Introduction and Design
Subject: General Tech | July 12, 2012 - 02:40 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: linux, laptop, Chromebook, asus, EeePC 1225C, sputnik
If you are less than impressed by Windows 8 or are looking to avoid the costs incurred by a Windows installation on the laptop then Linux.com has four systems you should consider. First up are the Chromebook models available at stores like Best Buy, like the Samsung 12.1-inch Series 5 Chromebook. If the ChromeOS isn't to your liking then perhaps the Asus EeePC 1225C which comes with Ubuntu installed on it. It is not yet widely available but should make it to North America in the not too distant future. Dell is also getting into this market with their Project Sputnik which Tim covered a few weeks ago. Finally are what are referred to as Diminutive Desktops which cover devices like the Raspberry Pi, VIA's APC and a number of other models. You might have more choices when it comes to Linux powered retail PCs than you think.
"Windows may still be the default operating system on the vast majority of mainstream PCs thanks to Microsoft's many longstanding OEM partnerships, but that's not to say it hasn't been possible for some time to buy desktop machines with Linux preloaded.
No, indeed! Thanks to vendors such as System76, ZaReason, EmperorLinux and others, Linux fans have long been able to get desktops, laptops, netbooks and more preloaded with a variety of Linux distributions -- and that's not even counting several on-again, off-again efforts by Dell, Wal-Mart and others to sell Linux boxes on their retail shelves."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- TSMC touting next-generation 20nm process in the US @ DigiTimes
- Fusion-io server strokers show off 2.6TB RAM extension @ The Register
- Sonic screwdriver controls your TV, doesn’t work on wood @ Hack a Day
- ARM CEO says CMOS transistors and Moore's Law are not the future @ The Inquirer
- Disable Gadgets NOW says Redmond @ The Register
- Everything You Need to Know About the PCI Express @ Hardware Secrets
- OCZ, In-Win & Thermalright Joint Contest @ NikKTech
Introduction and Design
We have our heads in the clouds. Once a dream, cloud computing is now common and used to support everything from file sharing to email. Here at PC Perspective, for example, we often make use of Dropbox. Storing certain files “in the cloud” is much easier than directly emailing them to and fro.
Google is one of the cloud’s most ardent supporters. The Internet seems to be Google’s answer to everything from emails to file sharing to document editing. All these tasks can be accomplished online through a browser with a Google utility.
When Google announced that it was going to develop an entire OS based off its Chrome web browser there was much shock, speculation and excitement. In hindsight, however, this development was probably inevitable given the company’s love of everything online. Now, Google Chrome OS is a retail product. Let’s find out if a cloud OS can compete with more traditional options.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 12, 2011 - 09:32 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: subscription, mobile, Chromebook
Maximum PC recently reported details regarding just what the Google Chromebook subscription will cost for the various models and what each subscription entails. While you can read about the Chromebook and the various subscriptions in this previous article, specific pricing for the subscriptions for each of the launch models are detailed below:
|Enterprise (monthly)||Education (monthly)||
Consumer (no subscription)
|Acer Chromebook (WiFi)||$28||$20||$349|
|Acer Chromebook (3G)||$31||$23||$TBA|
|Samsung Series 5 (WiFi)||$30||$20||$429|
|Samsung Series 5 (3G)||$33||$23||$499|
Futher details that were clairified regarded mobile data and minumum orders. Each subscription will include 100MB of 3G data with those Chromebooks that have 3G hardware. Also, in order to recieve a subscription contract, both businesses and schools must order a minimum of 10 devices.
Just as with cell phone plans, there are early termination fees for those schools and/or businesses that wish to back out of their contracts. Google has stated that the early termination fee will be equal to the remainder of their contract. For example, if a small business has twenty users and five months left on their contract, in order to get out of said contract, the business would need to pay $2800 if their users all had the base Acer WiFi model.
Needless to say, it would be smarter to just ride out the contract (if possible for the institution), because at least then the business would still retain support for the devices versus buying out the contract for the same amount of money and losing all support for their devices. It will be interesting to see if Google will hold businesses and schools to this ETF or if they will renege and change their policy to appear more enticing to the market.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 12, 2011 - 01:52 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: mobile, laptop, Chromebook
First there was the laptop. Then the notebook. The netbook is the most recent addition to mobile devices with hardware keyboards. That is, until today. Google has officially launched a new cloud OS based mobile device dubbed the ChromeBook.
As a netbook with an operating system that amounts to little more than a web browser, the device purports to not only match the functionality of a "normal" netbook, but surpass it thanks to file storage residing in the cloud, automatic updates to the OS, virtually unlimited applications, and an eight second boot time.
Google further states that the device is capable of all the promises feats while remaining secure. Security is accomplished by several independent strategies. The OS splits up system settings and user settings, and each ChromeBook allows only one "owner" per device. The owner is able to allow other users to log in to the device as well, whether it is with their Google account or as a guest. Guest Mode does not sync or cache data, and all system settings are kept out of the session, including network configuration. Each process is sandboxed in an effort to reduce the likely hood of cross-process attacks. Further, the browser and plugin processes are not given direct kernel interface access. Toolchain hardening seeks to limit exploit reliability and success. The file system has several restrictions, including a read-only root partition, tmpfs-based /tmp, and User home directories that can not have executable files.
Further, ChromeBooks utilize a secure automatic update system and Verified Boot that seeks to eliminate attacks tampering with the underlying code. All updates are downloaded over SSL, and are required to pass various integrity checks. The version number of updates is not allowed to regress, meaning that only updates with a version number higher than those already installed on the system are allowed to install. Further, on the next boot-up, the updates undergo a further integrity check in the form of what Google calls "Verified Boot."
According to Google, Verified Boot "provides a means of getting cryptographic assurances that the Linux kernel, non-volatile system memory, and the partition table are untampered with when the system starts up." The process depends on a "chain of trust" which is created using custom read-only firmware rather than a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) device. The read-only firmware checks the integrity of the writable firmware, and if it passes then the writable firmware is used to check the integrity of the next component in the boot up process. While Verified Boot does not protect against dedicated attackers, it does allow a safe recovery option when re-installing as well as detecting changes made by a successful run-time attack and files or write-able firmware changes made by an attacker with a bootable USB drive.
In future iterations of the OS, Google is pursuing driver sandboxing as well as implementing a secure method for auto-logins. Further, Google states that they are interested in pursuing biometric security if they are able to ensure their authentication software is secure when using low cost hardware. Also on the agenda is implementing a "single signon" system that would allow users to log into third party sites using credentials generated by their Google account.
Hardware running Chrome OS is not new, however. Google's CR-48 notebook has been in the wild for months, allowing thousands of users the chance to try out the new operating system and its accompanying hardware. Both Acer (11.6", $349) and Samsung (12.1", $429 wifi only) have stepped up to the plate and are offering ChromeBooks at launch. What is new; however, is the way in which users are able to purchase the hardware. While consumers will still be able to purchase a ChromeBook from retailers, Google has announced a new subscription option for school and business users. The new subscription service would allow students to receive a ChromeBook for $20 a month, while business users would pay $28 a month. In order to get the subscription price schools and businesses must enter into a three year contract. The subscription price includes the "hardware, operating system, updates and cloud-based management" along with online, email, and telephone support directly from Google. The monthly subscription further includes regular hardware refreshes.
It is apparent that Google sees its largest market for ChromeBooks as being large businesses and schools, which can then manage a fleet of ChromeBooks for their users for a much lower cost versus maintaining hundreds of traditional computers. While large IT departments are likely to see the cost benefits, It remains to be seen how consumers will react to this subscription based model. Subscriptions have become more prevalent, with the majority of the US using cell phones with monthly contracts. On the other hand, users --students especially-- are used to buying a computer outright. Will the lure of low cost subscription ChromeBooks be enough to break consumers' traditional thoughts on purchasing computers? Will students accept remotely administrated computers in exchange for a low cost subscription?