Newsletter Archives

  • Ewaste or usable – week 5

    Previous posts:  Week 1 here,  Week 2 here

    Week 3 here Week 4 here

    I’m on my final installment of “Ewaste or usable” and this final week is about Chromebook. This one I’ve been the most disappointed with as far as trying to find a life for it after the vendor has officially put it out to pasture. On the old Vista era laptop I was able to repurpose it to get a usable Linux laptop. For this old Chromebook that is now out of date and can’t be updated to the latest, I’m finding it difficult to get it to get it on anything supported. Michael Horowitz had commented in one of the earlier threads that the Chromebook as is would be usable in guest mode as it would wipe the profile each time, but the issue is for each of these older devices is that they have to be usable. In the case of the older Chromebook I originally purchased it to experience the Chrome ecosystem and then when it was finally out of date and could no longer be updated but was still usable, I loaned it to a friend so that she could set it up to be a medical tele-visit device for her sister-in-law during the pandemic. Until the telemedicine software finally would no longer run on that Chromebook it worked out so well for her that it showcased to the friend (who is the tech support for her sister-in-law) that a Chromebook was indeed the best platform for her to be on. Prior to that when she was running a Windows computer, her browser would often be hijacked, her computer would often need to be reinstalled after a year because it had gotten too malware infested. The chromebook laptop with it’s always updated browser/OS was better for her.

    But the drawback is that once the device has gone past it’s prime, you don’t have many options to get it to a supported platform. Then for those that don’t like the idea of big brother Google, there’s that consideration as well.

    Herein lies the other problem with Chromebook. Amazon is still SELLING the model I got back in 2013. It’s totally non supported now and some applications you may intend it to work on, won’t support it anymore. So be careful when purchasing older Chromebooks to see what version it’s on and if it’s still supported. While the device may still be able to surf, you’ll have issues with some applications and google play installs.

    Bottom line if you are interested in ChromeBooks and find one online, watch the date of the OS and make sure you don’t get one that’s already past it’s prime.

  • Ewaste or usable?

    I have two old laptops that over the next few weekends I’m going to attempt to see what options I have to make them usable.

    Laptop number 1 was built for Vista and is now running Windows 7 (barely). Laptop number 2 was sold as a Chromebook but the version is now out of date and it’s unsupported. It’s no longer usable for it’s most recent use – that of tele-medicine for someone who used it recently. She’s since bought a new chromebook that is supported.

    But before I add these two laptops to the ewaste heap – I’m going to see what I can do to make them USABLE and SUPPORTED.  Meaning that it’s a functional machine and doesn’t mandate that I take a coffee break for 20 minutes as it boots up and it has to still get patches.

    What’s my goal? Well first they are no longer usable as Windows devices. These days you need 16 gigs (at least) and a SSD drive to be usable for Windows 10.  Clearly they cannot support Windows 11 as they have no TPM chip.  I don’t expect these two devices to be beefy workstations, rather merely web browsing and email only.

    I was going to try to initially move these to a supported Chrome OS like Cloud Ready but recently they got bought out by Google.  Along the way I’ll discuss the issues I hit.

    So my first bit of a roadblock is the fact that Cloud Ready has gone more “corporate” and now has certified models that they recommend.  I purchased the Acer C710-2834 from Amazon back in 2013 .  It has a 16 gig hard drive, Intel Celeron Processor 1007U 1.5GHz (2MB L3 Cache)  2 GB DDR3 RAM

    In poking around the web site, it’s definitely not supported, and was not considered a good candidate three years ago.  But I’m going to press on and just see if this is doable.  First I’ll follow these instructions to make a bootable flash drive, I’ll report next weekend on my progress!

  • Tasks for the weekend – how is your ChromeBook?

    While Chromebooks don’t suffer from the same aches and pains that Windows machines have, they aren’t 100% secure either. Any computer can be made better.

    Youtube video here demonstrating the settings

    Here are come recommendations for ChromeBooks.

    1. Click the Three Dots at the top right of your screen, choose Settings, and then head to Privacy and Security followed by Security. There will be a section for Safe Browsing.  Choose the Enhanced Protection option. This provides more scanning of web sites for malicious content.
    2. Reboot often – it ensures your system is up to date.
    3. Ensure your passwords are encrypted: In Chrome’s Settings menu, click the You and Google option at the top of the screen. You’ll need to be logged into a Google Account for this.  Under Sync, choose Encryption Options. Look for the option that says Encrypt Synced Passwords With Your Google Account.
    4. Opt out of Chrome’s new cookie platform: Visit Chrome’s Settings, go to Privacy and Security, and click the link to Privacy Sandbox. From there, you can flip a switch to disable Sandbox trials, as well as FLoC.  What’s FLoC you ask? It’s an alternative to cookies.
    5. Make sure you are using Secure DNS: Click the Privacy and Security section in Settings, and look for the Use Secure DNS option.
    6. Last and true for ANY browser: Always routinely review extensions.
  • Chromebooks easier and cheaper

    (Original story behind a paywall, apologies)

    Seen on a twitter post tonight.  The gist of it is that Microsoft’s education boss says that Chromebooks are easier and cheaper to deploy in education.

  • Moving your kid’s schoolwork from a Chromebook to a Windows PC

    Chromebooks have a lot of advantages, but the Chromebooks that most school districts hand out tend to be wimpy – little screens (no touch!), tinny sound, cramped keyboards.

    If your student already has a Windows PC, they may fare much better if you can move them from the Chromebook to the PC.

    My fifth grade son and I made the transition over the weekend. So far we haven’t hit any burps. We have full details in Monday’s AskWoody Newsletters (both Plus and Free).

    Have a different setup? Need some help? Here’s where to ask.

    (NOTE: The discussion has been moved here.)

  • 4.5 ways to use Office on a Chromebook

    Interesting article from Peter Deegan. If you really want to run Office on a Chromebook, you have these options:

    • Run the Android apps for Word, Excel, PowerPoint or OneNote. You need an Office 365 subscription to run them on any Chromebook with a decent-sized screen ( > 10.1 inches).
    • Run the free online apps for Word, Excel, PowerPoint or OneNote. The free online apps have several features that aren’t on the Android apps. No charge, but you’ll need a Microsoft Account.
    • Run the Office mobile app which is a severely limited narrow-screen-by-default mash-up of the Office apps.
    • Remote into a “real” PC or Mac. Good choice if you have fast connections, both on your Chromebook and on your “real” PC. We’re going to see something like this with Windows 10 Cloud. Wait. You’ll see.
    • … and the .5 solution goes to running Windows Office on a Chromebook with Parallels. Which should happen this decade. I think.
  • Ready to try out a Chromebook? Use your knowledge of Windows to get a head start.

    I’m very happy to say that @PKCano has successfully transferred JR Raphael’s series of Newsletter articles into a unified post, AskWoody Knowledge Base article AKB5000001.

    JR Raphael (my favorite writer with Google DNA!) tackles the question in three parts:

    Part I: Is the Chromebook right for you?
    Part II: Which Chromebook should you buy?
    Part III: You’ve got a Chromebook. Now what?

    It’s an amazingly thorough introduction to Chromebooks, from a Windows user’s point of view.

    If you’re tired of Windows and its incessant problems — and don’t mind Google keeping track of your every move, which they do — the Chromebook is an excellent choice. I use mine every day. It’s my 9-year-old’s number 1 computer.

    Here’s a detailed look at what to expect from a Chromebook.

  • New Chromebooks will get 8 years of OS support

    Talk about putting your money where your mouth is….

    Yesterday, the folks at Google dropped quite the bombshell:

    When we first launched Chromebooks, devices only received three years of automatic updates. Over the years, we’ve been able to increase that to over six…  And now, devices launching in 2020 and beyond will receive automatic updates for even longer. The new Lenovo 10e Chromebook Tablet and Acer Chromebook 712 will both receive automatic updates until June 2028.

    The announcement doesn’t come out and, you know, actually say it, and everything is couched in the “for education” bafflegab, but the implication is that new Chromebooks will get eight years of guaranteed support. You can see the end-of-support dates on Google’s Auto Update Policy page.

    The Pixelbook Go, for example, is guaranteed support until June 2026. The Microsoft Surface Go, by contrast, is guaranteed support through… I’m not sure if Windows 10 Home in S mode is being actively supported, really, even now. It doesn’t appear on Microsoft’s end-of-life page.

    Sales of new machines with Win7 pre-installed officially ended on October 31, 2016. Add eight years and you get… one whole heckuvalot later than Jan. 14, 2020.

    Ball’s in your court, Microsoft.

  • The Chrome OS FAQ, Part III: You’ve got a Chromebook. Now what?


    By JR Raphael

    So now that you’ve read Parts I and II of our Chrome OS FAQ, you’ve worked out what Google’s operating system is all about — and possibly picked out the Chromebook that’s right for you.

    Whew! It’s been a busy couple of weeks. (If you missed the first two parts of this series, no worries: just head over to issues 16.44.0 (2019-12-02) and 16.45.0 (2019-12-09) to get all caught up.)

    Now we’re ready for the really fun part: taking your first steps into the world of your shiny new Chromebook. Getting around Chrome OS is mostly self-evident — especially if you’re an experienced Windows user — but there are some initial steps you’ll want to take to get everything set up and configured the way you like it.

    Read the full story in AskWoody Plus Newsletter 16.46.0 (2019-12-16).

  • The Chrome OS FAQ, Part II: Which Chromebook should you buy?


    By JR Raphael

    In Part I of this three-part series on Google’s Chrome OS, we covered the ins and outs of Google’s Chrome OS software and the Chromebook laptops that rely on it (see AskWoody Plus issue 16.44.0, 2019-12-02).

    In this week’s Part II, we’ll go into greater detail on the hardware side of things — specifically, what you need to know to buy the best Chromebook for your needs.

    Read the full story in AskWoody Plus Newsletter 16.45.0 (2019-12-09).

  • Chrome OS FAQ, Part I: Is a Chromebook right for you?


    By JR Raphael

    AskWoody Plus readers will recall that, from time to time, we’ve recommended Google’s Chromebooks as a viable alternative for many Windows users.

    Whether you’re looking to move away from Windows entirely or to complement your primary computer with a low-maintenance secondary system, a Chrome OS–based Chromebook can be a nice addition to your digital life.

    Read the full story in AskWoody Plus Newsletter 16.44.0 (2019-12-02).

  • Chromebook expiration dates

    Just read an article by Tim Anderson in The Reg that explains how to find your Chromebook’s “Auto Update Expiration” date.

    every Chromebook has an “Auto Update Expiration (AUE) Date” after which the operating system is unsupported by Google.

    That’s a concept every Windows user should understand – but the big difference is that Google sets the expiration date before the machine is put on sale. Microsoft arbitrarily decides when a specific chip goes out of support – and the decision is made way after initial release.

    I’ve seen ads for Chromebooks lately that include the AUE expiration date. But if you don’t know your Chromebook’s expiration date, it’s easy to look up. Google has a readily accessible list of machines and their expiration dates.

    If you can’t match up your Chromebook’s specific model name with an expiration date on the list, there’s an additional trick in The Reg article that shows you how to query the OS to get the correct model name. For most people, though, simply knowing which machine you have is enough to get you a definitive answer on when support ends.

    Per Anderson:

    You can continue to use your Chromebook after the AUE but the OS will be frozen in time and Google’s warnings above will apply. The device will show a notification along the lines of: “This device will no longer receive the latest software updates. Please consider upgrading.” … Security is an issue, though a Chromebook is one of the more secure devices out there thanks to the sandboxing of applications and other techniques, so it is less serious than it would be for, say, a Windows PC.

    My all-time favorite Chromebook fell off the AUE turnip truck more than a year ago. It’s still humming along, getting daily workouts both from me and my nine-year-old.

    Thx, @Kirsty