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chromebook with kids
photo: Google

My $1,449 Chromebook Pixel just got a little more useful and so did the $299 Acer Chromebook C720P. The latest Stable channel software update adds support for pinch-to-zoom in Chrome OS. That means any touchscreen Chromebook now has the feature. Previously, pinch-to-zoom was available on developer and beta channels, but the user had to enable the feature in a hidden setting. Now, it’s on by default and makes the overall browsing experience a little better. This function, along with the recent addition of handwriting recognition could make for a nice Chrome OS tablet, particularly if it came with a docking keyboard, no?

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Not that we needed yet another data-point explaining why China is such an important mobile market or anything but Reuters is happy to provide one. On Monday, it reported that for the first time ever, more people in China access the web on a mobile device as opposed to a PC. The data comes from the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) and says that of the 632 million internet users in China, 83 percent (527 million) used a phone or tablet to do so. That compares with 81 percent of the connected population accessing the web through a PC, with some overlap between the two of course.

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dell chromebook open

Chromebooks in the education market are clearly picking up steam. Earlier this week, Dell said it was temporarily discontinuing direct Chromebook 11 sales to individuals because it can’t keep up with demand from commercial channels for the education-focused laptop. On Friday, Google reported one million Chromebook sales to schools in the second quarter of 2014. Along with the stat, Google published a blog post from David Andrade, the CIO for the Bridgeport Public Schools district explaining why he chose Chromebooks for the 23,000 student district in Connecticut. Among the reasons: “affordability and easy maintenance”; something we’ve suggested on the Chrome Show podcast time and time again.

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Amid 18,000 job cuts and the elimination of Android-powered handsets, Microsoft is also putting two other Nokia product-lines out to pasture. The Verge received an internal memo written by Microsoft’s Jo Harlow, who leads the new Smart Devices and Mobile Phones group, with the news: Nokia’s Series 40 and Asha handsets will be no more, with both products joining the Nokia X Android phone in an 18-month maintenance mode. That means the low-cost handset market will become more important for Windows Phone as that’s where these products are aimed: $50 or less. The company isn’t out of top-drawer handset ideas though: The memo says to watch for “other high-end products that we will be announcing very soon.”

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Star Trek LCARS Android Wear

That didn’t take too long: Star Trek fans with Android Wear smartwatches can already download and install a free watchface based on the fictional LCARS computer interface of the U.S.S. Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Daniele Bonaldo created and uploaded the “Starwatch” app to Google Play on Monday night, announcing the custom design on his Google+ page. The watch face displays the time, date and — just for kicks — the Unix Epoch, which is the total number of seconds (not counting leap seconds, of course!) since 0:00:00 Coordinated Universal Time on January 1, 1970.

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Got a Linux box at home or at work? Now you can access it remotely through the Chrome browser or from a Chrome OS device. On this week’s podcast, we discuss the new beta support for Linux in the Chrome Remote Desktop app. Read more »

In Brief

Android Chromecast mirror
photo: Google

Hints of Android devices streaming their screens to a Chromecast appeared months ago and now the feature is live. Officially announced at Google I/O, certain Android devices can now mirror their display to a large screen using a Chromecast. The feature is technically a beta and Google says support for additional devices is coming soon. To use the feature, Android users will need the updated Chromecast version 1.7 app found in the Google Play Store. With the right device and updated app, anything you see on your Android’s small screen can now be shared on a larger screen.

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Photo by Microsoft
photo: Microsoft

Microsoft shared details of the latest Surface Pro 3 software update on Tuesday, saying it is now rolling out in stages. Dubbed “System Firmware Update – 7/8/2014” the changes help improve both Wi-Fi stability and the Type Cover trackpad, and show or hide the on-screen keyboard at the appropriate times. The update will also help reduce power consumption while enhancing battery life. Microsoft says an additional update will follow next week to “further improve Wi-Fi connection and throughput scenarios.” Some Surface Pro 3 users reported poor Wi-Fi connections in certain circumstances, so these two updates are likely meant to resolve those issues.

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