VirtZine Netcast #45

We will have no Dr. Bill.TV show this week, due to the press of work related activities this week. Also, I have had to work nearly all day today (Sunday.) So, I encourage you to watch this very special edition of the VirtZine Netcast!

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Google Chromebooks Are a Big Deal in Education

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Schools are choosing Chromebooks because they are inexpensive, and versatile!

With 1M Sold In The Last Quarter, Google’s Chromebooks Are A Hit With Schools

TechCrunch – by Frederic Lardinois – “During its earnings call this week, Google announced that it — and its partners — sold a million Chromebooks to schools in the last quarter. Overall PC sales worldwide were about 76 million in the last quarter, according to Gartner’s latest numbers, so a million Chromebook sales just to the education market is a pretty good number.

In the early days of Chrome OS, it often seemed like a doomed project. Who, after all, would want to buy a laptop that would just run a browser? Google has one big advantage, though. It’s massive advertising income allows it to stick with projects, even if they don’t catch on right away. As web apps developed, Chromebooks started to get significantly more useful, and these days, when you can do almost everything on the web (and yes, I know Photoshop isn’t one of those things), only having access to web apps really isn’t such a big deal anymore.

A lot of schools were sold on iPads right after those became available and students probably still prefer them over Chromebooks, but they are relatively expensive compared to Chromebooks and harder to manage. Google also offers admins easy ways to manage large Chromebook deployments from a single console while Apple is still catching up when it comes to this.

At its I/O developer conference last month, Google quietly announced that it was expanding its Google Play for Education app and e-book store from Android tablets to Chromebooks, too. That announcement didn’t get a lot of hype, but it’s a huge deal for Google’s push into the education market and for the schools that have bought into this ecosystem.

As Rick Borovoy, Google’s product manager for Google Play for Education, told me back then, many schools deploy both tablets and Chromebooks for their students.

Apple has always been very strong in the educational market, but even though its hardware is arguably superior, it’s also much more expensive. And as long as U.S. schools have to hold bake sales to raise funds, a $200 Chromebook is simply within reach for more of them.

Microsoft, of course, has long been aware of Google’s push, too. It loves to make fun of Chromebooks (remember its Pawn Stars ad?), but the fact that it does so only means it is aware of the threat Google poses in the lucrative education and enterprise markets. It’s now making a counter-push with low-end, low-priced laptops, but while price definitely matters, Microsoft doesn’t have the full ecosystem available that has made Chromebooks so popular in schools. While it offers plenty of apps for textbooks, for example, Google lets schools fund a Google Play for Education account for teachers that allows them to easily buy apps and books for their whole class and for individual students.

Microsoft and Apple should be concerned about Google’s success in schools. Once students get used to working with Google’s products, after all, they are likely to stick with them as they grow older. Apple and Microsoft used to play this game very well with its discounts for schools, but it feels like Google has clearly learned from this and is now a real challenger in this space.”


Google Promises Better Chrome Power Usage

Chrome can be a bit of an energy hog, but it sounds like help may be on the way!

Chrome’s been eating your laptop’s battery for years, but Google promises to fix it

PCWorld – By: Jared Newman – “Google is just now responding to a bug in Chrome for Windows that may have been sapping users’ batteries for years.

Chrome’s battery drain problem was brought to wider attention by Forbes contributor Ian Morris, who noticed that Chrome for Windows was using considerably more power than other browsers.

The issue, he wrote, is that Chrome doesn’t return the system’s processor to an idle state when it’s not doing anything. Instead, Chrome sets a high ‘system clock tick rate’ of 1 millisecond, and leaves it at that rate, even if the browser’s just running the background.

By comparison, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer only ramps up the tick rate for processor-intensive tasks such as YouTube, and otherwise returns it to the default rate of 15.625 milliseconds. According to Microsoft, setting the tick rate consistently at 1 millisecond can raise power consumption by up to 25 percent depending on your hardware configuration.

This bug wouldn’t be too surprising if it was introduced in a recent update. But according to Morris, the first report of it popped up in 2010, and a more recent bug report in Chromium has been racking up new comments since November 2012. So if your Windows laptop isn’t getting the battery life you’d expected, it’s possible that Chrome is the culprit.

In any case, the new reports have finally gotten Google’s attention. In a statement to PCWorld, the company noted that the bug has been assigned internally, and that the Chrome team is working to fix it—though only after Morris shined a spotlight on the issue. The long-standing bug report has been bumped up to priority one.

In the meantime, consider shutting down Chrome when you’re not using it on your laptop, or trying out a different browser.”


Amazon Announces Kindle Unlimited!

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I think I might just go for this one… especially as many Star Trek books as I read!

Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited offers all-you-can-eat e-books for $10 a month

Engadget – By: Matt Brian – “After teasing us with a possible launch, Amazon has confirmed Kindle Unlimited, its all-you-can-read e-book subscription service. For $9.99 per month, Kindle Unlimited offers 600,000 books and ‘thousands’ of audiobooks across a range of devices. As expected, many of the major publishers aren’t fully represented, but there are number of popular titles listed, including Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and the Hunger Games, as well as a whole catalog of Kindle exclusives. Like Prime, Amazon initially offers a free 30-day trial to draw you in, but it’s also throwing in a three month subscription to Audible and access to 2,000 audiobooks via its Whispersync service (which lets you seamlessly switch between reading and listening whenever the mood takes you). For a service that bills itself as ‘unlimited,’ there’s a few constraints on Amazon’s Netflix-for-books service. In addition to the fact that it doesn’t have the support from all of the major publishers, of course, there’s also the small matter that it’s only available in America. At least, for now.”


Jibo: The World’s First Family Robot!

Check out this video. This looks very cool!

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Combine Google Glass with This Device, and Take Photos Using Thought!

OK, this is pretty amazing, if it works! The device is called MindRDR, and is pronounced “Mind-Reader.” It doesn’t actually read your mind, as much as sense your focused thoughts to “tell” the device to send a “take a photo” command to Google Glass. Still… pretty cool!


Windows 7 Free Support Expires in January 2015

Microsoft got a bump in sale when they began the “Windows XP Support Ends Soon-Scare,” so, now they are treatening Windows 7 support. Class act, guys!

In Six Months, Microsoft Will Pull The Plug On Some Parts Of Windows 7 Support

Business Insider – Julie Bort – “Microsoft is warning customers that the end is soon coming for free Windows 7 support. Microsoft will end free mainstream support for Windows 7 on January 13, 2015.
This covers all versions of Windows 7, Mary Jo Foley points out.

The end of support generally means no more updated features or performance improvements, unless you are covered by extra “extended support.”

UPDATED: Microsoft has promised to provide security patches even after it ends mainstream support, through 2020. What is ending is design changes, warranty claims and no-charge incident support.

This move will mostly affect consumers. Businesses get extended support and will get all updates for another five years, until January 14, 2020.

That’s important, because many businesses are right now are in the process of upgrading their old Windows XP PCs, but they’re moving to Windows 7, not Windows 8.

There’s some speculation that, given the popularity of Windows 7, Microsoft might change its mind as the date nears and continue to support it a bit longer, like it did for Windows XP. All told, Microsoft supported XP for about 13 years.

That kind of extension doesn’t seem likely at this point. Remember, Windows 8 basically includes a full version of Windows 7, called Desktop mode. With Windows 8.1, it’s possible to run a Windows 8 machine in Desktop mode and almost avoid the new-and-confusing Windows 8 part of the OS.

And Microsoft really needs to nudge consumers into buying Windows 8 machines. More Windows 8 machines means more developers will want to write software for Windows 8, which will make more people want to buy it.

By the way, Microsoft also set an end-of-life of mainstream support for Windows 8 (including the latest version, Windows 8.1), for January 9, 2018.

This is another hint that Microsoft should have its next version of Windows ready in 2015, code-named “Threshold” (sometimes referred to as Windows 9).

If Microsoft plays its cards right, Windows 9 will be to the unloved Windows 8 what Windows 7 was to Vista, which InfoWorld ranked No. 2 on its list of the 25 biggest tech flops (also PCWorld’s “Biggest Tech Disappointment” of 2007.)

Note: The original version of this story said that security patches will end for some Windows 7 users when mainstream support ends. This was an error. Microsoft has confirmed to us that it will continue to provide security patches for all Windows 7 users through 2020. We apologize for the error.”


Faster DropBox Client Available!

DropBoxNow your DropBox sync’ing will be faster than ever!

Dropbox updates desktop client with streaming sync: Up to 2x faster via overlapping uploads and downloads

The Next Web – By: Emil Protalinski – “Dropbox today announced its desktop client is getting streaming sync, a new feature that significantly reduces the time needed to synchronize large files. You can download the new version now from dropbox.com, and the company promises the improvement will be rolled out ‘over the next couple weeks.’

Until now, Dropbox would split its file synchronization into distinct upload and download phases. In other words, a file needed to be uploaded in its entirety before other clients could begin to download it.

With streaming sync, the two phases are done almost concurrently via Dropbox’s servers, hence the ‘streaming’ name. The company claims multi-client sync time for large files is typically 1.25x faster, and can even go up to 2x faster in certain cases.

Clearly the file size needs to enter the high gigabyte range to see the overall sync time reduced by half. Still, shaving off a few seconds on small files and minutes on large files is quite an accomplishment.

Dropbox says the threshold for streaming sync is 16MB. Anything above that mark will get a boost as it arrives on your connected devices or in a shared folder.

The new desktop client has also received a few other new features: four new languages (Danish, Dutch, Swedish, or Thai), scrollable menu notifications, as well as the ability to create a shared link to files and accept shared folder invites right from the Dropbox menu. What are you waiting for? Get downloading!


Chromecast update lets you mirror your Android screen on a TV!

Chromecast UpdateBy: Jon Fingas @jonfingas “Google vowed that Android users would finally get official screen mirroring on Chromecast through an update, and it’s making good on that promise by rolling out the Chromecast 1.7 app today. Grab the new release and supporting devices (primarily from HTC, LG and Samsung) can send just about anything to a TV just by hitting a ‘cast screen’ button. If you’re using a Nexus device, you don’t even have to launch any software — the feature will pop up in Android’s quick settings. You’re high and dry if your devices aren’t on Google’s compatibility list, but don’t worry too much. We hear there are third-party mirroring apps that can pick up the slack.

An update to Google’s Chromecast has been announced at Google I/O, bringing screen mirroring to Android devices as well as a Backdrop mode.

Android mobile and tablet owners will now be able to mirror live to their TV with a connected Chromecast. This will be so fast that it’s even possible to open the camera and shoot live, while the camera’s view is shown on the big screen.

This live stream option also means that users can cast whatever they are doing right there to the TV. So drawing in an app, writing, scrolling through photos, or sharing videos can be done live on the phone as others in the room watch it happen on the big screen.

The intelligent Backdrop function is also really useful. This allows users to feed photos to the TV turning it into a huge picture frame of sorts. But it isn’t just about watching the screen. If the user spots something they like it’ll be possible to pick up the connected mobile and ask “What’s on Chromecast?” to immediately get more information on that. A painting, for example, will be detailed on the phone while the image can be appreciated, unchanging, on the TV.

The Chromecast homepage won’t just be random images anymore as it will now pull in photos from a user’s Google+ page.

The Chromecast dongle is also more friendly than before as it now allows anyone nearby to connect and control it. Previously that person would need to be connected to the local Wi-Fi network. Of course who is allowed access can still be limited.

Expect the Google Chromecast update to arrive over the air in the coming weeks.”


Peppermint 5 – Embrace the Cloud!

Peppermint 5!Peppermint 5 is a light-weight (easy on the hardware) Linux desktop that tightly integrates your “Cloud” presence into the desktop experience. As Chromebooks become more and more popular, this version of the Linux desktop becomes VERY interesting to turn any PC into a Cloud client!

Peppermint Five is Live!

“Peppermint OS LLC is excited to announce the launch of our latest operating system Peppermint Five. Lightweight and designed for speed, Peppermint Five delivers on that promise whether using software on your desktop, online, or using cloud based apps.

Kendall Weaver, Chief Technical Officer of Peppermint, states, ‘Initially, Peppermint One was designed out of our desire for an operating system optimized for working online. Each year since then, we have improved on it, and we are very excited about new and improved features in Peppermint Five.’

Shane Remington Chief Operating Officer of Peppermint, adds, ‘With this release we are getting ready for the future. The technology landscape is constantly changing, and we are always responding to meet our user’s needs. We are 100% driven to deliver an OS that is fast, secure, and available everywhere, Peppermint Five is another step in that direction.’

Peppermint Five Highlights

  • Peppermint Five is built on a Long Term Support (LTS) code base, Ubuntu 14.04. The upstream code base will receive updates for five years.
  • Peppermint Ice is our in house built SSB manager, it has been rewritten from scratch and is now significantly more stable and is more feature rich than past versions. The key new feature is that it now supports both Chrome and Chromium as a backend.
  • Peppermint Control Center is our new settings app which provides an intuitive interface to customize and manage your workspaces, window behavior, keyboard and pointer settings, keyboard shortcuts and more.
  • We’ve fixed a number of upstream bugs present in Lubuntu, the specific project we fork from. Most notable among these are that the network manager applet starts properly.
  • Peppermint-Light is our new window manager and widget theme designed to offer a clean and relatively flat look and feel.
  • In previous iterations of Peppermint OS we used Alsa for sound. Our users asked for a more robust audio backend with more options and more user-friendly, Peppermint Five delivers with PulseAudio.

We invite you to compare Peppermint to other operating systems, we are confident you will be impressed. To take Peppermint Five out for a test drive, visit our website at peppermintos.com where you can download it for free. If you need help installing Peppermint Five, or have any questions about using it, we have a second-to-none user support team at forum.peppermintos.com.

About Peppermint OS LLC

Peppermint OS LLC is a software company, based in Asheville, North Carolina. Founded in 2010, we are committed to building the best operating system for both enterprise and consumers available on the widest range of devices. To find out more about our company, please visit us at http://peppermintos.com.”

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