Chrome Beta 11 – New Icon, Speech-to-text (Update: How to revert to old icon!)

Google has updated its popular lightweight web browser to version 11 today. Although still tagged “beta” this software has been my daily driver for quite some time and has yet to crash on me. In comparison, the first 3 times I tried to do any WebGL related task in Firefox 4 (final) it crashed every time. This new version of Chrome also brings about GPU-accelerated 3D CSS support making for some pretty impressive (and speedy) renderings on select websites that make use of it. I noticed decently improved performance in HTML5 as well. Speaking of HTML5, handicapped users will be pleased to note that Google’s Chrome is now taking advantage of the speech-to-text API in HTML5 allowing people to literally talk to websites.

The other new thing it brings is a 2D icon. Ironic considering the 3D CSS rendering it brings, Chrome 11 has a newer, flatter icon. I do not approve of this icon; maybe its just the neophobe in me; and endeavored to switch it back to the old one. Making the icon switch in Ubuntu on my dock was easy enough swapping out the png for the original (or in my case a red icon to go with my theme). Windows 7 was different because the new dock/taskbar is kind of a pain when it comes to making custom icons not look like crap. Instead of trying to use a new (or older, depending on your point of view) png or other icon file I found a very simple, easy to do switch:

  1. Right click the dock icon and then right click Google Chrome (third option from the bottom)
  2. Left click “Properties”
  3. Select “Open File Location”
  4. In there you should see two programs (.exe). One is “chrome.exe” the other is “old_chrome.exe”. We’re going to use the “old_chrome” icon for a shortcut to the “new” Chrome.
  5. Right click the new “chrome.exe” and select “Create Shortcut”.
  6. Right click that shortcut and select “Properties”
  7. Click “Change Icon”
  8. Click “Browse”
  9. It should come up with the same folder we were just in. Select the “old_chrome.exe” to pull up the original Chrome icon. If it doesn’t, navigate to: C:\Users\YOURUSERNAMEHERE\AppDate\Local\Google\Chrome\Application
  10. Hit “Apply”, “OK” and exit. Tada! Original glossy Chrome icon!

There ya have it! Change isn’t always a good thing, and I like having a way to change things how I like. Enjoy!

Press release: http://chrome.blogspot.com/2011/03/talking-to-your-computer-with-html5.html
Get it while its hot! http://www.google.com/intl/en/landing/chrome/beta/

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Chrome OS – Google’s desktop OS, is it worth your time?

I’m starting this post because I’ve recently had a self goal of seeing exactly how many operating systems I can get stable and usable on my Lenovo laptop. This poor little thing has been through more reinstalls than Windows ME the different versions of Android on my phone. Eh, not quite. I will definitely be posting back when it gets done being reinstalled. Just for the record, I did have an earlier beta build installed on here and I did spend a substantial time with the OS before my girlfriend wrote a love note to my GRUB and MBR… but that’s another story. My personal time with the OS is the basis for this article, no outside influences are cited.

I’m also considering renaming this category to the “Google” category simply because a majority of Google’s services are very, very intertwined. Yes, this is a Droid blog, but being a Droid user I find it super convenient to use Google Chrome as my primary browser. I’d used FireFox for a long time, once I got past the Dark Ages of IE 6 and 7, and have just recently switched over to Chrome in the last year. Mostly prompted by my first Android powered device the Droid Eris, I started to explore the connections between Chrome and Google. Not necessarily Chrome by itself, but Gmail, my web and search history, and of course “Chrome to Phone”. “Chrome to Phone” ranks very highly on my list of “Things that Assure Me there is a God and He Does Love Me.” Along with the new Web Market (is there an official term? Noted…) this is one of those tings I can’t live without. Whenever I’m near my laptop or desktop and someone asks me where the nearest laundromat is or what time does the dollar store open I can have the map and the number both sent to my phone ready to go out the door in under 5 minutes. It’s phenomenal how such a little thing makes all the difference when integrated properly.

Which brings us back to the main point. Why all this talk about Chrome the browser? Because it’s the fundamental backbone to the Chrome OS. Everything is inside that browser.This concept sounded so supremely ridiculous when I first heard about it a little more than a year ago that I immediately declared it DOA.Then I started using Chrome as a browser and HTML5 became more of a standard for coding in general. Things changed dramatically and now I could easily do almost everything I normally do in the Chrome OS. I say almost because I tend to be kind of a power user. I use lots of different apps through the day and a lot of them are just too powerful to ever be used to the scope I use them. Video editing, application development,  real Photoshop and the ever essential video games will never be able to be matched in browser based alternatives. Oh sure there are several options for light video and photo editing out there. And Google Docs is doing a bang up job of tempting me to never purchase another Micro$oft Office product. Video games too are becoming more powerful thanks to hardware acceleration support from HTML5 in Chrome OS. Having Quake being rendered in real time in a browser was laughable just a year ago and yet here we are.

Now, this isn’t a finished product, Google OS is still just a RC right now, but it holds a lot of promise. Never losing data due to its cloud based storage and supposed always-on data connection. Lots of apps are already coming in for the Chrome Web Store (my personal favorite time waster: Sinuous) and many look downright useful. There’s a certain market for netbooks and as netbooks are being replaced by tablets and ultraportables, Chrome OS is gonna be in a tough spot. Android 3.0 is shaping up to be a fantastic OS  for tablets offering a much more touch friendly UI. Chrome OS is dedicated to laptops, but why would someone run this rather basic OS on this new crowd of “notbooks”. These new ultra-slim, but ultra-powerful laptops coming out would really waste power, in my opinion, on running anything but Windows 7. There’s going to be a niche market for this OS, just as there was for netbooks. I’m still not entirely sure there’s a place for Chrome OS, the netbook ship has sailed.

But there is hope. The ever expanding amount of apps as well as clever grass roots marketing by Google could get a Chrome OS fire burning in the world. Hardware compatibility for other laptops should help spread it among the geeks and having it as a quick boot option on a couple of key manufacturers laptops (no matter the size) could also help its mind share. This exceedingly ever more connected world really could use something like Chrome OS, but the real question is: will it?

I’m Wil Nelson, peace out.