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Has the Shine Worn Off the Idea of a Chrome OS?

WXPNews: Published by Sunbelt Software since 2001

Vol. 9, #100 - Dec 1, 2009 - Issue #408

 Has the Shine Worn Off the Idea of a Chrome OS?

  1. Editor's Corner
    • Has the Shine Worn Off the Idea of a Chrome OS?
    • Follow-up: Giving thanks for technology
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
    • Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • Another Mobile Internet Device (MID) running Windows XP
    • Microsoft ordered to stop selling XP in China
    • New Natal technology could someday replace remote controls
    • How much sensitive information is stored on your phone?
  4. How To: Using XP Features
    • How to restart Explorer.exe
  5. XP Security News
    • Safari for Windows: update to fix security flaws
  6. XP Question Corner
    • How do I print or save just part of a web page?
  7. XP Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • Change the listening port for Remote Desktop
    • Manage remote access to the registry on an XP computer
  8. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  9. Product of the Week
    • All Office Converter Platinum

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 Editor's Corner

Has the Shine Worn Off the Idea of a Chrome OS?

Google enjoyed a great deal of good publicity when they released the Chrome browser in 2008. It got good reviews and praise for its fast performance, and I know several people who swear by it as their primary web browser. Nonetheless, its market share is still relatively small, over a year later, at least in comparison to Internet Explorer and Firefox: 3.58% as of October 2009, according to the Net Applications web site:

Still, that's better than Opera (2.17%), which has been on the market since 1996, and it's less than one percentage point under Apple's Safari (4.42%), which has been around since 2003 and comes preinstalled on all Macs. Chrome was developed under open source licenses and thus appeals to those who don't approve of proprietary software, but it's had its share of problems, too. There was an uproar when the Terms of Service contained language granting Google a license to all content transferred with the browser (Google quickly changed to ToS). And although it's been touted as more secure, serious vulnerabilities have been found (as with all browsers). And it's been criticized for some of its security implementations:

All in all, the browser can be considered a success, having taken its place among the top five browsers - despite the fact that people aren't abandoning IE and FF in droves for it. Not long after the release of the browser, Google stirred a lot of interest by announcing that they were planning to follow it with an open source operating system: Chrome OS. The official announcement came in July 2009:

Last week, we finally got a look at the new OS - and most of the tech writers were ... a bit underwhelmed. It's not that Google didn't live up to its promises. The company said it was going to be simple, and it is. So simple that it seems to be little more than a browser itself. And that's essentially what it is: it runs on the Linux kernel, but the web browser is the OS interface. It doesn't run local applications; it's meant to be a "cloud" OS, you see. All the apps are out there on the 'Net. You're expected to store your data in the cloud, too; it doesn't support hard drives - although it will apparently allow you to store files on USB flash drives and SD cards:

The advantage of this is that, unburdened by the kind of code that makes an operating system, well, an operating system, you get faster performance - at least in theory. Read more about that here:

To be fair, this is just a beta. And it seems to be aimed primarily at netbooks, which are low powered machines that are suited to operating as terminals for a cloud-based experience. We'll have to wait a little longer to find out exactly how the Chrome OS shakes out.

One of the biggest concerns expressed so far is that, in the words of The Observer, "The Chrome OS operating system may mean Google controls your netbook as Apple controls your iPhone." That is, all the software will come from Google and they'll control what you can or can't install and run. Of course, this limitation has been readily accepted by a few million iPhone users. However, many of us who have resisted the iPhone's siren call have done so, at least in part, because we don't like the idea of Apple having that much control over our devices. And it's possible that many computers will have a harder time accepting Google's control-freak approach when it's their computers, rather than "just" the phone, that's at issue. At any rate, it's interesting to hear the "do no evil" company being accused of threatening our freedom:

The other issue, the one that the Linux lovers and Mac maniacs don't like to admit, is that when it comes to computers, most consumers just prefer Windows. That was proven by the netbook market itself. The first netbooks ran Linux. Then Windows netbooks came out. They cost a bit more, but buyers flocked to them, quickly gaining the vast majority of the market share:

Still, it's good to have options, and soon Chrome will be one of them. In fact, if you're game, you can try it out now. Google has released the code and you can install it in a VM, following the instructions here:

Or if you have a Dell Mini10v, there is a compiled version available that you can run on that netbook. There is a link at the end of this article to the image file:

A third option is to download a build that's "out there," compiled by someone named Hexxeh, and boot it from a USB key. This is strictly "at your own risk" (as it always is when you install beta software), but you can find the information on how to do it here:

Meanwhile, even if the idea of working completely online does catch on, Chrome may have some competition in the "cloud OS" space. Another cloud-based OS for netbooks, named Jolicloud, also announced a pre-beta release version last week, and it has been tested with a large number of netbooks:

And Microsoft, with Silverlight, can also provide a way to access complex applications through the browser - any of the top browsers, including Chrome. The latest version of Silverlight has new features that make it appealing to the enterprise, as well as consumers:

Maybe Google should focus on its other operating system, Android - a smart phone OS that is generating much more excitement than the Chrome OS. With the release of the Motorola Droid by Verizon in November, and with Sony Ericsson's gorgeous Experia 3 running the Rachael interface on Android, that OS is taking off and posing a real challenge to the domination of the iPhone:

In fact, Google's co-founder recently said that Chrome and Android will probably merge somewhere down the line. Unfortunately, it sounds as if the convergence may take the wrong (in my opinion) path. One of the good things about Android is that it runs apps locally; the talk is about porting those to make them web apps, with the merged OS being more like Chrome in that it's totally dependent on the Internet connection:

From my point of view, I don't think there's any reason for Microsoft to worry about the competition from Chrome. Those folks who want a full fledged operating system will be sticking with Windows (or OS X, or a full featured Linux distro). Chrome might take a portion of the netbook market, but I think most computer users are going to want the familiarity and continuity of having Windows on their netbooks, as they've proven when given the option of buying netbooks with other simplified versions of Linux. Most important, I don't think the average computer user is ready to live with his/her head permanently in the cloud. But hey, I could be wrong.

Tell us what you think. Are you excited about the new Chrome OS, or does it seem like a ho-hum idea? Is an operating system that doesn't run local applications even deserving of the name "operating system" or is it just a web browser dressed up to look like one? Has the cloud's time come, or are you still wary of it? Given the choice and if the price were the same or close to the same, would you choose a netbook running Chrome over one with Windows or a more full fledged version of Linux? Would you be comfortable with Google controlling what apps you can run, or do you prefer the "simplification" of having those decisions made for you? We invite you to discuss this topic on our forum at

Follow-up: Giving thanks for technology

Last week, instilled with an attitude of gratitude as Turkey Day approached, I wrote about all the technologies for which I'm thankful. Readers responded with their own lists, with some naming technologies that I never even thought of because I take them so much for granted. As Mike said, the technology for which we should be most grateful is electricity, because most of our other technologies depend on it.

JonM brought up another thing that I take for granted - being able to go to a web site and see pictures of products or services that I'm interested in. Many trips to the store have been saved because I was able to see what I would be getting without even leaving the house. And that reminds me that in the early days of the Internet, everything was about text. Transmitting photos took much too long over those slow modems, and when we were paying $25/hour for a connection, it was also too costly. Now we have glorious high resolution pictures that pop up instantly in our web browsers, not to mention high def videos. The visual element is certainly one for which I'm thankful.

Even more fun are the suggestions that you guys put forth for technologies we don't have yet. I love Kenneth Fleischer's idea of an in-vehicle sound system with a USB port that would let you play your music by simply inserting a flash drive. The closest thing I have to that is my GPS unit that includes music player software and has an SD card slot. It also has an audio out jack and my car stereo has a mini-plug input, so (after finally finding the right cable) I'm able to run the sound from the GPS through the car's speakers.

Especially interesting were the discussions about our dependence on technology. As was pointed out, humans have always been dependent on technology; as soon as the wheel was invented, we became dependent on it. One difference, I guess, is that wheels weren't going to suddenly disappear as is possible with our electronic technology. As lzmyyl noted, it's not the dependence itself that's a problem as much as being unaware of that dependence. It's definitely important to assess where our dependencies lie and prepare, as best we can, for what to do if those technologies become temporarily or permanently unavailable.

What I'm most thankful for is the ability to communicate with so many great people, so easily. And I thank Tim G. and others for their kind words. You guys are the ones who make this job a joy. Many thanks to all who participated in the discussion, and for Sallymof: next Thanksgiving, I promise I'll stick to the positive aspects of what I'm thankful for and leave the concerns about the negative side for a separate editorial.

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor

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Quotes of the Week

What we anticipate seldom occurs; what we least expected generally happens. - Benjamin Disraeli (1804 - 1881)

Do not bite at the bait of pleasure 'til you know there is no hook beneath it. - Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826)

I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking up something and finding something else on the way. - Franklin P. Adams (1881 - 1960)

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 Cool Tools

Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without


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 News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

Another Mobile Internet Device (MID) running Windows XP

It might be hard to find a new computer with XP installed now, but the OS is alive and well on smaller devices. Case in point: a new ViewSonic MID (Mobile Internet Device) was just unveiled running XP on a 1.1 GHz Atom processor with 1 GB of RAM. A MID occupies a space somewhere between a smart phone and a netbook. Interestingly, this one includes a TV tuner and antenna to receive digital TV broadcasts. Check it out here:

Microsoft ordered to stop selling XP in China

It's not always easy being a major vendor in a global marketplace. Now Microsoft has been ordered by a Chinese court to stop selling Windows XP in that country, because some of the fonts that are included in the OS allegedly infringe on another company's intellectual property. Those same fonts were also in Windows 95, 98 and 2000, but are not in Vista or Windows 7. Read more here:

New Natal technology could someday replace remote controls

The Wii popularized new ways of providing input to game controllers and now Microsoft is working to improve on the technology with their Natal project for the Xbox 360, but they plan to go beyond gaming and beyond hand gestures, to create a fully interactive experience that could also find its way to your computers and/or TVs. Read more about it here:

How much sensitive information is stored on your phone?

If you carry a smart phone (or even just a "semi smart" model with text messaging and email), you might be surprised at how much someone could find out about you by examining the contents of your phone. "It's like a computer," says the forensics specialist in this article, but that's not quite right. The iPhone he was talking about is a computer, albeit a small one. Today's phones have faster processor, more memory and more storage space than our desktop machines had a short fifteen years ago. Raise your awareness:

 How To: Using XP Features

How to restart Explorer.exe

Sometimes Explorer.exe will shut down, leaving your XP desktop with no taskbar. That's not good. You can fix it by rebooting, but you might lose data that way, and it can take a while. You can restart Explorer.exe and get your toolbar back without rebooting. Here's how:
  1. Press CTRL + ALT + DEL to invoke Task Manager
  2. In Task Manager, click the Applications tab
  3. Click File | New Task
  4. In the "Create New Task" window, type explorer.exe
  5. Click OK
This restarts the Explorer shell and you can get back to whatever you were doing.

 XP Security News

Safari for Windows: update to fix security flaws

If you're running Apple's Safari browser on your XP computer, be sure to update to the latest version, which fixes vulnerabilities that affect XP, Vista, Windows 7, and Mac OS X. Another app that may need patching is Adobe's Photoshop 7 and 8. If you have one of these installed, get the recently released update to avoid a "moderate" security issue. Read more about both here:

 XP Question Corner

How do I print or save just part of a web page?

Here is a problem I've wrestled with for years. Often I want to print an article, or just part of an article on a web page (such as one question and answer from a long Q&A article). Now so many pages have ads down one or both sides, or photos that I don't want to waste ink printing. Is there a simple way to control what part of a page I print? How about a way to save just a part of a web page as a file (not printing it)? Thanks. - Ted M.

Printer ink doesn't come cheap, so it makes no sense to print more than you really want. There are a few ways to print just part(s) of a web page. If you just want to print a block of text, you can highlight it in IE, click the File menu, select Print and then under "Print Range," select "Selection." You can also do this with an image. For more sophisticated selection, you can use a program like Printee, which is a free download here:

That site also has a link to Klippy for IE, which lets you save clippings as digital files. Of course, if you want to save part of a page in a graphic format, you could also use the PRT SCN key to capture the page and then crop/edit it in Paint. Vista and Windows 7 include a great little tool for capturing part of a screen, called the Snipping Tool. If your XP computer happens to be a Tablet PC, you can install the Snipping Tool as part of the Experience Pack. You'll find a link to download the Pack here:

For XP Pro or Home, you can install a similar program called Snippy, which is downloadable here:

 XP Configuration and Troubleshooting

Change the listening port for Remote Desktop

Some firewalls are configured to block the default port that is used by Remote Desktop, which makes it difficult for you to connect to your Remote Desktop host computer from a network where you don't control the firewall settings. You can change the listening port to circumvent that problem, by editing the registry. To find out how, see KB article 306759 at

Manage remote access to the registry on an XP computer

It's possible to access and modify the registry from another computer over the network, but by default only Administrators (and on Pro, Backup Operators) can do this. If you want to grant access to others to access the registry remotely, you'll need to following the directions in KB 314837 and create a new registry key. See:

 Fav Links

This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

Disclaimer: WXPNews does not assume and cannot be responsible for any liability related to you clicking any of these linked Web sites.

 Product of the Week

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