Month: May 2011

Google CR-48 Cromebook

I got home the other day and saw a package on the front step.  I didn't think much of it, I kinda have an addiction to ordering stuff off of Amazon.  Then my wife said, "What'd you get now?".  I got to thinking, I haven't ordered anything in a few days, I wonder what it is.  I picked up the box and brought it in.  It was delivered by UPS, and I didn't recognize the return address.  I started to open the outside box and saw a box a little smaller with a design on it.  I thought that's weird, I that design looks familiar, but I'm not sure from where.  I continued to open the box and then it hit me.  I had received one of Google's trial/beta Chromebooks.  I couldn't believe it.  Is it possible they finally got around to sending me one from when I had requested it in December 2010.  I had read somewhere online that they sent all that they were going to send out, so I had forgotten it. I mean, really, why would some regular guy from the mid-west get a free laptop from Google.  I thought to myself, was this an accident.  I had just bid for one on ebay 2 days earlier for way less than it sold for.  I think I offered $150 and it went for $455.  I obviously wasn't that serious, but every once in a while you get that feeling that you will get a deal on ebay.  I could see paying $500 for the laptop… if I didn't have a wife that would've killed me for it.

I cracked open the laptop, charged it up.  Then went and checked my email just to make sure I hadn't missed something from Google or the ebay auction.  Then searched Twitter and realized a bunch of people were receiving them.  I'm not sure if Google was trying to clear their inventory before they are released, just passing them out to Google I/O wannabes, or really thought I would get good use out of it, but now I don't care.  I rushed back to the Chromebook to boot it up and set things up.  Still a little bit in shock, I flew through the setup and customized the it to match my Chrome browser.  Tested out the obvious things like Google Music, Talk, Reader, News, and of course Gmail.  Then tried Amazon music and our work websites that I've helped build.  Everything was so quick, crisp and easy.  I'm really happy with the experience so far.

The hardware is sturdy, I figured for the price, they couldn't be this well built.  It feels solid, better than my Dell Mini Netbook really.  It's a little bigger, but not near the size of my Dell Latitude Laptop I use for work.   The size is just right, it's thin and still has enough real estate that my fat fingers still fit and feel comfortable on the keyboard.  The new keys are a nice touch, I'm kind of a keyboard shortcuts guy, so I like them.  I guess it has an Intel Atom processor, 2 GB of RAM, a good sided solid state drive, a webcam, and a battery that lasts for days.  Ok, I've only gotten it to last for a day and a half, but I was playing on it a ton and that's crazy good.  

I do have to be fair and give a couple downfalls or room for improvement.  The trackpad is really glitchy.  It seems like it doesn't pick up all of my touches.  The multi-touch stuff is nice, but it doesn't work everytime.  Maybe I just don't have the magic touch.  I like how big the trackpad is, but I'm not used to not having a button yet.  I have the Magic Trackpad, or whatever they call it, for my iMac and it works great, but I haven't gotten used to the Mac Book styled one yet.  The other thing that seems weird is some of time after I wake it up I am unable to connect to the internet.  I have to disconnect or restart, but that hasn't been a big deal.  I guess I forgot to mention that the major problem I had when I first turned it on is that it wouldnt' connect to my home wifi.  I got it connected to my phones hotspot, so I wasn't sure what the problem was.  I changed the name of my network, changed the encryption and the key, no luck.  After reading some forums, I restarted everything a few times.  Then finally tried to update my routers firmware and that was it.  I have a Linksys WRT110, so it's not even that old.  It has wireless N, so that just shows the firmware can't be that out dated.

As for the software, I'm really happy with it.  I put one of the original versions of Hexxeh's ChromeOS build on my Dell Mini and liked it, but things have come a long ways since then.  It booted much faster, the graphics are better.  Browser is faster.  I don't even remember using extensions or "apps" from my netbook.  Speaking of which, I really like how Google has created an ecosystem around things that have been around for years: Extensions, app shortcuts, tabbed browsing, locked tabs.  What's nice is they really made it their own.  And it's an ecosystem that is actually flexible, open and welcomes everyone to use it.  Unlike the iOS app I've been thinking about for 4 years, my websites all work natively.  The Google talk is nice how it pops over whatever window you're already in.  The settings are simple, almost too simple.  I'd like to be able to control a little more with file storage, but I'm not sure what I'd do.

The laptop really has done 2 major things to me.  1, it made me a Google fanboy for life.  I already use all their services and have a couple android devices.  I also have a Google Apps account and have been influencing my work to seal the deal on theirs as well.  I don't see any reason to turn back now.  I agree with almost everything Google does about an open internet and giving people the opportunity to get involved in whatever they want from anywhere.  In my opinion, Google is a large part of what makes the internet great.  2, it really renewed my excitement to make stuff.  Instead of just talking about some of the plans I have, I'm starting on making them a reality.  There's all kinds of areas I want to expand my reach in the web development and design areas, but this has fueled me to start doing them.  I can't wait to say that the Chromebook was a big influence in that process.

Big Omaha 2011

I finally got the opportunity to attend the 3rd annual Big Omaha event, hosted at Kaneko by Silicon Prairie News and many other sponsors.  The 2 day, 3 night event hosts many speakers of all areas of technology and entrepreneurship.  Some notable ones this year are Aneesh Chopra, Mark Ecko, and Gary Vaynerchuk.  Of course there are many more, but the event is truly a driving force in getting people together to discuss ideas, find answers and network with people that have similar interests.  I don’t really consider myself an entrepreneur, but I really enjoy technology and putting ideas into action.  You’ll also notice I’m not a writer, so bear with me.

I finally decided to attend for many reasons and I’m not sure why I waited for so long.  Sure I saw the past presentations online and have read up on, but with the price tag and not being directly related to entrepreneurship, even the proximity of the conference couldn’t get me to attend.  I’m not the best at networking in person, so watching from a distance was enough.  Boy was I wrong.  I talked my employer into footing the bill and attended the 2011 conference with an open mind.  I planned on hearing personal stories from the technology field and hoping to be motivated to work on some of the personal projects that get put off in my everyday life.  I was blown away by the atmosphere and it exceeded my expectations.  The speakers where great, the atmosphere was amazing and it really shows what this city has to offer.

The conference itself was very well executed.  Everything stayed on time, we were greeted every morning by coffee, Red Bull, snacks, and a continental breakfast.  The branding around the event was beautiful and I don’t use that word very often.  The cow/moon theme went from the $5 t-shirts, to the free stickers, coffee & bathroom labels, to the accordion style program, charging station, stage decorations, photo booth, and pretty much everything you could see.  It wasn’t overpowering or in your face, just perfectly styled to prove that every little detail was planned out.  Everyone that helped host was very nice and helpful.  The venue, Kaneko, was the perfect setting.  I can tell why they don’t want to grow too much, it did a great job of offering a blogger lounge, side rooms, and greeting area so that even the speakers were always accessible and everyone was openly approachable.  The walls were full with local artwork and gave the vibe of open minds and creative ideas.  Not to mention that what Jeff Slobotski, Dusty Davidson and their staff have done to Silicon Prairie News and this event are great for the community.  I haven’t met either of the guys, but you can tell they stand for what they believe in and are great characters.  They were constantly thanking everyone else, when I’m sure they could have taken more credit.

I had such a great time I would recommend this event to any one in Omaha interested in tech or not and to anyone in the US interested in the ideas and topics that were discussed in Omaha.  Some day we will look back at this and say how Big Omaha put the Silicon Prairie on the map.