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Kain Young

best chromebooks for travel

Don’t Leave Home Without the Best Chromebook for Travel in 2017

By | Reviews | 2 Comments

With so much to squeeze into your suitcase and weight restrictions on your baggage, a Chromebook may be a good choice for staying productive and connected while traveling.

The best Chromebook for traveling should be lightweight, powerful, and have top notch security. After a thorough investigation of Chromebook options, we’ve narrowed our list to the top five best Chromebooks for travel.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one of these affiliate links and purchase an item, I may receive a commission. That allows me to continue to research and provide valuable information about Chromebooks.

How to Choose the Best Chromebook for Travel

Chromebooks have come a long way since their introduction in 2011.  Google has improved the offline mode and expanded the app selection to include Android apps.  Features like low price, data security, and battery life make Chromebooks extremely popular for students. These features also make Chromebooks attractive when you’re on the go. Let’s take a look at how to choose the best Chromebook for travel.

Battery Life

When you’re on the go, finding an outlet is probably the biggest challenge.  Nothing’s more discouraging than a dead battery when you only have a few minutes to send off an email.  The battery life of a Chromebook may be one of its most attractive features.  One of the things I like the most about a Chromebook is that it can stayed charged for over 12 hours.

Memory

You’re no doubt familiar with the term RAM and know that when it comes to processing, more is usually better.  But Chromebooks and traditional notebooks don’t manage RAM the same way, and this means Chromebooks can do more with less.  Chromebooks come with a choice of 2GB or 4GB of RAM.  It’s possible to get more, but these two options should be more than enough if you’re an average user.

If you just need quick access to the internet and only keep a few tabs open, 2 gigs of RAM should be plenty.  If you want to watch HD travel shows on YouTube, have multiple tabs open, and play games while waiting at the airport, you’ll probably want 4 gigs of RAM.  I always recommend 4GB of RAM because it’s a small price difference for the extra processing power.

Features

One of the top features of a Chromebook is their lightweight construction.  Since they’re about the size of a magazine, you can easily slip one into a backpack or carry-on.  Look for a rugged design and spill-resistant keyboard so a dropped bag or coffee spill won’t ruin your whole trip.

Some Chromebooks come with a touch screen. If all you do is search the internet with taps and swipes, you’ll feel right at home.  A keyboard could come in handy if you need to update your travel blog or prepare a presentation while in flight.  For less than the cost of an iPad, you’ll have a real keyboard and can use one of these apps to make your Chromebook feel more like an actual desktop.

Security

We’ve all been warned about the hazards of using public wifi, and it’s pretty likely you know the frustration of trying to remove a virus from your system.  With Chromebooks, these problems are a thing of the past.  Chromebooks keep all those .exe files off your machine, and the only thing you’ll download are apps.  This can be a bit frustrating if you want to download a particular program, but you may find the security trade-off well worth it.  If you want to edit an image with Photoshop or create a Word document while using a Chromebook, try one of these solutions.

You may also want to buy a Chromebook with a TPM chip installed.  A Trusted Platform Module microchip is like a bank vault where encryption keys, certificates, and passwords used for logging into online services are stored safely.  If your Chromebook gets lost, you don’t have to worry because sensitive data is stored on a microchip and not on your hard drive.

Price

The budget friendly price of Chromebooks makes them an excellent choice for anyone looking to buy a new notebook.  Before you take off on that trip of a lifetime or attend a major conference, check out the best Chromebooks for travel.  For just shy of $200 you can slip a Chromebook into your carry-on and leave that expensive laptop at home.

Check Out the Top 5 Best Chromebooks for Travel

ASUS C201 11.6 Inch

Weighing in at 2 pounds, the C201 comes with an 11.6” screen and HD resolution.  The 4GB RAM and 16GB hard drive make the C201 ideal for browsing the web or creating a Google doc.  You get WiFi, Bluetooth, two USB 2.0 ports, and one 3.0 port.  Use the micro HDMI to hook up to larger display screens.  The 128GB SD card reader makes data transfer a breeze.  This solid little Chromebook really shines when it comes to battery life with up to 13 hours of performance before a recharge.

Pros

  • You can buy a C201 for under $200.
  • The touchpad picks up taps and pokes while still being smooth and responsive.
  • It’s designed to be durable with rubberized molding around all four corners.
  • A TPM security microchip adds an extra layer of protection against data theft.

Cons

  • The charger port is unique to ASUS and may be difficult to replace.
  • The keyboard is not backlit and it may be hard to type in dim lighting.
  • The screen is not anti-glare so wide-angle viewing may be difficult.

ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02 11.6″

A solid entry to the ruggedized Chromebook category, the reinforced, rubber-wrapped edges and non-slip grips add extra protection to the C202.  Weighing in at 2.2 pounds the C202 is built to survive drops from almost 4 feet and physical stress and vibrations.  The battery lasts up to 10 hours, and there are WiFi and Bluetooth to keep you connected. The 1366x768HD display is bright and crisp, but what makes the C202 stand out is the screen that rotates 180 degrees.

Pros

  • The price is budget friendly, and you can find a C202 for just under $200.
  • Key parts like the keyboard, thermal module, and motherboard are easy to replace.
  • The Anti-glare screen is good for working outside or in a brightly lit space.
  • The spill-proof keyboard can withstand up to a quarter-cup of spilled liquid.

Cons

  • Lacks a touchscreen so surfing the web iPad style won’t be possible.
  • Browsing can be sluggish when you’re using multiple tabs.
  • Doesn’t have TPM security so your sensitive data may be vulnerable.

Acer Chromebook R11 Convertible

At 2.8 pounds and about $300, the R11 is available with either 2GB or 4GB of RAM. The R11 uses an Intel processor and, like all Chromebooks, gives you access to the web and everything Chrome offers.  The touch screen is handy, but what really impresses me about the R11 is how convertible it is.  The 360-degree hinge allows it to flip, swivel, and rotate into a computer, tablet, stand, or tent mode. The touch screen supports 10 finger touch which makes it very responsive and accurate.  The battery can last up to 10 hours.

Pros

  • IPS display allows a wide range of view without reduced image quality.
  • The connection options are excellent and included both a USB 2.0 and 3.0 port.
  • A full-size keyboard with comfortable spacing makes typing easy.

Cons

  • The high-gloss finish can be distracting if you’re in bright sunlight.
  • The built in hard drive can’t be replaced.

Acer Chromebook R13 Convertible

The full aluminum frame and the slightly textured finish gives the R13 a solid feel that’s associated in higher priced notebooks.  Weighing in at 3.3 pounds with a 13.3-inch LED-backlit screen, the R13 has a good display with excellent color.  The R13 has a 360-degree convertible hinge like the R11 but adds a USB-C port for charging and data transfer.

Pros

  • The battery can last almost 12 hours.
  • The trackpad is large and reacts quickly when you touch it.
  • 32GB of internal storage so you can download more apps.

Cons

  • The speakers may not be loud enough when you’re watching a movie.
  • The hinge is plastic, which can make it feel flimsy.
  • The R13 can feel bulky if you use it in tablet mode for a long time.

Lenovo Chromebook N22

Another entry in the ruggedized Chromebook category, the N22 has reinforcement on the screen, sides, corners, hinges, and I/O ports.  The keyboard is water-resistant, and the touchpad is sealed against spills.  Typing on the chiclet-style keyboard is comfortable, and the keys are anti-peel.  Weighing in at 2.7 pounds the N22 is less than $250 but still sturdy and dependable.

Pros

  • Bright screen resolution.
  • The N22 will boot-up quickly from a cold start.
  • The touchpad responds well when using two-finger scrolling and three-finger swiping.

Cons

  • The body is made of textured plastic and may feel cheap.
  • The speakers can sound distorted when the volume is high.
  • The camera can be difficult to rotate, and pictures may look grainy.
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With all the options available, these may be the best Chromebooks for travel.  They have the security features that provide excellent protection for surfing public WiFi and are still light and easy to carry.  When it comes to battery life, coverage can last most of the day, and you can choose a rugged design to protect your Chromebook from accidents while on the go.

If you already own a Chromebook and need to upgrade, or are buying one for the first time, this video will show you how to switch from Windows or Mac to Chromebook.  Once you’ve taken one of the best Chromebooks for travel on a trip, you just might find it makes the best traveling companion.

Can I Use an External CD/DVD Drive with Chromebook?

By | Accessories, How-To | 522 Comments

Given its limited space, many people have been asking me about using an external DVD drive for Chromebook. Can you use an external drive for Chromebook? Do external drives let you play CDs and DVDs?

It’s fun and convenient to have so many features to add to your laptop. However, before you buy a Chromebook DVD drive, make sure you know what you can and can’t do with one.

Note: This article is about Chromebook optical drives, which play CDs and DVDs. If you want to know about external hard drives for file storage, check out this article I already wrote on the topic.

Optical Drives for the Chromebook

If you’re wondering whether you can use an external drive CD/DVD with Chromebook, the short answer is yes, you can. But before you get too excited, know that there are some limitations to what an external drive can do. Let’s start with the things you can do with a Chromebook optical drive.

Shop around for a high-quality CD/DVD drive and give it a try.

What you can do with a Chromebook DVD drive

Chromebooks can read these disk types:

  • CD
  • CD-RW
  • DVD
  • DVD-RW
  • Blu-ray
  • Blu-ray RW

Chrome OS can read files from any of these disks if they are written in data or media format.

You can copy files off optical media to your drive as long as they are actual media files, not CD music or DVD videos. You can also play media files directly from a disk.

What doesn’t work in Chrome OS

There are serious limitations to what an external DVD drive for Chromebook can do, since the system was created to function primarily online.

Write Files

Unfortunately, there is no way to write files to an optical disk for Chromebook. USB devices, including external DVD drives, function as read-only. You can read the information on a disk as long as it’s in an accepted format, but you cannot write information to it.

Play CDs and DVDs

You can’t play music CDs or DVD videos with a Chromebook DVD drive.

Why not?

Chrome OS does not support optical disks to let you play music or movies. The primary reason for this is that Chrome OS doesn’t come with codecs. Codecs are necessary to compress and decompress large files like DVD videos. If you want to play DVDs on your Chromebook, you’ll need to install Linux.

Run Programs

Chromebooks are all about staying simple and keeping storage in the Cloud. Chrome OS downloads all of its programs from the internet. They don’t have the capacity to run additional programs from an external drive.  You can’t run any Windows programs on Chrome OS either.

Rip Music or Movies

Chrome OS doesn’t include any ripping software. There are several DVD ripping tools for Windows Mac OS X and Linux, but none that function with Chrome OS.

If you want to rip music CDs or DVD movies, you have to use another machine that has Windows, Mac OSX or Linux. You can then transfer those media files to your Chromebook.

How to Read CD/DVD Media in Chrome OS

To read CD or DVD media, plug in the external optical drive to your Chromebook via USB. Insert a disk that has regular computer files. Then, access the files in the same way you would access your local files by clicking Launcher > Files.

If you’d prefer to watch a tutorial, here’s an easy, clear guide on reading files using a Chromebook DVD drive:

How to Play Music and Movies on Chrome OS

Even though you can’t play content directly from CDs or DVDs, there is a way to play music and movies on your Chromebook.

Google has confirmed that you can play music files, like mp3s, and converted video files, like mp4s. So to watch movies, you first need to convert your files into a supported type. You can find a full list of supported file types and codecs in this guide.

Once you have the right files, you can use VLC by VideoLAN, a free media player that lets you play media files on Chrome OS.

Take a look at this video for a full walk-through on using VLC to play a DVD:

Conclusion

In summary, a Chromebook optical drive:

  • Can read disks, but with only accepted file types
  • Can play music from accepted file types, like mp3
  • Can play movies from accepted file types, like mp4
  • Cannot burn files to a CD or DVD

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small compensation. This commission does not affect the price you pay.

Are you still looking for an external DVD drive for Chromebook/Chrome OS? Shopping for an optical drive is an easy task, so it won’t take long.

All you need to worry about is making sure the external drive connects with USB. Other than that, make sure the drive you choose is meant for PC and not just Macs. Shop around for a high-quality CD/DVD drive and give it a try.


how to choose a chromebook

What to Look for in a Chromebook

By | Making the Switch | No Comments

The choices can be overwhelming but if you’re looking for affordability coupled with great features look no further than a Chromebook. They come with a minimum of 2GB RAM, and usually 4GB, so they are a powerful replacement or starter computer. They are also easy to set-up so you won’t spend all day on the phone with tech support. Best of all, they won’t break the bank.

What to look for in a Chromebook

Chromebooks should have a good balance of price against features. That might be ultra-portable size, super-long battery life, or a touch screen. Here are the main things to consider.

Price

The cheapest Chromebooks on the market start as not much more than $100; on the upper end, you can spend well over $500. Obviously, each price point comes with its own set of technical parameters; you can get a fully featured, high quality Chromebook for under $300.

Ruggedness and Spill Protection

Just because you can easily replace a Chromebook doesn’t mean you necessarily want to. This is a good thing to consider for messy kids or careless teenagers. Rugged casings, keyboards, and touchpads will cost you a bit more. I recommend the Dell 11” Chromebook, which is the one I use right now.

App Store Compatibility

Google has brought the Android App Store to devices running Chrome OS.  This exponentially increases the number of apps available for each device, making Chromebook devotees even happier.

Weight

Some devices weigh as little as two pounds or less. A heavier laptop may be a concern for younger children, since it’s more likely to get dropped.

Battery Life

It doesn’t matter how portable the device is if you’re constantly hunting an open plug to charge it. Chromebooks generally run off a single Li-ion battery, and have excellent battery life, but there’s still a wide range from 8 hours at the bottom to more than 14 hours for top-shelf devices.

Screen Size

Chromebooks have screen sizes ranging from 11.6 inches to 15.6 inches. The smaller devices are perfect for quick internet access and tossing in a bag. For serious movie watching, a larger screen is going to be more satisfying.

 

Is Chromebook repair worth it?

Chromebook Repair – Is It Worthwhile?

By | How-To | 6 Comments

Broken technology – is there anything more frustrating? It’s a special sort of hell to have all the computing power of the modern era at your fingertips, yet be unable to use it due to a cracked screen or malfunctioning keyboard. For Chromebook users, it can be a tricky call: when the devices themselves are so inexpensive, how do you decide which problems are suitable for repair? Sometimes a cheap DIY Chromebook repair is in order. Other problems require a professional repair. And sometimes Chromebook problems get the toaster treatment–throw it out and buy a new one.

Chromebook Screen Repairs

Broken screens are by far the most common problem plaguing modern technology. The ultralight components used to make Chromebooks is one of the things that makes them so affordable. While they minimize cost and weight, often these parts are much less durable than their counterparts in a MacBook or laptop would be.

Fortunately, markets create solutions, particularly for products as ubiquitous as Chromebooks have become. A quick Amazon search for Chromebook replacement screens yields a plethora of low-cost kits (affiliate link).

However, note that each screen is device specific. It will be crucial that you search for your particular make and model before attempting to execute a Chromebook repair. Note that you will likely need both a replacement screen and a set of Chromebook repair tools. Again, an Amazon search gives a variety of device-specific options (affiliate link) for repair tools.

Although I haven’t yet had to repair a Chromebook screen, I can vouch for the utility of these pre-packaged kits. I’ve used several on various other pieces of technology around my house, like phones and tablets. As long as I’ve been careful to order only parts that come well-reviewed, I’ve never been let down. And there’s a lot of crossover for the tools. Keep them around, since it’s very likely you will be using your Chromebook repair set again in the future on another gadget.

Although the procedure for each Chromebook is slightly different, this YouTube video provides a quick breakdown for a fairly common Toshiba model. If you have a different model, it’s worth your time to search for “[make and model] Chromebook screen repair.” There are tutorials online under Google’s “video” tab for almost every model of Chromebook on the market.

As far as cost goes, screen repairs are a very economical solution. The screen may cost $14-$30 from a third-party supplier, and the tools may cost $20-$30. Even added together, that’s still far less than the price of a new Chromebook or a professional Chromebook repair job. And when you’re done with this job, you’ll have a new set of tools you can use on many other small devices.

Chromebook Keyboard Repairs

The second most common issue with Chromebook repairs is the keyboard. Just like we discussed with the screen issue, Chromebook keyboards are more cheaply produced than their counterparts in more expensive machines. I once had a machine that worked perfectly, except the ‘R’ key began flying off about six months into the relationship. (Apparently I type very aggressively.)

If your Chromebook has a single-key issue, the good people at Replacement Laptop Keys will sell you an affordably-priced replacement part. Check out their site and make sure you know which part you need to order. If the problem is more widespread, or affects the touchpad, you may be better served to search for “[make / model] Chromebook replacement keyboard.” Again, make sure you get the make and model right. Small variations in the molding can mean the wrong keyboard won’t fit your device. The same holds true for touchpad repairs as well.

Give It a Try

Like screen repairs, keyboard and touchpad repairs are economical for newer devices. The third-party market has done an admirable job keeping replacement parts affordable and available. Likewise, the collective knowledge of the internet means almost any repair (even those not discussed here) can be at least attempted with a little research.

Knowing all that, the rule of thumb I typically recommend for Chromebook repair is this: if the Chromebook is less than 18 months old, I would repair it myself if possible. Beyond 18 months, the rapid advance of technology probably means you’re just as well-served by simply replacing the device. With an average cost around $300, an 18-month lifespan works out to $16.67 monthly, which seems reasonable to me.

Before you trash a Chromebook or spend money on professional repair, take a stab at fixing it yourself. Not only will you save money, but you’ll begin developing the confidence to work on your own devices. Just this month I’ve repaired a washer and a dryer, using the power of Google and Amazon. You can try it, too.

Sometimes the repair is beyond what you want to attempt, because you could make it worse.Warranty repairs are sometimes possible, but that means shipping your computer to the manufacturer and waiting several weeks to get it back.

Affiliate disclosure: If you use the coupon below, you get $20 off the service, and I might receive a small commission from HelloTech as a thanks for connecting you. Good deal, right?

If you don’t want to wait, call in a local professional. HelloTech is a highly-rated service, and they can help you on the phone or in person. They have a deal just for you – click the image below to get help with a nice discount:

HelloTech offer

If you have a question or story about Chromebook repair, be sure to drop it in the comments below. And happy fixing!

How to record video on a chromebook

How to Record Video on a Chromebook

By | How-To | One Comment

Do you want to record and edit video on your Chromebook? If your work or hobby requires occasional use of video, you may need some help in learning how to create and edit videos on Chromebook, since these machines work a little differently than more traditional laptops, MacBooks, or iPads. The task itself isn’t complicated, and anyone can learn with just a little time and effort.

This tutorial is a two-in-one. First, I’ll show you how to use Animoto to edit video on Chromebook. Then, you’ll see how to make a screencast you can share.

What you will need to follow this tutorial

  • A video source: your Chromebook probably comes with a webcam that will be sufficient if you’re recording simple screencasts or tutorials; for more complicated tasks, you may need to use your smartphone.
  • Video editing software for Chromebook. We’ll be discussing one of these below: Animoto.

Note: in this tutorial, I’m only using free tools to record and edit video on Chrome OS.

How to Record Video on a Chromebook, Step by Step

Think about what kind of video you need to create:

  • If you’re creating a screencast, Screencastify is the quickest, most intuitive solution. It allows users to take a shot of their entire screen or just an individual browser tab. It also includes a video box that records you talking. This is ideal for teachers or anyone recording tutorials. We’ll be talking more about it below.
  • If you’re stitching together pictures or video into a project to be displayed (like for a class or business presentation), Animoto is an extremely intuitive, user-friendly option. The school I used to work at used it to create almost all their videos for parent night, graduation, and more. Not only that, they recommended it to students for class projects, so I know it’s simple enough that even first-graders can use it effectively.

PRO TIP: The Most Important Thing to Know About Shooting Video

If you’re filming with an actual camera, you can skip this paragraph. But most people these days take their video using a phone or tablet. If that’s you, remember: horizontal video is right and vertical video is a terrible, terrible mistake. Professionals shoot in landscape mode. To make your video look professional, you need to do that as well.

Animoto Procedure for Editing Video

  1. Log in to Animoto or create an account.
  2. Click the “Create” button in the top right corner.
  3. Select your style. Each style comes with pre-loaded music, effects, and transitions, but you can always change it later if you decide you don’t like it.
  4. Click “Add pics & vids” in the left sidebar. You can add video clips and still images in a variety of file formats.
  5. Upload the video or image file(s) to Animoto’s server. (Note here that Animoto will allow you to upload video directly from Facebook, Instagram, and Dropbox–so if you plan to use Animoto, keep that in mind when you’re saving your raw footage.)
  6. You can add text, logos, transitions, and more once your video clips are all uploaded.
  7. You can also add music with the “Change Song” button at the top of your workspace.
  8. When you’ve ordered your clips and have all the tweaks you want in place, you can preview your video with the blue “Preview Video” button in the lower left corner. This will give you access to a low-res preview.
  9. If the preview looks good, click on “Produce” in the top menu bar. From there, you can title your video, add a date and description, and select the video quality you’d like for the final product. Once you click the “Produce” button, Animoto will finalize your video and give you a link.
  10. If you plan to use your video offline, you’ll need to go into your account and download the final product directly to your machine. To do this, click on “My Videos” under your account, and select the video you want to download. At the bottom of the new screen that loads, underneath the video itself, you’ll see options to email, share via social media, push to YouTube, embed directly on your website, or download to your hard drive.

Here’s a super quick video showing how Animoto works. They also have lots of videos in their YouTube channel.

PRO TIP: if you’re using video at a professional presentation or in a classroom, always download it. There is little in life more embarrassing than building an hour-long presentation around a video that won’t load.

Screencastify Procedure for Recording Your Screen

  1. After adding Screencastify to your machine (go here and click the “Add to Chrome” button), you’ll see an icon in the upper right that looks like a strip of film.
  2. When you click that link for the first time, the app will walk you through the configuration of your microphone and camera.
  3. Once that’s done, the app will send you to a short video that explains the basics of the process. A short list version follows:
  4. Click the Screencastify icon in the upper right corner.
  5. Set up your basic parameters: audio, webcam, and preview window.
  6. Outline a basic script so you know what you’re going to say. This takes some time on the front end, but saves you from having to re-start and start over if you get lost trying to make it up on the fly.
  7. Start recording your screen / face / voice. The lower left will have a few tools you can use during your recording, including:
    • Focus mouse or pointer mouse. Focus mouse creates a highlight around the pointer on-screen, making it easy for viewers to track its movement. Pointer mouse creates a temporary “ring” around the mouse only when you click, enabling viewers to pay attention only to where you’re clicking (rather than the pointer’s movements on-screen).
    • Pen to draw on screen, with a variety of pointer options.
    • Option to turn the embedded webcam on / off in the film. For instance, if you want the audience to see you talking at a certain point of your video, you can turn the webcam on and a window containing your face will show up. When you turn this option off, that window goes away.
    • Pause the recording momentarily.
  8. When you click the Screencastify icon again to stop the recording, it will immediately take you to a video preview screen. You can click on the video title to rename your video.
  9. There’s also an orange bar containing buttons to go to your library of recordings, download your screencast directly to disk, share it online, crop or trim your video, or trash it and start over.

Here’s a 4-minute video so you can see Screencastify in action.

What do you think?

Did you enjoy the tutorial on how to record video on a Chromebook? I hope so. Those are just two simple ways you can use your Chromebook to record and edit video. There are much more complex apps out there, but Animoto and Screencastify should do the trick for most people’s basic needs. If you have a better option, make sure you mention it in the comments!

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5 Brillinar Chromebook Storage Solutions to Banish the Mess - Chromebook HQ

5 Brilliant Chromebook Storage Solutions to Banish the Mess

By | How-To, In the Classroom | No Comments

With the increasing popularity of Chromebooks in the classroom, Chromebook storage solutions and Chromebook charging carts have become important for schools and small businesses. Managing cables, devices, and power hubs can easily lead to an unsightly tangle of wires. No teacher wants to deal with that.

disorganized cables

Photo credit: Pedro Vera https://www.flickr.com/photos/pvera/

Chromebooks have revolutionized IT for classrooms and small businesses. With their functional ease, portability, and low cost, they’ve become a go-to solution for IT managers. One major driver of Google’s success in education is the Google approach to user interface, which Just Works The First Time. When you’re teaching toddlers (or veteran teachers) to use computers, that simplicity goes a long way toward driving enthusiastic adoption.

5 Chromebook Storage and Charging Solutions

Below you’ll find a collection of options for your chromebook charging solutions and chromebook storage needs. There’s a full range of options, from deluxe to totally DIY.

#1 Store Them in One Place

A permanent office / classroom charging cabinet is certainly an option. These models by Luxor [affiliate link] are permanent solutions designed to be hard-wired and mounted in one location. These popular cabinets by lockncharge have capacities ranging from six chromebooks up to forty.

Each cabinet not only stores your Chromebooks – it charges them as well! This is a perfect option for a small business or school library where individuals are checking Chromebooks out one at a time, and they’re not traveling very far.

Some schools require more portability. They would have to lock down a cabinet and then have to dismount it at the end of the school year. Read on for more mobile options.

#2 Put Them on the Road

A rolling chromebook charging solution is the typical solution for most schools. These are usuallchq-charge-cartsy built a bit sturdier, since they have to endure travel. Essentially, these are metal charging cabinets mounted on large casters, designed to roll the hallways of a school or business delivering chromebooks to various locations.

You can easily find chromebook charging carts with capacities up to thirty chromebooks [affiliate link]. However, these can also be expensive. It’s not at all difficult to find a solid charging cart, if you’re ready to throw $1500 at the problem. Some schools have found difficulty here; it’s pretty easy to sell a school board on the necessity of technology, but talking them into spending four figures on rolling cabinets is a trickier proposition. That leads us to our next option.

#3 Hack it Yourself

Next, let’s look at some DIY chromebook cabinets options. These are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in the educational sector, as teachers–known for their creativity–are beginning to solve their storage and charging problems on their own.

The Tips and Tricks Teacher Blog has a simple tutorial for making your own chromebook charging cabinet from common supplies and a cheap IKEA cabinet.  The model displayed here holds up to sixteen chromebooks, and it costs significantly less than similar commercial models on Amazon. Two of these babies could hold Chromebooks for a large class.

#4 Build Your Own Cart

If you manage multiple classrooms, you could also make a DIY chromebook rolling cart. It does require some basic carpentry skills and at least a small budget for lumber and supplies. This Instructables link provides detailed instructions on how to make your own, step-by-step.

Or, if your school has an old projector cart and a few camera bags lying around, you could do what this brilliant librarian did to clear the clutter in his space. One public school used a similar approach with a slightly larger media cart and a few plastic totes and boxes.

#5 The “Genius Chromebook Storage” Award

Finally, my favorite: dish racks. That’s right: teachers with limited space and budgets have taken to using simple dish racks as a viable chromebooks storage solution. Economical in terms of both cost and space, this is easily the most ingenious method I’ve seen of managing chromebook storage and charging needs. It’s a solution so simple it actually made me giggle when I saw it.

Those are a few Chromebook storage solutions that should help you regardless of your budget or particular situation.

What’s Your Chromebook Storage Solution?

I’m always on the lookout for innovative uses of chromebooks and ingenious ways to get them into the classroom. If you have a link to a similar project, drop the link in the comments. And remember to share this article so everyone can share the goodness!

How to FTP from Chromebook

By | How-To | No Comments

Why would you need to FTP from your Chromebook? What are the benefits of Chromebook FTP? For that matter, what is FTP? Let’s start there. (Or go to the next heading for the tutorial.)

FTP Background

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol, and along with its partner, SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol), is a common language computers share. It allows them to send information back and forth. Just as you can’t communicate with a stranger unless you share a common language, computers attempting to “talk” must share a common vocabulary (or “protocol”) to do so.

That’s where FTP and SFTP come in. As the names indicate, the biggest difference between FTP and SFTP has to do with the security of the files in transit. SFTP was developed in the 90s as IT architects sought a more secure method of utilizing FTP principles for transmitting data. This is an essential part of the framework for the entire internet, so it’s sort of a big deal.

Many website designers use FTP to sync up their work on their local computer with the web server.

People who are comfortable on Linux tend to use SSH, but that’s a story for another day.

Common uses of FTP / SFTP include:

  • Transferring large files that aren’t permitted by many email services.
  • Syncing files to your web server or hosting provider.
  • Transferring folders all at once, rather than as individual files.
  • Efficient transfer of large volumes of data from one computer to another (such as music or games).

Chrome FTP Tutorial

To follow this tutorial, you’ll need the following:

  • A Chromebook (obviously)
  • An FTP (or SFTP) server. If you have a hosting provider that allows FTP syncing of your files, you can use that. Find the IP address and your username and password in your hosting company’s control panel. For today, I chose hostedftp.com, which offers a free 21-day trial.
  • An FTP (or SFTP) client on your machine. For today, I chose SFTPClientV2 from the Chrome Web store, which offers 120 free minutes of file transfer to get you started. SFTP File System is a good alternative.

PHASE ONE: Establish a Connection with an FTP Server

We’re going to go through the browser first, since you’re probably most familiar with that. (We could upload our trial file directly from the FTP client, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.)

Go to hostedftp.com and set up a trial personal account. It is free for 21 days, and they won’t ask for a credit card up front.

After your trial account is set up at hostedftp.com, you’ll want to upload a file through the browser. This is the file you’ll later download via FTP during our trial run. That part is simple. Just click the giant “Click here to send files” in the middle of the screen:

Chrome FTP

I chose an image file. It’s a previous version of a logo from my website, and I named the folder “Babalu” simply because it struck my fancy:

Hosted FTP

PHASE TWO: Set Up Your FTP Client on the Computer

  • First, from the Chrome Web Store, download sFTP Client v2. It is free, and offers 120 minutes of free file transfer time up front.
  • It will look like this:

sftp client, chromebook ftp

  • Next, see up top, where it says “Connect”? That’s where you’ll put in the credentials you set up at hostedftp.com. This username and password is what your local computer and the file server in the cloud will use to shake hands, introduce, and agree to swap files and folders back and forth.
  • You’ll need to make sure you have the host FTP address correct. If you log in to your hostedftp.com files page, you’ll see it in the browser bar. For me, it’s us2.hostedftp.com. That is what I type in the field for “Host / IP Address.” (And note that I could also use simply the IP address, if I happened to know that.)
  • You don’t need to worry about port number. That field can be left blank, as FTP typically uses port 21. Because FTP is a standard, your computer already knows this, unless you’re making changes. But if you’re that far ahead, you don’t need this tutorial anyway.

PHASE THREE: Go Get Your File

  • Once I input my credentials and the computer connects with the server, I get this screen:

sftp client tutorial

  • On the left you have the “Local Folder,” which is the folder I’ve chosen to receive and send from on my machine. On the right you see “Remote,” which is the folder we created at the FTP server. You see my “Babalu” folder sitting right there? Our trial file is right there, waiting for us.

FTP Files

  • Now that I’ve clicked “Babalu,” you can see the file icon and “new…log…” on the right. And as you can see, when I clicked there, it downloaded to my Local Folder on the left side.
  • Note that it works both ways: if I select something from my Local Folder on the left side, I can send it via upload to my FTP server on the right side. Try it, and you’ll see.
  • Remember, you’re using a cloud-based service, so by definition anything you send isn’t staying on your device. (To keep all your data in your hands, you’d need to configure a computer you own as a personal FTP server, which is a complex topic for another day.)

You Know How to Use Chromebook FTP!

If all you’re after is a simple way to access large files from anywhere, sending them from Chrome using FTP would accomplish that goal. If you needed to make those files available to others, you could add contacts under the “Contacts” tab at hostedftp.com, and anyone with appropriate credentials could access those same files.

Did you enjoy the tutorial? I hope so. I find FTP to be a great way to work around the attachment size limits of my email service (particularly for large music files).

Be sure to ask any questions in the comments. Take the opportunity to tell us about an alternative FTP server or client. There are multiple options for each, so be sure to chime in and tell the audience which you use and why.

Chromebooks for education changed everything

Chromebooks for Education Changed Everything

By | In the Classroom, Making the Switch | No Comments

In 2011, Google (being Google) disrupted the entire laptop and tablet marketplace with the debut of the first Chromebooks. The new devices operated on the same simple premise as all other Google products: things should be dead simple for the average consumer to use. It didn’t take long for the machines to find their way into the classroom once teachers realized they could leverage the low cost of Chromebooks for education.

Not every classroom has them yet, but Chromebooks are gaining popularity for use in the home to do homework. College students love them, too. Let’s look at why.

Why Chromebooks Are So Popular

Five years after their creation, the Chromebook experiment is officially a success. Chromebooks for education now account for more than half of all classroom devices. More than seven million devices were sold last year.

This trend is primarily driven by four factors. First they are tremendously affordable, with the average Chromebook costing less than $230.

Second, their design is simple, so anyone familiar with Google products can jump right in with no learning curve.

Third, they are super portable; not just the device itself, but the data. If a Chromebook dies, you just retrieve everything quickly and painlessly from the cloud.

And finally, they are easy to manage. Teachers and school tech officers can:

  • limit and monitor usage,
  • push apps to hundreds of devices with a single button, and
  • set up multiple user groups with varying levels of permissions.

Chromebooks for education

From a parental perspective, Chromebooks make it easier to help students out at home. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Windows person or an Apple person – everybody who’s conscious in America has at least a passing familiarity with the Google ecosystem. That knowledge bridges the tech gap between you and your child when they ask for help.

 

What to look for in a Chromebook for a student

Want to know how to pick the best Chromebook for school? Whether you’re a school IT worker responsible for hundreds of devices or a parent looking for a single Chromebook for your child to use at school, there are a few simple principles to remember as your shop.

Price: The cheapest Chromebooks on the market start as low as $149; on the upper end, you can spend well over $500 if you choose. Obviously, each price point comes with its own set of technical parameters; most purchases in the education space (IT managers and parents) spend under $300 per single device.

Ruggedness and Spill Protection: Just because you can easily replace a Chromebook doesn’t mean you necessarily want to. More expensive devices are obviously hardier pieces of equipment, with increasingly rugged casings, keyboards, and touchpads.

App Store Compatibility: A revolutionary announcement in the world of Chromebooks for education came just this month, as Google announced it would bring the Android App Store to devices running the Chrome OS. The first slate will include over forty different Chromebooks, with more to follow. This exponentially increases the number of apps available for each device, making Chromebook devotees even happier.

Weight: Some devices weigh as little as two pounds or less; the largest we reviewed was the Dell 3120, which came in at 2.75 pounds, nearly a full pound heavier than the closest competitor. This may be a particular concern for younger children, since you may want to minimize the amount of gear they have to haul around in their backpack each day.

battery

Battery Life: It doesn’t matter how portable the device is if you’re constantly hunting an open plug to charge it; Chromebooks generally run off a single Li-ion battery, and have excellent battery life, but there’s still a wide spread from 8 hours at the bottom to more than 14 hours for top-shelf devices.

Storage: This may not be a concern for most users, as the entire Chromebooks concept is built around the notion that everything will be saved to your Google account in the cloud; that’s what makes Chromebooks so portable. However, you may still want to store some documents on the actual computer, and of course you’ll need storage space for any apps you plan to install on the device.  Chromebooks come with storage ranging from 16-32 GB (not counting the possibility of external storage), so make sure you take that into consideration.

Screen Size: Chromebooks released in the past two years have screen sizes ranging from 11.6 inches to 15.6 inches. The smaller devices will serve most student well; however, students engaged in more visual pursuits, such as art or graphic design, may need the larger screens to adequately complete tasks.

Why Chromebooks Work So Well With Students

We’ve already covered some of that above, but there are a few more reasons. With a Chromebook, it is literally impossible for a student to lose an assignment. Even if they leave their computer at home, they can log in to their account from any other Chromebook and retrieve it within five minutes.

As a parent, you can feel secure about the time your child spends with the Chromebook because it has parental controls built in. There are also third party parental control apps that work on it.

And, as we mentioned above, they are so much more affordable. For the cost of an iPad, you can buy a Chromebook, accidentally destroy that Chromebook, and buy a completely new Chromebook. (This method is obviously not recommended – I’m just pointing out the drastic difference in price.)

chromebooks for kids

Kids forget things constantly, and Chromebooks are easy to borrow. A student who needs to complete an assignment on another computer simply logs into their Google account. Whatever work they complete on the new computer will be waiting on them when they get back to their machine. That means there’s no need for complicated hard-drive sharing software or annual fees.

Finally: Chromebooks have keyboards. This is perhaps the single greatest thing separating them from their Apple competitors. Anyone who types well knows that it is much more efficient than writing by hand, as it enables words to appear on screen as fast as you can think them. This is simply not possible using a touchscreen device. Further, since keyboards in the business world aren’t going away anytime soon, Chromebooks actually prepare students for a business environment more thoroughly than their touchscreen-only competitors.

The Best Chromebooks for Students Under $250

I arrived at this list by looking for the highest rated, most popular Chromebooks on Amazon. All of these models are current (please let me know in the comments if you notice that’s no longer true). I own and love the Dell 11.

Note: I have looked for the best price between Amazon and Best Buy at the time of publication. Please comparison shop your favorite retailers for the best current price. The product links below are affiliate links, which means that I get a small commission if you purchase. It doesn’t affect the price you pay for the item.

  1. ASUS C201:  The C201 is an adequate option. However, its 1.8 Ghz processor is a slight step down from the best options available, and it has the smallest screen size as well (11.6 inches). With a 13-hour battery life, it comes in near the top of the stack on that front. It features one HDMI and two USB ports, which are pretty standard. This is the best middle-of-the-road option.
  2. Samsung Chromebook 3 XE500C13-K02US: This model starts around 200 bucks, making it slightly more affordable than its ASUS competitor above. At this price, you give up a little battery life (down to 11 hours); however, you pick up a spill-resistant design and a slightly improved 2.16 Ghz processor. In addition to the HDMI port, this model features 1 USB 2.0 port and 1 USB 3.0 port (which is designed for newer, faster connections). This is the best option for young children, in my opinion.
  3. Dell Chromebook 11: This is the most expensive model I reviewed, but it’s still a truly affordable laptop. It’s slightly heavier than some lower-end models. However, that additional weight comes from sturdier materials and a greatly improved casing. The spill-resistant keyboard may end up paying for itself, tool. This model’s keyboard is much more responsive than the others, and simply feels more solid. However, it’s possible your student may not care about–or even notice–that fact, particularly if they are very young and just learning to type.  The Dell has the standard HDMI and USB ports described above. It also has a port for a removable SD card, adding to the portability of files stored on the device. This is best for power users and older students.
  4. HP Chromebook 11 G4: This is the cheapest device reviewed, and it definitely feels cheaper to the touch when compared to the Dell reviewed above. It has the same number of USB and HDMI ports, but it only has 2GB of available RAM, which could lead to performance issues. In its favor, it also has the card media reader.  That being said, none of the negatives would matter to a young student, so this is the best option based solely on affordability.
  5. Acer Chromebook CB3-131-C3SZ: The second cheapest, the Acer also comes with only 2GB available RAM.  Added to that, it comes with a mere 2 USB ports (one 2.0, one 3.0) However, this model does have an HDMI port and a card reader, keeping it competitive. Battery life on this device is rated at 9 hours, but the charger is well-designed and minimal. The aluminum clamshell, however, simply doesn’t feel like it could stand up to the rigors imposed by a young child. I would skip this one.

You are going to love whatever Chromebook you buy

My job is to pick one, I know. The Dell is the best for adults and older students, while the Samsung is the best option for young children. The HP is the best option if money is the only criterion.

But in the end, I literally don’t know a single person who has given a Chromebook a shot and come away anything other than amazed at the simplicity of concept, minimal design, and magical experience. There’s simply something about logging in to a brand new computer for the first time, and having your entire Google account show up ten seconds later, that boggles the mind.

Chromebook accessories to take to college

4 Essential Chromebook Accessories to Take to College

By | Accessories, In the Classroom | No Comments

Do you have everything you need for your dorm room desk? By now you already have your Chromebook for school picked out, hopefully. But you’ll need a few things to make the most of it.

1. Portable Speakers

The first thing I unpack when I move is a speaker. It’s just way more fun to get settled while jamming to my favorite playlist.

Note: If you find the information on this site useful, please consider supporting my efforts to provide relevant, up-to-date information by purchasing through the product links on this page. The product will not cost you anything extra, but I might receive a little cash to support the operation of this site.

Jawbone Jambox

When I first heard the Jawbone Jambox, I couldn’t believe the music filling my apartment building’s gym was coming from that small box. The Jambox comes in decent colors, too.

JBL Flip 3 Splashproof

If you want to take your speaker outside, or if you’re worried about party fouls, spend the extra 25 bucks to get a water resistant speaker.

2. Keyboard and Mouse Combo

Logitech Wireless Keyboard/Mouse Combo

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Deny it now, but it’s going to happen. You’ll be writing a paper at 3am and wishing you had a comfortable keyboard. Might as well get a keyboard/mouse combo for playing games, right?

3. External Hard Drive

You’ll want to bring your music and photos with you, and that’s going to take some extra disk space, since Chromebooks come with 16 or 32GB. Not to mention, it’s good to have a backup of your school papers other than Google Drive.

LaCie’s ruggedized mini-USB 3.0 drive holds 1TB and can stand up to rough handling. It’s the best bang for your buck right now, but there’s only 11 left available with Prime right now.

4. Headset

Hangouts makes it easy to stay in touch with friends and family back home. Most college students have roommates, and most roommates don’t want to hear your conversation with Mom. Get a headset to make it easier to hear and be heard over the sound of your roommate playing Call of Duty.

The Logitech ClearChat Comfort covers both ears and has noise cancelling. There’s no software to install, so it works on any laptop and operating system.

Check out my top pick for wireless headsets.

Other Chromebook/Laptop Accessories to Consider

You’ll probably have a super-fast internet connection, so you can use a high-def camera if your Chromebook doesn’t have one.

If you want to use more than two USB devices, a USB hub makes it quicker to switch. Remember to protect your computer with a surge protector, too.

Now you know all the tech accessories you’ll need for your Chromebook at school. Have fun and remember to call your mother.

Parental controls for chromebook

Do Chromebooks Have Parental Controls?

By | How-To, In the Classroom | No Comments

As a parent, do you face the constant question of how much online supervision your kids need? On one hand, I recognize that learning to use tech effectively and independently is crucial to their future. On the other hand, it’s pretty terrifying to consider all the ways their devices could expose them to corners of the internet I’d prefer they not see. Thankfully, a suite of Chromebook parental controls and third-party apps makes the task of protecting your kids online seamless and simple. Let’s walk through how to set it up.

See why Chromebooks are the best laptops for kids.

Chromebook Parental Controls: Drop-Dead Simple

Like everything Google makes, Chromebooks just work, simply and efficiently. And because everything on a Chromebook flows through the Chrome browser, it’s simple to manage.  However, there is one very important note up front: for any of this to work, you’ll need to make sure you turn off “Allow Guest Browsing” on your Chromebooks. Otherwise, anyone can sit down and use the guest account to avoid logging in, which defeats the whole purpose.

Set up Kids as “Supervised Users”

Now, you’ll need to register the Chromebook with a parent’s email address. This will establish them as the administrator for all family accounts. From there, adding accounts for kids is simple. Each child should be set up as a “supervised user” underneath the parent’s account. This enables the master account (the parent) to control the child’s access and review what they’ve been up to on the Chromebook.  

This video will guide you through setting up supervised users. 

Two notes: first, make sure you are aware that supervised users can see the administrator’s bookmarks and favorites in the browser, unless you take advantage of the “Exit and Childlock” option when logging out of your account each time. Google has provided a step-by-step guide.

Second, be aware that supervised accounts operate underneath the master account’s email address, which means they won’t have an email address of their own, and they won’t be able to create Google Documents, Sheets, or Slides under an individual account; everything will get dumped into the supervisor’s account.

Review Online Activity

Supervised users are unable to delete their browsing history; this means the parent always has the capability to review exactly what’s been done online – no worries about a child trying to cover their tracks after the fact. This is an especially valuable tool as kids get older and more curious.

Restrict Access to Explicit Content

Parents can allow or block any website for any supervised user. Additionally, supervised users can be configured to only browse the internet using Safesearch, a Google tool which prevents explicit text or images from showing up in search results.  

You can also set up parental control on YouTube videos.

Prevent Installation of Apps

Supervised users cannot install apps to their account; they are limited to browsing the web, which means if they need to create a document for school, they’ll have to browse to the Google Docs online site rather than using the device’s native app.

Potential Issues with Chromebook Parental Controls

Safesearch seems to be too aggressive, blocking a great deal of content that older students might need for school; however, if it’s turned off, you obviously don’t have time to individually blacklist every questionable website one-by-one. Some parents dodge this issue by choosing instead to only allow certain sites, handpicking the portions of the internet their child can access.  

Additionally, supervised users can’t install Google apps to their account at all. This means that any apps your child may need for school will have to be loaded onto the parental account, and the child will have to log in through your account to use the app, which is obviously a complicated solution.

Third-Party Solutions

If you prefer not to set up a supervised account, but you would like to control specific aspects of your child’s Internet use on the Chromebook, there are some apps to help. They are available on the Chrome web store.

These third-party solutions provide cloud filtering for all users on the Chromebook, supervised user or not. Multiple third-party services such as Mobicip, Metacert, and Blocksi are now available as alternatives to the pre-loaded Chromebook parental controls.

Blocksi Web Filter: This extension has both free and paid versions. The free version includes a host of features like:

  • Web filtering across 79 rated categories (adult, security, malware, etc.) and 45 million rated websites
  • YouTube content filtering across 20 categories
  • YouTube channel filtering
  • Black & White Lists
  • Limited time use, for e.g. homework access

Blocksi Lite: This extension blocks adult content and access to porn website

Parental Control and Web Filter from Metacert: This extension offers multiple settings for both, adults and children. Options for children include:

  • Filters and blocks search results that are inappropriate for a young audience
  • Removes XXX images and videos from search results
  • Blocks Tumblr pages with adult content
  • Blocks Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts with adult content

In addition to this setting, the Metacert filter offers a setting for very young kids that allows parents to add specific websites and create white lists for safe and controlled browsing.

StayFocusd is a Chrome extension that you can install to keep your teen on task, especially if you want to allow limited access to social media and other websites without completely restricting access. This extension allows you to set a time limit for websites you choose. Once the limit has been exhausted, StayFocusd restricts access for the rest of the day.

Conclusion: Chromebook Parental Controls Are There, But Not Perfect Yet

It’s not clear yet if Google will improve the native parental controls on their Chromebook products. They might simply allow the third-party app market to solve it for them. In either event, my family’s experience with Chromebooks has been phenomenal. For very young children, Safesearch is sufficient to keep them protected while they do young-child things: watch videos, play silly games, and visit educational sites. For older kids, we rely on Blocksi to handle our cloud filtering, so we don’t have to lean on Safesearch.

In my family, the benefits far outweigh the concerns, primarily due to the low cost and the portability of accounts. When my daughter pours orange juice all over the Chromebook, nothing is lost except the minimal cost of the device. The entire family’s data is sitting there when we log in to the replacement device.  

Questions or comments about Chromebook parental controls? Speak up below!