We deep dive into the world of Chromebooks and find an answer to the question : Can you survive on a Chromebook. We walk you through the possibilities and limitations of the Chromebook. We enlighten you on how to use it for work, connect back to your home network and how to use your Chromebook to entertain you. If thats not enough we go beyond the design specifications and sideload Linux on your Chromebook turning into a low budget sliders dream machine. All of that and more .. in Kw905 : Life on a Chromebook. Catch the live recording of this podcast in the Youtube video below and see if you can catch Sulu the dog as our Podcast assistant.
So its day Three of the “Chromebook only” week. A week in which I promised myself ONLY to use my brand new Acer C730 to get things done. In a previous article we’ve talked about the first impressions of the device and what it feels like to take your Chromebook to work. That’s all nice but … what about downtime ? Can the Chromebook entertain us ? We’ll find out.
Before I start I want to make a confession : I’m a cable cutter ! Yes, we have ditched ‘traditional tv’ in favor of streaming content from the internet and from our personal library of backed up Dvd’s to our television. So demands for ‘conventional television’ aren’t very high in our households. However : With the holiday season coming up there is the need to catch the Doctor Who Christmass special on BBC2 … But I live in Belgium .. So what to do ?
Enter the HOLA extension. A little app that lives in your browser and allows you to “tunnel” through local proxies in the US, the UK and other countries to be able to watch ‘their’ content. ‘Hola’ works great for watching content like Bbc or watching the Extended Netflix catalog in the US. The Chromebook keeps you entertained for hours.
As for music : Plenty of services out their that want to stream their soundwaves your way. Some extensions even let you upload your music to your google Drive and stream it from there. If you don’t feel like doing that , how about Spotify, Stitcher, Grooveshark and plenty of other services ? The audio quality on the C730 is pretty good although it IS lacking a little bit in the lower part of the sound spectrum. No doctor Dre .. but no tinny radio either.
As for games : They are (of course) web based. Some of the apps in the Chrome webstore are nothing more then glorified links to websites where you can play said games. But thanx to Java, Ajax, Ruby and other forms of webmaster-black magic you can play a decent game inside a browser these days. If you don’t mind the occasional apps for adult-daipers in the upper right corner .. you can find online (clones) of Command and Conquer .. or really go for it and dive into some classic arcade games that are a dime a dozen out there. And lets not forget the Internet archive with their Internet Arcade ! Play a ton of classics .. in your browser .. on your Chromebook.
If the internet is a geeks daycare center where he can spend hours while his/her parental units go off to do other things in the real worls … the Chromebook is your hot babysitter ! It will keep you linked up to the world wild web (that ain’t no typo) and if you know where to look you can spend hours playing games, watching movies and listening to music WITHOUT spending a dime OR breaking the law. As long as you keep the Chromebook connected .. it will keep you entertained
The sound of a waterfall, an untuned TV set, or a fan in the background : All of these are examples of ‘White noise’ that help you concentrate or get to sleep. They have one thing in common : They are BO-RING .. How about spending 12 hours inside a Starfleet shuttlecraft. Or lounging around in Deckers aapartmentin the movie Bladerunner ? How about falling asleep to the sounds of Dave Bowmans shuttlepod in 2001 a space odyssey ? Crynsknife007 has got just the thing for you. On his Youtube channel he has collected an impressive set of geeky 12 hour sound loops that really help you space out .. or focus. So have a slice of sci-fi inspired white noise and spend your day in the ambient sounds of the Battlestar Galactica engine room or fall asleep to the echoes of the death star. Plenty to choose from. Here is an example.
We go into depth into one of the most powerful command line programs to delve into the treasure chest of cat video’s we call youtube. We explore Youtube-Dl, its capabilities and the vast combination of switches and parameters you can use to turn Youtube (and other video sites) into your personal b*tch.
By now most (if not all of you) have dabbled a little bit with Linux. Although it might look geeky and complicated at first glance, once you dip your toes into the great lake of open source it becomes a very refreshing computing experience. How do I mean ? Well : I challenge you to the following : Take a Windows Machine OR a Mac and, within 2 minutes FIND and INSTALL a free application that allows you to download a Youtube video and extract the audio to MP3. If you started off your search in Google (or in the Mac App store for that matter) you are starting to realize it is not that easy. There is a ton of ‘supposed’ freeware out there that, after installing it gives you either an app that does not completely work (unless you pay for it) or is just too complicated. Do you (as a true slider) have a Linux machine handy ? (perhaps a virtual machine or a server ) Then lets fire up the command line and give you a one line command to make that technology work for you.
Youtube-dl is a command line application that lets you download Youtube video’s and if you want to, extracts the audio from said video’s. The command is simple. On Ubuntu you can install it by hitting :
sudo apt-get install youtube-dl
After the installation is complete you need to update the app to the latest version. Also .. a couple of one liners.
sudo youtube-dl -U
You will get an error that you need to update via the GIT repositories once more. Easy peasy (copy and paste people)
Now surf to the Youtube video of your choice and copy the url to your clipboard.
Go back to the terminal and type :
youtube-dl <paste your url here>
Presto ! You will have the youtube video all for you ! What if you want the audio ?
youtube-dl --extract-audio <paste your url here>
Cross platform compatibility
Youtube-dl is also compatible with Macs and there is an .exe for our Windows friends. But because the command line is so easy I just leave a terminal open to my linux machine (on ANY machine i’m working on) and just copy and paste whatever cat video I would like to keep for prosperity. And youtube-dl does also support tons of other video sites like Vimeo and more !
If you haven’t seen the “remake” of the 1980’s show Battlestar Galactica, you should seriously consider going to a therapist and ask them to examine that hairy ball of fur between your shoulder blades. As any self respecting geek with a sci-fi interest will tell you, Battlestar Galactica ( BSG for Short) is one of the “must-be-seen-before-terminator-gets-me-and-shoots-me” tv shows. Along with Firefly it draws the line dividing the best and the greatest sci-fi shows of the third millennium of mankind (Both shows being in the ‘greatest’ department.) The lords of Cobol (or should I say Scifi-channel) have bestowed upon you, whether thou art BGS junkies or total BSG-Virgins, a prequel. How did the first Cylon-Human war get started ? Where did it all begin ? How did Adama get his command of the Galactica and what happens if a toaster shoots at you. Be ignorant no more sweet friends. Behold “Blood and Chrome” …
Download of the week : Until a while ago I used an app on my Mac (I have even forgotten the name) to download any Youtube video’s I needed for the podcast or for some of my presentations. When upgrading to Lion, it decided (or rather Lion decided) it wouldn’t work anymore. Tough 🙁 I had found some alternative online sites to do it but searching for solutions like this is one of those internet ratholes like looking for free mp3 ringtones.) When twiddling around with it I had one of my favorite cross-platform download apps open in the background : Jdownloader. I use Jdownloader for multi-url links and long running downloads. Its free, its cross platform and it has this handy “url catcher” where it notices when you copy a url to your clipboard and then offers to download it. When the activity window for Jdownloader started blinking I checked out the “link grabber” window and was amazed to find that not only it had “caught” the url of the Youtube video I copied, but it offered to do something more. Jdownloader will offer to download AND CONVERT your Youtube video into several sizes like : MP3, FLV, MP4, Webm and more (depends on the video) So this tool is something that should not be missing in your application folder on ANY of your systems.
It was the most funny thing yesterday morning. I was (as usual) listening to my daily dose of podcasts on my way to work, podcasts about technology and the latest news on the edge of real and cyberspace and beyond. At about seven AM I turned my Ipod off for a minute to tune into the regular news on the radio ( yep , i'm THAT kind of information junkie ). Since we had regional elections last sunday my interest was a little tickled just to know what some of these lame ass parties had come up with in order to work together , run the local towns and not loose face. Then suddenly I heard something very odd. It even made me check the play button on my Ipod, just to be sure I was not tuned into another podcast. But no : Clear as day, at seven AM in the (mainstream) headline news they announced Google had just bought You-tube.
Now rumors where flying around all over the cyber-place about the business model of Youtube, the Future of Youtube and about the lame sod who was going to BUY Youtube someday. Even in the latest edition of the Global Geek Podcast , talk was cheap and speculation was high about this very issue. But I never thought an event in Cyberspace would hit the mainstream news like that. A small smile of surprise crept along my face as I heard the crunching boot of cyberspace advance yet another pace in the world of the average off-line John.
Untill a few years ago (i'm talking "95, "96) the internet was this obscure thing for geeks. These days everybody has an email address, every product features his or their website on the package and most people have an internet connection. Although it is still the case that those with their finger on the cyberpulse are a minute few in contrast to the big dumb mass, one cannot help but revel at the phenomenon how the digital world is slowly but surely seeping into the dry desert of the real world.
Just to let the boys at Google know what they bought and what it's for .. I want to give you this little video.
This wonderfull little flick was part of a cabaret show Here is the original scene and shows the true power of You-tube. Take some good content , let loose the creative geeks of the globe to make something completely different out of it and then give them a medium to post it on.
Just a little bit of pop-cyber-culture for you today with this great mashup of the original Star Trek song and the theme music from the Simpsons. Though the guy looks like he just had brain surgery done and the patients front and rear lobes have been successfully removed, its still a great track to listen to.
And speaking of theme music.
If one thing annoyes the hell out of both me and Nyana, then it has to be the theme-song of the new series Star Trek Enterprise. I cannot believe the dumbed down the opening credits into some idiotic theme song that makes it all just a little more hey hey USA. Bless the power of the internet to let the true creative souls stand up and produce their own theme. Using title music of StarGate Atlantis (great music – bad show ) they combine it with shots from Enterprise and Stargate to make a truly great opening trailer. Maybe if Mr Berman (Producer behind Enterprise) would have listened to these guys , Enterprise might still be on the air and he would not have been fired from Paramount (although I think its a GOOD thing). For those Blissfully ignorant : Here is the Original version .