I was lucky to win a Chromebook at a recent hackathon and was then invited to a day at Google to learn about Chrome. I have long been interested in thin client and this is a great take on that concept. Basically it’s a machine with the Chrome O/S which is little more than a browser. However, that browser is Chrome and this has the interesting ability to load and run apps from the Chrome store.
For those who create HTML5 apps for IOS and Android, a Chrome App is much the same kind of thing but with a big screen and it’s own appstore. I wanted to develop one of these on the Chromebook, push it to the store, pull it down and run it. Should be straightforward, right?
However, a lot of things we do in development lend themselves to having a Mac with developer tools downloaded and running locally. In this test we were trying to do the whole process on a machine that does not run any of the usual tools. That said, there are tools for Chrome books including HTML editors and image manipulation programs. In this case we had the developer of ShiftEdit on hand, giving a talk about it and answering questions all afternoon. This is a good HTML/ css/ js editor if you are working on a Chromebook. Could be good for hacks and small changes to existing code.
As usual, my trial app was Energy-related. It’s called “OWL Guage” and is on the app store. It allows those of us with an OWL monitor and a local microcomputer to see our (electrical) energy consumption in real-time.
Needless to say with technology page as new as this there are a few issues:
- Documentation is confusing, especially between “Packaged apps” and browser extensions. I found myself googling in circles looking for essential information.
- The Content Security Policy relating to Packaged apps is quite anal. This is actually “a good thing” but it does mean that you can’t just take a hack that worked on a normal browser and upload and run it in the app store. Furthermore, you do not see any violations when testing normally, only when they execute from the app store.
- The Chromebook I have is underpowered. This made it tedious to go round the development loop. So I did not complete the exercise and had to finish it up on a Mac the following day.
- There seems to be no app for pushing the app to the app store. The missing piece is a zip tool. It could be that this will appear in ShiftEdit before long.
The bottom line is that I did get my app working. Must now put up some documentation and open sources the other bits people will need before they can get any use out of it.