Google Services, the 4th “S” in Chrome OS

Google Services

In a previous post, Why Google, Why Now? I wrote about my intro to the Chrome OS world and why I moved from years with Apple and Windows.

And I used the three S’s that are staples of Google’s marketing for Chrome OS, Speed, Safety and Simplicity to explain why I switched. But I ended that post positing that there was actually a fourth “S” to the equation.

The fourth “S” for me is Services, Google Services to be exact, and how they are so nicely integrated with the Chrome OS operating system, while also available across all platforms.

When I first got started with Chrome OS I was familiar with GMail and Google Search of course. But as I started to use my first Chromebook I was introduced to an incredible array of Google services. Fast forward two plus years and it would take a small book for me to discuss all of the gems I found both in Google services and hardware, but the point is, none of this became real for me until Chrome OS.

If you’re new to Chrome OS or just curious about all things Google, let me just provide a short list of my favorites and very brief mention of why each became important for me. Perhaps in future posts I can go into more detail, but here I’ll just keep it simple.

  • GMail – long time user of this email web client since 2004, and it just keeps getting better. Recent additions of extensive right-click context menu, snooze, quick action buttons in line with messages, Keep, Tasks and Calendar panes, so much goodness has been added to GMail, and I’m so glad to finally get away from all that red, new themes are a great way to spice up your email.

  • Google Search – everyone knows how to Google so I’ll only add that the new extra information pane at the right of the search results are full of great things like maps, reviews, similar searches and even local results from your other Google services like contacts and other apps.

  • Google One (Drive) – 100gb, 200gb up to 2tb to share with up to five family members, call or chat with Google support about any Google service is included. Google usually has a coupon for free 100gb drive for one year with a Chromebook purchase. Otherwise the free drive offering is 15gb. No more worrying about periodic backups of my data as it is all stored in the cloud. And sharing files with others couldn’t be easier.

  • Google Photos – this is absolutely the best cloud storage for your photos. Another decades old task gone as there is no longer any concern about backing up photos due to Google’s unlimited no cost storage for storing photos at high quality resolution. Searching for photos is magical, with lots of assistant integration for auto collages and archive suggestions. Our current photo collection in Google Photos is over 100,000 photos, and many of our friends that use Apple devices switch to Google’s offering after seeing the functionality. And finally, automatic sharing of photos with the whole family is incredible. My wife takes a picture on her phone, I get a notification and can see the photo added to our shared gallery.

  • Google Docs – most people have heard of Google’s word processing application and possibly Google Sheets for spreadsheets, but did you know there are many more applications in the Google office suite? Slides (think PowerPoint), Drawings and Forms round out this full featured free office package. And while I’ll admit that these offerings are not as full featured as Microsoft Office, it’s collaboration features are first rate. My wife and I use these Google office applications exclusively to run our non-profit and easily share files and folders over Google Drive. We can also open Microsoft documents, and even keep them in that format, though we seldom have that need. And any file can easily be saved as pdf, if a non-editable format is desired. Versioning is first rate as we can go back to any past edit and resurrect that version. And searching for a document is so much faster than doing the same task in Windows.

  • Google Play Music (soon to be replaced by Youtube Premium) – while the jury is still out on Youtube Premium, GPM is a great service with a 90-day free subscription normally provided with a Chromebook purchase. GPM also includes ad-free Youtube Red. My wife and I share playlists and I seldom run across any tune that is not available.

  • Speaking of entertainment, we’ve subscribed to Youtube TV for close to two years since it entered our market, and for $35 we get all the programming, including local news channels that we need. With the unlimited cloud DVR, we record all our favorite shows and can speed through most of them commercial free. This has saved us about $90 per month after cutting the cord to our cable provider.

  • Google Play Movies is another money saver as most movies are $1 cheaper than renting on Amazon or other streaming services.

  • Google News – I was bowled over when I saw the new Google News app. The curated “for you” section picks out the stories that really interest me and the other related stories from other sources and views really provides a reliable way to see opposing viewpoints, so important for our era of fake news. This has become my single source of news and goto for daily updates on my phone and Chromebook.

  • Google Fi – this one’s not for everybody, but oh what a difference for me. Just $20 for unlimited calls and texts and $10 per GB for data with a cap at 6gb (after that data is at no charge up to 15gb at which point data is throttled). If you have a compatible phone, Pixel and several Google supported phones with others being added frequently, you can take advantage of Google as your MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) aka cell phone provider. Fi uses T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular cell services along with any available WiFi access point, whichever is stronger at the moment. And unlike other providers, Google agreements with these providers provide full speed access to their towers. This has provided service everywhere I go and often better than Verizon in some areas, especially deep inside buildings. There is data in many countries around the world at the same $10 per GB charge as in the U.S. And you can enable Google’s included VPN at no charge to ensure the data your transmitting from your phone is secure. Tethering is included at no charge and extra sim cards for use in sharing your data plan with other devices is also included free of any charge.

  • Google Voice – this is a way to get free VoIP telephone service for your phone with an initial $50 purchase of an OBi200 VoIP adapter to make this work. Another $25 monthly savings over our previous landline provider. And GV sends us an email with the transcription and audio file when someone leaves a voicemail. This is something other services charge extra for, but with Google it is included with the free service. We’ve used this service for our landline for two plus years and it works fantastic.

So many will be thinking, yes John but there is a trade off for all of these great free services from Google. And of course you’re right, there is really no free lunch so to speak. Google’s currency is data collection, and the more services you use, the more Google will know about you.

So exchanging your personal data instead of cash comes down to a personal decision. In my mind, so many others were and are collecting my data, Internet and cell phone provider, cable provider, Facebook, LinkedIn and hundreds of other apps that need your location and access to different types of information to operate, that Google doesn’t worry me. I do check security settings often and have two factor authentication via a hardware key configured for access to my Google account, and I’m comfortable with that setup. The decision comes down to your comfort level after careful consideration.

Well I’ve gone on more than I intended in this post, but wanted to share all the goodness I’ve experience with the fourth “S” in Why Google, Why Now?

Thanks for reading, J

Did you find this post useful? If so, let me know by leaving a comment below, or join me on Twitter

What to do with an Aging Computer?

NeverWare CloudReady to the Rescue

Recently I was asked by my daughter what she could do to get a malware ridden iMac running again. After taking a look, the damage was extensive including browser and search hijacking, a hacker placed password on the firmware to prevent normal reinstallation of the OS and who knows what else. I used Macs for a decade before moving to Chrome OS and I’ve never seen malware like this on OS X. I used to tell people that they didn’t need any virus protection on a Mac because malware on OS X just didn’t happen. Obviously, those days are over. In reality, this looked more like something I’ve seen on a Windows machine.

Since my daughter has two, nearly teenage kids (read malware magnets), I thought I would recommend something different. After asking a few questions about the family’s use of the device, I recommended that we get rid of OS X in favor of Chromium. Her family was already using Chromebooks for most of their mobile computing needs so it was a fairly easy choice to make. I had her try out her mom’s iMac that had been repurposed to run Chromium some time ago and she thought that would work.

My wife’s 10 year old iMac, while it didn’t contain any malware that I know of, had slowed to a crawl, and was unusable until I replaced the operating system on the device with Chromium. That was 18 months ago and the device flies and has been problem free ever since. The best part is that she and I can both log in with our Google accounts and everything looks the same as on our primary Chromebook devices.

While Chromium is an open source operating system, it is nearly identical to Chrome OS. And the easiest way to get this open source OS installed is with Neverware CloudReady. Don’t let the home page scare you, for personal use on your home computer, this software is completely free.

Preparing for the OS Change

There are just a few things that must be done before a decision can be finalized, and moving on to the installation process can begin.

  • Ensure that your device, Windows, Mac or Linux is supported for use with Chromium. This is easy to do by looking for your hardware listed by manufacturer and model at Just like all Chrome OS devices there is also an end of life date provided for each model. This tells you how long Chromium updates will be provided for your device. Neverware says that CloudReady is certified to run on more than 200 of the most common PC and Mac models.
  • If you don’t already have one, sign up for a free Google account at
  • Purchase an 8gb or 16gb usb flash drive. While there are many comments online about SanDisk drives not working, I’ve always had good luck with the SanDisk Cruzer Glide 16gb, less than $8 at Walmart. You will always have better luck with a new drive fresh out of its packaging instead of repurposing a used drive.
  • If you are installing on a Mac desktop computer, a Windows keyboard will work much better than the Apple keyboard that came with the computer. If you don’t have a keyboard that you can repurpose, a great inexpensive keyboard and mouse combo is the Logitech Desktop MK120¬†wired combo, available at Amazon and Best Buy as of this writing for less than $15 bucks.
  • Final prep is to look at everything on the computer if it is functional, and back up photos, purchased music, documents, email, etc. before moving forward. It will be easier to move these files to Google Drive and Photos before you reinstall the OS, but at least ensure they are backed up to some cloud or other area that is accessible to you.

Moving on to the Installation

Rather than regurgitate the Neverware Cloud Ready intructions in this post, let me just direct you to the source at

These instructions will lead you through downloading and installing the CloudReady USB installer, and provide step by step instructions to complete the installation. Note, it is very important to follow each step in order to ensure a successful installation.

Some, like me, find it easier if we can watch someone else perform the installation first. Thanks to Robby and our friends over at, you can do just that by reviewing the video at

Thanks for reading and let me know in the comments below if you have questions. J

Did you find this post useful? If so, let me know by leaving a comment below, or join me on Twitter

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

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

Did you find this post useful? If so, let me know by leaving a comment below, or join me on Twitter