ubermix 1.4 Released

Posted by Jim Klein On Tuesday, February 11, 2014 0 comments
We are pleased to announce that ubermix 1.4 has been released, and is available for download at http://ubermix.org/files.html . Version 1.4 bring ubermix in line with the recently released Ubuntu 12.04.4 LTS, and is largely a "hardware enablement" and basic update release. In particular, ubermix 1.4 features a new version of the Ubuntu kernel, version 3.11, and matching X.org (user interface/graphics) stack, aimed at providing improved support for a wider variety of hardware.

Other changes include new versions of Firefox, Chrome, Thunderbird, and LibreOffice.

Because this release includes newer/bigger versions of a variety of apps, the overall install size of the base image has (by necessity) been increased to 5 Gb (see http://ubermix.org/customization.html for a better understanding of the base image.) While all prior 1.x versions have had the ability to be updated in-place, without reformatting the disk or losing user data, the increased size of the ubermix 1.4 image will require a reformat of the disk. Please bear this in mind when installing on top of an existing install, and be sure to backup any data as necessary prior to installing.

Also, due to the increased size, a 2 Gb USB install key is no longer sufficient to hold the image. Therefore, the next logical size (4Gb) is recommended for USB keys.

Support for Ubuntu 12.04 LTS stretches into 2017 and as such, so does ubermix. ubermix 2.0 will be based on the next LTS release, Ubuntu 14.04, which is due this April. Expect ubermix 2.0 (codename: honeybadger) beta releases shortly after that.
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The best, most stable ubermix yet!

Posted by Jim Klein On Tuesday, September 3, 2013 1 comments
Today, ubermix 1.3 was posted on the ubermix download page, bringing with it quite a few changes and improvements, including:
  • Updated all the base packages to parity with Ubuntu Precise major revision 12.04.3. In addition, the version numbering scheme was changed to match (hence the jump from 1.083 to 1.3) to better align with Ubuntu point releases (ie Ubuntu 12.04.3 = ubermix 1.3).
  • Updated xorg (X window subsystem) to the same codebase as Ubuntu 13.04 (Raring Ringtail). This brings with it a significant number of video driver updates and performance/reliability improvements.
  • Replaced ubermix's custom Linux kernel to Ubuntu stock version 3.8.x (also from Raring Ringtail), now that Ubuntu has caught up to ubermix. Eases compatibility, troubleshooting, and support, now that we match Ubuntu bit-for-bit.
  • Added the capability for any end-user to install any Ubuntu kernel (including updates) without breaking ubermix.
  • Improved Google Earth reliability and performance, especially on lower-end Intel systems.
  • Updated the Unity desktop environment, for those who prefer it to the ubermix lightweight launcher. For details see the Alternate Environments wiki page.
  • Improved bootup process handling, including the addition of an alternative mechanism to get to the reset menu by simply holding down shift at startup. This should be far easier for end users, as they no longer have to press esc during the magic 3 seconds right after the hardware splash screen at bootup. Simply hold down shift until the menu appears.
  • Special setup and scripts for troublesome Cedar Trail netbook graphics, are no longer necessary. Cedar Trail works perfectly on out-of-the-box ubermix, without alteration.
  • Brightness control function has improved dramatically - fixes will likely no longer be necessary on even the most quirky of systems.
These changes should make large and small ubermix deployments even easier, no matter what hardware you might have.

If you haven't yet tried ubermix for yourself, be sure to check out the VirtualBox VM (works on Mac, Windows, and Linux) on the downloads page. And if you're ready to install, download the install key file from the same location and follow the instructions here to make your very own.

Photo Credit: Nathan E Photography cc
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The Latest News and an Important Update

Posted by Jim Klein On Wednesday, July 10, 2013 0 comments

It's hard to believe that a whole school year has passed and another is about to begin! Our little ubermix project has grown up to a huge movement, with more than 50 school districts and other organizations now deploying at scale, on over 80,000 devices all around the world! We've also got a bunch of press, including eSchool News Fifty of the best ed-tech products for schools, District Administration's 2012 Readers' Choice Top 100 Products, several articles on OpenSource.com, and the cover of this quarter's Ed Tech Magazine.

Now that many of you are gearing up for the new school year, I wanted to make sure you have all the latest information about ubermix and to inform you of an important fix for an issue with older Broadcom wireless cards and the latest release.

With the release of version 1.08x, ubermix has surpassed the default Ubuntu 12.04 software base in a number of ways. Specifically, ubermix 1.08x brings:

  • A significantly newer, custom kernel and drivers, which provides increased performance and better support for the latest hardware (including a number of touchscreen devices).
  • Updated versions of a number of applications to the latest source releases, including LibreOffice, GIMP, Nitro, and others.
  • A variety of optional add-ons, including Everpad (Evernote client), Google Apps Icon Pack, and an indicator that checks for updates to the latest web browsers.
  • The addition of an ubermix software repository in the default installation, which makes keeping ubermix up-to-date far easier.
  • Reliability and performance improvements across a number of ubermix-specific functions.
You can download and install the latest ubermix image and/or virtual machines from the ubermix Download and Install page. If you need help, be sure to check the ubermix wiki and forums, and of course, feel free to contact me directly.

With all the driver updates and changes, it was recently discovered that there is an issue with older Broadcom 43xx series wireless cards in some older netbooks and other devices running the latest release. Symptoms include inability to connect to wireless, frequent disconnects, or no wireless adapter appearing at all.

If you experience this or similar issues, rest assured that they are easily fixed by installing an older version of the Broadcom wireless driver. First, make sure that you have a Broadcom 43xx series card by following the instructions on the wiki here. If you do, simply follow these instructions to install the older driver.

All the best to each of you in the coming year!

Photo Credit: just.Luc via Compfight cc
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Why ubermix?

Posted by Jim Klein On Sunday, May 5, 2013 1 comments
A number of schools and school districts these days are struggling to come up with a great strategy for getting technology into students' hands. While the rise of the Common Core Standards are forcing some, others simply recognize that the world has changed; that the traditional practice of "chalk and talk" is no longer enough to prepare our kids for the 21st century world of abundant information, hyper-connection, myriad choices, and countless opportunities to communicate, collaborate, and create, unconstrained by time, space, or place.

While a careful understanding of purpose, a strong vision of what an ideal environment for learning might look like, a clear commitment to train up staff toward a change in culture, and a solid plan for measuring success are critical parts of the "big picture", many fail to consider the impact that a device choice/strategy can have on their long term goals for classroom transformation. While it's certainly arguable that any personal device continuously accessible to a student throughout the school day is a significant step in the right direction, it's important to consider the long-term when setting a 1:1 student-to-device strategy.

If you look at what most schools/districts are considering for their 1:1 "programs", you'll find they basically fall into one of four groups: Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD), some form of tablet (usually iPads), Google's Chromebooks, or some form of laptop/clamshell device (preferably running ubermix!) For the purposes of this post, let's dismiss the "Bring-Your-Own- Dream Disaster Device" model, as it relies on the absurd notion that the web is somehow a magical equalizer that makes every device equally capable, and that it is reasonable to expect equal outcomes from unequally equipped students. Anyone who truly cares for kids and their learning believes that every student should have equal access and opportunities when they are in school, and it is therefore the responsibility of the school to make sure that they have a mechanism in place to make that happen. As such, save the bring your own (random) device policy for +1 devices in your 1:1+1 program, where you allow kids to bring and use whatever they have, but make certain that everyone has at least a minimum capacity to meet the demands of the learning environment.

That leaves us with three remaining options - tablets, Chromebooks, and laptops. On the laptop side, let's throw out Macs because, let's face it, they are too expensive for most to consider seriously. Of the few remaining Mac laptop programs I know of, most are currently looking at alternatives due to cost. Let's also eliminate Windows because we're (hopefully) not completely crazy and are smart enough to recognize that the amount of management required to keep Windows devices running at such scale is untenable for most schools/districts (without, of course, locking them down to such a degree that they become pointless - even then, there's the malware issue). That leaves us with tablets, Chromebooks, and of course, ubermix!

So why might one choose ubermix over tablets or Chromebooks? Let's have a look:

No Lock-in
With tablets, in particular, schools subject themselves to hardware and software lock-in to specific vendors, which will hurt both financially and in terms of flexibility over the long term. Tablets rely heavily on software/content "ecosystems" that are tied to a single provider, and that content typically only works on the tablet type it was purchased for. Content creation tools for tablets (iBooks Author, for example) typically only work on a particular vendor's device, making it extremely costly in time and treasure to move away from said vendor down the road. And since the purchased content is (at present) always tied to specific accounts, with no real mechanism for moving/re-allocating content/apps from device to device, schools often find themselves making painful/expensive decisions as their strategies evolve.

ubermix suffers from none of this. ubermix and its free, open-source applications will run on almost any industry standard (x86) device. Any size screen, any speed processor, any amount of storage (well almost - you need at least 6 Gb of storage), any form factor - be it a desktop, laptop, tablet, or hybrid. And since the hardware is industry standard, repairing it probably won't require a trip to the vendor, as the majority of repairs can be completed with off-the-shelf parts. Plus, inexpensive, user-replaceable batteries in many portable devices further extend their useful life.

No bandwidth/connectivity requirements
Chromebooks, in particular, require Internet connectivity to function, as everything one might do on a Chromebook is done in a web browser. We all like to pretend that Internet access is everywhere and that it always works, but the reality is not everyone has it, and for those that do it is often less than fast or reliable. But the one thing most often overlooked by schools when testing Chromebooks isn't connectivity, it's bandwidth. While a few Chromebooks may perform just fine, a few thousand can quickly overrun a typical school's available bandwidth because, again, everything runs on the web. A school might not notice it at first but as their use gets more sophisticated the problem will surely rear it's ugly head.

Think about it: to do something so simple as prepare a photo or video for posting online with a Chromebook, a student would need to: 1) Upload the (much bigger than it needs to be in the end) full size image or unedited video content to a web tool for editing. 2) After waiting for the upload to complete (could be a while for video or a series of high pixel density photos), edit the content using a slow, simplistic, glitchy tool that barely works. 3) Download the edited content to the device, and 4) Upload it back to it's final destination - let's say a blog or online collaboration tool.

The time and/or bandwidth required to complete this makes the entire task painful. As Louis Goddard stated in his article, Life with a Chromebook: Three months of love and hate in the cloud, "Batch processing [of images], though, could only be described as painful. It took me nearly an hour of upload, drag, drop, export, download, rinse, repeat just to ready 20 pictures..."

And again, remember without connectivity your Chromebook is essentially dead in the water. A few basic things still work, but very few. As Jill Duffy of PC Magazine concludes in her article, The Frustrating Truth About Google's Chromebook, "The incredibly inexpensive and highly portable Google Chromebook only works if you don't have to go anywhere with it."

Sophisticated and powerful local applications on an ubermix device, on the other hand, free you from these headaches, enabling any content to be prepped/perfected on the device - without any connectivity requirements - prior to being uploaded. And the device will work completely, no matter what the connectivity condition at the time.

Full Web Browsing
The web is a diverse environment with a wide variety of content types, including Flash, Java, a variety of video and audio codecs/types, WebGL, etc., so when selecting a device, it is important to make sure that it is capable of working with the widest variety of content possible. Tablet and Chromebook support for web content is extremely limited and generally unexpandable. Want to view a video created using Flash or in a format such as AVI, WMV, etc on your iPad? Sorry, can't do. How about attend a Classroom 2.0 web conference on a Chromebook? Sorry, no Java support. Tablets try to work around the problem with yet more apps (see above), but bouncing in-and-out of apps every time you search for answers/information/how-tos can be tedious and unnerving, presuming of course that there is an app available at all (for most web sites, there aren't).

ubermix devices support a wide-variety of content types, making a plethora of custom viewers (apps) unnecessary and the web more useful. Why leave students wondering what was supposed to be in that empty space on a web page or why they can't see a video on their Chromebook? Choose ubermix and make the most of the web.

Simple, not simplistic
With all of the stresses already in play in the modern classroom, it is quite easy to fall into the trap of technology use as a series of activities, rather than a flexible platform for authentic, rich creation and exploration. App-centric devices (including web app-centric devices) tend to encourage this sort of short-and-sweet, "activity-centric" use by their very design and predetermined use-case scenarios. And it makes perfect sense, if you think about it. Touch interfaces are terribly imprecise, making complex applications with rich feature sets and interfaces all but impossible to build or use. Web applications designed to run exclusively in a browser are all plain-text, line-by-line interpreted source code, rather than high-performing compiled applications, which means the larger and more complex an application gets, the more bogged down the device becomes trying to interpret it. As a result, what you end up with is a large number of lightweight apps that perform a few simplistic tasks, because the best way to mask these limitations is to confine what you can do.

But simplistic, lightweight apps aren't great at generating high-quality results. So to compensate, these lightweight apps tend to include a variety of beautiful, pre-built templates and wizards that promise to make your work look "great" (according to someone else's definition, of course),
while simultaneously eliminating any requirement for serious thought about style or design. The end result is a safe, super-homogenized, and relatively boring idea of what creativity is, with the user playing the role of automaton or random number generator for an app with a predetermined outcome. Of course, one thing you will always be able to count on will be that every student's work will essentially turn out the same.

The ultimate risk in all this is that by deconstructing complexity, we build dependency. If we build up dependencies we create an environment where we begin to pay for, and ultimately expect to pay for things we used to do for ourselves. And paying for things doesn't enable, it enslaves.

ubermix offers not just a simple interface and simple applications, but also complex, open-ended applications that require time and thought, exercising key critical thinking and problem solving skills along the way to producing that amazing, unique, and personal result. Want to design something in a virtual 3D space that you can later construct in the real world, according to your specifications? No problem. How about perform science experiments utilizing a variety of sensors, probes, and other meters? No problem. Use computer aided design and visualization tools? Sure. What about writing a program, making a game, creating a simulation? Again, it's all available at your fingertips, easy to share without cost or restriction - fast, flexible, and powerful. And if you decide that you want to figure out how something works, go ahead - you have complete, unlocked access to your device and the software that makes it tick. Make it better. Make it yours.

Interoperability, ie no silos
One thing I often find myself asking when using a tablet or web app is, "where's the share button." Or, "how the heck do I get this creation from this app into that app so that I can use it as part of something bigger/have my way with it." More often than not, the answer is, "sorry, you can't." Sure, sometimes there is some complex workaround, like "save it as a PDF, then email it to someone else, then they can use [some random different app] to open it and write notes, then they can email it back to you and you can open it in [yet another app] to see the notes, then reopen it in the original app to perform the edits, then rinse and repeat." Sound familiar?

Application and document interoperability is particularly important in design, and ubermix has you covered in this area as well. Need to open that proprietary format file, convert it to something you can edit, remix and enhance? Odds are, you can get the job done with ubermix. And gathering, editing, remixing, and combining won't be an all day affair of uploading and downloading, or bouncing in and out of app after app. Best of all, when you are ready to share, you can count on being able to upload your final product to any wiki, blog, or other sharing site, because the content will be at your fingertips in a real filesystem, not locked away in some app, in or out of the cloud.

Better for the long term
One of the dirty little secrets of implementing new technology in schools is that, as much as we say it's all about 21st century skills and authentic learning environments, the honest truth is when we first bring it in, all we want is for people to actively use it. And that sprint to basic use is where the app-centric devices shine. Their simplicity and short activities become easy add-ons to existing practice, providing a little extra reinforcement for that key concept in the lecture/reading material. In the short term, things are great and the perception of progress is palpable. Comparatively, the more flexible, open-ended nature of a laptop naturally requires a bit more thought about options, concepts, approach, and context. This naturally slows the initial adoption rate a bit, leading some to conclude that app-centric devices are the clear winners.

But the add-on oriented devices only win the sprint to the first hurdle. Once the desire to step outside of mere augmentation starts to build, the limitations described above hit like a freight train. The long race is won by the flexible device - the one that can do it all, without ridiculous workarounds and overly complex workflows that most users simply won't endure. It is for this reason that no one has given up their laptop for a tablet or Chromebook. It's why the latter remain non-essential third devices (after the laptop and smartphone) for all of us.

Add to that the ridiculous pace at which these expensive devices become obsolete (Apple updated its most recent iPad in just 7 months!), and, in the case of tablets, how much more often they get broken (most schools are experiencing between 20 and 50 percent break rate, per year) and you quickly find yourself in an expensive hole that is a struggle to get out of.

The flexibility and device neutrality of ubermix will help you avoid all of the pitfalls of the short-term device. Need an inexpensive solution at first? Put ubermix on a $230 netbook. Need more horsepower or a bigger screen? Put it on a larger and/or more powerful laptop. Have a real high-end project? Install it on a high-end desktop. You choose the hardware that meets your needs best, and let ubermix handle the rest.

And best of all, the experience and skills can continue all throughout a student's academic career, without any additional costs. Consistent. Flexible. Powerful.

Conclusion
I believe that anyone who is passionate enough about kids and learning to take on the hard work of rolling out a 1:1 program in their schools and approaches such an endeavor with thoughtfulness and care will find a way to succeed no matter what course they take. Whether you choose to start with a "sprint" or begin with the long approach, ubermix will be there for you, when you are ready.

But as you evaluate or re-evaluate your options, don't fall prey to "Bright Shiny Object Syndrome" or be swayed by false-promises about a mysterious cloud that magically solves all technology problems. Take a long, hard look at each of these solutions. Be wary of allowing personal preferences to cloud your judgement and shrug off self-deceivers who mask obvious defects and gaps in functionality with irrelevant and/or spurious advantages. In the end, I think you'll find ubermix to be a powerful, flexible, and affordable solution capable of meeting almost any computing need.

Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds via Compfight cc

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The practically perfect Acer Aspire V5-131

Posted by Jim Klein On Saturday, March 23, 2013 10 comments


With their latest thin-and-light laptop, Acer has put together one of the best combinations of design, performance, and price available for the upcoming year in the Aspire V5-131. The V5 is the same basic design as Acer's C7 Chromebook, which as you will recall I liked quite a bit. The biggest difference with the V5 is that it brings all of the design with none of the limitations of the ChromeOS-based C7. And then Acer takes it to the next level by actually improving the device further, with a better screen and larger battery.

The V5 has similar specifications to both the C7 and recently reviewed Asus X201E, including:

Intel Celeron 847 processor running at 1.1GHz
Integrated Intel HD graphics
11.6 inch 1366x768 display
4 gigabytes of RAM
802.11b/g/n wireless, which supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands
Bluetooth 4.0
1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0 ports
Full-sized HDMI and VGA ports
1x SD card slot

Where it differs is that it also includes a larger hard drive (500 gigabytes as opposed to 320 gigabytes) and it has a 5000mAh 6-cell battery, which should bring roughly 9 hours of battery life.

Beyond feeds and speeds, Acer's attention to detail demonstrates that they have been listening to their end-users. For example, unlike nearly every other device being released, Acer put a matte screen on the V5,  improving visual quality and flexibility by reducing reflections. This is particularly helpful in schools, which tend to have a great deal of fluorescent lighting. And the battery is a relatively standard, removable part, which will be easy to replace when it eventually wears out. It's even easy to get inside, with a single screw holding the bottom access panel on. Popping the panel off reveals easy access to the hard drive and other components.

Nothing is perfect, of course, and the V5 does have a few, minor flaws. Chief among them is the touchpad, which, while it works well (that is, as well as can be expected from a touchpad), is somewhat small compared to the spacious touchpad on the Asus X201E. It's smaller size makes it a little more sensitive, which can take a some getting used to.

Another quibble for some will be the physical dimensions of the 6-cell battery, which must naturally be larger than the small 4-cell in the C7 Chromebook. Acer chose to increase the size vertically, which means the battery props the back end of the device up when in use. This makes the device feel bigger and offers something for the device to hang up on when inserted into a bag or case. It also angles the keyboard towards the user, which some don't find as comfortable as a flat keyboard.

Personally, I find the "bump-up" actually makes the device nicer to use in the lap, as keyboard angles generally suck when a laptop is in full lap-mode and the extra prop makes it easier to type on. It also brings the screen up a bit higher on the desk, which some might find more ergonomically correct. In addition, I find that the extra bump offers something better to grab when carrying a device around, bringing a firmer grip and reducing the likelihood of a drop.

And last, they didn't label the 1 USB 3.0 port in any way (which is why I missed it in the video review). The usual "SS" logo is not on any of the ports, nor is the tell-tale blue plastic that typically identifies a USB 3 port. I honestly still don't know which one it is, but figure it will be easy to determine in the rare circumstance that I might need to plug in an actual USB 3.0 device.

Obviously these are all very minor issues in an otherwise stellar device.

Of all the devices I have considered over the years, this is the one that I find to be closest to ideal, and have no problem recommending it for ubermix deployments of any size, far and wide. You should be able to get one for about $330 on the street, and I have heard that pricing gets under $300 in quantity and with enough lead time for Acer. If you are evaluating devices for an upcoming project, I encourage you to take a hard look at the V5. It is the most likely candidate to be the next ubermix device for my district.
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Asus X201E - A solid contender

Posted by Jim Klein On Sunday, March 10, 2013 3 comments


With the X201E, Asus has further solidified their position at the top of low-cost laptop design. This 11.6 inch device is the natural successor to the (now defunct) EeePC netbook series, bringing with it an impressive list of specifications, all without a significant increase in price. For just $299 (or less), you get:

Intel Celeron 847 processor running at 1.1GHz
Integrated Intel HD graphics
11.6 inch 1366x768 display
HD Webcam
4 gigabytes of RAM
320 gigabytes of storage
Atheros 802.11b/g/n wireless, which supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands
1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0 ports
Full-sized HDMI and VGA ports
1x SD card slot

Impressive specs, indeed, however even these are overshadowed by the excellent design elements. The body is extremely thin at just .83 inches and light at just 2.86 pounds, yet it feels quite sturdy in hand. The matte, textured outer shell opens to a striking silver interior, with an excellent full-sized chiclet keyboard and a wonderfully spacious touchpad that is one of the best I've used on a small laptop. All-in-all the machine looks and feels great.

On the software front, this device ships stock with Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise Pangolin), which means there's no Windows tax. It also means that the hardware and chipset choices were made with an eye towards the best choices for Linux, so expect everything to work extremely well. ubermix 1.07 (impending) includes optimizations that make this device sing.

But there are a few niggles that prevent this device from scoring a perfect "10" on the awesome scale. The display panel, for example, is unfortunately glossy, with tons of reflection to go around. But this is minor compared to the battery - an internal, not-easily-removable, proprietary affair at just 38 Watt-hours (roughly 5:20 of battery life). While it's slightly larger and an hour longer than the default 4-cell battery in the similarly spec'ed Acer V5 (or Aspire 756), there is no option for a larger battery (as there is with the Acer) and its non-standard nature means it's far less likely that you'll be able to purchase a replacement from anyone but Asus when it fails. If past experience is any indicator, it's unlikely that Asus will gouge end-users on a replacement part, however it's also difficult to say for how long Asus might make one available. On the plus-side, this is the easiest-to-open Asus ever - just 9 screws in the base and the bottom pops right off, revealing the hard disk, removable RAM, and that big, flat battery.

So would I recommend it for ubermix? If you are OK with the (arguably minor) battery issue, I'd say absolutely. The price/quality/performance of this device is tough to beat - so tough that it's at the top of my consideration list for next year's deployments. And did I mention it has a two-year warranty? Yet another reason why Asus is at the top of my list.
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A look at ubermix on the Acer C7 Chromebook

Posted by Jim Klein On Sunday, February 10, 2013 1 comments


I'll say it now, the Acer C7 Chromebook is a nice little piece of hardware. The 1.1 GHz ultra-low voltage Intel Celeron 847 it runs is basically a snappy, trimmed down Core i3 (for all intents and purposes), based on last-generation Core i Sandy Bridge architecture. And it has a real 3D graphics processor, making it a much stronger performer than any Atom-based netbook that's ever been released. In my own compile tests, I found it to be twice as fast as an Atom N2600 and nearly three times that of the latest generation AMD C-series found in most low cost 11.6" devices. Only the AMD's graphics processor was able to hold it's own with the Celeron.

Rounding out the specs is a roomy 11.6" 1366x768 display, 2 gigabytes of standard RAM, 320 gigabyte hard drive, both HDMI and VGA output, and an excellent keyboard and trackpad. And at a cost of just $199, you wouldn't be called crazy for asking, "what's wrong with it?"

As it turns out, there are a couple of biggies in the "what's wrong with it" category. First, it has a pretty feeble 2500 mAh 4-cell battery. While the Celeron truly sips power, don't expect more than about 4 hours and 15 minutes of battery life. There are aftermarket batteries which should nearly double the battery life for as little as $50, but I can't imagine why you can't buy the device with one out of the box.

And of course the second is that it runs ChromeOS. While I appreciate the vision, the idea of a device being fully functional when equipped with only a web browser still lacks a firm foundation in reality, presently solidifying this devices position in the "extra" or "third" device in most users' toolbag. And at $199, it can afford to be.

This is a shame for such capable hardware. Luckily, it's fairly easy to get ubermix on this device, turning it into a fully-capable low-cost powerhouse - with a few caveats:

  • Chromebooks must be in Developer Mode to run any software other than ChromeOS. Developer Mode introduces an huge startup delay as the Chromebook splash screen sits and waits for 30 seconds at bootup, letting you know your are running in Developer Mode and offering the option to "turn Developer Mode off" by pressing the space bar. It also beeps twice (loudly) as a final warning before finally booting up. Luckily on the C7 you can skip the wait by pressing ctrl+d.
  • Google could, theoretically, decide to update the way ChromeOS and the hardware work at a future date. While this is highly unlikely, it is theoretically possible that you could boot into ChromeOS, install an automatic update from Google, and no longer be able to boot into ubermix.
These make the idea of deploying Chromebooks with ubermix at scale troubling, but probably wouldn't be a big deal for individual use.

For further details and instructions, see ubermix on Chromebooks
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