Monday, August 18, 2014

Google Nexus 7 (2013) 2nd Gen

Nexus 7

I've had some exposure to android over the years through my mk808 and my hp touchpad (kitkat 4.4.2) but I've been itching to give pure vanilla Android a try with modern fast hardware to see how the experience is like.  We have 3 iPads and 4 iPhones in the family so we are pretty firmly iOS as far as mobile devices go.  My wife doesn't have her own tablet and she always complained that the iPad was too heavy and big so I figure why not give the Nexus 7 a try.  I picked up a refurb 16GB for only $130 off of ebay (shopdivvy).  It's a fraction of the price of an iPad mini plus it was an excuse for me to pick up a nexus device.

- First off the device I received looked brand new and has worked flawlessly these last few months.  Battery life is good too.  Performance was very good and stability was much better than the hacked rooted devices I've been using.  It's still no iPad Air but it's definitely good enough especially at this price point.
- Battery life seems pretty good though I would say the iPad still seems better. This could also be because this is a refurb. I think I got about 6 hrs out of it when I was basically non stop installing and setting up apps.
- What is with the incremental updates? I have to install 4.4.2, reboot, 4.4.3, reboot, 4.4.4, reboot
- Pretty much every app I use on iOS is here on android except a few notable missing ones like: amazon instant video and air video.
- Games have gotten a lot better.  I tried out minecraft, edge of tomorrow, sonic 2, sky force, ravensword 2 and they all ran and looked good.  But android is still missing a few like my current addiction: FTL.
- Mirroring with chromecast worked well.
- I really like swiftkey and can't wait for iOS 8 which will also support 3rd party keyboards.
- Plex is still no air video especially the horrible tablet version which has NO LIST VIEW.  They still make it incredibly hard if all you want to do is browse a large list of files.
- Installed flash with firefox because I could but I wouldn't call it a great experience.
- I love the multiple user support. This is one thing iOS really needs. Though the way to share play app store purchases is a bit clunky having to add my google account under my wife's user profile. I wish you could just specify the google account to use for the app store and not have to add it at the OS level because then my account shows up as a selection for several apps. This confused my wife a bit.
- For some reason gmail default notification sound was some endlessly looping chime. It took a while but I finally tracked down the setting and changed it to a nice short sound. Overall, I think settings are a bit of a mess on android and harder to track down. It definitely feels less consolidated and logically laid out as compared to iOS. It's just a learning curve I guess. But it's another one of those quirks.
- I'm using this moko case and this screen protector.  It adds a bit more weight than I wanted but overall not bad for the price. It has the magnets on the cover so it turns the device on/off.
- I picked up this OTG to USB Adapter.  I picked up both the dongle and the adapter though I think the adapter is a bit more convenient especially if you are using it with a usb flash drive.  Install MX Player and custom codec (for dts support), buy Nexus Media Importer ($4) and stream media off any usb storage device.  1080p mkv works just fine.
- XBMC arm android works well.  All my local media played smoothly.  My wife likes this interface much better than plex and is great for streaming local media.
- Subsonic app works pretty well.
- I just noticed 1password now has a full complete app and not just a viewer.
- For epub I still like Marvin better on ios than say aldiko.
- Remote control stuff like Jump for RDP, citrix receiver, and splashtop seem to work ok.
- Bluetooth worked fine with a pair of sony headphones and a logitech keyboard that I tested it with.
- I have nothing to test NFC with. Maybe I'll buy some tags just to mess with.
- iUSBPort app was a bit buggy and a bit crash prone.  I have to hold down on a file and select mx player every time I launch a video.
- 16GB was enough for me to install all the apps I wanted and the games listed above for 2 users and I still have 5.6GB free.  Just move all your media off onto usb flash drives if you need local media storage and use that OTG adapter.
- Mobile chrome browser is absolute garbage.  Desktop chrome is my main everyday browser but I really hate mobile chrome.  There is no home button, no bookmark bar, the context sensitive zoom when you tap on links is wonky and unpredictable.  I pretty much hate everything about it.  Mobile safari on iPad just bows this crap away.  I'm still trying other alternative browser but I haven't been too happy with any of them.

Overall, I'm very impressed.  I still think iOS is a more premium experience and you definitely pay a premium price..  UI still scrolls smoother and is more responsive on iOS but on this nexus 7 hardware it's gotten pretty close.  You can't dispute the value though.  At $130 you are getting a ton of performance and functionality (much better expandability and media support).  A refurb iPad retina mini is $339 so a $209 price difference is pretty hard to swallow.  I just wish android came with a better default browser.  It's probably the single most important app and it's a shame it's so poor on android.  Games are closer now but still lag behind iOS.  If I could only have one tablet then I would still go with an iPad.  But as a cheap 2nd, 3rd, or 4th in my case tablet the nexus 7 is a great option.  Highly recommended.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Watch Dogs (PS4)

I recently finished the main story.  Here are some impressions:

Near the beginning of act 2 on ps4:
- Ludonarrative Dissonance is about the worst in this game. I can't tell if I'm suppose to be sympathetic to this ass hole I'm playing.
Spoiler: act 1 spoilers

- So far the story and a lot of the campaign missions designed around the plot seem completely phoned in. Nothing so far has come close to GTA V. The main character is getting into 24 levels of what stupid characters will do. I expect a cougar attack before the end of the game.
- The single slot auto save system totally sucks. Why can't I save when I want? Why can't I have multiple save slots which would have made the current save game bug not as bad as it is now. One of the things I like to do in open world games is occasionally take a break from playing the game "the right way" and just go all nuts and test some of the limits of the open world. I like to just create as much mayhem as possible and see the different ways on how that plays out. Then, I would restore a previous save game and pick back up where I left off. Here, I have no idea when it's going to save and I guess the only way I could do this is backup the save to usb or cloud and then restore after a mess around and experiment. That sounds like way too much trouble.
- The reputation system is retarded. So I usually try and play the good guy in these types of games. So I'm slowly building up my meter to the right. Then, during a escape in a campaign mission I accidentally run over 2 civilians. There goes all of my rep that I had so far. It's like being the terminator and being told not to kill anybody. It feels so limiting and restrictive. I'm about to go all bad and say screw it and kill anybody that gets in my way. I'm just not sure of the consequences, and if it will make finishing the game that much harder.
- The combat, car stuff (after you upgrade some hacks, steam ftw) feel ok. The game started pretty slow IMO with too much stealth stuff.
- I kind of like the hacking mini game.
- The hacking/climbing puzzles for the towers are kind of interesting with an urban far cry 3 feel.
- I've pretty much stuck to campaign missions and have only done a couple of side missions.
- I hate the title screen. Wooo next gen game with macro blocking done on purpose!!!! Ugggg. Just a personal aesthetics thing.

I don't know. Maybe I just need to give it more time but so far GTA V and second son seem both to be MUCH better games. GTA V would be incredible with a next gen engine. Second son while a little less ambitious and a more narrow but well focused scope was just so much fun and overall a really well designed and put together game. So far watch dogs feels way over hyped and the developers being maybe too close to the project and not being able to step back and see all the issues and design decisions objectively.

My favorite way to approach a restricted area is to use the cameras and disable all the guards with reinforcement abilities while blowing up a few for good measure. After that I just go in guns blazing to mop up.

I also just unlocked the auto blue targeting for hacking money. The range is pretty darn good on the thing. Your income will shoot way up. I seem to be spending most of my skill points in hacking. It does make the game more interesting and unique.

Buy the cheap grenade launcher ASAP. It's so handy. Also, make sure you max out your ammo before missions. Ammo is dirt cheap. Does carry more explosives skill increase max grenade launcher ammo or does it only affect frag grenades? Are there any silenced sniper rifles in the game?

I'm about 1/3 through act 2 and unlocked a bunch of towers. This game is growing on me. There were some neat physics based puzzles. The missions are also getting better at least from a gameplay perspective. The story and characters are still very meh. This game has some very satisfying explosions.

What is with all these forced stealth instant fail missions? I guess I'm getting toward the end of act 2 but man these missions are annoying and just make me want to murder everyone. Yup, still about as much fun as it was 14 years ago in NOLF 2. At least the guard chit chat was about 1000X better in that game.

Well, I finished the story and boy was that some of the worst writing and plot I've seen in a game in a long time. It's just so disappointing that so much effort went into the technology, the world building, and all these side activities yet the main narrative and some of the missions designed around it are just so weak, sloppy, lazy, and phoned in.

- I hate all the instant failure forced stealth missions in all it's varieties: sneak to somewhere unnoticed, lead somebody to a waypoint, and tail somebody.
- Gang hideouts. Seriously, why can't I just murder everybody?
- Missions with unavoidable cop escapes which aren't too bad except if you kill a cop it drops your rep meter.
- AI is pretty dumb so it makes the combat pretty easy but still satisfying.
- I eventually got sick of the hacking mini game but overall it wasn't too bad.

Spoiler: other unfun things. warning plot spoilers

It's a beautiful open world filled with restrictions and contradictions in design that punish experimentation and creative solutions. For every combat heavy mission that makes me smile there is a stealth or some other frustrating mission that pisses me off. I've still got a lot of side and online stuff to do. I might have to step back for a bit though.

Update: 7/12/2014
- Finished a bunch of side stuff.  Pretty much tried at least one of everything including all the online stuff, a few of each of the fixer contracts, completed all gang hideouts, all but the last convoy b/c it won't show up for some annoying reason.
- Online hacking is pretty fun and challenging.
- Racing is OK but at least the hacks makes things more interesting.
- I liked the spider tank digital trip
- Mobile challenge is ok.
- Online decryption is pretty fun but seems kind of lame that even if I did the majority of the decryption only the final person that finishes it wins.
- Did the series of ps4 exclusive missions.  They were pretty good.

I think I'm pretty much done with this game until the season pass DLC hits.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Frozen - Do you want to build a Snowman (Piano)

Yes, it's more Frozen!  You can find the sheet music here:

Friday, February 07, 2014

Frozen - Let it Go (Piano)

I made a few mistakes here and there as usual.
You can find the sheet music here:

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Acer c720 Chromebook (Haswell)

Acer c720

So this is the new generation of chromebooks that just came out in the last couple of months.  I’ve used a first generation samsung previously that I borrowed from work just to play around with.  It was overall a positive experience though chromeOS does have it’s limitation.  I find I can do probably about 90% of my day to day computing activities in chromeos.  I love how resource friendly and quick to boot the OS is.  There’s a simple elegance to it.  The OS itself doesn’t seem to have changed a lot and that’s probably because all it really is doing is to support running the chrome web browser which is my primary browser I use on the desktop and across all my devices except for ios where I still prefer the speedier built in safari.  The hardware sure has changed though.  This acer is now using the latest generation Intel Haswell processor (celeron 2955U dual core 64bit at 1.4ghz)  bringing with it all the power saving and cpu/gpu performance boosting advances it has.  I have to say the speed and performance is amazing on this thing.  With the 16GB SSD and 2GB of ram chromeos is very snappy even with a dozen tabs open.  Every video I throw at it plays just fine.

- I picked mine up from bestbuy for $199 but I had a $50 gift card and some other rebate reward cards I had to spend which brought down the price to $128 out the door tax included.  This is an incredible machine at that price.  Amazon also has it for $199 and often quickly sells out.
- I don’t find the 16GB ssd or 2GB of ram limiting at all.  You are suppose to store everything in the cloud anyways and there is a full size SDXC SD Card slot. Also, chromeos uses ZRam and is really efficient with resources.  
- Currently I’m running just stock chromeos which was updated on first boot.  If you want to tinker you’ll have to enable developer mode and give up verified boot.  There are two approaches to installing alternate OS’s: ChrUbuntu (traditional dual boot) and Crouton (side by side - here is a good how to geek article and some good sd card install articles).  I’ve ordered a 32GB SDHC which I might mess with installing linux on to and try to leave my 16GB ssd untouched but I’m not sure I want to run in developer mode all the time and give up some of the protection as this chromebook is shared with the family.  So far chromeos is working out much better than I expected so I’m not even sure I need linux right now except to mess around with and maybe install steam and a few linux compatible games.
- Netflix, youtube, hulu, amazon instant video all play video really really well in HD with no performance issues.  Video is perfectly smooth.
- For streaming local content the plex app works well.
- I tried playing some media off a usb 3.0 flash drive formatted to NTFS.  1080p MKV video played back perfectly smooth but audio was ac3 which isn’t supported so you get no sound.  TS (transport stream) isn’t supported either.  MP3, and avi xvid works fine again as long as your audio isn’t ac3 or DTS for that matter.  You can see a list of supported file types here.  It’s too bad since the hardware is obviously more than capable it’s just due to lack of codec support/licensing that it can’t be a better media player.
- The built in file manager is quite functional and lets you easily copy files from/to local storage, external storage, sd card, google drive, etc.  It even supports zip.
- Pandora works fine and so does Subsonic thanks to the built in flash support.
- 1Password you have to use the html 1passwordanywhere along with dropbox.
- Chrome RDP works really well in full screen mode for remoting into windows.  Logmein app worked just fine too.
- Chrome remote desktop works really well. You can even play videos with sound, and it is actually watchable if a bit jerky.
- Citrix receiver requires Receiver for HTML5 so it depends if your organization has upgraded to include support for that.
- Here is a nice site that helps you find equivalent chrome apps for popular apps in other OS’s.
- Works well with casting a tab to chromecast.  Haswell has enough juice to cast video pretty well.  I tried amazon instant video and it looked pretty good on chromecast.  It also supports casting the entire desktop even with sound but performance really suffers.  For text and images though from a typical web page it’s ok.  Still, casting a tab works much better and performs as good as my 15” macbook pro. UPDATE: Did some more testing with chromecast. When casting video on a tab full screen (not natively supported by chromecast like amazon instant video) 480p looks good and is quite smooth, 720p is watchable but starts having issues keeping up in the framerate department, 720p extreme bitrate is a stuttery mess. I did this test in the same room as the router so I don't think this is a wireless bandwidth issue but instead I'm bumping into the limits of what the chromebook can do from a rendering -> encoding -> broadcasting perspective. If you aren't playing video and just casting a typical webpage you can set it to 720p extreme and it works just fine. So for casting video from a tab it's acceptable but not ideal. A more powerful laptop like my macbook pro does a better job with casting video.
- It has 802.11abgn in 2.4 and 5ghz flavors, bluetooth 4.0, full sized hdmi port, usb 2.0 and 3.0, and a headphone jack.  There is no cellular radio.  For cheap on the go data there is always freedompop or tether to your phone.
- Paired it with some sony bluetooth headphones which worked fine. The audio streamed fine but the controls didn't work (at least not with google play music). I did notice a buzz once in a while when the machine was multi tasking heavily. Not sure if that's an issue with blueooth or the google play site.
- The front facing HD webcam is rather grainy and dark.
- There are some offline apps including google docs and gmail.  Google docs switches between online and offline mode automatically and seamlessly.
- Most web based games work fine like angry birds, cut the rope, and kingdom rush .
- Cold boot to login: 4 sec; from sleep: 1 sec.  I lost about 3% power while in sleep over 8 hrs.  With typical browsing you should get 8.5 hrs of use.
- Full charge from empty in < 2 hrs.
- Power supply is small and very travel friendly.
- 1366X768 TN panel has pretty poor view angles.  You definitely want to look at it head on but it does have a nice matte finish for better outside use.  Resolution is fine for this screen size, and I find text pretty sharp though I prefer a default of 125% zoom for everything.
- Only weighs 2.7 lbs.  It’s very comfortable on your lap and doesn’t ever really get that warm.  There is a fan but I pretty much never hear it during average use.
- No ethernet port but that’s fine for a device that is meant to be very portable.
- Keyboard takes a little bit of getting use to with the keys just a tad on the smaller side and with little travel.  I still scored 78 wpm on a typing test with almost no practice.  Layout is overall pretty good with some useful keys for full screen, brightness, and volume where the function keys usually are.  There is a search key that acts kind of like the windows key.  Right and left arrow keys are full size but the up and down are half size.  The keyboard feels good and sturdy with little flex though it’s a little loud and clicky.  I really wish it was backlit. The multi touch pad is pretty good with typical gestures for scrolling and forward/back for browsing.  There is no pinch to zoom though.  It could use better palm detection though as once in a while it would trigger a pointer move with my palm which is kind of annoying.  It doesn’t happen too often though, and doesn’t happen when I’m just touch typing like normal.
- ctrl alt ? brings up a handy overlay of keyboard shortcuts.
- Hinge is sufficiently stiff.
- I hooked up a 27” 1080p monitor to it and it lets you change basic stuff like mirror or extend, position the monitors, orientation, and mark which one as primary.  I also plugged in a logitech k400 wireless keyboard/touchpad combo and it worked just fine including multi touch scrolling (which I’m guessing is interpreted as a scroll wheel from the keyboard).   Things like two finger swipe forward/back don’t work.  I can definitely see this working as a nifty compact desktop replacement.  It’s even smart enough to know when it is in “dock” mode and will stay on even when the lid of the chromebook is closed.  ChromeOS running at 1920X1080 really is very nice. Audio properly passes through HDMI.
-ChromeOS has a decent notification system.
- I wish there was a quick way to switch users.  Currently you have to logout of the current user then login as the new user.  Everything for that user is tied to that google account.  You can also login as guest where nothing is persisted (sort of like incognito mode).
- Cloud printing worked very well.  All I had to do was add my tradition printers on my server to my google account cloud printing and then share those printers to my wife’s google account.  Now, we can both print from our accounts on the chromebook.
- As far as use goes it kind of sits somewhere between my 15” macbook pro and my iPad.  It’s so much lighter, instant on, and better battery life for content creation I actually prefer doing it on the chromebook.  But if I plan to do some gaming like maybe some wow or need smb share access then the heavier bigger and older macbook does the trick.  If I’m just catching up on some web reading then I prefer the iPad.  But if I’m doing some heavy research on something or a product then I prefer the chromebook.  The chromebook really does fit into a nice usage niche for me.  I really don’t see it replacing a full laptop or a tablet though but complements them nicely.  Granted a macbook air is probably good enough to be your main laptop too but that quite a bit more money.  You could buy 5 chromebooks for the price of 1 macbook air.
- I don't think ChromeOS has trim support for SSDs. Not sure what that will do to performance in the long run.
- Accessories: Sleeve with a pouch to hold the power adapter. 32GB SD Card (Update: DO NOT BUY THIS. See below). I love these RadTech cloths. I also picked up an extra power adapter from ebay for around $9 shipped.
- I wouldn't mind upgrading to this 128GB SSD except it would void the warranty (there is a warranty sticker over one of the screws).
- Java and silverlight are NOT supported.

Highly recommended.  This is a fantastic laptop for a certain kind of user.  If you spend most of your time on the web and don’t do much else this is great.  It’s a super fast, responsive, and a complete no compromises desktop web browsing experience.  It’s a really fast booting lightweight operating system that is secure and should be much safer from malware.  I can definitely seeing this as a great computer for somebody older or younger who just wants to use the web in a safe environment with pretty much no maintenance or support required. There are no constant updates to worry about, security patches, or malware.  At $200 it’s a fantastic value too.  When I dig into installing linux I’ll update this post. Oh, and I wrote this entire article using this chromebook in google docs including uploading the pictures using Google+ Photos from the sd card and a tiny bit of photo editing using PicMonkey. Overall, it was a very good experience.

UPDATE: ChrUbuntu
- So I decided to go ahead and give ChrUbuntu a try and dual boot. My original strategy was to install linux to the SD Card and leave my ssd untouched. It installed fine but for some reason SeaBIOS would only see the card intermittently. At this point I'm not sure if it's the bios being picky are something to do with that particular make/model of sd card. All I know is chromeos sees the card just fine every time. It's only during seabios legacy boot that has issues seeing the card. It would only see it maybe 1 in 15 times of booting up, and I couldn't figure out a pattern. It seemed completely random. Instead I decided to use this Transcend 32GB USB 3.0 flash drive that I picked up during black Friday. UPDATE: I tried a sony 32gb sdhc card and installed ChrUbuntu on to that just to see if a different brand of sd card would make a difference. It did NOT. So apparently the sd slot isn't a very good option for booting. Stick to usb and you will be fine.
- Putting the chromebook into developer mode will wipe all users and data and start you over from a clean slate. The good news is if you already setup chromeos the way you want and you've got chrome syncing working it syncs everything including all apps installed and your taskbar. So after logging back from a clean wipe it restored everything back which is great.
- Netflix works fine in dev mode.
- The wipe happens every time you switch between normal and dev mode but it's always a two step process so it shouldn't happen accidentally.
- I followed most of the instructions from this site pulling some info from different posts and comments since installing to a usb flash drive is a little different. I followed about 90% of the instructions from this post.

Steps 1-3: unchanged

Step 4: do this instead: (UPDATE: I left off the dev_boot_legacy=1 earlier which is very important)
sudo crossystem dev_boot_usb=1 dev_boot_legacy=1
Then figure out the name of your usb flash drive:
sudo fdisk -l | grep Disk
In my case it was /dev/sdb
Then run this to start the install:
curl -L -O; sudo bash 9sgchs -t /dev/sdb
Make sure you replace -t /dev/sdb with whatever the name of your usb flash drive is.

Step 5: unchanged

Step 6-8: skipped. You won't see this since you are installing to an external device.

Step 9: Install grub to /dev/sdb NOT /dev/sda. Use the arrow keys and space bar to select the right item then tab to OK and press enter.

Step 10-11: unchanged
- Installation takes a good few hours so be patient.
- You might want to change the default password and manually update.
- I found the touchpad to be a bit on the sensitive side even with the slider all the way down.
- I was able to remap the audio buttons using keyboard shortcuts without any issue but getting brightness mapped takes a bit more work.
- Sleep doesn't seem to work properly and crashes hard on wake up. You'll want to clear previous crashes to stop ubuntu from nagging you.
- If work doesn't support citrix receiver html 5 yet you can actually install citrix receiver in ubuntu. The instructions are long but just follow them carefully. It worked great for me. I found getting out of full screen and back to your local desktop was a bit tricky. Hit alt tab twice quickly and make sure to release all keys in between presses. That seemed to work.
- I added exFat support which is a nice cross platform file system that OSX can write to natively. (note the 13.10 comment below)
- After you get everything setup you might want to clone or make a backup image. I found DD to work just fine. Just make sure you know you have the right source and target devices. If you want to make a backup image on windows use win32 disk imager which I tested a full backup and restore and it worked fine.
- Performance isn't nearly as good as chromeos but still useable. It felt like one of those earlier crappy netbooks. But what does work very well is VLC. Streaming over a smb windows share 1080p MKV is perfectly smooth even when played on an external 1080p monitor over HDMI. You can also easily reroute audio through HDMI too. Just make sure you turn on gpu acceleration and increase the disk and network buffers (I used 10 and 20 sec) in VLC, and it will run great. System monitor shows both cores at around 50% most of the time with some spikes to around 80%. Memory usage is around 500MB if you are only running VLC.
- For kicks I also installed steam through the ubuntu app store. I had to apply this locale fix. About 95 / 495 of my steam games had linux versions which isn't half bad.

- Left 4 Dead 2: Would get to about 75% on the load bar before hanging.
- Gone Home: Would get stuck on the tape loading screen and eventually boot you back to desktop.
- Don't Starve ran really well:
- FTL ran fine:
- Monaco ran fine too:
- Trine 2 looked good and ran pretty well:

- So ChrUbuntu is actually pretty usable on the Acer c720.  It's fine for media playback, remoting, and some light indie gaming.  So if you need a full functioning general purpose OS you've got one.  I still won't use it as my main OS though.  Chrome browser performance is just not there.  It's nowhere near as responsive as chromeos.  Still, it's pretty neat to mess around with.

- Oh and one more game....MINECRAFT! It actually runs really well.

UPDATE (2/7/2014):
- I just got in the Steam streaming beta, and I'm pretty impressed. Total latency seems to bounce around 50-100ms and is very playable. Compressing isn't that bad. Games look, sound, and play pretty great. In fact on my old mid 2010 macbook pro 15" games streamed actually play faster than most native ports. I tried out skyrim, tomb raider, hard reset, and outlast and they all ran well. COD Ghosts just crashes though.  Then, I had to try it out on the chromebook under ChrUbuntu.  It actually works quite well.  Streaming Skyrim at 30 fps is pretty amazing and quite playable.

UPDATE (5/26/2014) Crouton:

- I finally got around to trying Crouton (trusty Ubuntu 14.04) which is a really cool way of running Linux on your chromebook.  Basic installation is pretty straight forward.  Just follow the instructions at the above link.  Note that will install 12.04.  I wanted to try 14.04 trusty but there are a few gotchas.  All you have to do is add -r trusty like this: 
sudo sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton -r trusty -t xfce
or add -e at the end to encrypt chroot:
sudo sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton -r trusty -t xfce

I'm more comfortable with unity but decided to try xfce since I hear it's a bit faster and leaner.  With only 2GB of ram I want it as lean as possible.  After installing everything I was left with around 4.5GB of free space.  Things are a bit tight but you can fit most of what you want and even a few small games.

There are also some other very handy targets you will want to install into the chroot:
sudo sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton -t keyboard,extension,chrome,xbmc -u
I also throw in extension (which works with this chrome extension) which lets you share the clipboard between chromeos and linux and also install the chrome browser.  The default browser included with xfce is rather limited.  xbmc runs great under crouton.

Next, you'll probably want to install ubuntu software center:
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install software-center

Install steam, vlc, leafpad, and minecraft (using the same instructions as chrubuntu).  

To get steam in home streaming to work you need to modify iptables to allow udp port 27036 in.
sudo iptables -I INPUT -p udp --dport 27036 -j ACCEPT
So I wouldn't have to run that everytime I started crouton I created my own little shell script called startcrouton and save it in /usr/local/bin.  That's where startxfce4 is located.

sudo iptables -I INPUT -p udp --dport 27036 -j ACCEPT
sudo startxfce4

Use leafpad and save that or vi or whatever text editor you want to use.  Then mark it executable:
chmod +x startcrouton
From now on just sudo startcrouton instead of startxfce4 and that should set it up for steam streaming.

Streaming performance is great and you can stream even non steam games like diablo 3.  I just added the launcher to steam and it works just fine.  To exit the launcher just click the top right corner where the X would be except you can't see it.  It will still close the launcher and after a few seconds you go back to your local steam client.  I'm using a cheap Logitech M510 wireless mouse when gaming.

The biggest issue is I can't figure out how to add another steam library on external storage (usb or sd card).  The device gets mounted as noexec and at least in trusty there doesn't seem to be an easy way to fix this.  It would have been nice to install a few more linux games on a 32gb sd card.  

Here are some other good posts on what games work well on the acer c720:

SMB shares and VLC:
Installing smbnetfs (all I did was install smbnetfs and not any of the other listed steps) seems to get shares to work from within the default file manager.  The problem is VLC won't play files over these smb shares even though you can perform file management on the shares just fine.  If you want to stream local media the easiest way is to just use xbmc which works flawlessly for streaming pretty much anything over windows shares.  If you are dead set on using VLC I had limited success with installing the Krusader file manager.  Under Tools | New Net Connection you choose smb protocol and enter your host name.  It works fine for that session but the next time you launch crouton you'll have to go Tools | Disconnect from Net and then do New Net Connection all over again.  VLC works just fine on local media.

Other things I tested were exFat and citrix receiver which both work well in crouton.  Once you have everything setup the way you like make sure you backup the chroot and copy the tarball to somewhere safe.

This was my first experience with chroot and the unique way it handles multiple environments sharing the same kernel.  Performance is way better than typical virtualization since everything runs natively.  I highly recommend installing crouton.  It adds a ton of functionality and performs really well.  It's really convenient and you don't give up the superior browser experience in chromeos.  Besides, what else are you going to use that 16GB of ssd space for?  There's really not much you can do with it on the chromeos side of things.

UPDATE: 6/4/2014
- updated XBMC to gotham.  The target only installs 12.0.  Just follow the steps here:
sudo enter-chroot
sudo apt-get install python-software-properties pkg-config
sudo apt-get install software-properties-common
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:team-xbmc/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install xbmc

I could not get HDMI passthrough working at all in XBMC.  I hooked the chromebook to my receiver but there was never a passthrough setting, there was no hdmi option in audio output device, and I couldn't even add my own custom audio output device.  I think this just might be a limitation of crouton.

You can start xbmc directly without running xfce first by using the command:
sudo startxbmc

- Installed some more targets.
sudo sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton -t cli-extra -u -r trusty

List available targets:
sudo sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton -t help

- Updated crouton:
From inside chroot check version (sudo enter-chroot ):
croutonversion -u
From outside run:
sudo sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton -u -n trusty

- Backup chroot:
sudo edit-chroot -b trusty

- Speaker volume adjustment (search + volume up/down) is dependent on what the volume is set in chromeos.  So you will want to max the volume in chromeos before launching crouton if you want the full volume range in linux.

- update ubuntu:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade