Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Chromebook Search 2020 Edition

My Chromebook is getting long in the tooth. It's an Acer C710-2487 from Feb 2013. I've gotten far more years out this thing than I expected. But it's time for it to be put aside, replaced with something new.

One of the annoying parts about shopping for Chromebooks is they have an inherent use by date. "Recently", this life time was upped to 6.5 years. Well, my 7 year old machine lost support 3 years ago. They don't die, the updates simply stop. What bothers me is the endless varieties and vendors, which when combined with Wal-Mart and Amazon marketplaces result in "New Chromebooks" actually being several years old. I won't share a link, but on Amazon, I can purchase a "New Acer C710-2487". 

Uh, yeah. No thanks, unless I was going to hack it into something it isn't. I am not above that, but I need a workhorse, not a second gluehorse. 

I need to do some comparison shopping. I have a heavy bias towards Acer and ASUS. Those are my last to laptops and they are still running. I see very little need to go over $400. It's a Chromebook, which exists by ubiquity and cheapness not price. 

I like compact designs so I want to get between a 11 and 13 inch screen. This machine has 4Gb of memory and I can't see going less than that. I also don't want a wacked out system with 6Gb, so I guess I want 8 or more. One thing that I will not be able to have is the 320 Gb hard drive. A 320 Gb SSD drive would be awesome, but also out of my price point. 

Dates under features are the Auto Update Policy dates provided by Google.  

Acer Chromebook 315
MSRP: $249
Acer Chromebook 311
MSRP: $259
Acer Chromebook R13
MSRP: $399
Features: 15.6" screen, 4 Gb RAM,
32 Gb storage. Jun 2026
Features: 11.6" screen, 4 Gb RAM, 
32 Gb storage. Jun 2026
Features: 13.3" screen, 4 Gb RAM,
32 Gb storage. Jun 2024

ASUS Chromebook C423
MSRP: $249
ASUS Chromebook Flip C101 PA
MSRP: $299
ASUS Chromebook C425
MSRP: $399
Features: 14" screen, 4 Gb RAM, 32 Gb Storage
Refurbished. Jun 2024
Features: 10.1" rotating screen, 4 Gb RAM,
16 Gb Storage. Aug 2023 
Features: 14" screen, 4 Gb RAM, 64 Gb Storage.
Refurbished. Jun 2026

First things first. Zero of these Chromebooks have more storage than my phone. That is not a deal breaker, but I am gonna need an external drive. I have 2 2TB external drives from Amazon already, so I am good to go.


The other thing that stands out to me is that each and every one comes with 4 Gb of RAM. That is not to my liking as I run Linux all the time on my Chromebook. I'll need to bump that up at a cost of $50-100. This isn't a RAM review, so skip it. 

Off the bat, I don't want a refurbished machine, so the ASUS C423 is out. The ASUS Flip is interesting at the right price point, but also looses support first. ASUS makes quality products, so I have no fear of the machine quitting on me. The flip screen is balanced by my desire for an external drive. Those two things don't go together. Of the 3 ASUS designs, the most expensive is the most appealing. And $399 isn't that much. However, while I was writing this post, all of the C425's sold out and only refurbished versions are available. 

Surprisingly, the Acer models all spec out the same except for screen size. I already have a 11.6 screen and while I like it, perhaps I would like something bit larger. I think I would have to go with the 315, it's much larger than the 311 but has a later Auto Update policy date. 

This contest should be between the Acer 315 and the ASUS C425, but that refurbished state on the C425 changes the dynamic. I am sure Amazon will end up with new ones at some point. If I was going to pull the trigger right now, I'd go with the Acer 315.

Perhaps some day in the future, I will discuss the merits of the that ASUS Chromebook Flip C101 PA. One good sale and it looks like a perfect Linux convertible. It totally defeats the purpose of a Chromebook. Having Chrome running Linux is like a toggle between Easy and God mode. God mode is nice, I am just not sure I need that on a tablet like machine all the time. 

Friday, July 3, 2020

Kindle again

My Kindle next to my
Asus EEE PC.
I thought I needed a new Kindle. But maybe not. It's been well used but still functional I so I decided on a little upgrade. 

I bought myself a bluetooth keyboard and then went the extra mile and picked a Kindle Unlimited plan. The Unlimited plan is free for 2 months and $9.99 a month thereafter. 

What a great deal! Click the link below to check these out. 



Trouble with Ubuntu 20.04 and a TouchSmart 310PC

As soon as I updated to 20.04, my wifi started getting dodgy. It was rather annoying as it was intermittent. I had recently updated from 18.04 (32 bit) to 20.04 (64 bit). I have no idea why I using 32 bit software, but the upgrade solved more problems and 20.04 is obviously nicer. Running back to 18.04 (32 bit) was not optimal, so I needed to get this fixed. 

It turns out that 20.04 doesn't have the kernel module for a Ralink RT3090 wifi card loaded, but it is available. Sigh.  

You need to do it manually like so: 
echo "options rt2800pci  nohwcrypt=1" | sudo tee /etc/modprobe.d/rt2800pci.conf
sudo modprobe -rfv rt2800pci
sudo modprobe -v rt2800pci

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

ISO 216 Paper Sizes.

In counties outside of the US, and for artists within the US, knowing paper dimensions is important. The ISO 216 standard is a ratio of √2:1. Without all the math, the format's defining feature is dividing (or folding) a larger size sheet in half along it's width produces a piece the next size smaller. 

A0 841 x 1189 mm (33.1 x 46.8 in)
A1 594 x 841 mm (23.4 x 33.1 in)
A2 420 x 594 mm (16.5 x 23.4 in)
A3 297 x 420 mm (11.7 x 16.5 in)
A4 210 x 297 mm (8.3 x 11.7 in)
A5 148 x 210 mm (5.8 x 8.3 in)
A6 105 x 148 mm  (4.1 x 5.8 in)
A7 74 x 105 mm (2.9 x 4.1 in)
A8 52 x 74 mm (2.0 x 2.9 in)
A9 37 x 52 mm (1.5 x 2.0 in)
A10 26 x 37 mm (1.0 x 1.5 in)

I suspect that A8 thru A10 are for completeness. 

I was first introduced to the standard when I purchased a set of A5 notebooks from Amazon. I fell in love with them and take them everywhere with me. Click the link below to order. 



They are kind of pricey, but I don't go anywhere without one. I use them for budget keeping and sketching. 

Mead also carries a selection of notebooks in these sizes. Here is an A3 version over at Mead.com. This one seems nicely balanced in your hands and the cover is a great bonus. It's stiff and supportive while working. (Click any picture to view prices, specs or purchase.)


A4 is smaller and I don't like this particular size. It feels wrong to me. Your mileage will vary, I am sure. 



The A5 is nicer than the A4 size, it is well balanced but due to it's size, doesn't have the super stiff back of the other two. It isn't really necessary. 


I've never actually worked on anything smaller than this, but I might be interested if I could find something that looked cool. I like to take a sketchpad camping and hiking, and an A6's size would be perfect for a backpacker's weekend. I do have a set of A8 notebooks, but rarely use them. They are pocket sized. These are black but mine are blue and red. 


They are kind of fun to work with. Here are some pictures I drew while out at the park last year. 


Monday, June 1, 2020

Making a list of supplies and checking it twice

As I spend more time at home, with the local shops closed, I find myself searching for art products online. 

Recently, I've been working in charcoal but have been trying new things like colored pencils. 


This picture could have been soften if I had used either colored pencils or watercolor pencils. I could really use a set like this one on Mead.com. The image below is a link to purchase, which supports my website. 



This is a set of 36 watercolor pencils, which is more than enough for my purposes. I'll probably need some paper for this experiment, so I thought I'd try this. A3 is an odd size, being the States. It's 11.69 x 16.53 inches. That should be fine for practicing on. 


As soon as they come in, I'll post a picture. 

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Cord Cutting

A few weeks ago, my kids killed our TV. I think it was a dog toy to the middle of the screen, perhaps followed by a large dog. After about 3 days of searching for a replacement, I found this great TV on Amazon. 50" for less than $400. I bought it.

The links below are paid ads and will take you to Amazon.com.


Then disaster struck. Our cable bill arrived with a new price increase to $233 a month. Thanks Spectrum. I could buy a new 50" TV every two months, forever for less than the price of cable. Hmm. That is some bad math. I canceled everything but the internet which was a $178 savings.

But what to do about this brand new TV? Well, most of the time our TV is used for our PS4 and all of the games and videos we have for that. My wife, Kitty hated that answer. As for other movies, we already had Netflix. $54 for internet, plus $11.99 for Netflix. And then I remembered that the PS4 also could show Amazon Prime Videos which was another couple of bucks. Now, I had two different sources of movies and was still saving over well over $100.

Click here to try out Amazon Prime. Try Prime Discounted Monthly Offering

(Ads provided by Amazon help fund this site by remuneration for clicks and purchases.)

Kitty pointed out that we didn't have local TV channels. What if the schools closed? What if there was bad weather and we didn't know? Ok. I was about to order an antenna and digital converter from Amazon, when someone told me about CBS All Access. It will show your local affiliate's programming, including the news.

Click here to try CBS (one month free): Prime Members Start Your Free Trial of CBS All Access with Prime Video Channels

I wish I could tell you that saving money was my Prime (see what I did there?) motivation, but what I was actually thinking about was CBS's new Star Trek show. My daughter was pleased that we could also watch Young Sheldon and Big Bang Theory. We loved all three shows.

This was getting pricey, I figured I might as well go all the way. I asked Kitty what TV show she'd miss from cable. She answered, "Golden Girls." A quick search showed me that it was available on Hulu. Another monthly charge, but still under the price of cable.

Another problem entered the mix. My wife asked about the TV in the bedroom. How would that work? How would I fix that? I had a refund coming to me from Google for a broken phone, so I used that to purchase a Google Home Mini and a Chromecast. Why not? If I was going to cut the cord, I wanted to make sure everything "just worked". A laptop or a phone could control the Chromecast in the bedroom and the PS4 in the living room would do everything else. The Home Mini was just bonus.

Service or Item Price
Netflix $11.99
Hulu 7.99
Amazon Prime Video 10.99
CBS 5.99
Google Home 39.00
Chromecast 35.00
Cable54.99
Total$165.95


My figures ignore the cost of a new TV because I had already bought it. It also ignores the fact that I had Netflix and Amazon Prime from the get-go. Two pros and one con are tabled, so to speak. The Home and Chromecast were purchased with found money as I used a refund credit for them. As an added bonus, Amazon Prime also has a music selection which had gone unused to this point. Kitty can control that from her laptop and display it on the bedroom TV. One more feature go on the positive side of the list, which is free benefit of Prime.

Click to try Amazon Prime Music: Try Amazon Music Unlimited Free Trial

For less than $175, I managed to get the home A/V system I always wanted and I am now using almost every feature of every service. My monthly cost is a mere $91, down from $230+.

The Amazon Back to School Round Up

Amazon is a life saver. I have ordered most of the things I needed for back to school. These five items are all things that will go with me to every class. When I get a chance, I will detail some of the more unusual items I picked up for back to school. Most of these will revolve around my technological choices in the classroom.

The first item is a suggested item for my Social Studies Technology in the Classroom. It is a version of Google Cardboard. I bought two, one for around the house for my kids and the second is to take to class. At 6 bucks each, I could afford to spurge.

I figured I should see Cardboard VR devices not only as a teacher's tool, but from the prospective of a student attempting to use them. I have 13 and 14 year old who are already showing a lot of interest. The first thing I have notices about them is, while VR seems like a very personal interaction with technology, my children use both pairs for a share experience.




The second item a set of 16 GB thumb drives at an excellent price.




And the last three items were simply writing basics.

JournalsFoldersPencils

The journals are tiny A5 sized and have 30 sheets or 60 pages of grid lined paper. The folders are simple two pocket multicolored affairs, 10 of each color. The pencils are... well, yellow and wooden. 

While the first two items are tech, I like to be a little old school with my in classroom supplies. No batteries to charge or electronics involved.