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Posts Tagged ‘toshiba

In a previous reflection, I noted how there seemed to be a phantom power draw by my Toshiba 2 Chromebook when I used it in presentation and facilitation mode.

The lowered battery life seemed to be due to my use of an HDMI-to-VGA dongle to project my screen during workshops. This was odd given how the Chromebook was a relatively passive device.

Recently I used my Chromebook for 6.5 hours straight in active use. I was grading learner performance with Google Forms and fact-checking in Chrome. I did this over a day in one morning and one afternoon session. I still had a little over two hours of battery life left when I responded to email at a cafe later.
 

 
All this seems is counterintuitive: Use the device passively to project the screen and the battery runs out, but use it actively and it is an all-workday device.

The difference is the HDMI dongle which seems to sap battery life. I estimate it reduces battery life in my Chromebook Toshiba 2 by about half.

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.

Peripherals
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.

Peripherals.

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.

Reflection
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.

This is Part 2 of my first impressions of my new Toshiba Chromebook 2. Read Part 1 here.

I wondered if I could protect myself while using public networks like Wireless@SG. I was not disappointed.

Instructions on how to do this will vary with VPN providers. I use Private Internet Access (PIA) and this is what worked for me.

  1. Get to Chromebook Settings by clicking on your profile (bottom right hand side of screen).
  2. Click on “Add connection”” and then on “OpenVPN / L2TP”.
     
  3. Fill in the fields in the dialogue box that appears (see screenshot below).
    • See this list of PIA servers for a server hostname.
    • The preshared key is “mysafety”.
    • Your username is not the same as the one generated by PIA. It starts with “x” instead of “p”.
    • Server CA certificate, User certificate, OTP, and Group name can be left default or blank.
       
  4. Select “Save identity and password” to make it easy to connect to the VPN.
  5. When connected to wifi, click on the “Connect” button.
  6. After a few seconds, you should be connected to the VPN of your choice. Verify this with WhatsMyIPAddress.

Notes:

  • The list of VPN servers you set up will be listed in your profile menu. Here are examples that I set up in my Chromebook.
  • You can set up as many as you wish by repeating the steps above.

My first major note about Chromebooks was over two years ago. Back when they were new, I wondered if Chromebooks were the new netbooks.

While Chromebooks evolved, I waited. And watched. And waited some more.

I added the Toshiba Chromebook 2 to my Amazon wishlist last year after reading how it topped many reviews. I had also tried one out when I visited a Google Store in London.

Then I bought it. It arrived at doorstep two days ago.
 
Toshiba Chromebook 2
 
I have a new Chromebook baby. I am a Chromebook baby. Here are some things I have learnt about it.

Freebies

Chromebook owners are eligible for “freebies” and this is the official place to check. There were three on my list.

  • I was expecting an additional 100GB of Google Drive space for two years and I got it.
  • Google Music is not available in Singapore so I do not benefit from the deal.
  • I am not in the US so 12 GoGo in-air Internet passes on domestic flights there are useless.

Hardware

I have been spoilt by the trackpad and keyboard of MacBooks. The Chromebook’s trackpad in tap mode is good, but to click it requires too much depth and force.

I paired the Chromebook up with a Logitech bluetooth mouse. While I could change the trackpad scrolling to “Australian” mode (Apple calls this natural mode, where up means up), there was no option to change the mouse scroll direction.

The keyboard is too sensitive with some apps (e.g., typing in Google Docs can rrrrresult in repeeeeeated letttttterrrrs.) and not enough with others (e.g., the ported Android version of Evernote). The keyboard also picks up and shows off fingerprints too easily.

The Chromebook has an HDMI video out port which I tested with an HDMI cable and an HDMI-to-VGA adapter (important as VGA projectors are still more common).

I discovered that some HDMI heads are a very tight fit for the port. Once connected, both HDMI and VGA video outputs default to extended screen. I had to manually switch to mirror mode.

Wireless@SGx

Yesterday I decided to test the Chromebook at a library and use Singapore’s Wireless@SG and Wireless@SGx wifi networks. Wireless@SG requires manual logins and is older. Wireless@SGx requires a one-time set up, typically with phones, and it connects automatically.

Wireless@SGx is more convenient and I wondered if anyone here had tried this on a Chromebook before. I was not disappointed. Here is a detailed guide by Geek Bryan.

I found out that I could only set up the connection on-site and not in advance. I also had to use a “long form” version of my user ID instead of the simple one illustrated in the guide.

I only realised this option would work because my normal user ID — the one I use to manually log in to Wireless@SG — did not work when I tried. I had generated the long version of my user ID for my iPad several months ago using this SingNet/SingTel site and choosing the Type 2 option.

The longer version of my user ID coupled with the instructions by Geek Bryan helped me connect to Wireless@SGx.

Battery life

I spent about two hours at the library getting some work done. The battery gauge let me know that the Chromebook could go on for another 6.5 hours. Only my MacBook Pro could offer that sort of run time, but it is a heavier beast.

The Chromebook does not gulp. It sips.

Coming up next

It is unwise to spend any amount of time on a public wifi connection. So tomorrow I share how I set up my Toshiba Chromebook 2 for a virtual private network (VPN).


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