Subject: General Tech | September 20, 2014 - 02:33 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: chrome os, chrome, google, Android
Last week, we reported on Google's App Runtime for Chrome (ARC) beta release. Its goal is to bring apps from the Google Play Store to ChromeOS through an Android stack built atop Native Client. They are sandboxed, but still hardware-dependent for performance. Since then, vladikoff on GitHub has published ARChon, a project which brings that initiative to desktop OSes.
Image Credit: ARChon Project
To use Archon, you will need to use an x86-64 version of Chrome 37 (or later) on Windows, Mac, or Linux. This project is not limited to the handful of ARC-compatible apps that Google officially supports. The Android apps need to be converted into Chrome extensions using a tool, also available, called chromeos-apk. In fact, the example app is an open source version of the game, 2048, rather than just the four launch apps from Google.
Whether Google intends to offer this, officially, with their Chrome browser is the most interesting part for me. I would prefer that everything just works everywhere but, failing that, having a supported Android platform on the desktop without dual-booting or otherwise displacing the host itself could be interesting. And yes, Bluestacks exists, but it has not been something that I would recommend, at least in my experience of it.
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 13, 2014 - 05:52 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: google, chrome os, Android
To some extent...
This is not the entire Google Play Store; in fact, it is just four Android apps at launch: Duolingo, Evernote, Sight Words, and Vine. According to a Google spokesperson, via Ars Technica, the company built an Android platform on top of Native Client, which is their way of sandboxing (a subset of) native code for use in applications which require strict security (such as a web browser). Android apps can then see and use those platform-dependent Android APIs, but be kept at two arms-lengths away from the host system.
From the app's standpoint, code will not need to be changed or ported. Of course, this is sound in theory, but little bugs can surface in actual practice. In fact, Flipboard was demonstrated at Google I/O under this initiative but is curiously absent from launch. To me, it seems like a few bugs need to be resolved before it is deemed compatible (it is dubbed "Beta" after all). Another possibility is that the app was not yet optimized for a Chromebook's user experience. Claiming either would be pure speculation, so who knows?
Android apps using App Runtime for Chrome (Beta) are available now at the Chrome Web Store.
Subject: General Tech | May 6, 2014 - 03:01 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Intel, haswell, Chromebox, Chromebook, Chromebase, chrome os, Bay Trail
Intel hosted an event on Chrome OS today where the company discussed its partnership with Google and announced new Chrome devices based on the company's latest generation Haswell and Bay Trail processors.
Intel continues to work with Google to develop the Chromebook and the company sees potential for Chrome OS devices to expand to additional markets outside of consumer and education. Specifically, Intel and Google are pushing into the commercial markets by working with OEMs to put together devices aimed at corporate customers as productivity machines, video conferencing boxes, and drivers of customer kiosks and digital signage.
In addition to the expansion to new markets, the existing consumer and education markets continue to grow with the use of Chromebooks in schools doubling versus last quarter with 10,000 schools now employing the Google-powered hardware. Consumers have also pushed Chromebooks to the top six of Amazon charts with the Acer C720 having 4.4 out of five stars and over a thousand customer reviews.
Chrome OS is not only expanding into other markets but to additional form factors in the form of Chrome Boxes and Chrome Bases which are small form factor desktop systems and All-In-One devices powered by Chrome OS respectively. The second half of this year will see the number of Chrome OS devices expand from four design choices by four OEMs to twenty design choices from at least nine OEMs.
The upcoming Chrome OS devices will be powered by new processor options from Intel in the form of conflict-free Intel Haswell Core i3 CPUs and Intel Bay Trail SoCs. The Haswell Core i3 option is an upgrade over the Pentium and Celeron "Entry Level Haswell" parts and offer increased performance in offline computing tasks, app switching, and multi-tasking. The Bay Trail parts will enable passively cooled (fan-less) Chromebooks with around 8 hours (up to 11 hours+) of battery life while still offering up acceptable performance for watching videos or working with documents. Intel further claims that the Bay Trail powered Chromebooks will be thinner at less than 18mm and up to 15% lighter than existing models.
An 11.6" Chromebook powered by an Intel Haswell Core i3 processor coming later this year.
Intel showed off several new Chrome OS products that will be coming later this year. The new Chromebooks include Haswell i3-powered laptops from Acer and Dell for $349, the Lenovo N20 Chrome and N20p Chrome powered by an Intel Celeron (Bay Trail) SoC, and the Intel Education Chromebook Reference Design which CTL will bring to market later this year. It was also revealed that the already-announced Lenovo ThinkPad Chromebook with its Yoga-style hinge will actually use a Bay Trail SoC.
The Intel Education Chromebook Reference Design is a platform designed by Intel that other OEMs can take, tweak, and bring to market. It is a clamshell-style laptop with a rotating camera and ruggedized chassis aimed at students.
Intel's reference platform is a ruggedized clamshell laptop aimed at students.
Laptops and tablets dominated the show, but the company did unveil a tiny new Chrome Box from HP (slated for availability in June) that can sit behind a computer display or be used to drive digital signage and customer kiosks.
Further, Intel demonstrated a new Chrome OS form factor with what it calls a "Chrome Base." The first Chrome Base is coming from LG later this month as a 21" All In One computer running Chrome OS for $349.
Chrome OS in general is expanding from traditional clamshell laptops to larger screens and alternative form factors (desktop, tablet, convertible, et al), and when asked about the future of touch on Chrome OS and the overlap between Android and Chrome OS Caesar Sengupta, VP of Product Management at Google, explained that the company feels that touch is a key aspect in the computing experience and that Google is interested in supporting and improving touch on Chrome OS and evaluating customer use on alternative form factors. Further, Mr Sengupta stated that Google is focusing on Chromebooks, Chrome Boxes, and the new All In One Chrome Bases with physical keyboards for Chrome OS while Android is focused on mobile phones and touch-based tablets. As OEMs introduce more touch-friendly and acrobatic hinged Chrome devices, there is likely to be some overlap, but ultimately decisions affecting the directions of the two OSes will be based on customer demand.
Google also used the event to announce that within the next few weeks users will be able to play movies and TV shows offline using the Google Play Movies Chrome app.
Overall, the event demonstrated that Chrome OS is growing at a healthy pace. Devices using the cloud-friendly operating system will be in 20 countries by the end of this year (versus 9 currently), and the new x86 processor options will enable a smoother user experience and faster application performance. I am genuinely interested to see where OEMs are able to take Chrome OS and what it is able to do as Google continues development of the software.
If you are interested, you can watch a recorded version of the live stream on the Intel website.
Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more Chrome device news as the hardware gets closer to release.
Subject: Mobile | March 3, 2014 - 05:58 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Samsung, exynos 5, chromebook 2, Chromebook, chrome os, arm
Samsung is bringing a new Chromebook to market next month. Coming in 11-inch and 13-inch form factors the new Samsung Chromebook 2 offers updated hardware and more than eight hours of battery life.
The Chromebook 2 will be available in 11.6” and 13.3” models. The smaller variant will come in white or black while the larger SKU is only available in gray. The lids use a soft touch plastic that resembles stitched leather like that found on some Samsung smartphones. The 11.6” is 0.66-inches thick and weighs 2.43 pounds. The 13.3” model is 0.65-inches thick and weighs 3.09 pounds. The 11.6” Chromebook 2 has a 1366x768 display while the 13.3” Chromebook uses a 1920 x 1080 resolution display.
Internally, the Chromebook 2 is powered by an unspecified Exynos 5 Octa SoC at either 1.9GHz (11.6”) or 2.1GHz (13.3”), 4GB of DDR3L memory, and 16GB internal SSD storage. Internal radios include 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. Samsung rates the battery life at 8 hours for the 11.6” Chromebook and 8.5 hours for the 13.3” Chromebook.
Beyond the wireless tech, I/O includes one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0 port, one HDMI, one headphone output, and one micro SD card slot. This port configuration is available on both Chromebook 2 sizes.
Samsung is launching its Chromebook 2 in April at $319.99 and $399.99 for the 11.6” and 13.3” respectively. This new Chromebook is coming to a competitive market that is increasingly packed with Bay Trail-powered Windows 8.1 notebooks (and tablets) that are getting cheaper and Android tablets that are getting more features and more powerful thanks to new ARM-based SoCs. I'm interested to see what platform users start gravitating towards, is the cloud-connected Chrome OS good enough when paired with good battery life and a physical keyboard?
Are you looking forward to Samsung's new Chromebook 2?
Subject: Editorial, General Tech | July 27, 2013 - 03:39 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: streaming, media, google. chrome, chromecast, chrome os
Earlier this week, web search giant Google launched a new portable media streaming device called the Chromecast. The Chromecast is a small device about the size of a large USB flash drive that has a full size HDMI video output, micro USB power jack, and Wi-Fi connectivity. The device run’s Google’s Chrome OS and is able to display or playback any web page or media file that the Chrome web browser can.
The Chromecast is designed to plug into televisions and stream media from the internet. Eventually, users will be able to “cast” embedded media files or web pages from a smartphone, tablet, or PC running Android, iOS, Windows, or Mac OS X with a Chrome web browser over to the Chromecast. The sending device will point the Chromecast as the requisite URL where the streaming media or web page resides along with any necessary authorization tokens needed to access content behind a pay-wall or username/password login. From there, the Chromecast itself will reach out to the Internet over the Wi-Fi radio, retrieve the web page or media stream, and output it to the TV over HDMI. Playback controls will be accessible on the sending device, such as an Android smartphone, but it is the Chromecast itself that is streaming the media unlike solutions like wireless HDMI, AirPlay, DLNA, or Miracast. As such, the sending device is able to perform other tasks while the Chromecast handles the media streaming.
At launch, users will be able to use the Chromecast to stream Netflix, YouTube, and Google Play videos. At some point in the future, Google will be adding support for additional apps, including Pandora Internet radio streaming. Beyond that, (and this feature is still in development) users will be able to share entire Chrome tabs with the Chromecast (some reports are indicating that this tab sharing is done using the WebRTC standard). Users will need to download and install a Google Cast extension, which will put a button to the right of the URL button that, when pressed, will “cast” the tab to the Chromecast which will pull it up over its own internet connection and output it to the TV. When on a website that implements the SDK, users will have additional options for sharing just the video and using the PC as a remote along with handy playback and volume controls.
Alternatively, Google is releasing a Chromecast SDK that will allow developers to integrate their streaming media with the Chromecast. Instead of needing to share the entire tab, web developers or mobile app developers will be able to integrate casting functionality that will allow users to share solely the streaming media with the Chromecast similar to the upcoming ability to stream just the YouTube or Netflix video itself rather than the entire web page with the video embedded into it. Unfortunately, there is currently a caveat that states that developers must have all there apps (using the Chromecast SDK) approved by Google.
Sharing ("Casting") a Chrome web browser tab to a TV from a PC using the Chromecast.
It should be noted that Wired has reported success in using the tab sharing functionality to play back local media by electing Chrome to playback locally-stored video files, but this is not a perfect solution as Chrome has a limited number of formats it can playback in a window and audio sync proved tricky at times. With that said, the Chromecast is intended to be an Internet streaming device, and Google is marketing it as such, so it is difficult to fault the Chromecast for local streaming issues. There are better solutions for getting the most out of your LAN-accessible media, after all.
The Chromecast is $35 and will ship as soon as August 7, 2013 from the Google Play Store. Amazon and Best Buy had stock listed on their websites until yesterday when both e-tailers sold out (though you might be lucky enough to find a Chromecast at a brick and mortar Best Buy store). For $35, you get the Chromecast itself, a rigid HDMI extender that extends the Chromecast closer to the edge of the TV to make installation/removal easier, and a USB power cord. Google was initially also offering 3 free months of Netflix Instant streaming but has since backed away from the promo due to overwhelming demand (and if Google can continue to sell out of Chromecasts without spending money on Netflix for each unit, it is going to do that despite the PR hit (or at least disappointed buyers) to bolster the profit margin on the inexpensive gadget).
The Chromecast does have its flaws, and the launch was not perfect (many OS support and device features are still being worked on), but at $35 it is a simple impulse buy on a device that should only get better from here as the company further fleshes out the software. Even on the off-chance that Google abandons the Chromecast, it can still stream Netflix, YouTube, and Google Play for a pittance.
Subject: General Tech | October 20, 2012 - 09:40 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: xe303c12, Samsung, laptop, google, Exynos 5250, Chromebook, chrome os, arm
While Android gets most of the attention, it is not the only operating system from Google. Chrome OS was released two years ago, and despite the rising popularity of smartphones and tablets, it is still very much alive and kicking on the cloud-connected “Chromebooks.”
In fact, earlier this week Samsung announced a brand new Chromebook powered by its own Exynos 5250 ARM System of a Chip (SoC). The new system is lighter than the company’s previous Chromebook offerings at 2.43 pounds and is less than an inch thick. The specifications are not impressive for a laptop, but in the context of a Chromebook where much of the processing is done on Internet-connected servers the internals should ensure that you get good battery life – up to 6.3 hours – out of the mobile machine.
The 11.6” Chromebook has a display with a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels, 1.5W stereo speakers, and a full physical keyboard with trackpad.
External I/O options include:
- 1 x USB 3.0
- 1 x USB 2.0
- 1 x Headphone/Mic combo jack
- 1 x SD card slot
The USB 3.0 option is interesting, and should allow you to hook up fast external storage should you need more caching space for offline use.
On the outside, the Chromebook very much resembles a standard laptop, but on the inside it is closer to the specifications of a smartphone or tablet. Interestingly, Samsung has chosen its Exynos 5250 system on a chip to power the XE303C12 Chromebook. That processor is packing two Cortex A15-based ARM CPU cores and an ARM Mali T604 GPU. While the Exynos 15 is capable of clocking up to 2GHz, it is unclear whether or not the Chromebook will feature chips clocked at that speed or not. It is certainly a possibility though, since the laptop form factor would provide ample cooling versus a more constrained smartphone or tablet. Beyond the SoC, Samsung has packed in 2GB of RAM and a 16GB solid state drive (SSD). Additionally, the XE303C12 Chromebook includes a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip – useful for business uses – and 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi radio with a 2x2 antenna configuration.
The new Samsung Chromebook is available for pre-order now, and will be officially available for purchase at Best Buy, Amazon, Newegg, and other retailers beginning October 22, 2012. It has an MSRP of $249.99.
I’m interested to see how this compared to the Windows RT offerings, and whether the cheaper price will win people over versus those devices. On the other hand, it may be that Android tablets – like the Nexus 7, Nook Tablet, and new Kindle Fire tablets – are the favored devices for all but road warriors needing a decent keyboard. What do you think?
Introduction and Design
Introduction, Design, User Interface
In August of 2011 I reviewed the Acer AC700-1099, one of two Chromebooks available in the North American market. The review was almost entirely negative. The hardware wasn’t great and the operating system was a bit of a mess–capable of only the most basic tasks.
Since then, the small surge of hype that surrounded the Chrome OS release has receded. You could be mistaken for thinking Google has abandoned it, but they haven’t. In typical Google fashion it has been slowly, quietly improved. Performance tweaks have allegedly improved web browsing, a proper file manager has been added and Google has just launched Google Drive, its cloud storage service.
Such enhancements could address a lot of the concerns I had with the Acer rendition. Do they? That’s what we’re here to find out. Let’s start with the basics - what’s inside?
The hardware inside the Samsung Series 5 is nearly identical to what was inside the Acer AC700-1099 that we reviewed late last year. We’re talking an Atom processor that must rely on its own IGP, two gigabytes of RAM and a tiny–but quick–16GB solid state drive.
While the equipment is the same, the pricing has changed. When we reviewed the Acer Chromebook it was $349.99. That has been slashed to $279.99. The Series 5, which used to be priced at $429, is now sold for just $299.