ChromeOS – Google Drive vs Files, what is the difference?

I’ve had problems in the past related to not using the correct app for accessing files from my Chromebook and thought a quick post might help others to understand the difference between Google’s two file management apps on Chrome OS.

First, I will admit that this post shouldn’t be necessary. Google should really get the Files app sorted out, or simply add local file access to Google Drive.

Let’s start with the difference between the two apps as it stands today.

Picture of Files App icon

The Files app was originally intended to access local files, i.e. Downloads, and should only be used for that purpose in most cases. (keep reading for the explanation)

picture of Google Drive icon

The Drive app provides access to all files stored in the Google Drive cloud. This includes files that are automatically syncing from a computer and also cloud backups. It does not currently provide access to local files.

Recently, Google has added access to Google Drive files in the cloud from the Files app, but if you have a large number of files in Drive the app will slow to a crawl or freeze up entirely when attempting to display files from the cloud. So my advice is to restrict the use of the Files app for access to local files.

If you are successful in accessing Drive files from the Files app, another issue is that the last folder from which you accessed files will be the folder displayed when you open the Files app the next time. If this was a Drive folder, the Files app will slow to a crawl as it tries to display files from Drive.

In fact, in some cases, again depending on the size of your Google Drive, the Files App can be rendered unusable. But there is a fix if this happens, using the following two steps.

Clearing Metadata

Just enter chrome://drive-internals/ into your browser and press Enter. Then on the drive-internals page scroll down to the Local Metadata section and select clear local data. Don’t worry, this will not remove any local files, just the metadata.

Resetting the Default folder for Apps

Once complete, you have one more step.  Open Gmail (or really any app that allows browsing to a file), compose a new message and click the attachment button. This will open the Files app. Click on the downloads folder and select any file. Once back in Gmail you can discard the message.

To prevent any future problems, if you need to browse to a local file, use the Files app, but if a file in the cloud is needed, use Drive.

If an application does not provide a button for Drive access, you can always download the file from the Drive app first, and then browse to the download folder using the Files app. Some apps even allow you to drop a file instead of browsing. In that case, simply open Drive and drag and drop the file desired into the application.

Hope this helps, and thanks for reading.  J

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Another Update on Google Maps

To follow up on my last post, Google is really ramping up adding features to Maps. Just a few days ago we saw the Add a Report feature to report a crash or speed trap, and today, I clicked on a reported crash, and was greeted by the ability to confirm that the report is still accurate. This is a great addition, to an already great feature.

One thing Google does need to look at though, are the alerts for those reports. Unless you have full sound enabled for turn-by-turn instructions, you will miss the audible alerts. For some reason the audible alerts are not spoken when sound is set to Alerts Only.

While its been around a while longer, I also love the “Share trip progress” available from the navigation menu. I use it to send my trip progress in real time to my wife so she knows when I’ll arrive home from work.

Good stuff from Google. Thanks for reading, J

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Google Maps updates may spell the eventual end of Waze

I loved and used Waze for many years since it’s inception, but about a year ago, I switched back to Google Maps, preferring its more professional look, better lane direction, and fewer detours through neighborhoods to save a minute or two on my commute.

And the best feature at the time, and what tipped the point for me, were the notices on the map of differences in time if I chose another route. While Waze can do this, it requires you to switch away from the map. With Google Maps, just a quick glance as you approach an alternate street is needed to see the time difference.

It was a painful switch, as I missed seeing the speed limit on the map, and warnings of speed cameras and police, crashes, debris on the road, etc. All of these crowdsourced warnings were missing from Maps but I stuck with it.

If you haven’t used Google Maps in a while, you might want to take another look. Recently, they’ve added the speed limit and speed cameras to the map, and I was really appreciative of those additions. But today, I noticed a new button on the map and when I clicked on it, it showed two buttons, one that can be used to report a crash and another to report a speed trap. Passing a roadside radar trap on my way home this afternoon, I clicked on the Report button, clicked Speed Trap, and it was immediately displayed on the map. Wow! Maps is looking more like Waze every day.

While I’m happy that my favored Google Maps is getting these features, I’m a little sad as it seems like Google is taking the functionality of Waze and adding it to Maps. And that doesn’t bode well for Waze. I’m wondering if there was a timestamp on the agreement Google made with Waze when they purchased this Israeli company.

I, of course, have no insight or insider information, just speculation, but I wish Waze the best as I thoroughly enjoy the improvements Google has made to Maps.

Thanks for reading, J

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Why Google, Why Now?

About two and a half years ago, something happened in my technical life which has happened only a few times before. Like my first experience using a PC in 1985, and then when switching from Windows to OS X in 2005, and once more when I purchased the first iPhone in 2007, I experienced a complete change in what technology could offer to simplify my life with computers.

What happened you ask? ChromeOS happened. Of course, I was late to the party having only heard about Chromebooks, Chromeboxes and the world of ChromeOS in August of 2016.

This “new to me” operating system actually debuted in 2011 with several Chromebooks offered the same year and the first “made by Google” Pixel Chromebook going on sale in 2013 with a hardware refresh in 2015.

In September of 2016, I started my journey toward ChromeOS with a simple test. I would see if I could live in the Chrome browser without running any applications from my Windows Desktop or MacBook Pro for 30 days. I learned a lot from that experience. I learned all the things that Chrome could do that I didn’t know about, even though I’d been using Chrome as my primary browser for several years.

While I had used a few Chrome extensions, I didn’t realize that much of the work I was doing in Windows or Mac applications could be done with a web-based app or browser extension. I learned that I could run a web application in a window without the browser’s tabs or toolbars so that it felt more like a real application. And though I had used Gmail years ago and had a Google account dating back to November 2004, I was ignorant about the myriad of services, most of which were free, that Google had to offer.

So with some conviction that I might be able to switch to a simpler to manage OS, I started looking to purchase a Chromebook. My timing couldn’t have been worse. Just the month before, Google discontinued sales of the 2015 Google Pixel, and the prices for remaining stock and used units just seemed too high for my experiment.

After reading about other Chromebooks, I decided that the Acer Chromebook R11 with a 365 hinge and touchscreen fit my budget, $350, and would be a good starting point. It was love at first sight, or use, as I had never had a laptop that started so fast, was extremely lightweight and that could be folded back to use in tablet mode while reading and relaxing in my recliner. I started to read about three things Google included in their mantra about Chromebooks, the three S’s, speed, simplicity and safety, and as I started using the R11 as my daily driver, that mantra became real for me.

Speed – I’ve already mentioned how fast it was compared to my past experience. Starting from power on was unbelievable, as was a restart and reengagement upon opening the lid. In fact, I rarely shut the thing down, just closing and opening the lid to start computing.

Simplicity – It was, in fact, the simplest OS I’ve ever used. Now there was a bit of a learning curve in the beginning as I tried to find things I was used to with other OS’s, but I quickly found that there really wasn’t a lot that needed to be learned to perform daily tasks. To ensure I had all of the basics I spent some time reading the posts at Chromebook Central, Google’s primary community-based forum for Chrome OS. You can find the recently revamped site at https://support.google.com/chromebook/community/

Security – While it took some time to trust that this was a more secure computing environment than Windows or OS X, I did come to understand that this platform did not need the usual virus protection software that more times than not slowed my computers down, but was built with security in mind. Google outlines these security components better than I can in their Chromebook Security Help page.

While Google only includes the three S’s I’ve listed here, I believe there is a fourth S that should be included, and I’ll be detailing that in a future post.

Stay tuned, and thanks for reading,  J

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the new face of johnbkendrick.com

If you’ve been a long time reader of John Kendrick’s Weblog, its likely that you noticed that my web presence disappeared some time ago. Unfortunately, due to lack of attention, I lost my original domain and have been without a blogging vehicle for a couple of years.

Recently, I made a great many technology changes that have brought back my itch to write, so I have resurrected my blog under a different name, johnbkendrick.com and intend to spend a bit of time catching up on all that has changed in my technical life.

Stay tuned for an initial post sometime soon. Thanks for reading, J

BookBook Stays the Course

When I purchased my last MacBook Pro a little over a year ago, I knew I needed a case that would stand up to carrying the device from home to work everyday, and moving from meeting to meeting all day, every work day.  Not to mention carrying it to church each Sunday so I could use it to watch YouTube and other videos with the  teens in my high school Sunday School class.  I am seldom without my MacBook no matter where I go, so it needs protection with staying power.

I had been using a BookBook case from Twelve South for my iPhone for several years, primarily so I could have my iPhone and wallet in one case, so I was intrigued by the MacBook case by the same name.  Incidently when I traded up to the iPhone 5 this fall, I purchased another BookBook for it as well.

After using my BookBook to house and protect my 13″ MacBook Pro for the last 14 months, I can honestly say that I could not see myself switching to another case.   Here are my reasons for staying the course with BookBook:

  • The interior of the case is padded red velvet, so I know my MacBook is safe and comfortable in its home.

13" MacBook Pro in BookBook case
13″ MacBook Pro in BookBook case

  • Using two zippers, the case quickly zips up surrounding and securing my entire MacBook, and just as quickly unzips ready for use upon reaching my destination.

Two zippers make opening and closing a snap
Two zippers make opening and closing a snap

  • It can be carried just like a book, and the leather feels oh so good in your hands.

IMG_1873

  • Best of all it looks like a vintage book when closed, hiding its real contents, which of course was the intent of its designer.

BookBook opened for use
BookBook opened for use

  • I’ve  added some additional character, reminiscent of a college book cover, by adding stickers of some of my favorite things to the outside of the case. (This makes the case uniquely my own, and also helps me quickly place the laptop right side up, as the stickers are on the top of the case.)

Lastly, and most importantly, the case has held up perfectly, the zippers are as smooth as new, and the case ages gracefully, actually looking better as it ages.

As a late 50ish guy on his way quickly to his 60’s, the case has a way of making me feel younger than I am, and I get comments on the BookBook often.  Word about these great cases must be spreading, because while watching the new ABC series, Zero Hour, I spied the star carrying his MacBook in the very same case.

So this case, in my mind anyhow, has advantages that others simply can’t beat.  Twelve South makes great products for Macs, check them out and I think you’ll agree.  Thanks for reading . . . John

~OmniOutliner is my “New” Favorite App

Long time readers of this blog know that I have a love (let’s call it a craving) for productivity methods and applications. Perhaps its because I always seem to be managing so many professional projects at one time, (currently over 20 network storage projects). With my ever increasing workload, anything I can do to speed my workflow is essential in keeping my commitments, not to mention my sanity.

The GTD method, and applications patterned after that method, have taught me a lot about managing tasks to be more efficient, and have helped me keep up with the frenetic pace of business life.

Nozbe and Omni applications in particular, have played a significant role in my development, so first I’d like to say thanks to Michael Sliwinski (Nozbe) and Ken Case (Omni), for their significant contributions to this industry and my personal growth.

Having refined task management over the past few years for myself, I have turned my efforts toward helping my project teams to organize their efforts a bit more. I have learned to do that by providing timely meeting notes that identify specific task assignments and due dates, and creating project plans to provide a bird’s eye view to keep our entire team on schedule.

I know that some task management applications (notably Nozbe) can be used in a shared environment, but that hasn’t worked for me in the past, due to the large number of disparate team members I work with on a daily basis, and their need to focus on their project tasks and “keeping the lights on”, while leaving the project and task management efforts to me.

While I have used OmniOutliner for the past two years for all of my note taking, I have, over time, added it as my primary tool to conduct research, gather information for estimates, document project requirements, create project plans, and record testing results.

The reasons I have expanded its use beyond simple note taking are two fold:

  1. Using OmniOutliner is fast, really fast.
  2. OmniOutliner Pro allows outlines to be saved as templates for reuse.

I’ve used Word and Excel for many of these tasks in the past, and often get slowed by inserting and reorganizing rows, indenting and outdenting, dealing with the outline formats, etc. With OmniOutliner all these formatting tasks fade into the background after you learn a few keystrokes to do all of those things. This allows me to focus my attention and energy on the content instead of the tool.

Templates

Having the ability to open a new outline based on a template that is used on a frequent basis, saves a great deal of time. This is important to me as I run (sometimes literally) from meeting to meeting during the day. I have OmniOutliner running on my MacBook Pro, and simply open up a new outline based on the appropriate template, as each meeting is started.

Selecting a Template
Selecting a Template

Examples

The best way to demonstrate how I use OmniOutliner is to show you some of the templates I have created for my work. Perhaps this will initiate some thoughts on how you might put this extraordinary tool to good use to improve your own productivity, and perhaps even those with whom you collaborate.

Meeting Notes template ready to use
Meeting Notes template ready to use

Completed Meeting Notes
Completed Meeting Notes

Completed Project Plan
Completed Project Plan

Completed Project Research
Completed Project Research

Testing Results
Testing Notes Template

That’s all for now, and thanks for reading, John.