Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Post Chromebook

I've been using a Chromebook Pixel as my primary laptop for over a year now and have just gone back to using a Mac. (A 15" MacBook Pro to be exact.) The reason for retuning to the Mac was simple. After a hiatus from developing, I've been finding myself getting drawn back into writing code.

What I'll miss

1) Google Hangout Integration

With the Chromebook, Hangout is a first class citizen. It sits comfortably in the system tray at the bottom right of the screen and can be docked to the edge of the window to have a persistent presence.  Given I work exclusively with distributed teams, this is possibly the most missed aspect of the Chromebook.

On the Mac, Hangout feels awkward in comparison. Maybe it has always been awkward - somehow Hangout doesn't feel like it really belongs on a Mac.

2) Google Drive as the file system

In Chrome OS,  Google Drive is part of the file manager. It could be better as there is still a little awkwardness in the UI, but it still feels like it is part of the OS.  My business is run using Google Apps so this is more valuable that it might at first appear.

On the Mac, I installed the Drive sync app which puts all your Drive files on the local file system and keeps them synced. On the whole then syncing works well. However I'm already finding myself putting files outside Drive - I know that this is down to me, but I never even had the option on Chromebook.

3) The Pixel screen

I was sceptical when I read the Pixel had a 3:2 screen to support better browsing. (A taller screen is more useful for vertically scrolling content like web pages and documents.)  Now I'm back to a wide screen, I rather miss the retro screen size of the Pixel.  Of course a 15" MBP has an excellent screen so I'm not suffering. 

The Pixel screen quality is great, but doesn't set it apart from the MBP - at least not for me.

What I won't miss

1) Google Cloud Printing

I generally don't need to print much, but doing it from my Pixel was never a great experience. With Chromebooks printing is done via Google Cloud Print. My Cannon printer supported GCP - but that was sheer luck.
Cloud Print actually worked quite well however the printer itself was the problem in that it didn't seem to persist the cloud print settings if turned off - and my printer is mostly turned off.  In addition, the printer could only be registered to one Google Account so I had to shuttle documents back and forth far too often.

In comparison Apple's printing support has always served me well.

2) Forced restarts

The Pixel (and maybe all Chromebooks) is 'always on' when in standby mode. This means there is always some battery use, if the laptop is closed but not shutdown.
Often I would find the Pixel had shut itself down overnight and I suspect it is in response to the battery getting too low.

Either way, a computer that shuts itself down without user interaction is a no-no.

3) The Keyboard

There is nothing wrong with the keyboard on the Pixel. It's actually very good.
But after a solid year of intense use, it's starting to creak. And I quite literally mean creak. Some of the keys make a strange squeaking sound.

This isn't too disturbing, but compared with the Pixel, the MBP keyboard is much better. It just feels more solid and satisfying to use.

4) Performance

Given the Pixel has 4GB of RAM, I was often left feeling disappointed with performance. And if the machine is left running for several days, performance degradation was noticeable.

Things you might expect would come up, but didn't

1) Offline Support

I don't find having a full blown laptop much of a benefit when offline primarily and this is because I'm wedded to Google Apps, email etc.

2) SSH / Remote Desktop

I have my Pixel in developer mode so I could easily create SSH connections. For remote desktop I used the xxx extension which works admirably.

So, support for these items isn't noticeably better on the Mac.
Posted - Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Launched - NPO for iOS

Working alongside numerous teams, including the awesome Vualto Ltd and Infostrada in Holland, today launched the iOS app for NPO - the national broadcaster of Holland.  With both iPhone and iPad versions, we helped build the video playback mechanics centred around Microsoft's PlayReady DRM.  Other features included Chromecast support and Smart TV push via PubNub cloud messaging.

Posted - Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Launched - The Economist Radio for iOS

Today we launched The Economist Radio app for iPhone and iPad.

The app uses SoundCloud to deliver a daily radio show covering world news, politics, culture, science, technology and more.  Customers can listen to the first story for free and then subscribe for a low monthly fee to get all stories - about 25 minutes of content.

Aimed at the commuter, this version of the app is streaming only, but will soon be updated to support offline playback.

Posted - Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Friday, March 28, 2014

Launched - Travel Guide

Today we launched on iOS and Android. is a mobile app that helps you find the most interesting and relevant local venues wherever you are on the planet, quickly. We aim to help travellers enjoy the best and most authentic local experience possible. In other words, we're on a mission to give you timely and fresh insight into the places that the locals really go to eat, drink and play!

Download today on Google Play or Apple iTunes.



Posted - Friday, March 28, 2014

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Launched - Nubeox iOS 7 Upgrade

Nubeox is an online video service run by the Spanish broadcaster Antena 3 with over 2,000 titles, including the best cinema with film premieres, series and movies. Currently available to the Spanish market on computer, tablet or Samsung Smart TV.

Partnering with Vualto Ltd, Video Technology and Delivery specialists, at Snapp we were approached to deliver a technology refresh for the Nubeox iPad app to bring it up-to-date with the latest iOS7 enhancements.


  • Adobe Access DRM
  • Subscriber login
  • Browsing and promotion of new titles
  • Download for offline playback
  • Multi-bitrate video streaming

Posted - Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Thursday, December 05, 2013

iOS Screen Share with Google Hangout

I came across this blog post that provides a solution to a problem I've been wanting to solve for a while.
Posted - Thursday, December 05, 2013

Friday, August 16, 2013

Buzz - British Film Institute TV App Launch

Today we got the BFI's TV app out to the world.  This is part of the BFI's digital initiative in which 20,000 video items from its archive will be made digitally available.  Next!

Posted - Friday, August 16, 2013

Sunday, July 28, 2013

SSH to EC2 via ChromeOS

Using the Chrome Secure Shell Extension to connect to an Amazon EC2 instance is pretty easy, although there are a couple of steps you need to know about.

Creating Public/Private Keys

AWS creates PEM files to make it possible to connect to EC2 instances via SSH.  The Chrome Secure Shell, however, needs a private and public key.

Generating a public key is easy, but you will not be able to do this from ChromeOS. (It is probably possible to do this ChromeOS when running in Dev mode, but I haven't tried it yet.)

Using the following command:  ssh-keygen -y -f key.pem >

At this stage you will have 2 files: key.pem and  Rename the key.pem to just 'key'. This will allow the Chrome Secure Shell to understand that it is the private key.

Create the SSH Connection

To create the SSH connection, open the Secure Shell extension and create a new connection.  Use the EC2 connection string as you normally would - for example, an EC2 instance running Ubuntu would be ubuntu@<ec2 address> or when running an Amazon Linux instance it would be ec2-user@<ec2 address>.

Import the private/public key by clicking in the Import button - from the file chooser select both the key and files.

Posted - Sunday, July 28, 2013

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Launched - YouTube Subscriptions

Today, at Digital Theatre, we launched one of the first YouTube subscription channels. This is part of our multi-channel distribution strategy which looks bring amazing theatre to as many screens as possible across the globe.

It says quite a lot about our improved content management capabilities that this project was turned around in about three weeks.

Posted - Thursday, May 09, 2013

Monday, March 18, 2013

Launched - Digital Theatre Plus

The long anticipated release of the new Digital Theatre Plus website has finally happened.  Today we have brought a vastly enhanced set of teaching resources to schools and universities. Not only can students watch complete productions, but also individual acts and scenes as well as insightful interviews with cast and crew.

Posted - Monday, March 18, 2013

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Launched - Digital Theatre for iPad and iPhone

Today we brought Digital Theatre to the iOS community with an app for iPhone and iPad.  As well as watching shows already purchased on, customers can also buy shows directly from within the app.  For those who buy without a Digital Theatre account, we offer a synchronisation service so that iOS purchase can later be added to a DT account if a user so chooses.


  • In-app purchasing of videos
  • Browsing and promotion of new titles
  • Synchronising purchases between devices and website accounts
  • Social engagement with Facebook-published reviews
  • Multi-bitrate video streaming
  • Responsive design for phones and tablets

Posted - Thursday, March 14, 2013