10 Months on a Chromebook Check-in

So, way back in November,  I decided to use ChromeOS has my main OS.  And, then in January, I did a check-in on using ChromeOS for a month.  Fast forward to-day, and I am still using my PixelBook as my daily driver for all things.

I still use the R810 and the x260 to test new Linux distros just to see what is happening in that space, but not to do anything else.

The battery on the PixelBook last me most of the day when out and about, and the size makes it easy to carry.  Last month, I even used it to give a talk to a group I help run, and it worked flawlessly then.

I still want to do some things via the command line, so for a while I was using Chromebrew to get by, but that has a couple of issues for me.  The first is that a lot of what I wanted had not been ported to that system yet, so I had to go and build it.  The second, and for me more important, was that to use it, I had to turn off some of the security built into ChromeOS to make it work.  A couple of months ago, Google announced Project Crostini, which uses Linux containers to allow you to run a full Linux (default is Debian) image under ChromeOS, using all the default ChromeOS security, which makes it a big win in my book.

Add on top of that, that the PixelBook can run most Android apps, and I have everything I need currently.  ‘But, what about photography?’ you ask.  Well, I have found that I needed to rework my photo work flow, but I have found something that works for me.  All the photos that I have uploaded this year were posted under ChromeOS and so far, it is working for me.

February, Already?

AR Test
AR Test

I am shocked to look at the calendar, and realize that February is almost over.

Where to begin?  Well, the test with ChromeOS is going well.  I have found that I need the access to my R810 less and less as I move things over to the Pixelbook.  I have even found myself doing some light python coding on it.  The flexibility and the speed is very nice.  I have also been enjoying one of the major benefits of the Chromebook life style: major battery life.  I can take my Pixel out of the bag when I get to the office and not plug it in all day, and still have a couple of hours of juice left over when I get home.

On of the things that I am still not totally sure about is doing my photo workflow.  I have been doing some reading, and finding a few tools to play with.  To that end, I am going to set myself a challenge of taking, processing, and posting a photo at least once a week.  As I get more comfortable, I might even move that up to many a week.  It will be good to get back into that as I have done that in the past, but I did fail the last time I tried daily.

The photo above is from my playing around with ‘Augmented Reality’ which is all the fade now days with ‘virtual stickers’ you can insert into photos.

A month in, using ChromeOS only

As I pointed out a while back that I was moving to ChromeOS more seriously.  Well, since Christmas day, I have parked my R810 to the side, and installed Chromium OS on my Lenovo X260 and started using it full time.  What is Chromium OS?  It is the open source version of ChromeOS.

So far, everything has been working great.  The only thing that has not worked for me is DRM protected video stream, things like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Video.  Not a major lost, but I missed it on a recent trip.

The other major issue I have run into is photo processing and management.  Under ChromeOS, there is not many options for this, only pure web-based solutions like Google Photos.  There are some pretty decent solutions in the Android world.  How does this help me?  Well, the newer version of ChromeOS running on newer Chromebooks can run Android apps.

Sadly, my Acer C720 and HP Chrombook 11 G1 are both too old to get the Android solutions.  Additionally, both systems are starting showing their age in running modern web apps.  So, my solution?  I am buying a Google Pixelbook.  I opted for the smaller of the versions which should have more than enough horsepower for me to run for many years.  It arrives today, so I will be having some fun setting it up.

Really moving in on the Chromebook

As I mentioned a while back that I was experimenting with using a Chromebook, I decide to see how far I could take it.  On my recent trip to the UK, I only took my Acer C720 with me.  During the trip, I used it for things like uploading photos I took, Skype to chat with the family, checking email and news, and remote access while in the hotel room.

This worked out pretty well, to the point where I am trying to use it or my HP Chromebook 11 G1 full time.  While I can get lots of things done in a browser now days, there are some things I find my self sshing back to another box to do.  So, I decided to see if I could do that on the Chromebooks.

The ‘normal’ way is to install Linux into a chroot using something call Courton. I have done that in the past, but the work flow is not something I can adapt to easily as it involves more than a simple key combo to switch between.

I found a project called “Chromebrew” in the vein of “Homebrew” for MacOS.  Setup is pretty simple as I had turned on Developers mode on my boxes a long time ago, so it was a matter of downloading a script, reading it, and then running it.

From there, I used the crew command to install some basic tools (git, vim, & python), and I can now do 90% or more of my day-to-day work on the Chromebooks.

The only thing that I have not figured out yet is a decent VPN solution, but I am working on that.

I suppose at some point, I will upgrade one of the Chromebooks to one of the newer generation which can run Android apps as well.

Night Mode for ChromeOS

So, what is night-mode?  It is a mode for changing the color temperature of computer screens to be ‘warmer’ (more red-tones, less blue tones).  Why?  The strong blue tones (and whites) from most computer screens help trick your mind into thinking it is still day, and therefor you need to be awake.

I have been trying to enable night mode on all the things for a while now.  For my android phone, I use twilight for Android (IOS has something built in now), Solus Linux added it in the most recent release, Gnome has it in the later releases, and under i3, I use xflux.

However, I could not find anything for the Chromebooks….until now! 9to5Google.com has a story about the feature coming soon to ChromeOS, but they claim that you need to be on the very latest development branch called ‘Canary’.  I tend to run on the Developers branch, and did not want to switch.  I did a bit of digging, and found this reddit thread which has the feature flag to set:

chrome://flags/#ash-enable-night-light

Normal warnings, this can lead to breakage of your system.

I have enabled it, and it is looking good so far!

Welcome to the New Look

I have been running a bit of an experiment recently by using a Chromebook while not at home.  So far, it has been going fairly well with the exception that I cannot easily update this site.  So, I switched to something which lets me use the web to update.

I have all the posts moved over, but I will have to do a bit of cleanup around categories and move the photos over.  A lot of the older posts suffer from being imported into a few different blogging platforms, so that may take time.

Quick nmcli notes

This is a quick post so I can remember these details.

So, on the R810, I am currently running ArchLinux, which uses by default NetworkManager, which I have a love/hate relationship with. At my last job, I recommended removing it from our servers, as under RHEL6, it does very odd things to the network and is hard to manage. I have heard that it is better under RHEL7. But, it does let you do some really cool things. On the R810, there is a cellular modem, and on previous installes, I have had it configured and scripted using nmcli to easily bring up and down the cellular connections.

The problem I am facing now is that my current DHCP server for the house does not let me provide two MAC Address for a single IP, so when I dock the R810, it gets a different IP address than when it is on WiFi. Very annoying. Also, for some reason, it would prefer to use WiFi when the ethernet connection was present, thus giving me a slower connection.

The documentation I found was a bit light in examples and/or dated (I am running version 1.6.2 of NetworkManager, and the examples were from 1.2.x or 1.4.x, which did not work). So, with a bit of expermenting, I finally got it fixed to:

  • Chose the ethernet connection over the Wifi when both are present
  • ‘Clone’ the MAC address of the Wifi NIC to the ethernet NIC

Here are the commands. local is what I called the local ethernet connection, and home-wifi is what I call the house Wifi Network.

  • To set the MAC adress:

nmcli connection modify local ethernet.cloned-mac-address aa:bb:cc:dd:ee:ff

  • To set the connection priorities:

nmcli connection modify local connection.autoconnect-priority 999
nmcli connection modify home-wifi connection.autoconnect-priority 999

TLS everywhere

So, I decided it was time to go TLS (aka https) with all my websites. This is something I have wanted to do for a while, but I held off due to the way I had to get my laptop on the wireless at the previous job. Now that I have left, there was no need for that, so away I go!

On the job front, this was an odd week to start with almost everybody on my new team being out due to the holiday. I finally got my accounts all settled today, and spent the day doing that every populare on-boarding trainnig which while is a drag, is very much needed.

With the holiday tomorrow, and a vacation day Friday, I get to have a nice long weekend with the family. This will be nice.

In other news, I got the latest version of TrueOS on my Acer C720. So far, everything I have tried works accept for the touchpad, but I have not spent any time looking into it. Once I get that working, and play with it a bit more, I think I will convert my Lenovo ThinkPad X260.

Random Mid-Summer Updates

Wow…summer is almost over. Three more weeks until school starts again.

Need to spend more time putting pictures up from some of the trips we have done. I think there is time to squeeze another visit to the beach before school starts up, but we will see.

One of the projects I have worked on is taking over web hosting for an organization I volunteer with. The old hosting was with a former member at his hosting company, but he is retiring as of the end of July, so I stepped up to host it. Some of the code used has not been updated in a while, and one of my first projects on it will be to wrap it into a more modern frame-work so other people can help support the site.

In other random news (hence the title), FreeBSD has released on schedule FreeBSD 11.0B3. I heard in passing on BSDNow that this release might work on the ThinkPad x260. If you remember from my last post, that I was in the market for a replacement machine. Well, I found a really good deal on an new-in-the-box x260, and picked it up for around 1/4 the retail. The only thing it is now missing is a back-light on the keyboard, but I am okay with it for now. Battery life under Linux has been awesome without any tuning. I can easily get 10+ hours in my testing, and I have not run the batteries dead yet. The only two issues with FreeBSD on the x260 that I know about is the lack of suspend/resume (general issue with Skylake), and the fact the Intel 8260 wireless card is not yet supported, but it seems like someone is working on that!

At some point in the near future, I will have to reconsider the mail situation. Do I really need to roll my own, or can I use a third-party?

Time to call it a night. Catch you next month!

Home Network Updates

So, in the last couple of weeks, I have had the following issues:

  • The CMOS battery dies on my file-server (a FreeNAS box), taking it, and the zpools down with it. I fought over a long weekend to recover the data, and in the end, got it mounted read-only, and copied it off. New hardware, and new zpools, and we seem to be going again. Recovering services is taking a bit of time.
  • There is a bug with the ZFS on Root for Antergos Linux. Seems that it does not put all the kernel drivers in the init image when you upgrade. Last time, I booted off the install media to fix it. I lost that USB stick, so I downloaded a new one. Guess what? They have turned that feature off ZFS, so there is no way to recover. Since FreeBSD still does not support suspend/resume on the Acer C720 that is my small travel laptop, I have to reinstall Antergos and reload my data.
  • My main laptop, the HP R810G1 seems to be having major battery issues. I bought a new battery in Novembers, and it died. I bought a new one a couple of weeks ago, and it at first did not seem to be holding a charge. Now, the OS does not see the battery. I think I might need a ‘new’ laptop.

I am torn between getting something one or two reves old with a solid record in the size I want (sub 13″, under 1″ thin, and good 6+ hours of battery) or the latest shiny.

Other news, I have the ownCloud server upgraded to nextcloud, and everything I have tried works out of the box, which is a lot more than I can say for ownCloud. Last major thing I need to recover it the Plex Server!