GVC Chromebox to Vanilla Chromebox

Oh, man. Recently got my hands on an old Asus CN65. Back in the olden days at Google we were always tinkering with these devices (and they were a breeze to support). Great “parent devices” as they are really hard to destroy (aka download dodgy shit and fill them with viruses).

This post is mostly for myself, as a reminder, for the next time I need to do this.

Seems like this Chromebox was actually a GVC unit. Google has this thing where devices auto-install the Google Meet app and autoload it at boot. Officially, it’s called CfM (Chrome (or ChromeOS?) For Meet). It requires a separate licence in your Google Admin to get this to work.

GVC is actually Google Video Conference. We called anything "Google Meet" simply GVC. A GVC unit, jump on a GVC, the GVC room, etc.  

Anyhow, GVC units aren’t all that useful and while you can cancel the Meet app from launching at boot (Ctrl, Alt, S I think), it’s annoying as it requires that combo at every boot.

I remember there used to be a way to move them back into the main track (instead of the GVC track), but here my mind gets a bit fuzzy. It was a key combo and/or an internal tool that would move the serial number to the stable channel.

It also seems ChromeOS is now at 116 and in my time at Google we were somewhere between version 60 and 85. So, needless to say, things have changed.

So I tried the usual way of powerwashing/wiping the device (move it to developer mode and back again), etc. It kept asking for the corp enrolment (and I was certain the device was no longer corp enrolled). Apparently, GVC units just, by default, ask for corp enrolment now because you can’t really use them without the special license anyway.

There were some hacks that didn’t work for me.

Turns out this Reddit post had the answer. Basically:

  • get ChromeOS version 88 (or lower?),
  • burn it to a USB stick,
  • boot into recovery mode and restore it.
  • It’ll reboot,
  • and then you can sign in right away with a Gmail account (as opposed to a corp (GSuite/GApps) account) and it’ll boot the stable channel (running CrOS v88).

At this point, you can upgrade safely to the latest CrOS version.

It has been a few years since I last saw a ChromeOS device. Oh, the memories…

While I really tried to get the Pixelbook to replace my Mac, I never quite succeeded (even got an SSH server running in Docker to use as jump box with all my tools etc)… I missed too many of my shortcuts, habits and full-fledged terminal to make it work. I guess it was a bit like an iPad: great device, can be useful, but for anything serious I always yearned back to my Mac.

Looking at my NextDNS logs on the other hand… Damn, this device is noisy. An avalanche of requests to Google domains. Even when it’s not doing much…

Google Software

The Enshittification Lifecycle of SaaS

Here is how platforms die: First, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.


This is enshittification: Surpluses are first directed to users; then, once they’re locked in, surpluses go to suppliers; then once they’re locked in, the surplus is handed to shareholders and the platform becomes a useless pile of shit. From mobile app stores to Steam, from Facebook to Twitter, this is the enshittification lifecycle.

Source: Kottke, via Pluralistic
Google Software

Google TV recommendations

Google recently updated their Google TV, to include “in your face” supposedly recommendations.

I don’t mind recommendations if…:

a/ they are useful (i.e. I don’t see how kid shows are something I’d be interested in; and Google has no idea Ila exists, and she’s at least 2-3 years too young to watch those shows anyway).

b/ the recommendations would be for apps and subscriptions I actually have. Don’t recommend me something on Amazon Prime if I don’t have Amazon Prime installed, nor an active subscription. Idem dito for Disney+.

Mumu is not impressed. And neither am I. Didn’t even know YouTube had TV Series and I honestly couldn’t care less.

Google had recommendations before but at the bottom of the app list. It was not so much in your face. Now it’s all the way on top and I need to click 2x down on the remote before getting access to the apps (Netflix, Kodi, Youtube, etc).

So far the best method I found was to enable your Google TV in apps-only mode. It turns off ALL recommendations (so your home screen becomes rather bare; but at least less clicking). Note that the article doesn’t mention rebooting the device; but I had to restart it to get rid of all the ads recommendations.

Turn on Apps only mode:

1. On a Google TV device, from the home screen, scroll to your profile.
2. Select Settings.
3. Select Accounts & Sign In.
4. Select your profile.
5. Select Apps only mode and then Continue.
7. Reboot the device
Google Misc

The opposite of coherent


Carrying an extra passport

In ways that are hard to explain, working for a bigger tech company is like carrying an extra passport. Everyone else has to commute to work. You get driven in an air-conditioned private bus with dedicated wifi. Work visa failed to renew? No worries, do an intra-company transfer to one of several global hubs.

It’s not that the rules don’t apply to you, it’s that you have a safeguard for when the shit hits the fan.

And this week, that’s exactly what happened. The Supreme Court of the US overturned Roe v Wade and a bunch of tech companies rushed in to reassure their employees. Yes, the law of the land just changed. But, don’t worry. We will fly you out of state, we will approve relocation if you wish, we will take care of you. You will be insulated against the worst of anti-choice laws, regardless of where you live. This is a massive change in reproductive freedom for Americans, but not for you.

We’re not opposed to employers taking care of their employees. We’re not even upset that companies got gold stars for their employer brand in an otherwise hot talent market. But the extra passport is tricky. It has two profound impacts and whether those things are intended or not is hard to say.

An extra passport can make you feel like you have a perpetual plan B. Like whatever is going on in the world is someone else’s problem to solve. That untethered, unmoored thing means you pay less attention to the fucked-up-ed-ness of San Francisco. You can always move to Miami. Or Austin. Taxes are lower there anyway. Pulled all the way through, tech people resemble locusts. We come, we eat, we leave at the first signs of blight. Even when it’s blight we caused.

The other reason it’s tricky is that it reduces scrutiny on the issuing body. The company paying for the air conditioned, wifi-enabled shuttle or the round trip airfare to a blue state. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. They are doing all of this to take care of you. And it’d help out a whole awful lot if you didn’t ask what the public policy team has been up to for the past few years.


Incoherent answers

So here we are. Faced with this disastrous ruling. And it makes us wonder: how coherent are your organization’s actions on this one? We heard about the relocation policy, what other actions are they taking? Do they line up? Or are they shielding their employees from a political reality with one hand, while they help bankroll that reality with the other? The twitterverse has been quick to call out the companies whose statements don’t match their political spending. But that critique, lobbed at a brand’s social account, often stops at the social media manager.

It’s harder for organizations to ignore the questions that come from their own people. It’s harder to ignore questions from you.

What are our company’s policy/lobbying priorities right now?
Which candidates have we donated to that helped make this mess, and have we cut off that support?
How are we making our position clear, and what concrete steps are we taking to advance that position?

Those questions may produce some awkward shifting in seats. If this were about product strategy, the conversation would be all coherent actions and strong point of view. But when it comes to their role as political actors, many executives have shown that they don’t have the range. So, when you ask these questions, you may get a patronizing smile, and some version of, “we can’t do that. Donating across the board is how you play the game. If we want influence on the things we care about, we need to be in the room.”

You deserve better answers than that. You deserve better than to have your employer tell you that criminalizing abortion is “playing the game.” Some of you, when you push, will find out that your labour has been supporting an organization that helped fund what’s unfolding right now. And when you discover that, you deserve better than, “we don’t claim to get everything right.” You deserve better than, “we’re not all going to agree on everything anyway.”

We don’t need you to agree on everything. But, if you are one of those lucky humans who found yourself with an extra passport you didn’t know you had, we’re invoking Spiderman rules.

That company-issued passport affords you a set of privileges. Like the ability to flit between jurisdictions when the need arises. It also comes with an extra set of responsibilities. We need you engaged, informed, and asking tough questions at this week’s all hands. Even if you’re not American, or married to an American, now is a good time to get clear on how your organization is using its influence in the world. Particularly when your company’s public stance and their actions don’t line up.

Source: Jonathan & Melissa / rawsignalgroup
Apple Google Hardware

Custom CPUs

Google developing own CPUs for Chromebook laptops“.

Interesting to see that many years after Apple started creating their CPUs for the iPhone (and now laptops/desktops), so many companies are following. Google is not new to building their chips (TPU, Titan (used in security keys and as encryption module for servers/Pixel phones), and likely more), but quite new to more generalised computing CPU for phones and laptops.

And it makes sense — a lot of the generic CPUs were too generalist and not that great at their job (and are plagued with bugs). It came with heavy power usage. Having a ML/AI chip, a GPU chip, a generalist CPU chip (or two, one focussing on high performance, and one on efficiency, like the M1), one for security/encryption (Titan/T2), etc.

Curious to see how much of a head start Apple really has, and very eager to finally see some real innovation in the CPU space (sorry AMD with Ryzen: too little, too late).

Let’s see if Intel and AMD will be able to adapt and reinvent themselves and what it means for ARM (and the ARM IP issue in China), and if other architectures like MIPS are making a chance.