All about Google Chrome & Google Chrome OS

19 Jun 12 Samsung Makes Android SAFE for IT

Samsung’s forthcoming Galaxy S III smartphone will be the company’s first device to be officially branded and sold under its new SAFE program.

SAFE stands for “Samsung Approved for Enterprise.”

The Galaxy S III will be available in the U.S. from Verizon Wireless, ATT (NYSE: T), Sprint (NYSE: S), T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular in July.

Samsung also introduced Safe2Switch, a program that lets smartphone users of other makers’ products trade in their existing devices and purchase a new Samsung smartphone. People who currently own a Samsung smartphone can trade up.

Samsung first introduced the SAFE program in the United States in late 2011, and there are more than 20 Samsung SAFE devices on the market, company spokesperson Martha Thomas told LinuxInsider. However, the Galaxy S III will be the first one to bear the program’s brand. Introducing devices under the SAFE brand will make it easier for customers to see which products are enterprise-ready.

“With SAFE, Samsung is sending a message to IT departments — this phone is easy for you guys to sign off on,” James Robinson, lead Android developer and cofounder of OpenSignalMaps, told LinuxInsider. “The S III is going to be an extremely popular device.”

Playing IT Safe

SAFE was created as a way to defragment the Android operating system (OS) across multiple versions offered on handsets by carriers in the United States, Samsung said. Out of the box, the SAFE-branded Galaxy S III supports a suite of enterprise-ready features and capabilities as well as 338 IT policies. These policies include on-device AES 256-bit encryption, enhanced support for Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) Exchange ActiveSync, and support for virtual private network (VPN) and mobile device management (MDM) solutions.

Galaxy S III features include AllShare Play, which lets users securely share PowerPoint presentations and PDFs with other S III owners; Share Shot, which enables photo compiling and sharing; S Beam One Touch Sharing, which lets Galaxy S III owners exchange information or documents by tapping these devices together; and Samsung TecTiles — programmable tags and mobile applications.

Partnering With Samsung

Samsung is working with mobile device management (MDM) providers, including AirWatch, Sybase (NYSE: SY) and Juniper Networks (Nasdaq: JNPR), to provide management and security on the Galaxy S III. It’s also working with VPN providers, including Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) and F5 Networks, to enable IP-based encryption. Samsung’s security vendor partners include Symantec (Nasdaq: SYMC).

One partner, Avaya, “has been enabling Samsung’s Android-based devices with our Avaya one-X Mobile client application,” Avaya spokesperson Deb Kline told LinuxInsider. This “securely connects an end user’s Samsung mobile device to his or her corporate communications system.” Voice streams are encrypted and businesses can continue to apply their typical security measures such as firewalls and session border control.

Samsung “has put in place a formal quality assurance testing and verification process to ensure the SAFE enterprise solutions work as needed and described,” the company’s Thomas said. “The QA process will be in place for all future Samsung SAFE devices.”

Taming the Android Defrag Bomb?

Samsung’s claim of defragmenting Android with SAFE may make some users’ ears perk up — either with anticipation or skepticism. OpenSignalMaps recently found there are close to 4,000 different types of devices running the OS.

“SAFE defragments Android by creating a single standard for IT administrators to test against,” Samsung’s Thomas explained. “This means the IT administers can test one SAFE device such as the Galaxy S III and know that all SAFE phones — from those running on Gingerbread to Ice Cream Sandwich — will work the same on their network. It also allows VPN, MDM and application providers to leverage a single uniform software developer kit when creating solutions for SAFE devices.”

However, “Fragmentation in terms of security capabilities is what Samsung’s focusing on here, for that small sub-genre of fragmentation support for IT policies is what is needed,” OpenSignalMaps’ Robinson pointed out. “By introducing a new feature to its phones, Samsung is not providing a general cure to fragmentation. It’s not even providing a cure across all devices. But it is promising that … it’s going to be easier for IT departments to sign off on particular applications, particularly MDM and VPN apps, running on particular models.”

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07 Jun 12 Chrome OS in-depth: Cloud-centric simplicity, evolved

By (@jr_raphael) G+

Google Chrome OS

Using Chrome OS is an interesting experience: In a strange way, it’s both new and completely familiar at the same time.

Chrome OS, after all, is an operating system built around Google’s Chrome browser. Most of the apps you use are cloud-based services — things like Gmail and Google Docs. But taken out of the typical operating system context, all those elements take on a whole new feel.

I’ve been using Chrome OS for the bulk of my computing needs these past several days. It’s part of my two-week Chrome OS experiment; with the launch of Google’s new Chromebook and Chromebox, I wanted to go beyond the traditional review and really get to know what it’s like to live in Google’s evolved cloud environment.

And evolved it certainly is. Chrome OS has come a long way since its launch 17 months ago, transforming from a series of locked-down browser windows into a full-fledged operating system. With its latest Chrome OS refresh — along with the vastly improved new Chrome OS hardware — Google has finally realized its vision for a cloud-based computing platform. The potential we saw in the beginning has been transformed into something far more polished and complete.

Ladies and gentlemen, Chrome OS has arrived.

Getting to know Google’s Chrome OS

The beauty of Chrome OS lies in its simplicity: You power up your Chromebook or Chromebox, and within seconds, you’re ready to roll. Once you’ve typed in your Google credentials, all of your bookmarks, Chrome extensions, and Chrome settings are in front of you — even your most recent open tabs from your PC or Android device are there — just like they appear on any other system you use. There’s no complicated setup, no messy drivers to deal with, and no hassles to keep you from getting online and getting down to business.

The cloud-centric approach comes with some other nice benefits: You never have to worry about updates, as Google regularly pushes fresh software onto the system in a seamless manner (much like it does with its desktop Chrome browser). You don’t have to mess with antivirus software, as the nature of the Chrome OS system makes infections very improbable. Even if your system did somehow become compromised, it could be reset in a heartbeat; remember, all your stuff is stored in the cloud, including your apps and settings.

Chrome OS systems also don’t get bogged down and progressively slower over time, like most traditional computers tend to do. And you never have to deal with involved installations or program upgrades; with Chrome OS, it’s all streamlined and simple.

Chrome OS, as I mentioned, revolves around the browser — but as of this latest incarnation, the browser actually isn’t the entire operating system. Google has built a desktop-like OS around Chrome, allowing you to position multiple windows on-screen simultaneously. You can maximize, minimize, and resize windows, set a desktop background, and quickly switch between windows or load new programs using a launcher bar at the bottom of the screen.

Chrome OS Desktop

The launcher bar shows icons for all of your currently loaded windows and programs. You can also pin any app there to create a quick-launch shortcut; you can opt to have the app open in a regular tab or in a full-size program-like window. The right corner of the launcher bar shows the current time along with your battery and data-connection status; you can click that area to access settings and more detailed system information.

Chrome OS Menu

This revised setup makes the Chrome OS experience far more welcoming than it’s been in the past. In its early incarnations, Chrome OS felt a bit restrictive; the entire environment was nothing but a full-screen browser window, and while that offered some practical advantages, it was somewhat jarring to use. With the newly expanded environment, Chrome OS has come into its own and found its way as a platform.

Chrome OS and life in the cloud

When you talk about Chrome OS, words like “app” and “program” are all relative. Nearly every app opens in a browser window and is based in the cloud.

Two years ago, the idea of abandoning traditional local programs would have struck me as ludicrous. Today, I’m a lot closer to the cloud-centric way of life Google envisions: I use Gmail for my email, Google Calendar for schedule management, and Google Docs for document storage. (I tend to use Microsoft Word while at my normal Windows 7 workstation, but I keep all my documents synced with Google Docs/Drive for easy on-the-go access.)

The multidevice lifestyle — using a laptop in my office, an Android tablet in the house, and an Android phone pretty much everywhere — has moved my focal point away from the stationary desktop. Sure, I have stuff stored locally, but it’s all synced to the cloud in one place or another. My computing life has become more and more mobile over the past few years, so it only makes sense for my data to follow that same trend, too.

In that regard, Chrome OS makes more and more sense to me, particularly with the recently introduced improvements. Aside from the new desktop, Google has given Chrome OS a full-fledged file manager: You can actually store some data locally, if you want, which is helpful when dealing with images, attachments, and the likes. Plus, when you plug in a memory card or USB storage device, Chrome OS automatically pops up a window with its contents, allowing you to open or work with the files.

Chrome OS File Manager

Google says its Google Drive cloud storage service will be fully integrated into Chrome OS within the next several weeks as well. You can use Drive — or any other cloud storage service, for that matter — right now, but the added system integration should make it even easier to manage cloud-based files and upload or share local files as part of the core environment.

Chrome OS now has a pop-up media player, too — you can play songs and videos from a memory card, external drive, or the local drive while working on other tasks — and a limited image-editing tool with commands for cropping, rotating, and adjusting brightness.

Chrome OS Image Editor

Making Chrome OS do more

All of Chrome OS’s functions can be supplemented and expanded with services from the cloud — using, for example, Google Music or Pandora to stream songs or a more robust image editor like Aviary (free in the Chrome Web Store) to manipulate photos. Aviary isn’t as robust as Photoshop or Illustrator; if your computing needs regularly require those types of heavy-duty local programs, Chrome OS may not be the answer for you. But for the majority of day-to-day computer use, the cloud-centric setup is surprisingly easy to embrace.

And if you do need to get to traditional desktop programs from time to time, Google actually has a tool to make it happen. Chrome Remote Desktop, a free app, allows you to gain remote access to any Windows, Mac, or Linux system; all you have to do is install the extension on the computer’s Chrome browser, set up a PIN and enable remote access, and you’re good to go. Once you establish a connection, you have the remote computer’s desktop in a live window on your Chrome OS system; you can run programs, open files, and input text as if you were sitting right there.

Chrome OS Remote Desktop 

I used the Remote Desktop app to connect to my Windows 7 laptop from a Chromebook, and I found the experience to be quite good: With a solid data connection on each end, lag was minimal and it basically felt like I was using the Windows 7 system. The setup is still in beta and consequently has some limitations — you can’t currently see secondary monitors on a remote system, for example, and you can’t hear audio remotely — but all in all, it was very smooth and impressive.

Chrome OS has built-in support for VPN connections, too, and advanced users can find third-party apps for things like terminal emulation and SSH connectivity.

The Chrome OS caveats

For all its positives, Chrome OS isn’t without its drawbacks. First and foremost, if you aren’t comfortable living in the cloud, Chrome OS isn’t going to be for you. By its very nature, Chrome OS revolves around cloud-based applications and data; if you’re set on the idea of running programs locally and storing your information on a hard drive in your home, you’re going to find Chrome OS frustrating.

Then there’s the issue of offline access. Despite the fact that Chrome OS is focused on the Web, Google has made massive progress in making the system more suitable for use without an active Internet connection. There are, however, still some limitations. In the next chapter of my Chrome OS experiment, I’ll take a close look at the realities of using Chrome OS offline.

Offline access aside, some of the Chrome OS apps simply aren’t up to par with their desktop-based equivalents. Go sign into Google Docs (technically now part of Google Drive) and you’ll see what I mean. Using Docs isn’t a terrible experience, by any means, but it’s generally not as good or as complete of an experience as what you get by using a traditional desktop office suite. Depending on your needs and priorities, this may or may not be a problem for you. Personally, I tend to live in my word processor during the day; I’m still more comfortable in Word, with its fuller functionality and familiar shortcuts, but for most tasks, I’m finding it increasingly easy to work in Docs as I get more accustomed to it.

Similarly, I work faster in Photoshop — where I manipulate images and create graphics for stories — and have more options and tools there than I do in any Chrome OS-based application. If I’m working on something complex, it’s still easier for me to jump into Photoshop than to try to get it done in a Chrome OS application.

Finally, while Chrome OS offers support for multiple monitors (and both the new Samsung Chromebook and Chromebox have the ports to make it happen), the software currently only allows you to duplicate your desktop on the second monitor. I’m used to working in an extended-desktop scenario, so losing that capability is a bit of a downer for me. Google tells me extended-desktop functionality is in the works for Chrome OS, but it’s not there now — and at this point, there’s no firm timeline for when it’ll arrive.

All in all, it’s a tradeoff: Chrome OS gives you fast, simple, hassle-free computing that’s fully portable and not tied to any single machine. It gives you seamless ongoing system improvements and lets you say so long to many of the annoyances that accompany regular computer use. But it also lacks some of the functionality and power you find in a traditional computing environment. The question is ultimately whether the tradeoff makes sense for you.

Android Power TwitterI’ll explore the issue more in the final few chapters of my Chrome OS experiment. Later this week, I’ll take that deep-dive into the Chrome OS offline experience. After that, I’ll share my impressions of Samsung’s Chromebox desktop computer and will then bring it all together with some final thoughts and conclusions.

In the meantime, if you’ve missed any of the previous chapters, you can find them in the box below.    

JR Raphael writes about smartphones and other tasty technology. You can find him on , Twitter, or Facebook.

Article copyright 2012 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

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05 May 12 Getting started with Google’s Cloud Print

Sometime soon, you’ll likely have something to print—and there’s no guarantee you’ll be at your home or office when the need strikes. You could make a reminder for yourself to print that e-mail or document the next time you’re at your Mac or PC, or you could harness the power of the cloud to remove those traditional workplace boundaries and bring the printer to you.

Cloud printing has been around for a few years now, and it’s actually very easy to set up. Google is the reigning champ in this space, with a product aptly named Cloud Print. With a few minutes of setup, you can have your Android, iPhone, Mac, or PC printing to printers in faraway places—even FedEx offices—from wherever and whenever you wish.

But what about AirPrint? Apple’s wireless printing platform, first released in 2010 with iOS 4.2, is unfortunately limited to local networks. Even when connected to a home or office network over VPN, networked AirPrint-capable printers simply fail to identify. Perhaps, eventually, that will change. For now, Google is running the show.

Cloud Print can be set up in one of two ways. A number of manufacturers, including HP, Kodak, Epson, and Canon, already sell cloud-ready printers that “connect directly to the web and don’t require a PC to set up.” But what if you have a so-called “classic” printer, one that can’t go online? You can still set that up too.

Because Cloud Print was initially conceived for use with Chrome OS, the setup process is handled entirely in Google’s Chrome browser. To enable Cloud Print, head over to Chrome’s Settings page, and select “Under the Hood.” From there, you should see the option to enable Cloud Print from the bottom of the page.

Setting up Cloud Print requires you to go under the hood.

The process is relatively painless from here. If you already have a printer installed in Windows or OS X, Cloud Print is smart enough to identify the device and prepare it for remote printing. You don’t even need to keep Chrome open. A helper process runs in the background and listens for new print jobs. The only caveat, of course, is that both the printer and computer must remain on for cloud printing to work.

From here, you’re probably going to want to, you know, print something. If you’re using Chrome on any other Windows, Mac, or Linux computer, this too is easy. Any Chrome installation synced to your Google account has the ability to print to your cloud printers. If a friend or coworker has an existing Cloud Print setup, they can share their cloud-enabled printer with you, too. This can be useful in small business or team scenarios where multiple people can be given access to a shared printer in a remote location that is managed by someone else.

To print, simply select the Cloud Print option from Chrome’s print page dialog. Doing so will open a browser pop-up that lists all of your cloud-enabled printers, in addition to any other printers that friends or co-workers have shared with your Google address.

Of course, you’re not just limited to printing from Chrome (though this is the simplest way to get going). OS X users can use a third-party app called Cloud Printer to print a variety of documents from a local machine—and, with a few extra steps, can set up Cloud Printer to act as a virtual printer in any Mac app. Windows users can download a similar app called Paperless Printer. Both are free.

Google Cloud Print's web-based queue. Everything printed successfully.

Mobile use is, admittedly, a little more difficult. Unlike a desktop OS, mobile applications on Android and iOS require printer support to be included on a per-application basis, and every implementation is a little different. In other words, you won’t necessarily be able to use Cloud Print with every application that also supports printing.

On Android, you’ll be able to print from Google’s mobile Chrome browser, for example, or within the native Google Docs app. There are also other capable apps listed on Google’s website, as well as on the Play store. On iOS, however, native options are slim. Google says that the in-browser versions of its mobile apps support Cloud Print, and some websites apparently feature a Cloud Print button. However, perhaps the best approach is to use an alternative to remote printing all together. An app available for Windows and OS X called WePrint can monitor an e-mail address for new file attachments and print them using a local printer when received. Or, if you’re a Dropbox user on OS X and feel more comfortable setting things up yourself, you can use Automator to automatically print any file synced to a local Dropbox folder.

It’s not quite the same as having native print support in a given application, but it beats not being able to print at all.

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