Maggie and the Ferocious Beast

FamilySearch Indexing on a Chromebook over a Tethered Android Internet Connection

You may have read about how I feel about the Chromebooks (reviews here and here) and installing Ubuntu (via Crouton) on them. I got FamilySearch Indexing working on chromebooks by installing Ubuntu and the Java Development Kit (JDK) and putting in a softlink in the .FamilySearchIndexing folder to point to the correct Java runtime (JRE).

Now I got another task. I moved recently and do not have a good reliable internet service available (I refuse to pay for satellite or cell company high priced low bandwidth and metered usage!), so I do have internet on my cell phone (a Motorola X from republicwireless.com). It runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat and with an app called Proxoid you can basically set up your browser on your computer to use a proxy on your phone via the USB cable connected to your phone. It’s a free app, and easy enough to set up on Windows 7 and Ubuntu Linux (they also do Mac which I don’t have at the moment). Basically you install the latest Android SDK. Make sure you get the platform-tools to get the “adb” command. It hopefully installs the driver for your phone (mine got recognized immediately) and you put your phone in Development/USB Debugging mode. Connect your phone to computer via USB cable. Run “adb devices” (your phone should show up, if not then you probably don’t have the driver). Next run “adb forward tcp:8080 tcp:8080″ to forward your localhost:8080 port to the phone. Configure your browser to use proxy 127.0.0.1:8080 for http and https and you are good to surf net using phone’s internet connection.

Once I got that working, I wanted of course to do FamilySearch Indexing through the proxy! I did a Google search and found this. It tells you to create a proxy.properties file and put in your proxy variables (server, port) and shazam – it works! At first I tried in Linux just setting http_proxy and https_proxy variables and launching indexing from the terminal. No dice, login failed, server unreachable. I then looked at Java network settings, set the proxy there. Fail. Then I searched the great Googly Moogly

Hopefully someone else finds use for it too. Drop me a comment if you do!

HP Chromebook 11

Review: HP Chromebook 11

The first Chromebook that I purchased was the White and Blue HP Chromebook 11.

This was my first experience with a Chromebook. I have owned various laptops in the past and I’m a fairly geeky techie, so I knew what I was getting. I was expecting a quick booting, web browsing, Chrome-browser-like laptop. I also knew that there was a possibility to install Linux or a Linux-like layover due to the “Developer-mode” that is inherent to all of Google’s Chromebooks. I have been using Unix since 1989 and so I’m VERY comfortable around Linux. Now my wife, on the other hand, could care less if it ran Linux. I knew she would use it if it got her to her Gmail, her Google Calendar, Facebook, etc. She is a homeschooler too, homeschooling our five children. Most of the applications she uses are on websites, so the Chromebook would work fine for that. I wanted to use the Chromebook like any other laptop I had to: watch Netflix, Hulu, surf web. Do all the Google apps (I prefer them over Yahoo or Microsoft apps) including Google Drive/Docs. I also use Feedly for viewing all my feeds and since the OS is Chrome-based, I knew that all the plugins I use in Chrome would work on the Chromebook too.

Nowadays, my kids use this Chromebook exclusively. They spend a lot of time watching youtube, playing games, listening to music and so on. It works great for those activities too. My teens use it for FaceBook and reading email. It easily prints to our Google Print-enabled printer.

My wife says that it worked for most things. There were every now and then some problems with some PDFs. She would download it and save it and it wouldn’t open. Since you can’t download Adobe’s Acrobat Reader, you are stuck with whatever PDF viewer is installed or that you can download from the ChromeStore. I, personally didn’t have any issues, but then again I didn’t view too many odd-ball PDFs (mine were normal, hers were odd-ball). If I get smacked for that one, maybe I’ll post pics of my bruises.

There is one application that I and the kids use at least weekly: Family Search Indexing. If you haven’t heard of Family Search Indexing, it’s basically a project to index things like census records, death/birth/baptism records and so on. Big genealogy indexing projects. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka “LDS” or “Mormons“) and this is something that I feel I need to do. Currently, the application to do indexing is built using Java. You may have heard good things or bad things about Java. Steve Jobs and Apple Inc. don’t like Java. Google and Oracle don’t get along either. Chromebooks do not come with Java. So I was at a loss of how to do indexing on my new Chromebook. Then I remembered that Chromebooks are Linux based (Linux in the background) and so I did a few searches and found that I could either use Chrubuntu or Crouton to run Ubuntu on my new Chromebook.

Here are the steps I took to get Family Search Indexing working on my Chromebook:

  1. First, I had a Linux laptop (one that my kids used, an HP 2000 with Ubuntu already installed) with Family Search Indexing installed and working.
  2. I installed Crouton as in the link above. Ideally, create the same username (in my case “jimmyd”) on the Crouton installed Ubuntu as on the real laptop.
  3. Tar up .FamilySearchIndexing from the real laptop (cd; tar cvf FSI.tar .FamilySearchIndexing)
  4. Upload the new FSI.tar to your Google Drive
  5. Go to Google Drive from within Crouton Ubuntu browser (it may be easier to install Firefox if it wasn’t installed already – sudo apt-get install firefox) and download the FSI.tar
  6. Untar the FSI.tar (cd; tar xvf FSI.tar)
  7. cd .FamilySearchIndexing/indexing.familysearch.org
  8. Remove the JRE (Java Runtime Environment) folder here since it’s not the right version: rm -rf jre
  9. Next, install the latest JRE for the Crouton Ubuntu: sudo apt-get install default-jre)
  10. Soft link the path to the jre to the current folder (which java; ls -l /etc/alternatives/java -> this points to the path you need, so ln -s /usr/lib/jvm/java-6-openjdk-armhf/jre .) – Note on the Acer Chromebooks this is different (amd64 vs armhf here)
  11. Copy the launcher to your desktop: cp FamilySearch\ Indexing.desktop ~/Desktop
  12. Double-click on the Family Search Indexing icon on your desktop and it should launch and work as expected!

There is one caveat: the USB charge port is nice, but when it first came out, the power cords overheated. Google did a “stop work” and put everything on hold until HP could come up with a newer version that wouldn’t overheat. Now all the new ones come with the new power cord. I had to order a replacement from Google (search HP Chromebook 11 power cord replacement) which they shipped out free to my home.

Overall, I have been able to do everything I wanted with my new HP Chromebook 11. I hope you enjoy it too!

You can check it out and purchase it here (affiliate link):