Tag Archives: Tech


What is a Chromebook like to own?

tl;dr: It’s better than I thought it would be. You need just need to learn the tricks. Install crouton and Chrome Remote Desktop.


Over the past few months, I’ve been watching the ultrabook market for something that would have sufficient power, a day-long battery, and enough portability to allow me to carry it around comfortably.  I found ordered one (a Dell XPS 13) but after an issue with Dell mysteriously canceling my order and not being willing to tell me why, I was left without a viable option.

I started to reanalyze the options, ~1 month ago and started to wonder if I really needed to carry around something as powerful as a XPS 13.  I need a more powerful computer at home and at work but if I’m sitting at a coffeeshop, writing code, why would a i7 CPU and 8gb of RAM really be needed?  That’s when I started looking at a Samsung Chromebook.  I bought mine from best buy for under $220 (refurbished).  It came with 2gb of RAM, a 16gb SSD, and an ARM processor.  I specifically went for the ARM Chromebook because of it’s great battery (~8-9hrs).

ChromeOS Login Screen

I can hear you saying, “but Joe, Chrome OS is just a web browser!” You are only partially correct.  Chrome OS itself is basically just a web browser.  There are ways to deal with that, though.  Googler David Schneider created the ChRomium Os UbunTu chrOot enviroNment (aka Crouton).  It installs on-top of Chrome OS and allows you to run whatever linux apps you want (as long as you can find a compatible binary for the app).  It allows me to run Xfce without a problem.

ChromeOS CroshSuccesses:

Despite what you might think, I actually spend most of my time within Chrome OS (vs Xfce).  Chrome OS really does handle most of what I do.  Previously, I have used Hamachi and RDP to connect from my laptop to my various PCs.  Hamachi is not an option on Chrome OS but Chrome Remote Desktop does NAT traversal.

I was able to get pidgin and Hotot working within Xfce.  It wasn’t too hard.  I don’t think LibreOffice would be hard to install but I haven’t had a need for it yet.


I kinda wish Sublime Text 2 and Flash were available as ARM binaries.  Flash works in Chrome OS but not in Xfce.  It means that if you want to listen to Pandora, you need to be within Chrome OS.  As for Sublime Text 2, there is always Nano as an alternative.  I’m debating installing Sublime Text in a VPS and just remoting into it for dev work.  I’m not sure yet, though.

Earlier versions of Chrome OS did not support ad-hoc networking.  As a result, out of the box, I couldn’t tether my Galaxy Nexus to my Chromebook.  I even ended up returning my first Chromebook, out of frustration.  It turns out that a firmware update on the Chromebook fixes the issue.

Right click on the track-pad doesn’t work (apparently by design).  If you need to right click, you hold down alt and then left click.

There is no home button or end button but ctrl+alt+up and ctrl+alt+down work as adequate replacements.

Final Thoughts:

This will never be my only PC but it is quickly becoming my primary PC.  The 8+ hour battery is awesome.  I’m never going to be able to run apps like TurboTax on it but that is what my windows PC is for.  I am afraid to say it but I am starting to understand why someone might buy a Pixel.


Happy Thanksgiving! … now what to get for Christmas?

Truly, I wish you a happy thanksgiving.  According to history.com:

In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.

I urge you to truly keep the origins of thanksgiving in mind.  Tomorrow (black friday) though, the mind naturally wanders to what to buy as Christmas gifts.  I figured that I would offer a few ideas.

Big TV:

Sharp 42″ 1080p LCD HDTV (Best Buy Door Buster): $199.99


Toshiba “Smart” Blu-ray player (Best Buy Door Buster): $39.99


PlayStation 3 160GB Console Bundle (Best Buy Door Buster): $199.99


Barnes & Noble Nook Color: $149 (refurb) or $199 (new)

Kindle Fire: $199 (new)


Beats by Dr. Dre Solo (Radio Shack Black Friday): $143.99


Lenovo u300s

Motorola Motactv


I hope this list gives you a few ideas for what to get your loved ones (or yourself).












Initial Reaction: SOL Republic Track HD Headphones

So, today I decided to pick up a pair of SOL Republic Tacks HD headphones from the store.  I had been using a pair of noise cancelling headphones for a few years but they’ve been getting kinda rough.  They were mostly held together with masking tape.  I picked these up for $130 at the Apple Store (couldn’t find them anywhere else, in the area).  So far, they feel reasonably comfortable.  They have a definite feel of sturdiness to them.  They don’t fully surround the ears, so it feels a little odd.

My initial reaction is that these do sound noticeably better.  I do like that they have a built-in microphone (since I use my phone for music at work.  They feel solid on my head but I’m still trying to figure out the best positioning of them.  I will try to post a follow-up once I spend some time with them.

SOL Republic Tracks HD on head

SOL Republic Tracks HD Box

SOL Republic Tracks HD taken apart

SOL Republic Tracks HD Headphones


How can I make my Excel formulas more readable?

Microsoft Excel is a powerful tool.  You can use it to track your personal budget, create a shopping list, or build a corporate cash-flow statement.  Sometimes, troubleshooting an Excel file can be difficult, though.  As you can see in examples below, the variables in an equation are represented by grid coordinates consisting of letters and numbers.  This means that you must look at the coordinates and try to figure out what the variable actually represents.  There is a better way.  If you right-click on a cell and click “Define Name”, you can rename the cell.  This means that instead of the cell being named “D2” it can be named “Hourly Wage”.  This will allow you to develop much more “human readable” Excel formulas.

Example of a simple budget calculator

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4






How do you show the formulas in Excel?

This is a quick tip.  Lets say you are working on developing an equation within a cell in Excel and you find yourself wanting to refer back to how you set up another cell.  You can click on the other cell and see the equation but how do you show the value of the cell while it is not selected?  Just hit Ctrl + ` on your keyboard.  To toggle it off, just hit the combination again.  It is as easy as that.