Google Chrome OS – What is it for and is it any good?

Brief Overview – What is Google Chrome OS (by Google)

I have just finished watching The 1hr20min video from Google Releasing the Chromium OS open source project. It’s all about making the development of the Google Chrome operating system open source to get as many people involved as possible (similar to many Linux variants). Interesting but ultimately dull announcement. However there are some great explanations as to what Google Chrome OS is and when to use it as well as a demo of how it looks at the moment. Follow the link above to watch Jeff Goldblum’s presentation, the interesting demo starts at ~15mins and runs for 10 mins.

To save you having to watch the rest of the video I have summarised what I think are the key points

Continue reading Google Chrome OS – What is it for and is it any good?

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I’m learning to love libraries

libraries screenshot

This article is in response to James O’Neill’s article about someone flaming the new Windows 7 Library feature. Please read that first to understand the argument a bit better – http://blogs.technet.com/jamesone/archive/2009/11/06/the-point-of-windows-7-libraries-and-search.aspx

libraries screenshot

The key thing to remember is this – The easier computers are to use, the more helpful they become.

It did take me a while to understand the point of Libraries but I similarly come from a habit of using the directory structure. It almost sounds absurd to not save a file under a carefully planned structure (e.g. c:\users\documents\employment\2009_CV_newjob.docx) but it is becoming less and less important thanks to Windows indexing keywords and content. We don’t search emails by filenames, we use the senders name or a keyword we remember from the subject. Why isn’t the same logic applied to the files on our Hard Disk

Non-techie PC users don’t use a PC to replace a filing cabinet with a digital replica. They use them to do homework, fill out a spreadsheet, make a poster, watch online videos, socialise  etc. We got used to the My Documents\My Pictures system but it was far from perfect. I used to spend ages setting up shortcuts in the My Docs folder to point to all the real places I save stuff in. Now I can use the magic (or more technically, science)  of Libraries.

Top Tips

Roll your own

Libraries are more customisable than they seem. Create your own so they make sense for you. E.g. I have a “Website” library. This contains locations where various bits are saved to do with a site I do for a local running club. It doesn’t contain a particular file type like only documents or only pictures. Instead it has a link to

  • an archive copy of the site
  • the current site files
  • a folder I save relevant content people have emailed me
  • a knowledge-base of documents on web design.

This is a really great way to find or search for the right content, across a variety of locations, quickly and easily.

Change the folder order

On my work laptop the Documents folder is redirected to a location on our server. This is the default save location for the Documents library. However, I actually save most of my documents outside that folder, either into another network folder or a “home” folder on the laptop itself. This meant that I had to always scroll down the default Folder arrangement to get past the generic Documents network folder. To change this you need to go to the Library properties.

For some reason this has two different interfaces.

#1 is accessed by clicking the “Includes: Locations” link at the top of the library. This gives a place to add or remove a location. However, by right-clicking an existing location you can move it’s position or set it as the default folder.

#2 is from right-clicking the library icon (or some whitespace inside the library) and choosing properties. This is a slightlymore advanced window but looks a lot more Windows 2000 than Windows 7.  However, you can drag and drop folder positions in here as well as set the default save location. In addition you can choose optimal features based on the library content and see the combined size of  the library

Add Network Shares

A few people mentioned to me that they are unable to include a network folder into their Documents library. This is because Windows doesn’t let you add non-indexed locations. The workaraound is quite simple and all it costs you is some hard-disk space.

  1. Browse to the network folder using the full UNC path (not a mapped drive) e.g. \\servername\share\documents
  2. Right-click the folder and select Always available offline. This will cache a copy of the folder on your hard-disk, with any changes on the network version being replicated to your offline cache (you can keep your eye on this in the Control Panel > Sync Center)
  3. You will now be able to add this folder to any library you want!

Summary

I haven’t gone into all of the features of Libraries. there is loads out there on the web including this one form the Windows Team blog you could even try using the built in help!

I think this is just the beginning for Libraries. As people get used to them their potential will become more realised. Maybe a cool future feature will be to have a search connector query (e.g. Flickr: running) as a browsable location within a library?

What do you think of libraries, are they the future, confused backwards leap, or just a small step on the path to perfection?

Please comment and let me know.

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A child’s eye view of Windows 7

Remember that cheesy YouTube video about the Windows 7 Launch parties? Well it sounded like a great way for me to get a free copy of Windows 7 for my home PC, so I signed up immediately. Suddenly all those people laughing at the video get that smile wiped off their face when they jealously eye up my Launch Party goody bag.

I wasn’t actually planning on having a party but I still installed Windows 7 (64bit) on my PC. I could do an in place upgrade from Vista and the Upgrade Advisor said everything should still work. I had installed the RC on various virtual machines, laptops and netbooks, all using a clean install so I was expecting a similar 20 minute install period. It actually turned out to be over 3 hours for my upgrade! This isn’t too bad considering the amount of junk that has been on that PC since it was an XP machine 3 years ago. After the install, everything was working very happily and I could enjoy the familiar sight of Windows 7 Ultimate in the comfort of my front room.

On the morning of the official public launch (Thursday, 22nd October 2009) I came downstairs to the usual sight of my three sons huddled around the TV watching cartoons. They said to me straight away about how the new Windows was on the adverts and when would we get it. I told them we already had it and spontaneously invited them to an exclusive Launch Party.

Sol demo’s his favourite

When I arrived home after work, my eldest, 10 year old, son told me about how his whole school was buzzing about Windows 7 and the kudos he received when he told them all how his Dad has seen the boss of Microsoft and we’ve already got it. I could hear a small voice in my mind cackling “hahahahahaha they have succumbed to my computer geekiness and following in their father’s and grandfather’s footsteps” ( the wife will not be pleased). However, in reality I was surprised to hear that children, all under 11, had been talking about it at all. I got a bit over-excited about showing them all the whizzy new features so turned on the PC straight away. While my youngest, 5 year old, son got started on the free turtle puzzle from the party kit, my middle, 8 year old, child got into the cockpit first.

It took him a while to log on for the first time (about 5 mins) but this was just a one off wait. Getting our priorities in order, the first task was to choose a new Desktop Theme (you can download even more from the Personalization Gallery). I then showed him the new taskbar and the aero snap & shake features and then let him have a play (see video >>>). I then went to show him some other features but realised that there weren’t any! My 10 year old had his turn and said mater of factly, “So, apart from being a bit quicker, it’s just the same as Vista”. I found it hard to disagree with him. The internet remained unchanged, all of his games were in the same place and worked as normal and YouTube was still YouTube (this is how he & his friends listen to music). I couldn’t show him the media centre as it’s rather pointless without a TV tuner and a large widescreen TV in the same room. I couldn’t show the great multi-touch features as we’ve just got a normal monitor. He liked the new look of Microsoft Paint and that he could move his desktop gadgets wherever he wanted without having the sidebar but he then went off to help Levi with the puzzle. My youngest was said that he couldn’t play Tinker anymore (but not for long) but soon forgot that when he was on moshimonsters.com

It’s easy to get carried away with the hype, especially as I work supporting Microsoft computers everyday. Windows 7 brings a lot more to business users especially when served by a Windows Server 2008 R2 machine but for kids used to Vista at home (and XP at school) the OS does what it has always done – provide a platform for their games, apps and devices.  As time goes on we will probably get a netbook with Win7 on it for them, maybe even an Xbox 360, then we can benefit fully from the HomeGroup and Media Centre stuff. They will also be able to get a grasp of multi-touch at school when the teachers hook up their Windows 7 laptops (whenever they get them!) to the classroom projector and interactive whiteboards. For now, the buzz has certainly died down in our house. We aren’t quite at the stage where each family member has their own device, a touchscreen in the kitchen and a NAS under the stairs but with the keen enthusiasm they showed to exploring new technology we can’t be far off 😉

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