Doing development on Chromebook usually means developing online. There are a lot of sites around for that. But with the APIs getting more mature, its just a matter of time before someone builds a kick-ass IDE which runs natively on Chromebooks without network connectivity.
One such tool which I’ve been exploring for a last few weeks is from Google and called “Chrome Dev Editor” If you have never built and run a chrome app or extension, I’ll show you how to do this in 3 easy steps.
Notice how it automatically adds the minimum code required for it to run. This will be the template you are going to work with. You are almost done, but lets review the files in there to understand why they are there.
- manifest.json – This is the most important file. Modify the app name, version number, capabilities, permissions, scripts using this file. This is the only filename which cannot be modified. Everything else can be controlled using this file.
- background.js – Noticed that manifest file mentions this script in it. This is the script which will start up first when the app comes up.
- index.html – background.js requests a window to be created using “chrome.app.window.create” and this is the file it points to for the contents of the window.
- main.js – This script is called from index.html. It won’t start up until the window is created
- style.css – index.html declares this as a stylesheet
- assets – The icons for your project are kept in there
Thats it. Click on the play button on the top left corner of your editor to launch the app.
Final steps – “Chrome Dev Editor” can upload and publish the app for you with a single click. Since you are on a chromebook, you should know that you can save your code on Google Drive as well, which will just sync across multiple devices automatically. And if you’d like to revision control your code, know that the editor has built in support for syncing code to git as well.
I don’t travel to NYC often, but when I do, I look for the days when there are no snow storms.
I’ll be honest. I didn’t know who or what “Mary Meeker” was until last year. The data I saw then and what I saw in her latest post is beyond fascinating. She (and her team) has put a lot of effort in collecting and analyzing interesting trends from all around the world. The end result is a deck like this one. I’m sure different people see different things in the deck… I picked the two slides below as the ones most interesting to me.
The first one is about tablet growth. If you had time to see just one slide, this one would be the one. It shows the trend around what people are buying. Its very clear that notebooks took over desktops in 2009, but what I didn’t know was that tablets are exploding in a way no one anticipated.
It should be noted that average lifetime of the desktop is way longer than notebooks, and tablets/smartphones probably have the shortest lifespan. But even if you take that into account, the growth of tablets/phones is nothing short of a revolution.
The second slide shows the distribution of time spent on various forms of information consumption devices. Its fascinating to see that in Indonesia people spend 6 hours in front of a computer of some kind. People in US on the other hand spend only 5 hours. Japan has the least.. only about 3.6 hours on some form of computer. But Germany and South Korea shocked me. Do they hate tablets ? Im puzzled as to why tablet use is so low.
Took this shot a couple of weeks ago using my Nexus 5.
It has been a while since I got my hands dirty writing code. So here is a tool I cooked up last night.
Share Quickly is a chrome extension which takes a screenshot of the active tab and uploads it to a public website which makes screenshot sharing a one click task. I plan to make these images disappear from cache after some time to save on storage… haven’t figure out how to expose that yet.
The files are hosted on Google’s App engine using cloud storage and the front end for that service is on Google Compute engine. I choose to write this in PHP instead.
Interestingly the backend storage is not limited to images only. You can actually use http://sharequickly.appspot.com/ to save and share arbitrary pieces text. Note that none of this is pretty, so be warned.
Feature requests and general comments are welcome.
I compiled a list below of all the chrome devices which are sold today or were sold in the past. I did this primarily to understand the device trend.
- Interestingly the average price for a chrome device is around $340 US on Amazon
- 16 GB Flash is most common, but some devices have 32 GB option
- There is only one device I know off which comes with a real harddisk, but that’s not listed in this chart.
- 2GB RAM is still popular, but more of the recent devices come with 4GB
- Average weight is around 3 pounds
- Average screen size is just over 12 inches for laptops
- Average battery duration is around 7.5 hours on single charge
Note: This information was collected from various sources (including wikipedia and chromium.org and Amazon website) and may have unintentional errors.
The idea of “ubiquitous computing” most people dream about doesn’t usually include the troubles of patching them every week. It doesn’t even mention that there would be new bugs found daily and that most of the fixes would be available weeks if not months after they were discovered.
Windows XP has been in news recently because Microsoft has finally pulled support for this aging OS. 30% of all active desktops are still on XP and now we know of a new security bug, which would never get fixed for these users.
XP may eventually become the epitome of unpatched buggy software because of the visibility this issue got, but I feel this may just be the tip of the iceberg. For every XP out there, I bet there is one or more unpatched networking device just waiting for someone to exploit it, and this number is growing very fast. Some of these bugs are just that… bugs, but I suspect most of them are due to less then reputable code/design quality. Its a wild-wild-west out there and this has to stop.
The other problem with ubiquitous computing is that the number of devices per house hold is growing rapidly and doing manual updates to every single one is getting close to impossible. We need to get to a place where users won’t have to worry about manually updating the devices. The industry as a whole needs to do a better job at promoting a type of automation and testing which requires significantly higher levels of investment in resources (by manufacturer) to make it happen. Apple with its iOS update infrastructure and Google with its Chrome updates has shown that its possible to do it at scale.
So what can we as users do ? For a start we may have an obligation to ask about auto-updates when we buy new devices. For connected devices at least, shipping updates shouldn’t be “optional”. Vote for the right manufacturer with your wallet.
If you have used Chrome OS in a school or an enterprise network, you would have noticed how helpful the management piece can be. Using this tool you can quickly setup and deploy policies to make things easier for your users.
This is the authoritative source of all policies available on Chrome today. Pay special attention to the “Supported on” section. If it mentions “Google Chrome OS”, then the policy is supported on devices and most of them can be set using Admin console UI.
There are essentially two different types of policies one can set on Chrome OS.
The “user policies” are those policies which can be set for an individual, regardless of which machine they are using Chrome from. A good example of a user policy is the “Screen Lock”. An enterprise admin could enforce users to have an idle screen lock enabled automatically to protect internal company data. Similarly, there may be organizations which may want to disable “Browser History” across all users.
These “User policies” will follow the user on all platforms, which means that in addition to working on Chrome OS these policies will also take effect on Chrome for Windows and Linux if the user signs into them with the organization’s credentials.
The “device policies” are policies applied to the machine irrespective of the user on it. For Chrome OS the policies which can be applied on the device are clearly defined in the policy list.
Examples of these policies are shown on the right. If a device is used in a lab environment which doesn’t need data persistence, its simple to set “User Data” policy to “Erase all local user info, setting… after each sign-out”. Note that these policies take effect only on devices which are enrolled into the domain.
One of the first things an admin should learn is how to debug if the policies are setup correctly. The quickest way to do this is by going to the “chrome://policy” page. If there are any policies on your device, it will show up there.
There are two boxes on the top. The first one is labeled as “Device policies” and the second one is labeled as “User policies”. There are few different things you can quickly find out by looking at it:
- The device is enrolled to “trialdevices.com”
- If the “Device policies” box is missing, it probably means that the device is not enrolled.
- The signed in user is firstname.lastname@example.org
- If the “User policies” box is missing, it probably means that the user is not part of a domain pushing policies.
- Both policies were fetched in last 6 seconds (if this is too old, try to “Reload policies” to see if it can get a fresher version)
- Status for both is “Policy cache OK”
If you notice stale policies, you should start investigating using a tool like this to see if there are firewalls in the way which could be impacting it. If that doesn’t help, ask help from local networking admins who may know more.
One of the salient features of Chrome OS is its ability to do transparent updates with little or no interaction from the user. This not only ensures the user is always protected, it also improves performance and features over time.
If you administer a fleet of chrome devices, I recommend you read this support on how to correctly configure this. It goes through all the autoupdate (AU) terminologies and suggests best practices which will help you in long run.
How to check if AU is properly working in your network
- I’ll strongly recommend to enable reporting using your admin console. This will allow devices to send its OS version to the reporting engine.
- Then use the Admin SDK APIs to generate reports for devices in your domain, grouped by major version. I recommend you write your own scripts, but you can try third party tools like these to understand what the APIs are capable of.
- If you have lots of different networks, try to generate separate reports for devices in different networks to see if any of them are further behind than others.
- If you do notice some devices are not getting updates, look for the following failure patterns
- Check if the devices are being blocked from reaching update engine. White-list these domains if you need to implement ACLs.
- If you have enabled “scattered” updates, disable it for those users. “Scattered” updates is not good for devices which are not used every single day.
- If your devices never get updates, you may have to reach out to Google’s enterprise support team for deeper analysis.
How to check what my devices should be at ?
Google publishes all the version numbers for all of its chrome devices at this location: http://cros-omahaproxy.appspot.com/
. If you know what hardware you have, you should be able to find the latest stable, beta and dev version numbers there. Here is what it looks like for CR-48s and original Samsung chromebooks.
Understanding AU Logs
- You can extract the AU logs from the device very easily using the following steps
- Go to chrome://net-internals#chromeos
- Click on “store debug logs”. This creates a compressed archive in the “Download folder”
- After exploding the compressed archive, look for files under “/var/log/update_engine” which has all the AU related logs
- Find the latest log file there and open it up in an editor
- The AU request would look something like this
- Interpretation of the request
The AU response would look something like this
- Current version of the OS: 4319.96.0_i686
- Hardware is : PARROT (find more info here)
- Lang=”en-US” means its a US version of hardware
- track=”stable-channel” means this is requested a stable update
- Lang=”en-US” means its a US version of hardware
- track=”stable-channel” means its requesting a stable update
[1121/083519:INFO:omaha_request_action.cc(717)] Omaha request response:
Interpretation of response
– status=”noupdate” means there are no updates available for this particular device
If your device is getting “noupdate” even though its supposed to be on a newer version, something may be wrong. If this goes on for a few days, contact support to troubleshoot further.