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Extending the Chromebook

Posted on: June 13, 2016

This is Part 3 of what I am learning with and from my new Toshiba Chromebook 2. Click these links for Part 1 (first impressions) and Part 2 (setting up a VPN connection).

The Chromebook might not be quite the workhorse like my MacBook Pro — it is more like a workpony — but it gets work done if it is given the right extensions.

By extensions I mean peripherals, Chromebook apps, and Chrome browser extensions. As I conduct courses and workshops that have strong ICT components, I share what I use to trick up my pony.

I tested two remotes — a Logitech presenter and a generic air mouse — on my Chromebook with Google Slides. They worked as flawlessly.

I also connected a USB dongle (Asus WL-330NUL) that serves as both a LAN cable adapter and a portable router. That, too, worked like a charm.


The Chromebook’s HDMI video port is great for modern flatscreen TVs but quite useless in most conference halls and classrooms. So I have an HDMI-to-VGA converter I purchased a while ago. I mentioned in Part 1 that the video outputs default to extended screen. I did not mention that the video might not retain the right aspect ratio and this requires manual correcting.

To keep my one USB 2.0 port and other USB 3.0 port free for peripherals, I rely on a 64GB Sandisk microSD card in an adapter in the SD slot. The microSD is great for holding videos or backups of presentation files.

Even though rarely print on dead trees, I learnt how to add a cloud-linked printer to the Chromebook. While printing a confirmation letter, I discovered that the default paper size was oddly set at 4″ by 6″.

Chromebook extensions
I use most of the same extensions in my Chromebook’s browser as I have on my desktop and laptop. However, I installed a few extras to help with presentations at seminars, classes, or workshops.

  • Keep Awake: Prevents the Chromebook from going to sleep.
  • Zoom: Functions like a proper magnifier instead of just increasing font size. While good for zooming in, it is not good for showing what I type because the zoom point misaligns the type prompt.

I have also installed Gmail Offline because I do not always have an Internet connection. My Google Drive is also offline, but I think only about the last 100 files are synced at a time.

Chromebook apps
So far I have installed just two must-have apps.

  • VLC: This media player handles just about any media file format, even those that the Chromebook’s default media player cannot.
  • Evernote: At the moment I have the app that seems to have been ported over from Android. There is a web version I have not yet tried.

I also use Apple’s iCloud version of Notes, which I keep as a pinned tab in Chrome. The other pinned tabs are: Gmail, Google Calendar, Feedly, and TweetDeck.

I practice what I preach. I tell teachers that learning how to use technology is often a matter of adapting to the new normal and transferring previously learnt skills.

While I am almost always connected online, the Chromebook has reminded me how to strategise and economise, e.g., when and how to work offline. To maximise what it offers, I transfer what I already know from other instruments and platforms, e.g., setting up a VPN, getting a better video viewing experience, or projecting technically clear presentations.

By adapting and transferring, the learning is not steep and is actually fun to do.

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