Author's details

Name: Jim
Date registered: August 22, 2011

Latest posts

  1. The Kindle 3G+Special Offers edition — August 25, 2011
  2. Vonage: Revisited and loving it! — August 22, 2011
  3. CR-48 and eyeOS – a match made in Heaven? — March 10, 2011
  4. CR-48 Important Security Tip — February 17, 2011
  5. Advanced sign-in security for your Google account — February 10, 2011

Author's posts listings

Aug 25

The Kindle 3G+Special Offers edition

I just purchased a Kindle 3G+Special Offers ebook reader, and I have to say that it has far exceeded my expectations.

To me, when assessing a device like this, it is always important to put into perspective just exactly what such a device can and cannot do.

First, what the Kindle 3G is: First and foremost, it is an eBook reader. Its pearl E-ink display is stellar, and the screen, like several other eBook readers, is very hard to beat. It makes reading very easy, and as they say, the device really does “disappear” as you read, meaning you end up paying more attention to the content than to the device. Very cool.

The Kindle 3G is also very compact. I was surprised at how small it really is. It’s about the size of a small to medium-sized paperback book, but definitely much thinner. It’s only 8 oz. so it’s very light and easy to hold. Its construction is quite sturdy, not really flexing when stressed. It does not come with any case or cover, so that’s the first thing I’m going to purchase. (It could be easily damaged if dropped.) It has a nice feel with the back having a slightly “grippy” feel. Overall, it’s a solid little device.

The Kindle 3G also has some other side features, such as text to speech, automatic downloading of periodicals, and Web browsing capabilities. All of these are well-implemented, but not really the focus of its design. For example, Web browsing is certainly not as robust as you would find on a laptop or on many tablets. I consider it a “nice-to-have” add-on that definitely comes in handy when you need it, especially with the built-in 3G. Which leads me to….

Unlimited free 3G is also included with the Kindle 3G, and there are no fees or contracts. You pay for the device, and it connects to 3G. It also includes Wi-Fi, so when you are in range of an access point, you can connect through that, improving speed. And it it auto-senses Wi-Fi, turning off 3G when it can successfully connect through Wi-Fi. It all happens in the background so seamlessly. Just remember that the Kindle devices are intended as eBook readers, not always-connected interactive Web devices. So constant Internet connectivity is certainly not essential. In fact, for most usage, I find that very little Internet connectivity is really needed. If you need or want an Internet device that has tons of bells and whistles, by all means look elsewhere.

As a side note, I see a trend with tablets and eBook readers: Newer eBook reader models (the Kindle 3G excluded) now do not come with 3G. And tablets that do include 3G require the purchase of a wireless data plan, so the overall cost goes way, way up. My speculation is that over time, “free” 3G will likely be eliminated altogether and replaced by either exclusively Wi-Fi, or by 3G/4G requiring a paid plan subscription. I hope I’m wrong on this point.

OK, now to address what the Kindle 3G is not: The Kindle 3G is not a tablet computer. It is not a multi-media device (though it can play MP3 files.) It is not gaming platform (though it does have several games available.) It does not have a touch screen. Its screen is not color, nor is it backlit (if you want to read in low or no light, you must use a book light!)

So why buy such a limited device? Simply put, as an eBook reader, the Kindle 3G shines (even though the screen is not backlit. ) It’s just that some of these shortcomings prevent it from being much more. But is that really a problem?

Let’s address some of these perceived shortcomings and put them into perspective.

Con: Poor multi-media handling

You can play MP3 files in the background while you read, and you can have the text spoken to you in one of two voices. It’s for reading books and viewing some pictures. Honestly, if you want a multi-media device, look into the iPad or Xoom.

Con: Games are mediocre at best

There are several games that are available for the Kindles. They’re simple, and using the keyboard for game play can often be tedious. The available games are really more for diversion from reading, and certainly not to satisfy the hardcore gamer. If you are a hardcore gamer, go get an iPad or a Xoom.

Con: No touch screen

It’s an ebook reader, not a tablet. At first, I thought I would be seriously disappointed by not having a touch screen. But in practice, the only real navigation required is in selecting a book to read, and than flipping pages while reading. The side page-turn buttons are nicely placed and comfortably there when you need them. And because I’m not touching the screen, it stays clean.

Admittedly, navigating can be tedious at times, and there are times I wish I could just touch a selection instead of using the 4-way arrow pad to navigate. But honestly, such navigation is fairly infrequent, and when it is, it didn’t take long to get used to it. Frankly, I don’t miss the lack of a touch screen.

Con: Screen is not color

The Pearl E-Ink screen is absolutely stunning. In bright light, text and (grey-scale) images just pop off the screen. It really does look like print on paper–no it looks better than print on paper. And because most eBook content is text, color really isn’t necessary. A color E-Ink display would sure be nice.

Con: Screen is not backlit

The Pearl E-Ink screen is extremely readable in normal lighting, and it is very easy on the eyes. In a darker or dimmed room, it can be harder so see, but it’s really no different from printed material. At night, I just leave on a light for reading. It’s dim enough that it doesn’t keep my wife up, yet it’s bright enough to make reading pleasant.

Con: The “Special Offers” edition has ads!

Yep. And that’s why it cost me 5o bucks less than the non-ad model. Yes, you do see ads on the Special Offers edition. But come on, this Kindle is $50 less than the model without ads! I personally won’t pass up a $50 break. To be clear, ads appear only on the Home screen and as screensavers–you never see ads while reading. Dealing with ads really comes down to personal choice. For me, the $50 savings outweighs seeing a few ads here or there. You may disagree, so then spend the extra $50 to not see them. I’ve actually looked at several of the offers, and they are decent, but sadly, none really applied to me. Maybe some will, maybe some won’t.

Finally, the one feature that really sealed the deal for me is the free unlimited 3G access without any contracts or fees. No, I will not be using the Kindle 3G as my main Web surfing device. I have a laptop for that (or a CR-48 Chromebook.) But if I have my Kindle with me, I can be assured that I CAN get online pretty much anywhere I might be.

Anyway, I’m very pleased, and I highly recommend you check them out.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/kindle_tips/the-kindle-3gspecial-offers-edition

Aug 22

Vonage: Revisited and loving it!

In an earlier post, I moaned about how though Vonage was a great service, it just didn’t fit our needs due to several significant shortcomings. Well times change, and so have my views about Vonage.

We recently got a faster, more reliable Internet connection through Charter Cable, and decided to give Vonage another try. So far, after a few months, the results are excellent, and we haven’t looked back. The shortcomings Vonage had are now gone. We were able to port our landline number, the audio clarity is much better, and it has been very stable and reliable. And comparing features and cost, it simply blows the doors off of anything AT&T could offer. We have barely scratched the surface of the features, but it provides everything we need in landline service, and gives me lots of goodies to play with.

One feature that we love is the “transcription” capability of the Vonage voice mail. When someone leaves a voice message, we get a text and an email of the transcription of their message. It’s not always clear (and often pathetically mangled) but it does get the point across.

With a solid Internet connection and at about $14.00 per month, Vonage has proven to be a stellar service providing solid, reliable, feature-rich, and inexpensive landline phone solution.

As one who has yet to embrace the cell phone completely, and continues to hold onto a landline, for features and cost savings, I highly recommend Vonage.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/vonage-tips/vonage-revisited-and-loving-it

Mar 10

CR-48 and eyeOS – a match made in Heaven?

eyeOSMany years ago, I played around with an “online desktop” site called eyeOS. After playing around with the CR-48, it got me thinking that a virtual, online desktop just might be useful on the CR-48.

Remember, the CR-48 is a completely Web-centric device. It is truly a “cloud computer” because almost anything you do with it requires an Internet connection. When it boots, it boots directly into the Chrome browser fullscreen. In fact, there is no “desktop” as found on other OS’s because everything is done within the browser. Settings screens are displayed in the browser. System logs display in the browser. Everything.

I logged into eyeOS and it turns out that it works like a charm on my CR-48!

I installed eyeOS on one of my domains so now I have personal access to an online desktop, accessible from pretty much anywhere, including my CR-48.

Yes, I still have to be connected to the Internet (which is what the CR-48 is all about) but now, I have a relatively seamless desktop environment that I can enhance my productivity. Very nice!

eyeOS can be found at http://eyeOS.org

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/google-chrome-tips/cr-48-and-eyeos-a-match-made-in-heaven

Feb 17

CR-48 Important Security Tip

I love the CR-48′s fast bootup, and I absolutely love its instant-on feature: Leave it powered on, close the lid, and when you re-open it, it’s instantly on where you left off. This standby mode is easy on batteries, and it is extremely useful to me.


I just realized that anyone who gets a hold of my CR-48 will have complete and full access to whatever is open, and worse, they will have complete access to all of my Google applications because I’m already logged in. At home, this is not a problem because I trust my wife implicitly and I can control access when people are visiting. But when my CR-48 leaves my house, it’s a very different story. This is a HUGE security issue for me, but there is a simple solution:

Click the Wrench icon at the top right of your screen and click “Settings”. In the “Personal stuff” tab, check the “Require password to wake from sleep” checkbox. Now, when you open the lid from sleep mode, you will be prompted for your password. You can have the peace of mind that your CR-48′s data, and more importantly, your Google Account data will be more secure.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/google-chrome-tips/cr-48-important-security-tip

Feb 10

Advanced sign-in security for your Google account

(Cross-posted from the Google Blog)

Has anyone you know ever lost control of an email account and inadvertently sent spam—or worse—to their friends and family? There are plenty of examples (like the classic “Mugged in London” scam) that demonstrate why it’s important to take steps to help secure your activities online. Your Gmail account, your photos, your private documents—if you reuse the same password on multiple sites and one of those sites gets hacked, or your password is conned out of you directly through a phishing scam, it can be used to access some of your most closely-held information.

Most of us are used to entrusting our information to a password, but we know that some of you are looking for something stronger. As we announced to our Google Apps customers a few months ago, we’ve developed an advanced opt-in security feature called 2-step verification that makes your Google Account significantly more secure by helping to verify that you’re the real owner of your account. Now it’s time to offer the same advanced protection to all of our users.

2-step verification requires two independent factors for authentication, much like you might see on your banking website: your password, plus a code obtained using your phone. Over the next few days, you’ll see a new link on your Account Settings page that looks like this:

Take your time to carefully set up 2-step verification—we expect it may take up to 15 minutes to enroll. A user-friendly set-up wizard will guide you through the process, including setting up a backup phone and creating backup codes in case you lose access to your primary phone. Once you enable 2-step verification, you’ll see an extra page that prompts you for a code when you sign in to your account. After entering your password, Google will call you with the code, send you an SMS message or give you the choice to generate the code for yourself using a mobile application on your Android, BlackBerry or iPhone device. The choice is up to you. When you enter this code after correctly submitting your password we’ll have a pretty good idea that the person signing in is actually you.

It’s an extra step, but it’s one that significantly improves the security of your Google Account because it requires the powerful combination of both something you know—your username and password—and something that only you should have—your phone. A hacker would need access to both of these factors to gain access to your account. If you like, you can always choose a “Remember verification for this computer for 30 days” option, and you won’t need to re-enter a code for another 30 days. You can also set up one-time application-specific passwords to sign in to your account from non-browser based applications that are designed to only ask for a password, and cannot prompt for the code.

To learn more about 2-step verification and get started, visit our Help Center. And for more about staying safe online, see our ongoing security blog series or visit http://www.staysafeonline.org/. Be safe!

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/official-gmail-news/advanced-sign-in-security-for-your-google-account

Feb 07

Priority Inbox in Gmail for mobile

(Cross-posted from the Mobile blog)

If you’ve ever cursed a phone’s tiny screen as utterly inadequate for sifting through an overflowing inbox you’ll be pleased to hear that the Gmail mobile web app now supports Priority Inbox. Priority Inbox helps combat information overload by automatically identifying your important messages so you can focus on those first. Until today it was only available on the desktop and Android devices.

Now, once you set up Priority Inbox in the desktop version of Gmail, you’ll see Priority Inbox sections when you visit gmail.com from your phone’s browser and click on the ‘Menu’ screen. You’ll also see importance markers in your inbox, so you can quickly identify which messages are important.

This feature is available for most mobile browsers that support HTML5, such as devices running Android 1.5+ and iOS 3+. If you have suggestions or want to learn more, visit our Help Center and forum.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/official-gmail-news/priority-inbox-in-gmail-for-mobile

Feb 03

Two improvements to contact groups

Organizing your Gmail contacts into groups can save you time when you’re writing messages to multiple people at once. For example, if you create a “Family” group, instead of addressing an email to your mom, dad, sister and brother, you can just start typing “Family” and Gmail will complete the rest. Today we’re making two improvements to contact groups which should make them easier to create and control.

First, let’s say you have a list of coworkers you think you’ll want to contact again in the future. Now, you can paste that list into the Add to group menu when viewing your “Coworkers” group to populate or extend it.

Second, we’ve added the ability to specify which one of your contact’s email addresses you want to use in a given group. So, for example, you can now use your friend’s personal address in your “Poker Buddies” group and that same friend’s work address in your “Coworkers” group.

We’re always listening for feedback about what we can do to make Contacts, and all of Gmail, better, so let us know what you think.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/official-gmail-news/two-improvements-to-contact-groups

Jan 31

CR-48 Verizon 3G Info and Tips

I was searching for some specific information about how the Verizon 3G data plan works for the CR-48. I found very helpful information at Google’s Chrome OS support pages. By all means, go through those help pages. There is much useful information to be found there.

Here are some tips and general information that I found in various places throughout those pages that are specific to CR-48 3G usage:

1. How much data do I have left?

“Click the Network icon in the top-right corner of your screen. When 3G is enabled, the amount of data remaining should be listed under “Verizon Wireless” in the menu that appears.”

2. The CR-48 will favor Wi-Fi over 3g

“Chrome OS transmits data over the Verizon Wireless Network only when no other networks are available. So if you’re connected to both Verizon and another Wi-Fi network, the Wi-Fi network will be used to transmit data.” This is great for keeping 3G usage down. So wherever you are, leverage Wi-Fi access, leaving 3G for those times when Wi-Fi is not available.

3. You can’t “go over” data usage

“If you’re out of data, you’ll see the 3G gray warning icon in the top-right corner of the screen. You can choose to receive notifications whenever you’re about to run out of data.” So basically, when you run out of data, your only option is to buy more. There is no fear of “going over” on data and you will not be charged for additional usage unless you specifically purchase it.

4. Notification triggers

“If notifications are enabled, you’ll see notifications for the following situations:

  • You have less than 30 minutes before your data expires.
  • You have less than 50 MB of data left.
  • You’re out of data.”

5. Activation issues

“To resolve the problem, call Verizon at 1-800-786-8419 (when you hear the menu options, press # on your phone and select option 2 for prepaid support). Make sure to let the agent know that you’re using a Chrome notebook and that you need to manually set your modem to override failed activation attempts.

When prompted by the Verizon technician, find the modem number for your Chrome notebook:

  1. Press Ctrl+Alt+T on your Chrome notebook to open a terminal window.
  2. Type the following command and press Enter: crosh
  3. Type the following command and press Enter: modem status

Once the technician knows the modem number, he or she can help you reset your modem and walk you through the remaining steps to fix the problem.”

I hope this is helpful!

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/google-chrome-tips/cr-48-verizon-3g-info-and-tips

Jan 31

CR-48 Verizon 3G Data Plans

In addition to Wi-Fi access, the CR-48 has 3G access capability through Verizon. Once activated, you get 100MB of free data per month for two years. You can also optionally purchase several plans:

$9.99 day pass with unlimited data
$19.99 1 GB (valid for 30 days)
$34.99 3 GB (valid for 30 days)
$49.99 5 GB (valid for 30 days)

The day pass provides unlimited access, and the session lasts for 24 hours. It is probably most useful for those rare times when you have no Wi-Fi access but require Internet connectivity.

The other plans provide the specified amount of data and the session lasts for 30 days from activation.

The other plans give you the flexibility to choose how much data you want.

So how much data do I need?

The size of plan you purchase really depends upon your data usage. Based upon Verizon’s Data Calculator, here are some examples of the kind of tasks you do on your CR-48, and the usage you could expect based upon the plan purchased:

Task Data used 100MB 1GB 3GB 5GB
Email (text only) 0.01MB each 10,000 100,000 300,000 500,000
Typical Web page Lookup 1.5MB each 67 667 2,000 3,333
Audio Streaming 34MB per hour 3 29 88 147
Lo-res Video Streaming 46mB per hour 2 22 65 109
Hi-res Video Streaming 356MB per hour 0.3 3 8 14
Digital photo upload/download 1MB each 100 1,000 3,000 5,000

Note that these are estimates only, and your usage or experience could and probably will vary greatly. Further note that tasks such as rich email with pictures and attachments will take up significantly more bandwidth than plain text email.

One benefit of these plans is that they are “no contract” services, so you only pay month-to-month for what you want to use. So if you want to pay for 1GB this month and then not pay for anything next month, you can do so. In addition, there is no Early Termination Fee.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/google-chrome-tips/cr-48-verizon-3g-data-plans

Jan 31

CR-48 Keyboard Shortcuts

The trackpad on the CR-48 is quite useful with its (somewhat limited and quirky) multitouch capabilities, and a USB mouse can be a God-send for long sessions, but there are many keyboard shortcuts that can simplify or speed up your interaction with Chrome OS. Here is a pretty much exhaustive keyboard shortcut list:

Tab and window navigation
Ctrl+N Open a new window
Ctrl+Shift+N Open a new window in incognito mode
Ctrl+T Open a new tab
Ctrl+O Open a file in the browser
Ctrl+Shift+Q Sign out of your Google Account on Chrome OS
Ctrl+W Close the current tab
Ctrl+Shift+W Close the current window
Ctrl+Shift+T Reopen the last tab you’ve closed. Google Chrome remembers the last 10 tabs you’ve closed.
Ctrl+1 through Ctrl+8 Go to the tab at the specified position in the window
Ctrl+9 Go to the last tab in the window
Alt+1 through Alt+9 Go to the window at the specified position
Alt+9 Go to the last window open
Ctrl+Tab Go to the next tab in the window
Ctrl+Shift+Tab Go to the previous tab in the window
Alt+Tab Go to the next window you have open
Alt+Shift+Tab Go to the previous window you have open
Click and hold the Back or Forward arrow in the browser toolbar See your browsing history for the tab
Backspace, or press Alt and the left arrow Go to previous page in your browsing history.
Shift+Backspace, or press Alt and the right arrow Go to the next page in your browsing history.
Press Ctrl and click a link Open the link in a new tab in the background
Press Ctrl+Shift and click a link Open the link in a new tab and switch to the newly opened tab
Press Shift and click a link Open the link in a new window
Drag a link to a tab Open the link in the tab
Drag a link to a blank area on the tab strip Open the link in a new tab
Type a URL in the address bar, then press Alt+Enter Open the URL in a new tab
Press Esc while dragging a tab Return the tab to its original position
Ctrl+H Open the History page
Ctrl+J Open the Downloads page
Shift+Esc Open the Task Manager
Ctrl+Alt+/ Toggle the display of the keyboard viewer
Ctrl+? Go to the Help Center
Browser interface navigation
Ctrl+Shift+B Toggle the display of the bookmarks bar. Bookmarks appear on the New Tab page if the bar is hidden.
Shift+Alt+S Place focus on the status area in the top-right corner of the screen. Use the actions listed for Shift+Alt+T to move the focus.
Shift+Alt+T Place focus on the browser toolbar
Press Tab or the right arrow to focus on the next item in the toolbar
Press Shift+Tab or the left arrow to focus on the previous item in the toolbar
Press Ctrl+Alt and the up arrow to focus on the first item in the toolbar
Press Ctrl+Alt and the down arrow to focus on the last item in the toolbar
Press Space or Enter to activate buttons, including page actions and browser actions
Press Esc to return focus to the page
Alt+Shift+B Place focus on the bookmarks bar. Use the actions listed for Shift+Alt+T to move the focus.
Alt+E or Alt+F Open the wrench menu on the browser toolbar
Text editing shortcuts
Ctrl+A Select everything on the page
Ctrl+L or Alt+D Select the content in the address bar
Press Ctrl+Shift and right arrow Select next word or letter
Press Ctrl+Shift and left arrow Select previous word or letter
Press Ctrl and right arrow Move to the start of the next word
Press Ctrl and left arrow Move to the start of the previous word
Press Alt and up arrow Page up
Press Alt and down arrow Page down
Press Ctrl+Alt and up arrow Home
Press Ctrl+Alt and down arrow End
Ctrl+C Copy selected content to the clipboard
Ctrl+V Paste content from the clipboard
Ctrl+Shift+V Paste content from the clipboard as plain text
Ctrl+X Cut
Ctrl+Backspace Delete the previous word
Alt+Backspace Delete the next letter (forward delete)
Ctrl+Z Undo your last action

(Note: This list comes from Google’s Chrome OS help pages. I highly recommend you browse around there as it has a wealth of useful information.)

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/google-chrome-tips/cr-48-keyboard-shortcuts

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