Friday, August 30, 2013

8 Ways the Chromebook Pixel Trumps the MacBook Air

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I still consider myself an Apple guy, but the Pixel is making me rethink what the MacBook Air experience should really be about. 

I travel a lot and spend a lot of time outside of the office with clients. The Macbook Air has been my go-to device when I'm away from the office. 

I have an Apple desktop that I use in the office. But the more I use the Pixel, the more I think the MacBook Air should be a true cloud experience. I hate having to worry about keeping two versions of the same operating system in sync (referring to my Apple Desktop and MacBook Air).

After using the Pixel for about a month just as I would my MacBook Air, here are some things I think that makes the Pixel a better choice for mobile professionals:
  1. My Pixel boots from cold (and restarts) faster.
  2. My Pixel updates with one button about every six weeks.
  3. My Pixel has a higher resolution screen.
  4. My Pixel has a touchscreen interface.
  5. My Pixel has LTE built in.
  6. My Pixel came with one terabyte of Cloud storage for three years.
  7. My Pixel can be restored by logging into a new Pixel quickly if necessary. (Less down time waiting for Time Machine to restore the device.)
  8. My Pixel has a cool light bar at the top that changes colors. (OK. I know this really doesn't matter, but it was worth mentioning.)
I know, I know. You can't edit Hollywood movies or record Platinum music albums on a Pixel. But you're not likely to do that on your MacBook Air either. And now that Apple has launch iWork for iCloud, I can do just about everything I need to do whether it's in Office, iWork, or Google Docs format.

If the MacBook Air is a second device for you to use when you're mobile, would you consider the Pixel?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

11 Extensions That Boost My Productivity on My Chromebook

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I'm constantly on the lookout for new extensions to help me be more productive. I tend to get "extension happy" from time and time and need to go back and clean up the ones I don't use on a regular basis.

Of the ones I have, these are the 11 I use most often.

  1. Grammarly-Lite: Smart Spellchecker—Every place where I need to enter text is an opportunity to make a grammatical or syntactical mistake. People form their impressions about you based on your spelling and grammatical prowess. Parts of this service are free and parts require a paid subscription. It's worth every penny.
  2. Keep Awake—This is helpful when you are making presentations with your Chromebook.
  3. Pocket—Quickly save what you need to read later.
  4. URL Shortener—Use this extension when you have a lot of links to share but want to keep the look "clean." It also offers you the ability to track how many people clicked on the like you shared.
  5. Lastpass—Easily generate new passwords, complete forms with pre-determined profiles, and more with this extension which helps you utilize the power of the best password app available.
  6. Buffer—Quickly share what you need to, when you need to, and to what social networks you choose with this extension. 
  7. Google+ Notification—You don't have to have Google+ open in a tab in Chrome to quickly review your updates.
  8. Send from Gmail—Reading something and realize you need to share it with someone else via email? You're just one click away.
  9. Google Cast—When it's time to do a presentation, you'll want this extension along with your Chromecast.
  10. RSS Subscription—Yes, I still love and use RSS feeds. When one is available, this comes up in your Omnibox. Simple. Easy. Done.
  11. Google Voice—Quickly send or read text messages, listen to voice mails, or even place a call.
Please note: This is by no means an exhaustive list. 

What extensions help you be more productive on your Chromebook?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Chrome Devices Eliminate Expensive Kiosks for Churches and Nonprofits

Chromebooks are already affecting enterprise buying habits.

In a bold move one CIO decided to install Chromeboxes in his Polaroid Photobar retail stores in lieu of other options. After buying one on a whim, George Garcia was so impressed that he decided to make it his device of choice to provide an incredible retail experience.

It was determined that the cost of the units, minimal effort to maintain, and overall user experience was worth the switch.

If Chrome devices are an attractive options for enterprise buyers, why not also for nonprofits and churches?

Well, one church has already made the move.

+Rich Birch, operations pastor at Liquid Church decided to stop buying Apple computers for his church staff (with the exception of those who required one for video and photo editing) and start issuing Chromebooks.

They'd already been using Chrome devices as information kiosks successfully. This was a natural next step that saved them thousands of dollars in technology hardware.

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Use Chrome Devices For Public Terminals

One option that makes Chrome devices viable for nonprofits and churches that many people are not aware of is the ability to manage public sessions with ease. This allows anyone to use the Chrome device. When they're finished, all of their data is wiped clean for the next person.

This made me start thinking about the expensive giving and information kiosks many businesses, churches, and nonprofits invest in for their campuses and live events. Some of these kiosks cost as much as $2,500 to $5,000. That just doesn't make any sense when you can accomplish the same thing with a $250 Chromebook.

These public terminals are portable, inexpensive, and easy to set up. (Oh yeah...they can be managed from the Google Apps for Business Admin panel, too.) And when it's time to change the physical configuration of the kiosks—or even the venue—for an event, it can be done quickly without the need to move around a piece of unnecessary and bulky furniture.

Chrome Devices Offer Greater Value Than Stationary Kiosks

If you are a church or nonprofit who doesn't always meet in the same physical location, you might want to consider using Chrome devices as a public terminal for giving, event sign up, information, or simply as a way for your members or donors to surf the web for free at your location. This will save you time, headache, and money when it comes to storage, set up, and expense to maintain.

One might also think about the outreach potential a church might have by setting up a computer lab of Chromebooks where underprivileged children can come to do their homework or where adults can learn essential computer skills for better paying employment opportunities.

Chrome devices don't just provide a way to improve the delivery of technology, give the user a better computing experience, and reduce overall costs. They also provide a very palatable option to help improve the lives of the people around us, too.

Are you letting image and familiarity get in the way of making the best technology decision for your members and donors?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

"All Things Chromebook" Mentioned on Recent GigaOM Chrome Show Podcast

I was shocked when one my posts ended up as a point of discussion on one of my favorite tech podcasts.

+Kevin Tofel and +Chris Albrecht highlighted Why the Price of the Chromebook Pixel Matters on their latest +GigaOM Chrome Show podcast. (See: Chrome OS is getting better all the time.)

If you're not already subscribed to their podcast and you're interested in Chrome, you'll definitely want to subscribe.

The discussion around the post happens between 11:10 and 18:06. Jump to the relevant discussion, or you can listen to the entire podcast.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Google's Android Battles May Accelerate Chrome OS

There is an important conversation brewing over Android: Will the mounting intellectual property battles Google continues to face related to its mobile operating system force Google to focus more intensely on Chrome OS? (Read: Google Appears Ready to Ditch Android Over Its Intellectual Proptery Issues.)

No one knows. But we'll likely soon find out.

For now, I wanted to better understand the implications of Google's current situation and if, indeed, Google might drop Android in favor of Chrome OS. The answer to this question is far beyond my knowledge and experience, so I reached out to +Jerry Daniels to shed some light on the issue.

Below is our interview. Thank you, Jerry, for taking the time to pull back the curtains and give me some valuable insight on this issue. (And thank you also for introducing me to Quip.)

1. How did Google end up with two operating systems: Chrome OS and Android?

A short answer to this question requires cherry-picking that history to suit a thesis, point-of-view, or even a bias. I'm reluctant do either an in-depth history or a too-easy couple of bullet points. But for the purposes of our discussion, here's a basic sum-up:

  • The origins of Chrome OS are somewhat disputed. One side of the dispute contends that the OS was a single-person project not originally intended to be a web OS, but rather a super-fast, RAM resident, Linux device with which Google engineers could code. It turns out that PMs within Google say that's not the case; that it was an internally sponsored project meant to be a web OS ideal for the burgeoning netbook market. I believe it was the latter. (Read: The Secret Origins of Google's Chrome OS.)

  • Android history is somewhat more straight-forward, with Andy Rubin pitching a mobile device OS to Larry Page — a pitch which Larry could not really refuse to catch, because of Andy's standing as the Sidekick and Apple guy. It turned into a long meeting. Many contend Android was a do-anything OS and was made to pivot while others say it was going to be a photo-sharing phenom. I believe the former. (Read: Google's Open Source Android OS Will Free the Wireless Web.)

Google ended up with both OS's because they each came into play before Larry found his groove as a super-focused CEO. Before that second coming of Larry, projects were springing up all over the place in Google. These were just two.

2. However Chrome OS began, is it more or less important to Google's future than Android?

Android is crucial to Google, but only the Chrome OS architecture offers Google freedom from a pernicious OEM, legal hassles, low device profitability, lack of control, and the bad end of the web traffic/data (real value) stick. Also, only Chrome OS is different. And difference matters.

3. How is Chrome OS different?

Android and iOS are not that different. Windows and OS X are not that different. These OS's are based on the assumption that we're offline most of the time. That is their primary case in the way they manage apps, operate, and update: big app and OS downloads. Lots of binary flying around and stopping everything else. It's like someone eating everything on the table because they think they may never get to eat again.

Chrome OS operates under the correct assumption that we ARE online most of the time. Updates to its OS are fast, invisible, and always make the devices they run on better. That's because of their primary case: we're online all the time. Chrome OS doesn't try to eat everything on the table.
(I'm not the only one who feels this way: My Thoughts on Chrome OS.)

4. But can Chrome OS being 'different' make a business difference?

The economics of Chrome OS device builds are excellent. These devices require less power, processing, storage, and memory. This means cheaper, more powerful devices that run longer on a charge. They're built around the online use case and operate accordingly. All other OS's are legacy in comparison.

This is not to say that Chrome OS doesn't still have a way to go before it can deliver on its promise, though. But I do think what it stands for represents the future for Google.

5. What are the intellectual property issues Google has with Android? Are they serious enough to force Google to accelerate their investment in the development of Chrome OS?

Some of the Android legal issues revolve around their use of Java. Some folks think this problem has gone away, but it has not. Larry Ellison (of Oracle) was just on television to state how unhappy he is with Larry Page's behavior toward what Ellison regards as the “theft” of Jave for the Android OS. I don't believe Mr. Ellison is going to let go of this issue, even if a court finds in favor of Google in this matter.

Then there's Apple's relentless pursuit of Android devices that they feel violate their patents. As users, it's easy to ignore these issues, but they are real. They tarnish the brand and eat up resources. Chrome OS has none of these encumbrances. It's new and original. It's going in a completely different direction — toward the Google bottom line, too.

6. What will it take for Chrome OS to get to the point that Google is willing to ditch Android entirely? Is that even reasonable?

The metamorphosis of Android and Chrome OS will not be what we expect. The name Android will likely stick around, but the reality of Android will change a lot. It will become Chrome OS-ized just as Chromecast is an Android device that was Chrome OS-ized. The Chrome browser and the services it can access have now permeated every OS and every device. It is starting to permeate Android as well. “Ditching Android” is not really the right question, here.

7. Further, what will Google have to do to attract developers to Chrome OS? We both know that apps are what drives adoption rate for most users.

Chrome OS (and the Chrome browser) will have to offer access to device services in order to attract developers who create great apps. HTML was not really intended to let a web page or app access your device because it might open the door to malicious exploits. Google has to figure out a way to offer access but with security of some sort. Also, developers will have to make real money to create great apps and maintain them. A great development environment with a single, mainstream syntax wouldn't hurt anything either.

Not only apps, but services and great devices attract users — along with over-all user experience. Chrome OS users are delighted with their get-out-of-the-way OS that magically updates over night and reboots instantly. Apps and services? Not so much. There's a long way to go, there. Free apps are not helping Chrome OS in the long run. There need to be some killer apps for business. Apple did a smart thing with iWork. Google drive with docs, slides and sheets is great for the tech-prone of us; but it needs a pro version that's more polished and will attract pro-sumers, CTOs, and the like.

8. If Google asked you what was the single greatest opportunity and the single greatest challenge ahead for Chrome OS, what would you say?

Opportunity: It's new, fast, and different than all the others. Reach out to developers. Evangelize!

Challenge: Chicken and the egg. Where are the apps? Packaged apps, not just websites. Killer apps.

9. For the folks who want to know more about you, could you offer a bio?

“Jerry is a veteran software developer who makes a living interpreting dreams.” says my wife, Mary Jane Mara. I'm currently interim CIO and serve as head of application development for Synergy Patient-centric Healthcare of McKinney, Texas. My wife and I are also starting up a health-oriented company for technical leaders, managers and directors called Rezzzolve ( It's still in the t-shirt, prototype, and landing page stages. (Biographical link:

Monday, August 12, 2013

Why the Price of the Chromebook Pixel Matters

I am going to take an unpopular position, but I am growing weary of the demands by some that the Pixel should be all that it is and still be sold for $250 or less.

I completely reject the B.S. that is being spread in the marketplace—Belief System that is.

No one expects a Bentley for the price of a Scooter. Why are so many outraged by a $1,500 laptop?

Here are 10 reasons why the Chromebook Pixel is priced right—perhaps even lower than it should be.
  1. Quality costs money. Just because you don't think the Pixel should be $1,500 (and instead should be sold for $250) doesn't mean you're right. The Pixel is first-class, but you don't understand it until you use one.  
  2. Market perception needed to shift. There is a psychology behind pricing. Most people assume that the more expensive a product is, the more valuable it is. Very often price and quality are linked. And perception is powerful. This had to be addressed to avoid the fate of the netbook niche that has almost vanished. I still remember the outrage around the $500 Samsung 550 Chromebook. Comparing that to a $1,500 Pixel, it seems reasonable. And so would a new mid-range Chromebook price around $800. (Magic!)
  3. Google drew a line in the sand. Moving upstream is tough; only companies committed to a product line do it. Chromebooks needed to prove that they could become a trusted resource for consumers. Continuing to move up market (something you see across many verticals) is important to build confidence in consumers which will help them be more comfortable making the switch, even if not everyone chooses the premium option.
  4. IT directors needed to pay attention. Google needed to get the attention of key decision makers. I'm talking about IT directors and developers who appreciate quality. Getting their attention with the Pixel is important—even if they purchase the Samsung ARM Chromebook in bulk. Corporate installs are critical for the success of Chromebooks. Why? Exposure. Mass exposure within the education market was key to the success of Apple early on. Google has shown a commitment to the business and education communities. This is a good move.
  5. Executives needed to carry it into the Boardroom. Microsoft is synonymous with business. Or at least it has been. Google needed to make it into the place where decisions are made. Executives don't want to carry anything cheap into the boardroom. The Pixel looks great and holds its own around the table full of Macbooks and Windows laptops.
  6. The price of the Pixel created a backlash of criticism. You solidify your core base by beckoning the screaming criticism of others. Social movement theory teaches that if you want to energize a base, creating an "us vs. them" scenario. As the criticism heightens, Chromebook supporters respond with escalating force, too.
  7. The "disposable Chromebook" concept needed to be disposed of—completely. Google had to move away from the notion that Chromebooks are disposable devices. I have the 11in Samsung ARM Chromebook. It is great for taking to the beach, pool, or letting my kids use it, but it isn't something I'm comfortable sitting in front of a client with. Disposable cameras didn't exactly do great things for Kodak in the long run. Google new that if they wanted to be a successful hardware manufacturer, they were going to have to do better than produce disposable laptops.
  8. Research and development costs money. Better margins give Google the capacity to continue to develop future Chromebooks. Margin is what continues to allow a company to invest in future innovation. Since Google isn't dependent on hardware revenue, it can (theoretically) invest all the margin from Chromebook sales into making it even better. Moving the price point up was a risk worth taking.
  9. Revenue directs corporate and shareholder attention. When you make shareholders money, you get permission to continue to push the envelope for long enough to reach the tipping point of mass adoption.
  10. It forced the question of whether or not Chromebooks are a priority for Google. The answer is a resounding: Yes! The Pixel places Chromebooks as a contender for professionals looking for a professional laptop. It also captured the attention of developers by providing a device that could display the best parts of the software they could create. Before the Pixel, this was not the case.
Even putting all those reasons aside, the Pixel is still a great deal.

The cost of one terabyte of Drive space is $1800 ( $50/Mo for 36 months). That feature alone makes the Pixel a great deal. (No other laptop manufacturer is offering anything close to that kind of offer.) And then there is the built-in LTE functionality. An essential feature for anyone who works and travels.

For all these reasons, I believe the price of the Pixel is perfect.

Do you think the price of the Pixel matters? If yes, how so?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

If Google Asks, This is My Perfect Chromebook Pixel 2

I love my Chromebook Pixel. In fact, I knew I would like it from the day it was announced. It does not disappoint.
  • I love the keyboard. It's very comfortable to type on. (And I type about 10k words a week on average.)
  • The screen blows my mind.
  • The battery life is solid. (About 5 hours compared to 3-4 hours on my 2012 Macbook Air.)
  • The touchscreen feature is very natural. (I use it way more than I thought I would.)
  • The design and quality makes a statement.
  • The built-in LTE functionality is awesome for someone like me who travels frequently.
  • Oh terabyte of Drive space is spectacular!
But if Google were to ask me what I would change about the second generation Pixel, this is what I would tell them:
  1. Give me the battery life of the CR-48. I want 8-10 hours of battery time. I know this is somewhat unrealistic. I can't "have my cake and eat it too." But if it were possible, a longer battery life is always a good thing.
  2. Give me the recharging speed of the Lenovo Carbon X1. I want to be able to fully recharge in about an hour (or less). When I do have to recharge, I'd like it to do so even faster than I can now.
  3. Give me the ability to flip the screen around and use it as a tablet. I really like the versatility of the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga. Since I got my Pixel, the use of my tablet is almost non-existent. But I still miss using it from time to time for pure content consumption and smaller presentations.
Google got a lot of things right when it created the Pixel. I was delighted to see them set the standard high. In fact, I still believe it's exactly what they needed to do.

You really can't go wrong with the Chromebook Pixel.

If Google asked you, what changes would you recommend for the second generation Pixel?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Move Your iCloud Contacts to Your Chromebook

My contacts are vital to my workflow. Ensuring they are accurate and available on every device I use is paramount to my productivity. I also want to ensure I don't create silos of information that don't "talk" to each other. (Who wants to manually update everything all the time?)

If you're like me, my primary computer is still a Mac. I'm using it less and less these days though. My Chromebook Pixel can do 95 percent of my workflow. (And I'm working toward 100 percent.) That means I'm rethinking processes to make it easy to switch between my Chromebook and Mac.

The best way to do that is to commit to an ecosystem and stick with it. iCloud is a great service, but I live within Google almost exclusively. It doesn't make sense for me to keep my contacts in iCloud.

So if you're like me and want to make the switch, here is what you need to do. And the cool part is you can do all of this from your Chromebook.

(Please hold your applause until the end!)
  1. Sign into iCloud.
  2. Click on the Address book icon.
  3. Look for the Wheel icon in the lower left-hand side of the screen.
  4. Click on the Wheel, and watch a menu appear above it.
  5. Choose "Export vCard." (Yes, Google can import vCard and CSV formats.)
  6. Download the file to Drive.
  7. Then open Gmail or Google Contacts. If you start in Gmail, you'll have to toggle over to the Contacts view. (Grab this great extension from the Chrome Store to make this a one-click experience moving forward.)
  8. Look for "Import Contacts" in the left-hand column on the "Contacts" view of Gmail. (You can also find this function by clicking the drop-down menu under "More" across the top.
  9. Import your contacts.
  10. Now go back to iCloud, select all your contacts, and delete them. (Or you can choose to keep your contacts there as a back up.)
  11. Keep a copy of the file you used to import your contact data in Drive. (The file you downloaded in Step 5.) In fact, I recommend you rename the file "iCloud Contacts Export [insert date]" so you know exactly when you exported the file should you need to use it as a recovery tool.
  12. Adjust your setting on your Mac to sync with Google instead of iCloud. This will ensure everything stays in sync whether you're on your Chromebook or your Mac. (Google has added CardDAV support for contacts which will help make it sync more accurately.)
  13. Adjust your settings on your smartphone and tablet, too, using CardDAV with Apple products. Of course, Android will do this automatically. (Funny how Apple gets to use the phrase "It just works!" when it really doesn't.)
  14. Celebrate because all of your data is working for you, and you'll always have the latest contact information no matter which device you use to enter new information or update existing information.
Now relax! You just made your life a little easier, your data more secure, and your Chromebook experience just that much better.

Happy Chromebooking!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Evernote, Release a Packaged Chromebook App Already!

I need your help.

I can't be the only person who is growing impatient waiting for Evernote to offer the full Evernote experience on Chrome OS.

Take a moment to share this post and use the hashtag #bringevernotetochromeos.

Let me be clear: I'm a HUGE +Evernote fan.

I have more than 6,000 notes attached to my Premium (paid) account. It is an essential part of my workflow. Read more about how I use Evernote on a regular basis.

No Real Evernote Alternatives...Yet

There really isn't a viable alternative to Evernote, albeit OneNote from Microsoft. But I've never really seen that as a true alternative since using OneNote is predicated on the idea that I will use MS Office exclusively.

Until Office 365 debuted, Office was out of reach on the Chromebook for obvious reasons. Yet even within Office 365, OneNote is limited to the Office ecosystem. Personally, I'd rather keep my options open.

More Packaged Apps Are Coming

One of the things I've always appreciated about Evernote is that it has always taken an agnostic approach to platform development. Yet it has neglected Chrome OS. As apps like Pocket, +Wunderlist+UberConference, and others now provide packaged apps for Chrome OS, I'm hoping Evernote will jump on the opportunity to do the same soon.

Note: For those who are unclear what I mean when I say "packaged app," it means Chromebook users have access to the features and data contained within the app whether you are connected to the web or not. Chromebook users can expect to see more brands and developers move in this direction for Chrome OS over the next six to 12 months.

If Not Evernote, Then Who?

If Evernote ignores Chrome OS, someone else may just beat them to the punch. I, for one, am curious to see what Google does with Google Keep. If Google Keep adds organization features like tags and notebooks and fully integrates my notes with +Google Drive for attachment and document storage and sharing, then Keep might become a viable alternative.

I'm hoping Evernote is just about to release a packaged app for Chrome OS. But if not, then I hope whoever does hurries up.

Make an Appeal to Evernote!

If you're like me and would like to see Evernote create a packaged app for Chrome OS, share this post and use the hashtag #bringevernotetochromeos.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Extend the Battery Life of Your Chromebook Pixel

We would all love the battery life of the CR-48 AND the performance of the Pixel. BUT there are tradeoffs. Honestly, I'd rather have the Pixel experience and a few hours less battery life. Of course, I'm hoping Google figures out how to give me both in the near future. (I am confident they will.)
Here is my experiment:

Context: I typically have Google Music playing in the background with about 15-20 tabs open at the same time.

Objective: Extend the life of the battery of my Pixel to 5 hours consistently.

  1. Start with a fully charged battery. (Duh!)
  2. Dim the backlighting on the keyboard to off. (Not really necessary. Nice feature though.)
  3. Turn the contrast down on the screen to about 30 percent. (This is still plenty bright enough to read the screen clearly.)
  4. Disable LTE receiver and only connect to Wifi. 
Outcome: With the tweaks in place, I am getting 5 hours of battery life. (Previously getting 4 hours which is still better than my 3.5 hours on my 2012 12in Macbook Air.)

Note: I expect the battery life to change when I use LTE which I do when I am not in my office, but I haven't tested that yet.

Are there any other tricks or tweaks you've discovered that I should try?