Thursday, March 31, 2011

Switch Between Developer Mode and Normal Mode Without A Wipe

Normally when you pull the battery and flip the developer mode switch in or out of developer mode, the Cr-48 will wipe your stateful partition meaning you'll be back to the "Out of Box" state of Chrome OS and will need to reconfigure your accounts, WiFi networks, timezone, etc. etc. However I've created a special NoWipe image that allows you to avoid the wipe. But first the standard disclaimer:

You do this at your own risk. I'm not responsible if this breaks your Chrome Notebook, lose data or have any other problems. If you have trouble, feel free to post a comment but understand that you are taking full responsibility for your actions here. I have not hacked the Cr-48 or broken it's security with this disk image. See the very bottom of this post for an understanding of what this disk image is and does.

Update: I pushed this post out and then had to yank it real quick because I suddenly realized that in some cases, Chrome OS would immediately wipe the stateful partition as soon as a user logged in after switching from normal to developer mode. I wasn't sure what exactly was causing this behavior but I believe I've narrowed it down. If you first login to your Google Account on the Cr-48 in normal mode and then use the below instructions to switch to developer mode, Chrome OS will immediately wipe. The solution is to allow a wipe and login from developer mode for the first time. Then it seems you can flip between developer and normal using the below instructions without any issues (no guarantees though, see orange disclaimer above).

If you're not 100% comfortable about your Cr-48 being wiped back to it's out of box state and all data on it lost, don't even look at these instructions.

2nd Update: It seems Chrome OS eventually wipes one way or another after using NoWipe to switch. Your welcome to give it a shot but this isn't a long-term solution. It might be good for flipping into dev mode, making a change from the VT2 shell and then flipping back to normal mode on ocassion though...

To switch from normal mode to developer mode without a data wipe:

  1. Download my NoWipe image and create a USB or SD Card drive with it using the normal instructions.
  2. Turn the Cr-48 off. The image is only about 20mb in size so just about any size drive will do.
  3. Unplug the power cord and remove the battery. Flip the developer switch but don't turn power back on yet! Put the battery back and plug in the power cord.
  4. With the NoWipe drive ready to go. Power on the Cr-48 and press the space bar immediately to start the recovery process. Pay attention! If you miss pressing space in 30 seconds the Cr-48 will boot as into Developer mode and will warn that it's about to auto-wipe. If that happens, power off quickly by holding down the power button for 10 seconds or just yank the power cord and battery out.
  5. Once you're in recovery mode, insert the NoWipe drive when prompted for the recovery disk.
  6. It takes about 5 minutes for the NoWipe image to boot. This is Google's limitation, not mine. It's meant to prevent a quick, casual hack of our Chrome Notebook. Go grab some coffee.
  7. Once booted, the NoWipe image will tell you which mode the stateful partition believes it's in. It should show "Normal Mode" here as that's what you're coming from.
  8. Choose to switch the stateful partition to developer mode and reboot. Your Cr-48 will reboot and you'll be in developer mode without having your data wiped, same account picture, timezone, WiFi profiles and other settings as you had in normal mode.
To switch from developer mode back to normal mode without a data wipe:
  1. Download my NoWipe image and create a USB or SD Card drive with it using the normal instructions. The image is only about 20mb in size so just about any size drive will do.
  2. With the Cr-48 still in developer mode, reboot the Cr-48 and press the space bar to start the recovery process.
  3. Once you're in recovery mode, insert the NoWipe drive when prompted for the recovery disk.
  4. It takes about 5 minutes fo rthe NoWipe image to boot. This is Google's limitation, not mine. It's meant to prevent a quick, casual hack of our Chrome Notebook. Go grab some coffee.
  5. Once booted, the NoWipe image will tell you which mode the stateful partition believes it's in. It should show "Developer Mode" here as that's what you're coming from.
  6. Choose to switch the stateful partition to normal mode and shutdown.
  7. Once powered off, unplug the power cord and yank the battery. Flip the developer mode switch AWAY from the gold battery contacts to return the Cr-48 to normal mode.
  8. Plug the battery and power cord back in. Boot up your Cr-48. You'll be back in normal mode without having your data wiped, same account picture, timezone, WiFi profiles and other settings as you had in developer mode.
So how does NoWipe work?
Each time the Cr-48 boots off the SSD (not a recovery), Chrome OS determines if the current stateful partition where your data is stored has been in developer or normal mode based on the presence of a single file, /mnt/stateful_partition/.developer_mode. If the file does not exist but the hardware switch is in developer mode, it's assumed the user just flipped the developer switch and a wipe needs to be performed. If the file does exist and the hardware switch is not in developer mode, it also does a wipe. NoWipe is a custom image created using Google's instructions for booting your own non-Chrome OS image on the Cr-48. It boots using an official Google supplied recovery image kernel and then calls my custom script. simply creates or deletes the .recovery_image file when the Cr-48 is in recovery mode, thus avoiding the wipe. Rather simple really.

HP Announces their ePrint-ready printers now work with Google Cloud Print

HP has announced that all ePrint-ready HP Printers will now work with Google Cloud print (presumably after updating to the latest firmware). What this means if you have a ePrint-ready printer or are willing to part with $70 for the cheapest model is that you won't need a Windows, Mac or Linux box acting as the cloud print proxy any longer. Hopefully Google Cloud Print will become standard on all major printers in the next year. Till then, if you have an ePrint-ready HP printer and give this a shot, do let us know how well it works! And turn that Windows machine off for good!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Very Cool: Amazon's Cloud Drive and Cloud Player

I spent some time this evening playing around with's new Cloud Drive and Cloud Player service. Amazon is offering 5gb of free storage for your Music, Docs, Pictures and Video. If you purchase any music album from MP3, they'll upgrade that to 20gb for the next year. See the ads below for some $2.99 albums that qualify for the upgrade. 20gb gives me enough storage to upload all my music and stream or download it to any computer I have. This is a great solution for the Cr-48 where local storage is limited and the native music player is currently lacking. Right now, I'm uploading Music from my machine at about 1gb an hour so it's going to take most of the night to get my entire collection but once that's finished I'll be able to stream or download songs to my desktop at work, my Android phone or my Cr-48 and most importantly, keep everything organized between them without needing to copy/rip a CD multiple times. The web based music player isn't anything fancy but it a clean interface and it handle's what I need with playlists, search and plenty of sort options. I know there's been plenty of talk and rumour about Google Music and I'll certainly give it a shot when it's available but for now, Amazon's Cloud Player service is quite impressive!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Monday, March 28, 2011

Dev Channel Update:

Dev channel was updated this evening to The only noticeable change I've observed is that the browser was updated to the latest 11.x release. Some users on the Chrome Notebook Pilot forum are claiming improved performance. Are you noticing improvements over .32?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Dev Channel Update:

Dev channel was updated this afternoon fixing a rather nasty bug that was causing only blank pages to show in the browser on login. If you have it, have you noticed any other fixes? I have noticed that my blog posts describing how to create recovery drives have been possible the past few days. Those of you that recovered back to beta channel, do you plan to move back to dev now or have you had enough of life as a guinea pig?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Even Easier Recovery: Create a Recovery Drive From Your Cr-48

I've covered creating a Cr-48 recovery drive from Windows in the past but even that can be a hassle when you're not in front of your computer. Why can't we create the recovery USB or SD Card from our Cr-48? Now you can, just follow these easy steps:
  1. If you're not already in Developer Mode, you need to flip the switch underneath your battery. See here for details, just follow steps 1-7.
  2. With your Cr-48 connected to WiFi or Ethernet, get to a shell prompt. There are two ways to do this:
    1. If you're having trouble even opening a web page on your Cr-48, you can press CTRL+ALT+=> (=> is the forward arrow just above the numbers 2 and 3 on the keyboard). This works before or after you login. Now login as the user "chronos". No password should be needed. If CTRL+ALT+=> doesn't do anything, make sure you're in developer mode (see step 1)
    2. If you're logged in, you can press CTRL+ALT+T and then type "shell". If it says shell isn't a valid command, make sure you're in developer mode (see step 1)
    You should now be at a shell prompt. Note that you do not and should not need to be root to continue, the script will manage that itself, you can remain as user chronos.
  3. Now you're ready to run the recovery drive creation script. This command is case-sensitive, make sure you get it exactly right. If you get an error along the lines of "site not found, make sure you have Internet connectivity on your Cr-48. To start the script, just type:

    cd; wget; sudo sh e3cdo

  4. Once the roughly 320mb image downloads and unpacks, the script will show you USB and SD Card drives that the image can be written to. Any 2gb or larger drive will work and some 1gb drives work also, the script will warn you if a drive is to small. If you haven't plugged your drive in yet, plug it in and hit Enter to scan again. It may take 10-20 seconds for the drive to initialize so you may need to hit Enter a few times.
  5. To confirm that you definitely want to use the drive and that you understand all information on the drive will be lost, the script makes you type "YES" and "DoIt". Both are case-sensitive and that's "Do It" as in the Nike slogan, "Just..." Once that's done, the image will be written to the drive.
  6. Lastly, the script will ask if it should delete temp files. Unless you plan to create more recovery disks in the very near future, you should say yes here to free up 1.2gb on your drive.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Beta Channel Update:

Update: Google's posted details on the update to their official Chrome releases blog. In addition to the browser update, the trackpad dead space is supposed to be lessened. How's the trackpad doing for you with

Beta Channel was updated tonight to So far I've noticed two changes:

  1. Volume and Mute buttons work as expected! Previously it wasn't possible to adjust the volume with the hardware buttons (or at all if you were not in dev mode and couldn't run alsamix from a shell).
  2. Chrome browser has been updated to 10.0.648.151 which is described by Google as blacklisting a few (presumably malicious) certificates.
note that the critical Adobe Flash vulnerability was fixed in the last beta update and to my knowledge, Chrome remains the only fixed version to date, Adobe hasn't released a fix for Firefox, IE or Safari.

In other news, I'm having mixed feelings about the new HTC Thunderbolt phone. LTE is definitely the fastest mobile broadband money can buy but whether it's the network, the hardware or the software, things are a bit finicky so far and battery life is downright lousy. Looks like I'll be ponying out for the extended battery. Hopefully some Android updates from Verizon will solve some of these issues.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dev Channel Update: (missed

This is what happens when I get busy for 24 hours. The Chromebots decide to push out multiple updates. I'm not seeing a lot of discussion about new features but numerous people are having crash issues (turn those about:flags off people).

I do apologize if my posting is down this week, I just ordered the HTC Thunderbolt this morning and it'll be here tomorrow, my gadget attention has been temporarily diverted from the Cr-48. But once I get over the 4G and front facing camera I'm sure it'll be back to the Cr-48. The Thunderbolt isn't entirely OT for this blog, I'll be sure to post some scores with the Cr-48 tethered to the Thunderbolt's 4G hotspot.

Chrome Notebook with a 4G Verizon LTE modem in the Fall anybody? How does free on $20/month contract sound?

Beta Channel Update:

Beta Channel received an update earlier. Probably the most important fix is a new version of Flash that fixes a critical security flaw. Congrats to the Google Chrome team on being the first to deploy the fix. Beyond that, just your standard bug fixes.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Dev Channel Update:

This evening Google has released dev channel update, grab it while you can! So far I've noticed that Settings pages do load up quickly (no freeze as there was in However for some reason my tap to click setting was disabled after updating from, only took 5 seconds to re-enable it in settings though.

This marks the first time in quite awhile that I noticed an update before commenters did, let's go guys :-)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Beta Channel Update:

Beta channel has received it's first minor update to the 0.10 branch this evening bringing it up to The Chrome Release Blog has nothing up yet but they should update sometime soon with details of exactly what's fixed. Oddly enough, with the last dev release being pulled, this leaves the current beta channel release ahead of the current dev channel release. I'm sure Google will remedy that situation pretty quick but if you're on dev channel, missed 0.11 last night and are jealous of beta channel, you can always drop back to beta channel, grab this update then switch back to dev to be ready for 0.11 when Google deems it safe to try again.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Dev Channel Update:

Update: It appears Google may have pulled the update. After recovering my Cr-48 this morning (needed to test something on beta channel) I've been unable to get the update again even after forcing update checks repeatedly. Hopefully the issue isn't to nasty and we'll see updates resume soon.

I talked about what to expect with 0.11 this morning and sure enough, the first 0.11 dev channel update is upon us. The new window switcher icon is present at the top right of the screen. WiFi ad-hoc mode should work also though I haven't had a chance to test it yet. If you have, let us hear about it in the comments.

I expect we'll see quite a few updates to dev channel over the coming weeks as Google brings in new code for the 0.11 Milestone release of Chrome OS and then works to get things stable again.

Cr-48 Recovery SD Cards are shipping!

I'm happy to announce that Cr-48 Recovery SD Cards are in and ready to ship ahead of schedule. You can order yours with the online form. Payment is taken by PayPal so you're free to use your credit card or checking account securely. I've also added options for Priority and Express USPS delivery if you want your card in a hurry.
The Cr-48 Recovery SD Card

Each card has been tested on a Cr-48 and shown to restore it to a clean Chrome OS install (yep, that means I recovered my Cr-48 many, many times over the weekend). I have a limited number of cards ready to go so order fast. In the next few days, I plan to offer a video walk-through of the recovery process with the SD Cards.

What to Expect from the Coming 0.11 Dev Channel Update

According to Trond Wuellner, Google's Product Manager for Chrome OS, we should be seeing a 0.11 update to development channel released this week. So what should we expect to see in this update? Here are a few things gleaned from the issue tracker and my personal test builds of Chromium OS:

  • A window switcher icon will be placed at the very top right corner of the Cr-48 screen. This square box should function much like the "Next Window" button above the 6 and 7 on the Cr-48 keyboard.
  • WiFi ad-hoc support should be working in the first 0.11 builds. WPA/WPA2 Enterprise support is planned for 0.11 but may not be in the first development channel releases.
  • A fair amount of infrastructure work is going on for Chrome OS' Enterprise device policy manager. It's possible we'll see working support for policies in a 0.11 release. Not much use for home users but Network Admins (like me) will love this!
  • Further work on Flash issues looks planned.
The new window switcher icon

And of course the usual bug fixes, performance improvements and minor tweaks will take place. It's important though to point out that things tend to get much less stable as new code and features are introduced with a major dev version change. If you use your Cr-48 for production, you might strongly consider switching back to beta channel so that you stay on 0.10 for now. You can always find out how stable 0.11 is proving to be and decide to switch to it later.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pre-Order Your Cr-48 Recovery SD Card Now!

Update: Cr-48 Recovery SD Cards are now shipping! See here. I've also added faster shipping options if you need a recovery card in a hurry.

Compared to Windows or OS X, Google made the Cr-48 ridiculously easy to recover to an "Out of the Box" (OOBE) state. Unfortunately, Google's instructions on creating the recovery media aren't quite so easy. The official instructions currently require a Mac or Linux machine to recover, Windows is not supported. I have unofficial Windows recovery instructions posted but some users are having trouble even with that.

For this reason, I'm happy to announce that I will shortly begin selling Cr-48 Recovery SD Cards that are ready to pre-loaded with the recovery image. The 2gb Sandisk SD Cards will be $20 each (including shipping!) and will be pre-loaded with the Cr-48 recovery firmware image. Each card will be tested on a Cr-48 to verify that the image is written correctly and it can successfully recover. I estimate that orders will be ready to ship on March 16th but you can pre-order yours now by completing this form (paying now is optional).

The recovery process is necessary if your Chrome OS installation should become corrupted for some reason (hardware or software failure). But if you're just playing around with developer mode (the hardware switch on your Cr-48) or development channel (the bleeding edge software updates to the Cr-48), I strongly recommend you be ready to perform a USB Recovery at any time. If you're having trouble creating the recovery media or just don't want the hassle, order a ready to go recovery device now!