Category: Sci-Tech

My reborn Chromebook

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By , December 4, 2014 4:52 pm

My Acer Chromebook

My Acer Chromebook

I’m a fan of Google Chromebooks – to a point. These devices run a very stripped down Linux-based operating system and essentially allow you to do just one thing: Run the Google Chrome web browser.

These days there is not an awful lot that you can’t do with a Chromebook. They are affordable too with cheaper models running around $200. They update themselves automatically, don’t require virus software, and generally just take care of themselves. Any documents or files you create are stored in the cloud.

I got one three years ago and have used it almost daily ever since. Yesterday I fired it up and it wouldn’t boot. The Chrome logo appeared, vanished, and the unit just sort of flashed every 15 seconds or so. I looked around on the web and decided to re-install my chromebook from scratch. This was very simple – anybody with half a brain could do it.:

  1. Insert a thumb/usb drive into your computer
  2. Download a utility from Google
  3. Run it and pick your model when prompted
  4. Boot the chromebook in recovery mode. Instructions for doing this vary from model to model but generally involved pushing a paperclip into a small hole to press a reset button while turning on the device with the power button.
  5. Plug in the thumbdrive when prompted
  6. That’s it.

Inside of 10 minutes the device was re-installed with a fresh clean version of ChromeOS and was running perfectly. Since all my documents were in the cloud there was nothing else to restore, no drivers to install, no nothing to do.

If you’ve ever needed to re-install your computer from scratch – you should appreciate how easy, convenient, and quick this process was.

Cord cutters – here it is

By , May 9, 2014 3:43 pm

My last post discussed Net Neutrality – a movement to prevent large corporations from …. let’s face it … screwing up the Internet. If they get their way, premium traffic will move at higher priority than other traffic – so that the people with the deep pockets get to make their content perform better than other content.

It's *only* a buck

It’s *only* a buck

It’s happening. Netflix has signed deals with Comcast and Verizon so that their videos work better. And lookee here what arrived in my mailbox today: A notice from Netflix that they were increasing my subscription fee by 12.5% – from $7.99 to $8.99. The rate will apply to new users immediately and I’m supposed to feel better because I will have 2 years before the increase hits me.

Netflix is not attributing this increase to their recent Comcast/Verizon agreement. They are saying it is “in order to continue adding more movies and TV shows”. That may be partially true but rate increases come from increased costs, a desire for increased profits, or in exchange for more service. Netflix cost to deliver content has increased via their deals with the big Internet providers. Their charges to me increased shortly after that. ‘Nuff said.

Grab your wallets – they are coming

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By , May 5, 2014 7:40 am

2centsYou have probably heard the term “Net Neutrality” and mabye didn’t understand what it meant. I’m going to explain as simply as possible and leave it to you to read up more on it to decide if my explanation is correct. Simply put, Net Neutrality means that every site on the Internet is treated equally. In practice it means that traffic to CNN does not get preference over traffic to the local library web site. Changes are in the pipeline that will change the way traffic flows on the Internet. The system will be rigged to favor the big boys with the deep pockets who will turn their increased costs over to you in the form of higher fees.

Today on the Internet, you go to numerous sites. Some are small like this one or the Middleboro town web site. Some are huge like YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and so on. You access these sites via your connection to the Internet that is provided by an Internet Service Provider(ISP). For most of you that is Comcast or Verizon.

So we have three things:

  1. You (or me) the consumer of web content
  2. Content providers (Netflix,, Hulu, YouTube, blogs that you quote when explaining to people that Obama isn’t an American citizen, etc)
  3. ISP – the company that gives 1 the access to 2

So You have been paying your ISP for years. They guarantee that you can acesss a certain(fairly large) amount of data from the Internet based on the plan you have. Every time you read an email, view a picture, play a game online, or watch YouTube, you are downloading(consuming) content off the Internet. And that’s OK because you can’t consume more than your service allows.

And that was all fine for years. The providers(Comcast, Verizen, etal) were charging you knowing that the vast majority of you would never consume all the data they were providing. But gosh-golly didn’t we all feel special that our pipes were so big? So we are all one big happy family. We’ve all been gladly paying for more data than we used, and the ISP’s were happy to pocket the difference.

On top of our Internet fees, we were also paying for cable TV. A lot. And of course we bundled in the “triple play”. Many of us are still paying for a landline that serves absolutely no purpose except to provide an extra $15 or $20 bucks to our providers. Why? On the off chance that there would be some kind of disaster that would leave the phone lines intact but disable the cell towers? Uh-huh.

And then it changed

There is a sea change happening in the way we get TV. More and more of us have “cut the cord”. We opted out of our $100 or $200 cable bills and are watching Netflix, Hulu, and other things over the Internet on the Internet connection we already had. But you didn’t think these massive conglomerates were going to just let us stop paying them did you?

Enter Net Neutrality

Comcast, Verizon, and other giant companies that want our money have come up with the idea that access to the Internet should be tiered – better service/speed for those that are willing to pay for it, and lesser service for those who are not. They cloak the concept in ways that sound reasonable and assure you that it will not result in a disparate Internet. In reality what is already happening is that companies like NetFlix who transmit massive amount of data will pay more to Verizon and Comcast so that their data takes precedence over other traffic. That means it works better and more people will end up using them over their competitors.

Here’s the part where you get screwed

You will not be consuming any more traffic than you are already paying for. NetFlix will pay more to Verizon and Comcast – and in turn will raise their rates to make up for the expense. You pay more to Netflix and end up consuming no more data than you are already paying for. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see Comcast and Verizon hit you with some sort of “Netflix Internet surcharge” because you habitually use the bandwidth you are paying for.

I’ve been very happily paying very little for a vast selection of TV content since I cancelled by cable subscription. More and more people are doing the same. Verizon and Comcast don’t like that – and they are going to remake the Internet in their image to force us to pay more. The politicians will do nothing because the big boys have too much money for them to dare oppose them.

MS Office coming to Linux

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By , March 30, 2014 9:22 am

Linux is looking better than ever.

Linux is looking better than ever.

Well …. sort of.

I’ve been running Linux instead of Windows for years. One of the Holy Grails in the Linux world was Microsoft Office. It is the defacto standard in the business world – at least for now. If Microsoft ever decided to create a version for Linux it would be an incredible validation. While I don’t see it happening anytime soon, it looks like we’re about to get the next best thing.
I’ve been seeing noise the last few days about Microsoft releasing Office for Apple’s iPad. I was reading an article about it in the NY Times today and came across this tantalizing statement:

Microsoft introduced the long-awaited suite of applications, which includes Word, PowerPoint and Excel, at an event here Thursday, where the company’s new chief executive, Satya Nadella, committed to making the software work on all major computing devices, including those made by its competitors. Microsoft plans to create Office apps for tablet computers running Google’s Android operating system, too.

Android is based on Linux and is the operating system running on millions of smartphones and tablets. Building a version of MS Office for Android and iPad could have big ramifications for Windows. Its stranglehold on the desktop operating system has a lot to do with MS Office. Besides tablets, Android PCs are already here. Having MS Office available makes them much more viable.

Linux is already ubiquitous. Almost any smart device or Internet-aware gadget that you have is probably running it. I’m using it right now to write this post on my Chromebook. It will be interesting to see what effect Office for Android has on the computing landscape.

Mrs. Bumpkin does Linux

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By , November 23, 2013 1:41 pm

My column in the Nov. 14th edition of the Middleboro Gazette discussed my wife converting from Windows XP to Linux. Basically she just got fed up with having to baby the machine and spending inordinate effort to prevent viruses or clean them up after the fact.

My first computer ran Windows and I was relatively happy with it. Then I discovered Unix. I came to view Windows as an unstable joke of an operating system that was so fragile that it was laughable. This is in my mind today because of a ZDNet article I read today about a longtime Windows users who had finally gotten fed up with it.

I’ve also cajoled and coaxed countless ailing systems back to life, but during that time I’ve come to realize how fragile the Windows operating system is, and how something small and insignificant as a bad driver, incorrect settings, or the stars being in the wrong position can bring a system to its knees, and result in hours of work searching for a solution.

That’s basically what drove my wife to Linux and what drove me to it almost 20 years ago.
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