Cloud Living – Day 7

Seven days in and what is everyone asking? “How’s it going with your cloud-living experiment?” I’m not going to lie. It’s not going well. Instead of living in the clouds, I feel like I am living in the fog…like a cloud sitting on the ground…where things reside.

Day 1

On Day 1 of my experiment I quickly discovered that I was going to have some trouble getting onto the VPN I use daily for my job. You see, I am a remote employee in a home office. In order to access any corporate resources (e.g. internal CMS, corporate directory, etc.) I need to first establish a VPN connection. At Telerik we use Cisco AnyConnect over SSL.

Major Obstacle #1 – Cisco AnyConnect

In order for me to establish a VPN connection, I first have to install the Cisco AnyConnect Java client tool. Wait! Install! I can’t install, I live in the cloud. Certainly there has to be a way around this. As it turns out there is VPN support built right into Chrome OS. Solution found!

Solution Failed!

As it turns out, the built-in VPN solution, while great for some instances, isn’t great for me. You see, as I mentioned, we use an SSL VPN (which makes sense – all my top secret IP is moving over this connection). Well, this is what I found on the Google Chrome OS support site:


Suddenly my dreams of living a cloud life are being threatened. I can’t access any corporate resources. Not even email (our Outlook Web Access requires the VPN connection). I thought about trying to use Office 365 or GMail as the client for my corporate Exchange account, but unfortunately neither of these solutions are currently supported by our IT admins, and since I am the only one (foolish enough to be) using a Chromebook, its also not a priority. Understandable.

Day 2-7

aka What I Use the Chromebook For (besides Fantasy Football)

So here’s what I have been doing for the past seven days.

During working hours I use my Windows PC and MacOS machines any time I need to (a) have a Skype meeting with my team or colleagues (since imo instant messenger failed for me when it came to anything other than text), or (b) when I need to access corporate resources, such as out internal CMS portals.  Anytime I don’t need to do either of those things for a decent stretch of time (an hour or more), I switch to the Chromebook. I’ve reconfigured my desk so that the Apple Thunderbolt display is horizontal on the right, the Windows PC has one display vertical on the left, and the Chromebook has the center display, horizontal. THis makes it easy for me to default to the Chromebook, while still having the other machines available and accessible.

I’ve been using Google Drive to read existing Microsoft Word docs that I have saved in DropBox, and to create new files, including documents and presentations. I’ve also been using my GMail to send emails to work colleagues (and I’m not sure they’ve noticed). I’m considering signing up for Cloud HQ in order to sync Google Drive and DropBox.

Lots of my time is spent doing one of three things, all of which have been possible in the Chromebook:

  1. Doing competitive and industry research, reading blogs, and other web based resources.
  2. Creating content in the form of “word” docs and presentations.
  3. Writing code in a kick-ass integrated cloud environment (ICE).

As long as I don’t need to access corporate resources (which is often the result of my research work) or read my Telerik email (which I can do on my Google Nexus phone, or on my Google Nexus 7 tablet) then I am fine in the Chromebook.

<sideNote>The Chromebook battery life and sleep mode rocks! I frequently forget to plug the device in. Since it sleeps when the lid is closed, and comes to life in seconds when opened, the battery has lasted longer than I have ever needed. Big points for the Chromebook.</sideNote>

At this point I’ve figured out most of the limitations of the Chromebook, and I think I know where I can push it a little bit. What I would really like to do next is record a demo of my new product running on the Chromebook. Apparently all I have to do is install a screen capture tool.

Wait! Install!

My New Life in the Cloud – Day 0

As a guy that is a proponent of, and who makes cloud-based software, I felt it was only prudent for me to try a little experiment. What would it be like to live my life in the cloud? I’m not talking about spending the month of October in the high elevations of Nepal like some people I know. Rather, I am talking about limiting the software I use in my day-to-day life to only cloud based software. I tried this once before, but it was too easy to fall back into my old habits of relying on resident applications when things go tough. Since the software my team and I are building is fully capable of running non-resident, I thought the ony sane thing to do was to rip off the (resident app) band-aid and get myself a Chromebook.

Samsung Series 5 550
Samsung Series 5 550

Last week the Samsung Series 5 550 arrived at my house. Its a nice little device (little, like a 12.1″ screen), but its still thicker and heavier than my MacBook Air (even though it has all those resident apps stuffed inside).  The device feels solid, and looks nice. I fired it up, and after a few seconds of booting, I had to wait ten minutes for an operating system update to be applied. Not too bad for a first boot. Subsequent boots have been wicked fast (under 10-seconds for a cold boot, and instant for coming our of sleep).

I pretty much stayed away from it over the weekend, with plans to turn off all of my other laptops (Windows X220 with two 27″ monitors, a MackBook Air with Thunderbolt display, etc.) and go exclusively cloud for two weeks. And then reality hit. I had a morning full of meetings and I simply wasn’t ready to begin my day on a new laptop. I needed Skype (which isn’t supported on ChromeOS), and I needed to access my corporate Exchange server, etc. I did my first meeting as normal, and then made the switch.

My second meeting got off to a rough start because I couldn’t get imo instant messenger to make a video call to one of my Skype contacts–I wasn’t able to get my headset to work with ChromeOS, and the video call crashed. We quickly resorted to a Google+ Hangout (chalk one up for Google–it was so hard to use the stuff we we were accustom to that we had to use their solution).

Before I knew it I was back at my Windows PC for a couple follow up meetings, etc. By the afternoon my resolve was stronger. I decided to disassemble my existing desk setup so that I could position the Chromebook front and center, and turn off the other laptops for the next couple weeks. Since the Series 5 550 has an on board DisplayPort I decided to connect it to the center monitor (which I turned back to horizontal from its normal portrait position–see below).

After discovering the Ctrl + Monitor Toggle combination I had the screen projecting on my 27″ monitor (at 2550 x 1440). Life is better now.

So far I have installed many of the apps I use regularly (the Chrome Web App versions) and some that are new to me that will take the place of old resident apps.

I also found a great list of tips for new ChromeOS users.

My next series of steps is to get all of my work applications up and running before tomorrow morning. I need to ensure I can access Outlook Web Access and Google Docs (which we don’t use, but I will need to switch to for the next few weeks). I will also need to get Google Drive and DropBox synced – I use DropBox extensively and I am not willing to give it up (especially since it’s also cloud-based).

I’ll keep you posted on my progress, and what obstacles I encounter. It’s worth noting that my product works just fine on ChromeOS 🙂

Here’s my old desk set-up (I had to use my MacBook Air to get this photo off of my Canon 40D–I couldn’t figure out how to do it with the Chromebook in 10-minutes and gave in):

My old desk setup (Windows on the left two screens, MacBook Air on the right one)