Chromebook Diaries – the tech spec

Dell Chromebook 11

 

OK, so I’ve had my Dell Chromebook 11 for just over a week and am still exploring its capabilities but I think that it’s time to talk specifications.

Physically, it’s a very compact 24.6 mm x 294.64 mm x 200.7 mm which is 0.97″ x 11.6″ by 7.9″ in old money and tips the scales at 1.3kg – aka 2.9 lbs.

The screen is a perfectly usable 11.6″ with a resolution of 1366 x 768 and there’s an HDMI out with 1080p hi-def resolution. I’ve not used it in bright sunlight but I never used my Toshiba outside either and inside, it’s as bright as it needs to be.

There’s a 1.4 GHz Intel U2955 dual core processor with a 2Mb cache, that’s a Celeron if you like names. Memory wise there’s 4Gb RAM to keep things moving along and a 16Gd solid state drive, SSD. from what I’ve read, it’s like a PC, the more RAM the better the performance and I’ve had 20 tabs open with no slowdown.

To keep things simple there’s no network port but Wi-Fi, 802.11 a/b/g/n so you’ll be able to get on-line wherever there’s a wi-fi network. Bluetooth 4.0 completes the networking so that you can connect to your portable speakers or headset and there’s a webcam, microphone and a decent pair of speakers which is great for Google Hangouts users – not looked to see whether it works with Skype yet.

There’s a headphone and microphone socket, SD card slot to expand the memory or read your camera pics and 2 x USB 3.0 ports.

The battery is rated at 51Whr which is good for between 7 and 9 hours depending on how you use it.

All in all, the specification is ideal for a lightweight, speedy, compact laptop that’s great when working away from the office.

Of course, after winning rave reviews and pretty much selling out the technology bandwagon rolls on and Dell are to going release a new Chromebook with an i3 processor but I’m not upset by that, this one is just fine.

Chromebook Diaries – delivering presentations

One of my many roles away from the office is delivering presentations, whether it’s one-to-few or one-to-many and laptop and projector are key tools along with MS PowerPoint so I wondered how I would get on with a Chromebook?

PowerPoint OnlineI’ve found that there are MS Word, MS Excel and MS PowerPoint Apps in the Chrome Store – which is here you can access and download Apps for Chromebooks so I’ve downloaded them all. I’ve also learned that my Microsoft Office 365 Cloud Storage has been upgraded to 1Tb at no extra cost which means that I can upload all of my presentations to the Cloud and not worry about running out of storage.

So, back on topic – Chromebooks and presentations. I powered up my trusty Toshiba projector, plugged a HDMI to VGA adapter in to my Chromebook and connected the VGA cable from projector to adapter and almost instantly my Chromebook desktop was extended – just like working with 2 monitors.

PowerPoint Slide ChangerI plugged in the USB dongle for my Kensington remote slide changer and then accessed the screen settings and selected “Mirror” so that each display [Chromebook screen and projector] were displaying the same image.

Next, I clicked on the “PowerPoint” Chrome App and waited for a mere couple of seconds before PowerPoint opened and asked which presentation I wanted to run.Because I use a number of videos in my presentations I opened one  that I knew included a video.

Start PresentationI then clicked the “Start Slide Show” option and the presentation appeared – just as it does from my trusty Windows laptop. Fantastic.

I click “forward” to move on to the next slide – and the slides changed. I clicked through to a slide with a video – the video played and sound worked perfectly.

So, I am now confident that I can run PowerPoint presentations from my Chromebook, through a projector, change the slides as I walk around and let videos play in pretty much the same way that I can with my old Toshiba Windows laptop.

Fantastic!

Chromebook Diaries – editing photos on a Chromebook

When preparing presentations, writing blog posts or editing websites I need to edit photographs and other images.  However, I don’t need to do the whole “Photoshop” thing, normally it’s a case of cropping, resizing, compressing and occasionally working with the colour balance, brightness or contrast to give some of the pictures a bit of a “lift” and for that, a Chromebook is more than adequate.  It’s not unlike editing pictures on a tablet or phone – tools such as Pixlr Photo Editor and Pixlr Touch Up can deal with pretty much every basic image/photo editing requirement.  You can see a screen grab from Photo Editor on the right and it compares very favourably with my favourite Windows editor, the free www.getpaint.net which offers simple photo editing on Windows computers.  if i need to be more creative or actually originate an image then I’ll do it my PC where I can choose from Photoshop, Paintshop Pro and the excellent, and free, Gnu Image Manipulation Program, AKA the GIMP.When preparing presentations, writing blog posts or editing websites I need to edit photographs and other images.

However, I don’t need to do the whole “Photoshop” thing, normally it’s a case of cropping, resizing, compressing and occasionally working with the colour balance, brightness or contrast to give some of the pictures a bit of a “lift” and for that, a Chromebook is more than adequate.

It’s not unlike editing pictures on a tablet or phone – tools such as Pixlr Photo Editor and Pixlr Touch Up can deal with pretty much every basic image/photo editing requirement.

You can see a screen grab from Photo Editor on the right and it compares very favourably with my favourite Windows editor, the free www.getpaint.net which offers simple photo editing on Windows computers.

if i need to be more creative or actually originate an image then I’ll do it my PC where I can choose from Photoshop, Paintshop Pro and the excellent, and free, Gnu Image Manipulation Program, AKA the GIMP.

Chromebook Diaries – The Chromebook has landed

Toshiba Satellite Pro

My trusty Toshiba laptop is coming up on 3 years old and is beginning to show it’s age. Like it’s owner, it’s heavy, getting slower with age and just looks too chunky.

I have been agonising over its replacement for a while. I was taken with Windows Ultrabooks, great performance, quality screen and fantastic battery life – up to 5 hours but less than engaged by their prices, from £700 up.

I’ve also been looking at the Chromebooks which are basically small laptops with 11.6″ screens, fantastic battery life and running Google’s Chrome operating system rather than Windows. I even wrote about Chromebooks in an earlier post.

Larger screen Chromebooks are now available in in all cases battery life is as long as 9 hours, so all day computing without a charger is a realistic aim and they are impervious to viruses and other forms of malware.

Screens quality is perfectly acceptable but build quality, according to reviews has been variable. However, since Xmas 2013 more and more manufactures have been releasing models using Intel processors for better performance, compared to theToshiba Satellite NB10Samsung processors used in older Chromebooks, and manufacturers such as Toshiba and HP have released Chromebooks with larger screens – a 13” from Toshiba and a 14” from HP

However, I have been wary of the leap away from Windows and that has held me back, particularly after discovering a Toshiba of a very similar size to the 12” Chromebooks, with a touch screen and Windows 8 for not a lot more money than a Chromebook, around£300 compared to the typical Chromebook price of £200 to £250.

So, I continued to sit on the fence.

Then Dell released their take on the Chromebook – 11.6” screen, excellent battery life, Intel dual core processor, light weight and, more importantly, 4Gb RAM.

With excellent reviews and a keen price, my mind was 90% made up. Then I spotted a great deal on eBay just as the Dell delivery date slipped from days to months, my decision was made and on Tuesday July 8th I picked up my ever so slightly used Dell Chromebook.

Quick Windows shortcuts for keyboard warriors

Keyboard - Windows keyboard short-cutsI don’t know about you, but I’m quite a fan of keyboard short-cuts – Ctrl-c, Ctrl-v and Ctrl-x are probably the most well known and most used – making it easy to Copy, Paste and Cut text without lifting your fingers from the keyboard and there’s the reason why some people are fans – speed.

Keyboard shortcuts mean that your fingers never leave the keyboard – saving that transition to the mouse for the essential Copy & Paste commands. Of course, there are many more – just Google “keyboard shortcuts” for complete lists of them.

However, I stumbled across the following 10 very recently and have found many of them immediately useful. Of course, an aging memory doesn’t really help – I still have to look at my cheat-sheet to remember some of them but I’m sure that they’ll be embedded in my memory soon.

  1. Command: Win key + Shift + Right/Left Arrow Key
    What it does: Moves active window to a second monitor, but keeps the window at the same size — i.e. if you have your web browser maximised on one screen, and want to move it to be maximised on the other, this’ll do it. For multiple monitor users it will be a boon.
  2. Command: Alt + Up arrow
    What it does: Moves up one folder level in Explorer.
  3. Command: Ctrl + Shift + Esc
    What it does: Jumps straight to the Task Manager without having to go through the Ctrl + Alt + Delete screen.
  1. Command: Win key + L
    What it does: Locks your computer. Very useful if you work in an office full of pranksters looking to mess with your PC when you sneak off for a coffee.
  2. Command: Win key + T
    What it does: Cycles through programs on the taskbar, just like hovering your mouse over them. Enter or space will launch a new program.
  3. Command: Alt + Print Screen
    What it does: Print-screens only the selected window. Hugely helpful if you’re running a multiple-monitor setup.
  4. Command: Hold down Shift when inserting a USB drive/SD card/CD
    What it does: Stops AutoRun.
  5. Command: Alt + D
    What it does: Selects the address bar, either in your browser of choice, or even Windows Explorer.
  6. Command: Win key + F
    What it does: Opens the Windows Search box when you are looking for that file you created but can’t remembered where you saved it.
  7. Command: Ctrl + Tab
    What it does:Changes between multiple windows in the same program – Switch  between browser tabs, or multiple Word documents etc.

And if you would like a copy to pin on your office wall – just download Keyboard Shortcuts here