that, but given their history with such things I seriously doubt that will happen.)  But for the most part they are the dominant video chat service, and attempting to get any long-time Skype user to even try anything else is a rather difficult task.

In fact, the internet was like this at one point.  Just take a look at early online systems to get an idea of where the internet could be headed.  Granted, traditional websites are here to stay - people aren't going to abandon standards entirely, and they are the best way to reach the most possible users.  But who is going to be making deals with the ISPs?  Content providers.  There's a good chance that, if this goes through, internet media will be split between ISPs, much like it is with TV.  If you want this content, you have to pay for it separately from this ISP.

If this is how the internet ends up, I seriously hope it ends with the content providers.  We do not need health care monitoring systems locking us in to a single ISP.  But let's not see this go through in the first place.  It's simply a bad idea.  Sorry, Google, but I'm not with you on this one.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Google Voice desktop app leaked to TechCrunch

Today, TechCrunch got the Google Voice app.  It may never be released officially, but they have it, and it works really well.  So I say... let's make sure Google knows that we still want the app.  Tweet about it, blog about it, whatever, but let's make sure they know.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

[UPDATE] Darchstar is about to release a FroYo ROM for the HTC Hero

I've been following this in IRC... and Darch is just about to release his FroYo ROM.  Check back for updates. :P

The rom's out, but I would advise against flashing it if you don't know what you're doing.  As such, I won't post a link quite yet.  There are a lot of things that can go wrong at this point.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Google Voice now available to the public

That's right, Google Voice is finally available to anyone who wants it.  No more begging for invites!  (So please.  People.  No begging for invites.)

We'll see what happens from this point on... whether or not Google will start charging for it... but the one thing we know for sure is that they're hard at work on Gizmo5 integration.  It's likely we'll see a desktop client (probably Windows-only, but I do hope there's a Linux version) and a web-based client in Gmail.

To all the new users... I think you'll love Google Voice, especially if you're already an Android user.  There's an app in the Market, so if you are an Android user, make sure you check it out.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Google releases the Google Command Line Tool, a command-line based interface for several Google services

Google just released the Google Command Line Tool, which provides access to Blogger, Calendar, Contacts, Docs, Picasa, and YouTube from a command line.  I know I'll probably be using this... well, all the time.  So much faster to add YouTube videos or calendar entries like that.

Granted, most users of these services won't care, since they're generally not Linux users and would hate to try and use a terminal... but hey, for those of us comfortable with it... perfect!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cloud Print coming in a few months; HP introducing cloud-aware printers

HP is set to release a new line of cloud-aware printers compatible with Google Cloud Print shortly.  The press release lists the basic model (HP Photosmart e-All-in-One) for release later this month at a price point of $99.

Google plans to release Cloud Print itself in the coming months, according to a blog post on their Chromium blog.  They have begun testing the service internally.