Blog Archives

ChromiumOS Zero Boots Faster, Offers Automatic Updates [Updates]

Chromium OS, the open source build of Google’s upcoming web-focused netbook system, was made into a thumb-drive-friendly build early on by a helpful hacker named Hexxeh. His latest build, ChromiumOS Zero, adds Chrome extension support, speed boosts, and other goodies.

Here’s the official list of updates at Hexxeh’s blog, with notable improvements in the delay suffered by Broadcom-based Wi-Fi and the Chromium browser at the heart of the OS. The build still fits on a 1 GB USB drive, surprisingly, can be updated in-system from this release forward, and is offered as a BitTorrent download from Hexxeh’s site.

Wanna give ChromiumOS Zero a go on your own laptop from the safety of a USB stick? Check out Gina’s human’s guide to running Google Chrome OS, which details running a Hexxeh-based build from a thumb drive.

ChromiumOS Zero is a free download, and boots (usually) on non-Mac systems.

Common Laptop/Netbook Positions to Avoid [Health]

The great thing about laptops and netbooks: You can use them anywhere. The downside: If you spend a lot of time in the wrong position, you’re in for a world of RSI pain.

The illustration above—from weblog Core77's netbook case study—highlights ten common usage positions and the pain points you're asking for down the road with each. (No one wants glowing red joints!) Interestingly, the most comfortable position, according to the study, is position #2 above: lying down with the device slightly elevated on the user’s thigh with bent knees.

Gizmodo’s Brian Lam attests to the comfort of the lay-down position, having been bed-ridden for months after a motorcycle accident several years back. Now if only you could convince your boss that working from bed is a good idea.

Got a non-traditional computing position that does the trick for you when you’re away from the desk? Let’s hear it in the comments.

Jolicloud Netbook OS Is a Bit Like Chrome OS with Awesome Desktop Applications [Screenshot Tour]

Chrome OS is a promising cloud-based operating system, but the big complaint most people have about it is that Chrome OS is entirely browser-based. New netbook OS Jolicloud is a lot like Chrome OS, but with the addition of killer desktop apps.

Before you even consider Jolicloud, you may want to look at their big list of compatible devices. It’s pretty huge, and I’d also suspect not complete. I’m actually testing it in a virtual machine and it’s working just fine, and it would probably work on a fair amount of other hardware.

Think you’d like to try it out? You can install it easily from Windows using a simple installer. Rather than wipe out your Windows installation, it simply carves out some partitioned space on your hard drive so you don’t have to worry about ditching Windows altogether just to try it out. Ready to give it a try? The installation is pretty straightforward, but if you want a little hand-holding, check out the gallery below.

Once your Jolicloud installation is complete, you’ll end up at the login screen.

Enter the username and password you created during installation, and when you log in, you’ll end up staring down the Jolicloud netbook launcher screen.

You'll also be prompted to set up your Jolicloud account at this point, but unfortunately the specialized Jolicloud accounts—which is part of what makes Jolicloud so cool—requires an invitation code, so you'll probably want to sign up for one ASAP. If and when you do sign up with a Jolicloud homebase, you'll get access to the Jolicloud App Directory pictured below.

It's from this directory you can install your favorite programs—from Skype and Dropbox to Boxee and Spotify in a single click. When you're logged in to Jolicloud, you've also got access to your social stream:

…and a convenient update manager:

In short, Jolicloud is a very impressive looking netbook operating system. Sure it's just a specialized interface running on top of Ubuntu and powered by a lot of Mozilla Prism packages. The App Directory makes the operating system—as TechCrunch accurately put it—feel like an iPhonesque OS for netbooks. And unlike the current state of Chrome OS, the current alpha release of Jolicloud is actually pretty well supported.

It's probably a little unfair to compare Jolicloud to Chrome OS, since they are ultimately very different in their approach, but they are both aiming for the same market—your netbooks. If you've given Jolicloud a try in the past or just want to weigh in on its looks from the screenshots, let's hear your thoughts in the comments.

Create an Ad-Hoc Network Sharing Point from a Windows 7 Netbook [NetBooks]

Windows 7 Starter Edition, the version loaded onto netbooks, isn’t supposed to offer “advanced” features like ad-hoc network sharing. In this one case, however, finding this feature is as simple as typing the right phrase into the Start Menu search.

Rafael Rivera’s Within Windows blog points out that while the dialog that normally starts the ad-hoc networking process in Windows 7 is disabled in Starter Edition, simply searching for adhoc allows you to start it up. That means being able to connect other computers, smartphones, and Wi-Fi-enabled devices to your netbook when it’s got a net connection. It’s not quite as convenient as Virtual Wireless Networking, which you can enable with Connectify, but it does get the job done.

First Glimpse at Google Chrome OS [Chrome Os]

Google offered up everything but a finished Chrome OS today, releasing its source code and explaining how it’s different than other operating systems. Here are the features, functions, and screenshots you’ll want to know about.

Want the short version, sketched out on a notepad, uploaded as a video, and narrated with a carefree tenor? Here’s Google’s explanation:

Want the much more in-depth, screenshot-by-screenshot rundown of what was (not really) revealed? Check out Gizmodo’s live-blogged announcement.

When, on what, and how much?

Google released Chrome OS’ source code today, but one of Chrome’s lead engineers, Idan Avraham, said a finished Chrome OS arrives “about a year from today.” They took pains to note that Google itself won’t be offering Chrome OS as a download to install on any system you have. They’re developing Chrome OS for machines with “specific reference hardware,” as their machines will boot directly from those machines and skip a lot of the hardware checking steps that standard operating systems run through.

The developers didn’t offer pricing hints or targets from hardware partners. They did say, however, that they intend to “push” manufacturers to release netbooks with larger keyboards and mousepads, and crisper resolutions, and devices will be released “in the price ranges people see today.”

How fast is it?

From a single boot-up shown on a livecast, and some live demonstration, pretty darned fast. The lead developer cited a seven-second boot-up to a universal sign-on screen on an eeePC, and then to the desktop after another four seconds. It does this by working on specialized firmware, written for hardware Chrome OS’ developers work with, and relying on a Google Chrome browser written specifically for the Chrome OS. It’s also written exclusively to run on solid-state, or non-hard-disk, drives, with a minimal amount of locally-stored data.

What makes it different?

For you, the user, nothing entirely whole-cloth new. But a whole lot of interesting bits:

  • Utilizing multi-core CPUs and graphics chips for Chrome: Your web browsing, video playing, and other activities inside Chrome OS’ main browser will get a boost from hardware normally reserved for gaming and traditional applications.
  • Chrome (browser) on Chrome (OS) will be faster: Faster than how it runs on your Windows, Mac, or Linux computer, anyways, because it’s been re-tooled for this OS.
  • There are no “traditional” applications: “Every application,” according to Chrome’s project head, “is a web application. There are no conventional applications. (Whatever you use), it’s a webapp, it’s a link, it’s a URL.”
  • Anyone can log in and use any Chrome OS netbook: Since Chrome OS will presumably be tied to your Google account, you could easily jump on a friend’s netbook and log in for your own email, documents, and other stuff.
  • Everything you use is online: You probably guessed that—Gmail, Google Docs, Calendar, and other apps have had offline abilities for some time. But even the small notepad application in Chrome, and your particular Wi-Fi and system settings, are backed up to your Google account as well. You'll be able to store data offline using HTML 5's capabilities—but, then, you can do that with Firefox or Safari as well.

So, it’s a Google OS for people obsessed with Google?

Not exactly. Avraham demonstrated the OS’ ability to assign specific webapps to different files and links by clicking an .xls (Microsoft Excel) file, which then opened in Microsoft’s online Office suite.

Will it ever arrive on laptops or desktops?

Eventually, assuming it gains any foothold in the market. Chrome’s developers said their primary focus for the year, and the immediate future, would be netbooks, and that laptops and desktop releases would follow, without offering any specific time frame.

Will it print?

Oh, right—Avraham said "you will be able to print," but said the OS would take a "more innovative approach" to supporting printers. More to come.

So, how does Google Chrome OS strike you? Is it something you’d want on a netbook, or were you expecting something more? Share what you saw, and see coming, in the comments.

Maximize Firefox 3.5’s Viewing Area for Your Netbook [NetBooks]

Your netbook’s screen is tiny and processor less than mighty, so you want to maximize the web page viewing area without any performance-killing Firefox extensions. Here’s how to consolidate Firefox 3.5’s chrome for your Windows or Linux-based netbook.

Even if you don’t have a netbook, these modifications still work if you want to consolidate Firefox 3.5’s chrome on your regular PC.

(This whole Firefox consolidation undertaking sound familiar? For longtime readers, it should be. Way before netbooks got hot, we consolidated Firefox 2 back in 2006, and then Firefox 3 with the help of Stylish in 2008. This version addresses a few Firefox 3.5-specific items and clears out the clutter sans add-ons.)

Here’s what Firefox 3.5 looks like by default (on my Eee PC running Windows XP). Click to view actual size.

There’s quite a bit of whitespace on Firefox’s chrome just asking to get utilized more efficiently. You can trim the highlighted areas in the image below from Firefox 3.5’s interface:

After a little toolbar rearrangement and interface decluttering, here’s what consolidated Firefox 3.5 looks like. You can see that a whole other Lifehacker post fits into the viewport after the consolidation. Click to view actual size.

Here’s how to maximize your web page viewing area and declutter Firefox’s chrome.

Relocate the navigation toolbar, buttons, and search box to the menu bar. To get this done, right-click on Firefox 3.5’s toolbar and choose Customize. From there, drag and drop elements on the lower toolbars to the menu bar, and check off “Use small icons.” (That will flatten the fat “keyhole” back button.) Hit play for a 30-second demonstration of the process (featuring old-school Lifehacker design).

Trim unnecessary interface doodads with userChrome.css. Just like you can style web pages with CSS, you can also style Firefox’s chrome. In order to modify certain aspects of Firefox’s chrome without using an add-on like Stylish, you edit a file called userChrome.css, which is stored in your Firefox profile directory. This file is user-specific and you can easily copy it from one Firefox installation to another. Here’s where Windows and Linux netbook users can find userChrome.css.

Windows XP
C:Documents and Settings[User Name]Application DataMozillaFirefoxProfilesxxxxxxxx.defaultchrome
where xxxxxxxx is a random string of 8 characters.


With Firefox closed, open the userChrome.css file and append whatever CSS bits listed in this article you want to apply. If a userChrome.css file doesn’t exist, save userChrome-example.css as userChrome.css.

Got your userChrome.css file open and ready for modifications? Let’s declutter.

Remove Firefox 3.5’s new tab button. Tab bar space is at a premium on your netbook, and you already use the Ctrl+T keyboard shortcut to open a new tab—so you don't need the new (and kind of annoying) Firefox 3.5 new tab button. Add this bit to userChrome.css to kill that button and make room for more open tabs.

/* remove new tab button next to last tab */
.tabs-newtab-button {display: none !important}

Remove the search box’s magnifying glass. You can just hit the Enter key to execute a search from Firefox’s search box, so the magnifying glass “go” button is just unnecessary eye candy. With your address bar up on the same level as the menus, you want as much horizontal space for typing search terms and web site addresses, so it makes sense to kill the magnifying glass. Here’s the userChrome.css bit that will do just that.

/* remove magnifying glass from search box */
.search-go-button { display: none !important}

Remove and combine disabled buttons. When there's no page to go back to or forward to, nothing loading to stop, or nothing loaded to refresh, all those buttons—back, forward, stop, and reload—just sit there, greyed out, doing nothing but taking up space. You want as much horizontal space as possible, so you can hide disabled (useless) back and forward buttons, and even combine the stop and reload button to make a dual-use single button. Here's the userChrome.css code that will do just that.

/* combine stop and reload buttons */
#stop-button[disabled] { display: none }
#stop-button:not([disabled]) + #reload-button { display: none }

/* don't show back or forward buttons if there's nothing to go back or forward to */
#back-button[disabled="true"] { display: none }
#forward-button[disabled="true"] { display: none }

Optional: Hide bookmarks bar. A lot of my web work depends on easily-accessible bookmarklets, so I did not hide my bookmarks bar, but others who don’t feel the same can gain more vertical space by doing just that. From the View menu, Toolbars, uncheck “Bookmarks Toolbar.”

All the CSS in one shot

To get all these changes in one fell copy-and-paste swoop, grab them from here and drop them into your userChrome.css, and restart Firefox.

/* remove new tab button next to last tab */
.tabs-newtab-button {display: none !important}

/* remove magnifying glass from search box */
.search-go-button { display: none !important}

/* combine stop and reload buttons */
#stop-button[disabled] { display: none }
#stop-button:not([disabled]) + #reload-button { display: none }

/* don't show back or forward buttons if there's nothing to go back or forward to */
#back-button[disabled="true"] { display: none }
#forward-button[disabled="true"] { display: none }

How do you customize Firefox—or any other app, for that matter—on your netbook? Let this newbie netbooker know in the comments. (For more userChrome.css fun, see our list of functional Firefox user styles.)

Gina Trapani, Lifehacker’s founding editor, likes her Firefox pared down on her netbook. Her weekly feature, Smarterware, appears every Wednesday on Lifehacker. Subscribe to the Smarterware tag feed to get new installments in your newsreader.

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