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Xiaomi Mi Pad 4

Google Play Store on Xiaomi Mi Pad 4

While the Xiaomi Mi Pad 4 ships with Google Play installed, if one does a factory reset, then the resulting MIUI 9.x does not bundle with Google Play Store or the GBoard keyboard. There are several steps needed to get it set up, including: - Find, download, install Google Play Store + Google Play Services - Install and enable the Google Gboard, and Gboard Keyboards

Evie Launcher and Launcher Configuration

I find the Evie Launcher to be a good, modern, and clean interface. Basically it prevents one from getting lost or accidentally creating new screens, which is a fundamental flaw on both Android and iOS default launchers.

Firefox Browser

The Firefox Browser is the go-to browser for all devices. Also, search is using Duck Duck Go.

Things to Turn Off, and On

  • Quick Ball = off
  • Battery Percentage Display = on
  • Enable buttons, turn off full-screen gestures

Other Apps

  • Foscam Viewer
  • Telegram
  • Google Contacts
  • Duo
  • Gmail

MIUI 9 vs. MIUI 10

MIUI 9 focused on speed, removing many components that were generally not used by consumers. MIUI 10 will have much more so-called intelligence, which will likely slow it down to a crawl (unless the AI is turned off, in which case MIUI 10 might be as fast as MIUI 9. For now, I'm holding off on MIUI 10 for most devices (except for the Xiaomi Redmi 6A which does have it come as an OTA update).

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Octavo Touch-Type Form Factor

In this post I outline what I would consider a compelling form factor, one which existed for a while, but which may be is returning for certain niche uses.

Usability and Useful Form Factors

While the term notebook has been taken over to mean a laptop computer that is much larger on average than a standard physical lined-paper notebook, that in my experience is best sized as Duodecimo or 12mo. With a size of 4.75-5" x 7.25-7.5". I consider this one of the handiest form factors for books. However, dealing with a computing device with a touch-typable keyboard (less than 100% in size, but still able to achieve 80-wpm typing with less than 5% error rates (above standard practice), one needs a different size: Octavo. Technically this could be 7"-10" in length and 4.5"-6" in width.

Handheld PCs - Mobilepro - Jornada - Viao P

The various form factors of H/PCs from the late 1990s through the 2000s ranged from the diminuative HP Jornada to the quite similar NEC Mobilepro and Sony Viao P: - 7.4"-9.7" length - 3.7"-5.2" width - 0.8"-1.3" thickness - 6.5"-8.1" screen diagonal - 510g-770g weight The 9.6" x 4.7" x 0.8" (24 x 12 x 2 cm) and 500g (or lighter) is possibly the best form factor, with 88% standard keyboard it supports full touch-typing. The NEC Mobilepro has 79% sized keyboard, which is certainly adequate for small to medium-sized fingers of an adult male. For the purposes of touch-typing, the Jornada is likely too small for a majority of touch typists. However, it is likely possible to do a clever keyboard layout that still supports touch-typing, and get the length somewhere around 8.5", shaving off an inch or so, while keeping the same screen dimensions (if desired).

Screen Sizing and Usability

The screen of the Viao P is 1,600 x 768 in 7.99" which is ~222 ppi. Even when having a slightly smaller form factor, it should be possible to get close to a 9" screen, which would go a long way to making for a much more usable device. The Viao P is a nearly 2:1 aspect ratio. In landscape mode, this maked for cramped reading. However, in portrait mode, this is much more usable in terms of reading for documents and websites. The question is, at what size does reading standard websites become possible? The 768 pixel height is too small for most websites, which do not appear able to handle such widths, and devices with this are trapped in a no-man's land of almost, but not quite, mobile. Resizing web pages can reduce general legibility.

What is Not Needed in an Octavo Device

Generally there are several misgivings regarding an Octavo-class device, as we are calling this design thought experiment. These are things that such a device does poorly, at best, including: - Webcam (actually, this might be very useful, esp. to replace the handheld) - Speakers (moderately adequate are good enough) - Trackpad / Pointing devices (touchscreen covers it) For the first four items, simply dispense with them. There is no need for a webcam, speakers, a trackpad, pointing devices, and the like.

Ports Aplenty

Include the following: - Headphone Jack - MicroSD Card Slot - 2 x USB C for power, HDMI out, etc. Bluetooth and WIFI as necessary evils, but support decent USB C dongles that can include HDMI, additional USB, RJ45, for docking purposes.

ChromeOS to the Rescue - Or Not

The one major issue regarding such small devices are the poorly designed and bloated operating systems that go on these. Focus on the streamlined, secure, and regularly updated ChromeOS, including support for Android and Linux apps. This seems way more appropriate than a version of Windows, which is unfortunately the standard. ChromeOS can deal with Battery Life much better than other general purpose operating systems. In addition, Debian is a better option if the distribution supports the various hardware components/drivers. That said, Windows 10 is the go-to OS for full-featured laptops and netbooks. Debian is generally possible on most standard platforms.

Flip/Convertable Chromebook

Having a flip/hinge mechanism and of course touchscreen support means that the 9" screen is a small tablet form factor as well as a touch-type keyboard device.

E-ink & Ebook Reading

A final improvement on the back of this device would be an E-ink display, and especially the ability to read ebooks.

Convergence and Device Unity

Currently, I bring my 200g Kindle Paperwhite to read. It isn't too far to be able to integrate what is effectively a Kindle, a Tablet, and a Keyboard.

Tablets Advantages and Disadvantages

To be honest, many tablets are very close to what is desired (not including e-ink) as bluetooth keyboards can be added to things like the Huawai Mediapad M5 (which is an 8" screen in 300g), or the cheaper, heavier Lenovo Tab 4. The Huawai comes in at 8.4"x4.9"x0.3" and has a 2560 x 1600 screen. A great form factor and with accessories such as bluetooth keyboards and cases, this is already mostly a viable computing platform.

PDA, Palmtop, UMPC - 2018

While this was originally published in August, 2018 it turns out that there are three brands producing models that more-or-less meet/match these specifications and needs. These are more recently being referred to as PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants), Palmtops, and/or UMPC (Ultra-Mobile Personal Computers). Whatever the computer niche, they are a welcome return of this form factor. These are: Planet Gemini, GPD Pocket, and One Mix Yoga, and most recently the Topjoy Falcon.

Planet Gemini

First or rather most recently there is the Planet Gemini -- the name refers to twin OS support: Android and Linux (which is to say, Linux and Linux) -- which is specifically attempting to recreate the Psion (and indeed has a designer who was involved in it). This is the smaller of the three, with only a 6" screen, and weighting 320 grams. Also, it is the only one which is in its first generation / initial release.

GPD Pocket, GPD Pocket 2

The GPD Pocket 2 is on presale as of October, 2018.

One Mix Yoga, One Mix 2 Yoga

By the company One Computer is a smashup of model names one, mix (at least not miix) and yoga. Still, this is the larger of the three brands, weighing in at 515 grams. It is an upgraded processor at 1ghz core-m Kaby Lake, with 256gb PCIe. A solid offering.

Topjoy Falcon

Topjoy Falcon is the most recent netbook launched on Kickstarter in October, 2018.

Overview of Current PDA/UMPC/Palmtops

Model | Weight | Screen | Dimensions | Processor | Ram | Storage | Camera | 4g | 2-in-1 | SD-Card | Price -------------- | ------ | ------------------ | ---------------- | ------------------ | --- | ----------- | ------ | --- | ------ | ------- | ----- Planet Gemini | 320g | 6" 2160x1080 18:9 | 17 x 8 x 1.5 cm | MediaTek 6797T | 4gb | 64gb eMMC | Front | yes | no | yes | $599* GPD Pocket 2 | 467g | 7" 1920x1200 16:10 | 18 x 11 x 1.5 cm | intel Core M-5Y10 | 8gb | 128gb eMMC | none | no | no | no | $699* One Mix 2 Yoga | 515g | 7" 1920x1200 16:10 | 18 x 11 x 1.7 cm | intel Core M3-7Y30 | 8gb | 256gb PCIe | none | no | yes | yes | $649** Topjoy Falcon } 650g | 8" 1920x1200 16:10 | 20 x 13 x 2.0 cm | intel Silver N5000 | 8gb | 128/256 SSD | none | no | yes | no | $499* *Prices are current/sale prices at Geekbuying or Direct/Kickstarter/Indiegogo **Note also the One Mix Yoga at $449

Other Form Factors

While Octavo is first and foremost a smallest functional full keyboard, there are other options that are interesting (and moreso than a wrist watch), such as Runcible.

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ChromeOS Keyboard Shortcuts

Hardware Key Differences

  • No Windows key, no Command key
    • However external keyboards can have these mapped to other keys
  • Capslock Key replaced by Search Key
    • Shft+Search = Capslock

Remap Keys

> Settings > Device > Keyboard - Remap Capslock to Search key on external keyboards - Remap External Meta (aka Win/CMD) to Control Key - this will preserve the keys pressed for basics such as select all, copy, paste, undo, find, etc.

Function Keys

Function keys can generally be accessed by a Function Key and a Function Number Key. In ChromeOS, the top row functionality can be accessed on external keyboards via Fn+Fn#. Here are the top row functional keys in ChromeOS: Key | Function in ChromeOS ------|--------------------- Esc | Esc Fn-1 | Previous/Last Fn-2 | Forward/Next Fn-3 | Reload page (also Ctrl+R) Fn-4 | Fullscreen Toggle Fn-5 | Overview (akin to Alt+Tab, Alt+Shift+Tab) Fn-6 | Dim Fn-7 | Brighten Fn-8 | Mute Fn-9 | Volume Down Fn-10 | Volume Up Lock | Lock There is a setting in > Settings > Keyboard to change the top row to Function keys (for app-specific needs), and also they can be accessed by using Search+1-12. Note that these keys and settings effect the internal keyboard as well as external keyboards

Help Keyboard Shortcuts

Key Function in ChromeOS
Ctrl+Shift+/ Help
Ctrl+Alt+/ Keyboard shortcuts

Chrome Browser Keyboard Shortcuts

Key Function in ChromeOS
Ctrl+Alt+T Terminal (Crosh)
Ctrl+R Reload tab
Ctrl+Tab, Ctrl+Shift+Tab next and previous tabs
Ctrl+T, Ctrl+N new tab, new window

ChromeOS Keyboard Shortcuts

Key Function in ChromeOS
Ctrl+Space Switch Languages
Shift+Search+L Sleep (Suspend)
Ctrl+Shift+F5 (Overview) Partial screenshot
Ctrl+F5 (Overview) Screenshot
Alt+1 (to 8) Launch one of the first 8 apps on the shelf
Ctrl+. Display hidden files in Files app

Keyboard Settings

> Settings > Languages and Input > Show input options in the shelf

Other Notes

See also the following (the above is incomplete and can be supplemented) ...

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Smartphones and Chromebooks

Blast from the past, this request for smartphone/netbook recommendations comes from May, 2009. Updated below with comments from July, 2018. Note that we've updated the title from Netbooks to Chromebooks.

Help! Too Many Choices

> Jeff, I am in need of a portable device for accessing email when I'm on the road. Of course it would be nice to have access to the internet in general and stuff like a GPS, etc. So I'm thinking it may be time to get an IPhone. The 8G is only $200 and the 16G has come down to $300. I heard there is a new one that is supposed to be Verizon capable. > > However, it is not the easiest thing to type on (I hear) and everyone says if you are primarily going to use it for email, get a blackberry. But if that's the case, maybe I should look into mini notebooks which seem really cheap and I could watch movies on the plane! What do you think about what's out there and what's coming soon. > > Help! Too many choices!

Dear Help

The Iphone is very expensive as it requires a high speed data plan (and 2 year contract). The question is how much email do you need to do as well as other full-screen needs (how much working on documents, accessing websites, etc.).

Smartphone (2.5-3.5" screen)

Update 21 July 2018 - Nowadays a 4.5-6" screen is more the norm, and even the smallest iphone available is a 4" screen. What a difference 9 years makes.


  • Small screen
    • Update: less so
  • Thumb-board instead of keyboard
    • Update: wireless/detachable keyboards and swiping keyboards
  • Limited app support (e.g., Office apps)
    • Update: a lot more apps supported, though amazingly less than one would think for 9 years


  • Very portable (essentially replaces current phone)
  • If you get a good high end one with camera/video can replace your current camera for greater portability (sell camera on craigslist). Note that the iPhone does not actually take video (very cheap camera in it) but high end Nokia, Samsung, and Blackberries do have 3mp+ video cameras in it (Sony is too expensive as well).

Netbook (10.2" screen)

Update 21 July 2018 - Nowadays the Chromebook has taken over the 10" market, with a slew of competitors in the 12-14" screen size.


  • Have to manage it like a laptop (e.g., app installs, configuration)
    • Update: Chromebooks mitigate this somewhat, but overall still an issue of management for anything with a complex set of apps
  • One more thing to carry around (though 3 pounds is not bad)
    • Update: Ha, now we can do this for 2 pounds in a Chromebook
  • Apple doesn't have one of these, and when they will, it will be expensive
    • Update: The 12" Macbook and even moreso the entire tablet ecosystem has grown up in the past 9 years.
  • External cd/dvd only (another thing to carry)
    • Update: External cd/dvd?


  • Prices are getting lower (5 hours out of the battery even with wifi
  • Full operating system/computer, can do anything desktop can
  • They now have 120gb and bigger drives for lots of video/audio collection
  • Can act as desktop if plug in monitor, keyboard, mouse, sound


  • Get a smartphone AND a netbook. That way you have two options, are fully portable, and are 2k10-ready. Put everything up on Craigslist (phone, camera, desktop) to recover some of the money.
    • Update: still a valid recommendation. For specifics as of July, 2018 try the Asus C101PA for around $250 (and can run Android and Linux aps) and Xiaomi Redmi 6 (~$250) or Xiaomi Mi 6 Ceramic (~$350).

Asus C101PA

Xiaomi Mi 6 Ceramic

- Xiaomi Mi 6 rom dev - LineageOS info page on sagit - LineageOS git repo

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Xiaomi Redmi 4A (aka Rolex)

The Xiaomi Redmi 4A (aka Rolex) is a cheap (~100 USD) and lightweight (131.5g) 5" phone. For price, weight, and size, there is not much competiton. The screen is a 720 x 1280 px 16x9 screen that is pretty decent. Its got a Snapdragon 425 and 2gb of RAM with 16 or 32 gb of storage, and supports dual sim or single sim + microsd card. On the negative side, the camera is weak, it is slow to open, and of course stock MIUI is slow and bloated, along with an annoying reminder to register your sim aka spyware on the prowl. That said, there is nothing in a 5" screen that is as light and as cheap, and that means very strong value. Thankfully this is a popular device for custom roms. Rolex is not as widely supported as some devices. However, the AOSP Extended ROM, a twice monthly updated vanilla Google + customizations does support this device.

Notes as of November 2018

I still prefer this phone over the Xiaomi Redmi 5A and Xiaomi Redmi 6A. The 6A is a bit heavier, with a longer screen, but the home row buttons have been moved onto the display, so no real gain in screen real estate. The 5A is not as nice a feel in the hand, but some versions have 4gb of ram and 32gb of storage, so that is better than the 2gb generally available across all of these models. Overall, a good balance of lightweight, decent screen, moderate performance, and lower-end camera. Hard to beat for around $100 usd.

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WQHD Monitors

What appears to be a fantastic combination of features is the new WQHD monitors which are 3440x1440 at 110ppi. The diagonal size most popular is 34". This means software scaling is not required for display, and essentially it can provide about the same screen real estate as two 1920x1080 22" monitors (which have 100ppi). WQHD has 110ppi, and is nearly 5 million pixels (4,953,600) while two 1080p monitors are just over 4 million (4,147,200). Most of the WQHD appear to be 5ms response and from 60hz-165hz (max for IPS display). The display is 43:18 but advertised as 21:9, which is the display in cinemas. For screen real estate on a similar PPI, the WQHD (34") are about 20% taller and 60% wider. On a 1080p I can get 2.5 terminal screens at 80 characters. It may be possible to get 4 on a WQHD. In terms of browsers and websites, which take up more 1,000 pixels, three full browser windows will fit this display. Currently with a two monitor setup, one gets less than two full screens per monitor. Also, this adds the mentioned height (about 20%). Realistically, the only improvements needed by me would be 90% or better coverage of sRGB color space, rather than the paltry 65% which I am getting with current screens. Ideally 90% or better coverage of the Adobe RGB would be even better, as that would cover the entire CYMK color gamut for printing. In addition, getting 75hz and 1ms response rate would be great, but sticking with 60hz and 5ms would be adequate (provided there is a decent price break for the older technology). 8bit color depth is fine, though 10bit would be better, of course. As of 10 April 2018, lowest price I've seen online for this kind of monitor is 17,000 THB (about $500 USD). That's not bad, a big improvement over a few years ago. However, it needs to get into the 10,000 THB range. Since I work with text, native pixel resolution, and the distance between my eyes and the screen, are critical factors. In order to preserve the same visual field and resolution, the key is to maintain PPI. In this case, compared with a 1080p 23" screen with a PPI of 95.78 and a dot pitch of 0.265, there are two sizes in wide: - 29" 1080x2560 is an increase from 2.074Mpx to 2.765Mpx, with a 95.81ppi and the same dot pitch of 0.265 - 38.9" 1440x3440 is an increase to 4.95Mpx, with a 95.87ppi and a dot pitch of 0.265 (these don't exist) What we see with the popular 34" and 35" WQHD 1440x3440 is 110ppi. Also, there are now WQHD+ 3840x1600 monitors at about 37" to 38". For someone who prefers a slightly farther distance from eye to screen, these native pixel resolutions would make the text a bit small. For this reason, I'm now leaning toward a 29" Full HD 2560x1080 which is 21:9. It would also be easier to drive with an embedded graphics card (say, for example, the 60hz Intel Graphics 620 in the i3 Kaby Lake NUC). As a not-very-serious gamer, this would be both an improvement, affordable, and not force hardware upgrades on the devices. Prices on these go down to around 7,500-9,000 THB for something like an LG 29WKS600-W or LG 29UB55-B (which includes 75hz/300cd/m2 and speakers with an audio jack out). 6-bit/8-bit color, sRGB 99%, VESA 100mm mount, and freesync on an IPS panel. Nice bundle. Or at Goodspeed there is the LG 29" IPS 29UM69G-B for 10,290 THB as of 19-Aug-2018. Bird in the hand. Sweet price for Chiang Mai-available hardware. A moderate ChromeOS device, say Asus c101pa could drive this beast. For saving around 7,000-10,000 THB (about half the price), what is left out includes: - Not a higher refresh rate - Only 33% more pixels from a 1080p - Lack of Adobe RGB support - No 10-bit color - No faster (1ms) response time Still, a decent tradeoff especially for the use case (and price).

Resources on Color Gamut

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Xiaomi – Brand on the Rise

In my household we have been introducing Xiaomi products for the past six months. Overwhelmingly positive, but not without a hiccup here and there. In general, there is an odd mixture of: quality, design, and value. I say odd because generally those things don't go together. Great price, good looks, and works well. Not perfect, but nothing is. Xiaomi may have much bigger rivals, especially in China, but they have such a strong combination that they are able to compete with, and in some cases beat out such giants as Samsung in markets like India. Robin Li is seen as the next Steve Jobs in many ways, but one way that he is not is on price. The return of Steve Jobs to Apple was a corporate success story of huge proportions, but it certainly didn't focus on anything but the bottom line. Of course in some cases the bottom line (seen with sufficient vision) can produce quality, and even value. Really though the better comparison is an aspect of Amazon (the hardware part). While Amazon had a significant failure in producing a cell phone, their success in the Kindle, tablets and tvs, and now home devices is the real comparison for Xiaomi. Decent design, great price, reliable quality (and great customer service to bolster reliability in the case of failure).

Xiaomi Products Work Together

As with any decent ecosystem, a good product begets more product purchases, and the best products increase their value through network effects. Hence: - Xiaomi Mi Band - 900 THB on Lazada - Xiaomi Mi Box - 4K set top box - 2,700 THB on Lazada - Xiaomi Mi Redmi A4 - 3,000 THB on Ebay - Xiaomi Mi Smart Scale - 1,200 THB on Lazada - Xiaomi Mi Wireless Mouse - 500 THB on Lazada - Xiaomi Mi Earphone Piston - 300 THB on Lazada The Xiaomi Mi Fit app and integration of the Mi Band and the Mi Smart Scale is surprisingly good. The Xiaomi Mi Box Remote app is adequate, but the Mi Box remote itself works great and so the app is not needed. The Wireless Mouse is way better than bluetooth (which is generally a failure of connectivity, except where its narrow skillset is needed, such as with bluetooth speakers and smart health device connection (watch, scale, phone). The Mi Box was a great replacement for essentially all other set top boxes (when residing outside the US), including the continually crappy AppleTV, Google ChromeCast, Amazon Fire Stick, and Vero 4k.

Xiaomi Product Caution

One aspect of Xiaomi-branded products that don't work are those which need to network or communicate with the Xiaomi Home application (which has poor ratings). Though it may be a one-off experience, I could not get a Xiaomi home security camera to work. The Xiaomi Cube is very cheap, but there was no way to get it to connect to any device, and various forums point to the same problem. I'm sure it works inside China with the Chinese servers, but the external Singapore and US servers never worked, and as I'm not inside China, the Chinese servers didn't work either. The children's watch/gps looks like a great product but it is designed to only work inside China on Chinese telecom, and in fact has GMT+8 hardcoded so the timezone cannot be changed.

MIUI and MI Cloud

While the A4 hardware is excellent for the price (camera is a bit of a letdown, but sufficient for daily needs), the launcher environment and MI Cloud backup should be avoided. I've previously spent time on Android, including installing custom ROMs, so I already have a launcher I'm familiar with and suits my needs better than the MIUI interface. The MI Cloud is as exciting and functional and secure as the Apple Cloud, which means avoid and ignore as much as possible. It's definitely not needed for backup and restore when Google already does that. My guess is it is only something needed inside the Great Firewall of China.

Criticism of Design Copying

Xiaomi rightly has been criticized for copying Apple (and others) designs and if it was not located in China, it likely would have been sued into oblivion. However, there are several points to be made: - Young companies can learn from older companies by emulating (copying) them, in order to learn design in that way. This is akin to all the kinds of paintings done by Picasso long before he became a unique painter and stylist in his own right. - Apple has enabled this kind of emulation by outsourcing its production to a company which offers its services to others. What could have acted as a barrier to entry (namely, production capacity and expertise of manufacturing at scale) is something that has largely been given over to the manufacturing companies. - The lack of design protections for a non-Chinese company in China is a cost of doing business in China, wiht Chinese manufacturing. The profits reaped (due to the massive greed and focus on profits by Apple) have a downside which was known and forseen. Finally, the pricing essentially at a BOM by Xiaomi, and the learning of design and manufacturing, combined with dramatic control over inventory (they keep less inventory than any other phone device manufacturer via their flash sales), has produced a juggernaut which is more nimble than Apple, offers better prices than Apple, and is approaching the design sophistication of Apple. Once Xiaomi cellphone cameras reach parity with Apple, the Apple profit margin will dramatically at risk, as it should be.

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Chromebook, Chromebox, Chromebit

See also the document on ChromeOS Software Apps and Configuration Details

What Chromebooks Can't (Yet) Do

  • Printing has improved a lot, including direct-connected USB printers, but only a subset of printer drivers are available, when compared with Win/OSX and even Linux. However, using any computer with a Chrome browser can support Google Cloud Print, and act as a print server (even directly connected, non-ChromeOS driver-supported usb printers).
  • Scanners (unless part of a ChromeOS driver-supported all-in-one) are pretty much not supported.
  • Music: Connecting to and managing an Ipod device, say with Rhythmbox doesn't work on a Chromebook, unless an entire Gnome desktop is installed in a different Linux.
    • Use of Google Play Music is an option, but quite unwieldy through browser upload and limited management tools on the Google Play Music site.
  • Complex SVG and Bitmap images, as well as video is still largely best managed and produced on the desktop (namely, Linux).

Bottom Line

Chromebooks and their kin essentally offer: - For the top-end Chrome devices, the performance levels approach or exceed devices such as the macbook air, are convertable devices (laptop/tablet w/ stylus support), and run both ChromeOS apps and Android apps. The best Samsung and Asus devices, not to mention the super-premium Google Pixel, are extremely functional in ways that challenge their PC rivals. - For the mid-range Chrome devices, the price and fit for certain niche uses cannot be beat (for example, ruggedized for children/schools/industrial settings) Strangely enough, Chromebooks are becoming both the promised netbooks, the best hybrids, and ultrabooks all at the same time. The combination of ChromeOS and access to the Google Play store Android apps are a game changer. See also: Can a Google Pixelbook replace a laptop for photography?


This article originally dealt with availability of Chromebooks in/importing into Thailand. Now it has morphed (somewhat) into dealing with current Chromebook hardware specs in general. For a more general purpose article on ChromeOS configuration and applications, see: - ChromeOS Applications, Configuration, Utilities

All the Chrome

There are basically four kinds of Chrome-branded hardware these days: - Chromebooks - basically netbooks that have been slowly growing up and gaining market share in various niches - Chromeboxes - essentially like a NUC, a small box with all the ports and hardware, but with external monitor (usually not included), mouse, and keyboard (both usually included) - Chromebits - these should have been termed Chromesticks as that would have made more sense, as they are essentially HDMI stick-like devices with all the basic computer components, similar to Intel's Compute Stick. See a handy comparison of these three Chrome device types. - Chromebase - basically a chromebox embedded in a monitor, for an all-in-one flavor of Chrome

Biggest Bugbears in Chromebooks

Where Microsoft Windows is strongest, the Chromebooks are weakest, namely device support. Try to connect up a printer or scanner that is not network-enabled and extremely rude sounds will quickly eminate.

Chromebooks for 2018

Update 03-03-2018 Here are the latest specs. As of early 2018, it seems that the Asus lineup is the best in terms of features and price/performance: - C101 for a 10" superlight, flip and touchscreen - C202 for ruggedized clamshell 11.6" - C213 for ruggedized, flip and touchscreen 11.6" - C302 for 12.5", 1080p, core M, flip and touchscreen The C101 and C213 are the standouts, and about 10,000 THB and 12,000 THB with shipping into Thailand. These have a Rockchip in them, but should be fine for regular use. Personally I think the core M processor, while nifty, is ultimately wasted with a limit of 4gb of ram available. These Chromebooks, and a number of others support the use of Android apps.

No More Underpowered Devices

Update 05-Nov-2016 I've reached the conclusion that I will entertain no more underpowered devices as they are ultimately so limited their return on investment vastly underperforms overpowered devices. This means chromebooks are no longer acceptable. Update 03-03-2018 The more recent (mid-2017) processor options for Chromebooks make them more viable. For a while some i3 Chromebooks were available, but these days (early 2018), it looks like the Celeron 3855U and Core M3/Core M5 options are what is available. Compared with my Macbook Air mid-2011 which has a 1.7ghz Intel Core i5 2557M, the Celeron 3855U is underwhelming, perhaps with around 70-80% comparative performance. Of course the RAM bandwidth and capacity makes up for a lot of that, to put it likely on par (especially if comparing, say, a 4gb Macbook Air to an 8gb, 16gb, or 32gb system, such as some NUCs. In that case, the i3 5010U is pretty much parity with the old Core i5 2557M. Interesting, considering that is 2015s contender, which comes bundled nicely in a barebones system the Intel NUC5i3RYH.

Background on Samsung Chromebook Use, Longevity

I've had a Chromebook for nearly 2.5 years (mine arrived in Feburary, 2013). It is one of the standard Samsung 11.6" 2gb models (there were only 2 or 3 choices back then). It really has done quite well, and the stability of the operating system is fairly good. For the last 9 months it has been being used by a family that has very limited technical ability, but they get good use out of it (mainly playing YouTube music videos). Update 03-03-2018 The in-laws have been using this for another 2.5 years which means low-impact use of now 5 years, and still works well (largely, no doubt because of the use-case (websites and web apps) and the ongoing constant updates to the OS). I imported this myself into Thailand, and then glued on Thai characters on the keyboard and shellacked with several layers of clear nail varnish. Worked well and only recently have I done another shellacking (so that lasted more than two years). No need to replace the actual stickers, which I think were only 100 THB in any case. Local printing works for some drivers, not all (they have to be included in the distribution). Here are a few printers that work with Chromebooks Also, while it is possible to get an ipd scanner to work, generally cloud scanners and all-in-one printers that are Chromebook-friendly are the way to go.

Acer Chromebooks are Launching in Thailand

Well, no need for importing (though there is a price difference) as Acer Chromebooks are now launching in Thailand. The standard Acer models aren't bad (4gb ram, 13" and 15") though none of them have 1080p resolution. However, they are still more expensive than one can find on ebay (including shipping to Thailand). Prices start around 13,900 THB, on Ebay it is possible to pay around 10,000-11,000 THB including shipping for a 13", 4GB chromebook. There are many brands and models nowadays.

True IDC Chromebook now Available

Also, there is a True IDC Chromebook now available. This is a low priced currently available at 8,990 THB which has the same specs as my first Chromebook (11.6" screen, 2 GB ram) which actually works quite well. My old model which has been being used by my inlaws for the last 9 months still works fine and these people are not sophisticated users. The only problem the had was that "Accessibility" was turned on accidentally, so it tried to give audio feedback, zoomed in screen and touch-click. The device has been updating itself regularly and really has required no IT guidance. Note that there are a very large number of Chrome Apps that work offline including Gmail and all Google Drive apps: Docs, Sheets, Drawings, Slides. Update 03-03-2018 Currently using this old Samsung, now 5 years old, to update this post. My Macbook Air finally died (actually, a second death, due to battery expansion, yet again). Amazingly this old Samsung still works well. There are some timeouts to the second monitor over the HDMI port, but that is likely due to the battery being nonfunctional. However, plugged into power, it generally works well. It can do most things including bluetooth connections to a mac mouse and keyboard. The screen appears a bit worn out with some greying at the temples and brightness suffering a bit.

Lazada, the Amazon of Southeast Asia

Lazada certainly doesn't have the choice found in Amazon, but there are a few different options for Chromebooks on that marketplace, and it is worth looking at because of some advantages over Ebay and Amazon. The advantage over Amazon (and sometimes Ebay) is usually -- but not always -- price. The advantage vs. Ebay is usually -- but not always -- faster delivery, and also the ability to use options -- sometimes -- such as cash on delivery (the old C.O.D. option that I'm pretty sure no longer exists in the United States).

Chromebox Option

It is also possible to get a "chromebox" which is basically just a small box without keyboard/mouse/monitor. That way you could use existing monitors, keyboards, mice (USB ports + HDMI video - can use HDMI-to-VGA adapters for older monitors). My sense is that these price points are much better for certain segments than a small or even large tablet. The classroom, business environments, anything with heavy text and graphics interaction, and the need for precision and speed of typing and navigation.

See Also

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360 Photos and Video

Technology has advanced to the point where 95% of the work in 360 images and video is now done by consumer-grade hardware. For a 360 walkthrough or tour of an event or architectural location, all that is needed is a tripod, monopod, or head-mounted camera, and remote shutter or automatic capturing (every 8 seconds). The result can be uploaded to Facebook and Flickr, or onto a website with the open source javascript tool, such as Marzipano, a not-official Google project. Basically these cameras are all made up of two spherical lenses and use stitching algorithms.

Ricoh Theta and Xiaomi Hardware

The Ricoh Theta cameras include the Theta S, Theta SC, and Theta V. The Theta V is the high end model with 4K, live streaming, and an additional surround microphone can be added for several hundred dollars more. The Theta SC is a reasonable 1080p which is also probably a good balance of quality video which also meets requirements for [Google StreetView 360] for extending Google Business listings. For a camera with comparable or better images and video, better audio, though a lack of support for Google StreetView, the Xiaomi Mijia 3.5K Panorama is a great option.

Google Streetview Extensions to Google Business

There is a StreetView App which allows for viewing 360 images in StreetView, as well as contributing images to StreetView, usually walkthrough 360 images for Google Business Listings. 360 Social Sharing

Kuula, a 360 Social Sharing site has a number of advantages, the best are embedding in Twitter, Facebook, G+, and websites so the 360 images are right in the photo stream (natively this cannot be done on Twitter), and also supporting virtual tours (as a set of 360 images).

Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube

Facebook and Flickr support 360 images, and Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube support 360 video. Some of these have an additional step for the upload: - YouTube 360 Video Upload - Facebook 360 Community Tools - Twitter supports live 360 video via periscope, but who cares about Periscope anymore? - Flickr, but who cares about Flickr anymore?

Instagram and 360 Content

As of 01 December 2017, it appears that Instagram does not yet support 360 images or video. However, check out the Theta360 Instagram Account to see how 360 images and video are being presented in the non-supported world.

WordPress Support for 360 Images and Video

WordPress has some native support for 360 media, but also there are plugins such as DImage 360. DImage 360 works with jpg images, which is the most portable format. For the web, these files can be resized to 1080p and compressed down to around 100kb.

Summary of 360 Photos and Video

While this is still very much a niche technology, there is enough development on consumer-grade equipment and social media and website support to make this more and more ubiquitous. Even without VR approaching the mainstream, the lowering of the cost and barriers to use make this interesting enough to gain momentum.