November News 2023 | Google commits to Chromebooks for 10 years

While we are big fans of Google Chromebooks, not only for their general security and ease of use, but also for their low price point. We had a major concern with something called Chromebook churn. For those unaware, Chromebooks will only receive software updates for a fix period of time that starts when a model of Chromebook is first released. So if you are unaware of this policy, you potentially could be buying a new Chromebook, that is obsolete in under a year.

However, due to Chromebooks being cheaper and easier to manage than Windows computers. Many schools have been buying cheap Chromebooks which quickly become obsolete and require replacing. This in turn has lead to massive amounts of e-waste which has been coined Chromebook churn.

So it’s good news that Google have listened to consumers and environmentalists, and recently announced that any Chromebook purchased after 2024 will now receive 10 years of automatic updates. Then for anyone who purchased a Chromebook released in or after 2021. That Chromebook will also receive the option to extend automatic updates for 10 years, rather then the original defaults of 3 to 5.

However what’s perhaps more interesting, is that because Google plan to separate the Chrome browser from ChromeOS. When ChromeOS is no longer able to receive updates, you will still be able to download and use a secure instance of Chrome browser. Which means in theory you should be able to continue to safely use a Chromebook, even if its no longer receiving automatic updates.

Geeky Christmas presents ideas

With Christmas fast approaching, we thought we would offer up a few tech gift ideas. However as gadgets and tech presents are often very expensive, we are going to start with a few of our cheaper ideas.

Smart Home gifts

As Black Friday seems to have become a thing here in the UK. It’s often a good way to pick up tech gadgets at reduced prices. However as high end products are often not included in Black Friday sales. We find the real bargains are usually with lost leaders, like Internet of Things devices produced by Google and Amazon.

So if you need a new smart speaker or security camera, it’s best to wait until Black Friday. Where we recommend looking out for deals that include the new Amazon Echo Pop smart speaker and the Fire HD 10 tablet. However, as the Echo Flex is currently 80% off. It might make a good stocking filler if you need voice control in a hallway or landing.

Then if you are looking for a media player to extend the functionality of a television. The Chromecast with Google TV would make an excellent Black Friday purchase. Not only is the Chromecast with Google TV currently our favourite media player. It works really well with our Synology NAS and the DS Video app.

How about a Steam Deck?

Number one on our Christmas list is a Steam Deck games console. While initially in short supply, which meant that we purchased our’s second hand. This is rapidly becoming our favourite games console. So not only can we play many new AAA PC games, like Spiderman, and Diablo 4. There is a multitude of games like Red Dead Redemption 2, Stray, Vampire Survivors, En Garde! and Dave the Diver to enjoy.

While a Steam Deck is currently one of the cheapest hand held consoles around. We recommend that you also think about getting a good quality Micro SD card, and perhaps even consider swapping out the Decks internal hard drive for something faster and of a higher capacity. For example on our Steam Deck, we decided to upgrade to a 1TB SABRENT 2230 M.2 NVMe, and also added a 512GB Samsung Pro Plus Micro SD card.

Apple AirPod Pro, or Google Pixel Buds

Apple don’t always make good peripherals, Apple AirPod‘s do make very welcome gifts. However we do prefer the Apple AirPod Pro, which while a little on the expensive side. Is more discreet in size, and has a noise cancelling function.

If you’re special someone prefers using an Android handset. Then the Google Pixel Buds make a good alternative to the Apple AirPods. While we feel that their smaller design makes them a little too small and fiddly. Google Pixel Buds are comparable to Apple AirPods in both price and features. However as both sets of ear buds can be paired with most Bluetooth devices. It may not matter which brand you get, as they should all work interchangeably with any devices that you own.

PlayStation 5 and a copy of Spiderman 2

Microsoft and Sony have been battling over the console wars for well over two decades, with Sony currently having the upper hand. So while both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles, are similar to each other in terms of performance. For the uninitiated choosing the right console can be difficult.

On the one hand we have the Xbox Series X and Series S, which offers excellent backward compatibility with previous generation games, and offers Microsoft’s Game Pass. While it might be tempting to buy the cheaper Xbox. The Series S is under powered and in our opinion holding Xbox back. So if you are looking to buy an Xbox. Purchase the Series X which actually has specifications slightly superior to the PlayStation 5.

As to Game Pass which is a subscription service, that allows you to play a selection of games, for a monthly fee. While it might seem like a great idea, we did not find the content on offer all that compelling. Which so far has left us feeling disappointed with our Xbox Series X.

On the other hand, we also have a PlayStation 5. Which is backward compatible with PlayStation 4 games, and has a wide variety of exclusive games. This means that for now PlayStation 5 is winning this generation of console wars by outselling Xbox Series X. So your buying decisions will probably come down to what exclusive games you want to play, and perhaps if backward compatibility with old games is important to you.

For us we find the games on the PS5 to be more interesting. So with a growing list of exclusive games that include; God for War Ragnarok, Sackboy: a Big Adventure, Gran Truismo 7, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Horizon Forbidden West, and Ratchet and Clank Rift Apart. The PS5 has plenty of great games to play over Christmas. Then for any Spider-man fans, there is Spider-Man 2. Which currently is a PS5 exclusive and is included as part of a PS5 Christmas bundle.

What to get someone who already has a PlayStation 5?

Originally when the PlayStation 5 was release, it only had 825GB of internal storage. So while you can plug a USB hard drive into the console, you can’t run PS5 games from that external storage. Which means that a great gift for someone who already owns a PS5, is to buy them some more internal storage.

One of the nice design features of the PS5, is the relative ease with which you can add more internal storage. So while its existing storage will remain in use, by using its M.2 expansion slot, we can upgrade a PS5 with up to 4TB of additional storage for our games.

While there are a lot of different upgrade options which will all work well. On our PS5 we used a 2TB Samsung 990 Pro. Which in tests was either noticeably faster or on par the standard SSD built into the PS5. As to heatsinks, there are internet reports that you do not need to fit one to the 990 Pro. However as we wanted to err on the side of caution, and the Samsung 990 pro with heatsink is considerably more expensive than one without. We bought a third party QIVYNSRY M.2 Heatsink which has a low enough profile to fit in the PS5, and has been working without issue for over two years.

FujiFim Instax SQ1

As retro has become chic, we have seen a return to the Polaroid style of instant cameras. So if you have a budding photographer, take a look at the FujiFilm Instax SQ1. While not only is it a fun gift, it does allow you to take remarkably good photos with little effort. The only issue we have with the Instax SQ1 is the price of the shot cartridges.

Posting to the website and YouTube

While we said last month that we had finished our series on Linux Development Environment. There was one important video we forgot to post. So in the first post for November, we are going to show you the command for updating Flatpak and all applications installed via Flatpak.

Then as Windows 10 will soon be deprecated by Microsoft, for the rest of the month we want to look at a couple of areas relating to Windows 11. This will include demonstrating how you place Windows 11 into Safe mode. Which is a useful troubleshooting tool that places windows in a basic state, to allow you to fix problematic system files or drivers.

We will also be posting two videos which demonstrate how you map network drives to Windows 11. One via a Wizard in File Manager, and the other using terminal commands. The reason we are doing this now is because in our Synology NAS series, we are ready to mount our newly created network shares. So for the final video of the month we will be taking a look at the numerous ways you can connect Windows to the network shares on our NAS.

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