Apple, you are done…Microsoft, your dominance is near the end and Google, welcome aboard: how Android won the game, via Chrombooks

Change. It is a difficult thing to go through, but, it is inevitable. Nearly thirty years ago, CP/M was THE operating system and 8080/Z80 based computers were THE thing. I remember thinking they’d be around FOREVER. They didn’t make it past 1986, when IBM began to take over the personal computer industry. And, so, we are near that crossroad today.

Google has announced that Android apps will be available ‘soon’ for ChromeOS. That is, as they say, a game changer.


Well Chromebooks are inexpensive. Small computers using ChromeOS are inexpensive and do not need Wintel level power to do things.  Android apps, likewise, are mostly designed to run on cheap smartphones with power that comes close to that of a cheap desktop or laptop computer.  Combine the two and…WOW…that is a game changer, folks.

A friend of mine (one day, Sam, we will meet in person) has been touting these Chromebook things for a few years now.  I’ve always kind of poo-poo’ed them as being a browser on a minimalist Linux.  However, you put Android abilities in there and…BOOM!   A real challenge to Wintel.

Chromebooks already outsell the Macintosh. It will be a while before they supplant Windows, but, I think the writing is on the wall.  I am a die hard Windows fan. I’ve loved the environment and, later, the operating system since the 2.1 days. But, change is inevitable and Microsoft knows this. Pretty much the only product they still sell that is not completely available on other platforms is the Visual Studio development tool suite. And, I think, it won’t be long and you will be using that on Android. On a Chromebook. 

So, how is Google doing this? Merging the two operating systems?

No. No merging.  No AppV or Virtual machines either. NO, they are using containers that have the Android framework embedded in them.  This is a quite clever approach as it not only allows the app to ‘see’ the underlying filesystem and hardware it is running on, it also means apps can talk to each other and that is HUGE.  What good is a photo editor that cannot get to the photos?

It also means the applications run AT FULL SPEED.  Think about that.  Now the Android GAME world is open to ChromeOS.  In fact ALL Android apps will work this way, no developer changes required. Candy Crush Jelly Donuts and Coffee will run, full speed, full screen, on a cheap $120 (US) Chromebook just as well as it does on that Moto G.  This, my friends, is not only cool, but awesome.

I am no fan of Google, but this is a clever and very smart way to bring Android into the home in something other than a phone.

Now, I need to buy myself a Chromebook, get a good book on Java development and retool myself.  Apple, you need to get a clue. Your walled garden is about to be overtaken by weeds when your gardeners leave for greener pastures.  From Google.

You can read more about it here.

Firefox less secure than Internet Explorer

Now, that headline grabbed your attention, didn’t it?  Regardless of the validity of that statement, Firefox did, in fact, have the most exposed vulnerabilities at this years Pwn2Own event, sponsored by HP.

Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome, Firefox and Adobe Flash were all compromised during the two day event, which saw HP dole out $850,000 in award money.  The monies were paid out for the exposure of the flaws. 

IE was exploited once on each day. Safari, a previous popular choice for exploitation, was only exploited by one team.  Chrome was also exploited, once. Both Safari and Chrome had their sandboxes bypassed, allowing code execution in the ‘real world.’

Firefox, on the other hand, was like a runny faucet, exploited three times on the first day and once on the second day.  Mozilla, however, is generally pretty quick in fixing the troubled browser, so I wouldn’t worry too much. If you use Firefox, be sure to update it when you get the notification.

In previous Pwn2Own events, Safari was generally the first to fall and the easiest. It seems to have fared a bit better this year.  Internet Explorer is generally a popular choice for teams to go after, but, it too, seems to be faring better in recent events. Both Google and Mozilla WANT their browsers to be exploited, so they can fix them and make them better. If this years event is any indication, Firefox should be bullet proof pretty soon.

Windows and Internet Explorer, still the most popular?

NOTE: This is a post that originated on HalfByte’s sister blog on SquareSpace.

One of the nicer things about Squarespace is the stats that you get for your blog. I can see who or what referred traffic to the blog, what browser is being used, operating system and more.

Interestingly, from the stats, I have a wide variety of users hitting this blog: Windows, Linux, Mac and mobile. So, just how do the numbers break down?  Have a look…


























As you can see, IE7 is the most popular, followed by Firefox. Chrome is a distant third. Mobile browsers, likely, make up the ‘unknown’ followed, surprisingly, by Opera. Now, Opera is in a variety of devices, including the Wii and a host of feature phones and Android devices. That last one, KHTML, surprised me. Seriously, people actually use that. Huh. Collectively, however, Internet Explorer is, by far, the most popular browser. 

Next, operating systems…

Operating Systems  
WinXP 27.75%
WinNT 10.47%
Unknown 9.47%
WinVista 5.68%
Win2000 4.26%
Android 3.43%
MacOSX 3.08%
iPhone 0.59%
Win2003 0.47%
Linux 0.30%
Win 0.06%

Several things stand out here. First, the high percentage of people still using Windows XP. The ‘Win’ is even more surprising as that represents the Windows 9x family (including ME.)  I think Windows 8 may fall in the ‘WinNT’ category, but I am not positive. At any rate, the high percentages of Windows prior to Vista is just odd. Who still uses them?  I am also a bit surprised by the low percentage of iPhone  and Android.  Though, I think the higher Android numbers reflect the overall type of reader for this blog: more techie types, though by that line of thought, I would think the Linux numbers would be higher. But, once again, the majority of readers are Windows users.

Now, it would really be easy-and the numbers would back it up-to conclude that the majority of readers use Internet Explorers and Windows. I suppose I could be like other sites and extrapolate that to mean that Windows is the most popular operating system used and Internet Explorer is the most used browser.  HOWEVER…I also know that my blog is one tiny, miniscule sliver of the Internet and that it is NOT a destination for, what I think, is the most prevalent type of computing consumer on the planet: the mobile user.  While Windows is still the king of desktop/laptop computing, it is not king of mobile computing.  For now, that’s Android with iOS in second.  I would expect, however, that Windows Phone will gain even more traction and Windows RT/8 to pick up some of the tablet space.

While it is nice to see that the material I write is pertinent to the majority of readers of the blog, I am also a bit disappointed that my readership is not more diverse.  But, it is a changing landscape and I, too, must change and accept that the world I am comfortable with is changing. Microsoft knows this and they are trying to adapt. And, so do I.

Are Chromebooks worth the money?

So the Chromebooks (UGH, that is the lamest name in tech) have finally hit the market.  On paper, these notebooks seem very appealing: a lightweight OS, quick startup and you never have to worry about installing applications.  Great, right?  Nope.  Why?  The price.  These things cost more than a real laptop with a real operating system and real storage.  For the money, these things are a major dud.  They lack local storage and, to be, you know, useful, you must always be connected to the net. 

Samsung and Acer have both introduced these crippled laptops with the cheapest starting at $349 for the WiFi only version. 3G service is provided by Verizon with 100mb of data per month, for two years, being free. Additional data plans are available. 

At $499 for the high end Chromebook from Samsung, the value is simply not there.

A recent tear down of one of them reveals netbook like innards.  And that is the big problem: these things are nothing more than netbooks in full size laptop cases and they do not run a useful OS.  You get a Linux kernal with a browser bolted on to it.  No local storage and when not connected, not much functionality.

Google, purveyors of all things Chrome, says that offline functionality is coming soon in the form of Google Apps and there are a few ‘downloadable’ apps for Chromium, but it will not be like the traditional operating system’s applications.

I don’t know, maybe I am being closed minded or short sighted, but, for the money, I just don’t see the value here.  If Google really wants these things to take, they should give them away or charge less than a hundred bucks for them and make it up with ads, since that is the ultimate goal here…to sell ads.  Google’s business is NOT browsers, operating systems or even search. It is advertising.  That’s it. Search and etc are the vehicles they use to deliver the ads.  They are not the altruistic company many think they are, no, they are an advertising agency and nothing more.  They are the NASCAR of the computer world: entertaining, feisty, flashy, loud and one gigantic billboard.

You can check out the hardware (as well as order one) here.

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Google’s other operating system was showed off this week

This week, Google showed off both its Chrome ‘App’ Store and the Chrome OS, it’s flavor of Linux with the Chrome browser bolted onto it.  Along with the OS, they demoed it on a ‘spec’ laptop that ONLY runs Chrome OS.

I’m not going to talk about the store, you can read it about that here.  No, I am going to talk a bit about the Chrome OS itself.

Chrome OS is a fully baked cloud experience.  The “OS”, which is just a stripped down Linux with the browser as the interface, stays out of the way.  The user only sees the browser. The desktop is your homepage with all of your book marks in one easy to get to location.  The whole notion of a file system, like you have in Windows or on the Macintosh, is history.  Your stuff is saved in the cloud with the application you were using, so if you used Google Docs, then your documents are stored somewhere on a Google server.  Same for your photos, be it on Facebook or Picasa Web.  While this makes it simple and backups should be a no brainer, the downside is that you MUST be connected at all times to get your data.  And forget working offline, just does not work here.

The laptop is barebones but does include a 3G cell radio with Verizon service.  You will get 100mb a month for free and then the price sky rockets after that.  You can use that in one ten minute browsing session.  Sixty thousand lucky people will get to experience the laptop, Chrome OS and Verizon since that is the number of laptops that were produced. These will not be sold and are not intended, yet, for the general population.

The notion of a cloud based operating system is intriguing, downside notwithstanding.  Management should be simple and setup was a snap with Google demonstrating initial setup in just a few minutes. 

The real downside, and one that will be difficult for Google, at least with the older crowd, is lack of local storage and off line use.  The always connected idea is great in theory, but lose that connection, even for a few minutes, and you will see just how much of a headache it could be.

I am still undecided about Chrome. I need more seat time with the OS.  Perhaps I’ll be one of the sixty thousand but I doubt it.   I would really like to put my concerns to bed or prove them out. Either way, I think it would exciting to find out.

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