Unlocking your school Chromebook

This school year, the Martinez Unified School District is handing out free* Google Chromebook laptops to every student at Alhambra High School. Acer720 Chromebook Hack

*free as is part of the $45Million Measure K Bond that is paid for by all Martinez citizens.

The Acer C720 devices are nice slim powerful little netbooks. And I would like the students and families to be able to maximize their value. This page will show you how to access Netflix, Spotify, Twitter, Youtube, and other services on the Chromebook from school.

The MUSD has crippled the Chromebooks and limited access to only district approved sites and services. Sites like Twitter, Netflix, Youtube, and more are blocked .  They also reserve the right to snoop on students’ use of the devices both on and off campus. Maybe even turn on the webcam remotely to spy on kids at home. Creepy. It is even likely that when kids log in on their family PCs using their school ID that the usage will be monitored for ALL family members until the student deletes the school account from Chrome settings. Therefore = Devmode!

Is unlocking the Chromebook OK?  YES!  Booting the AHS issued Chromebooks into dev mode, and using them privately outside of school, is NOT prohibited by the MUSD school district.  In fact, the District policies are very enlightened rules that empower students and families to make the most of the devices at home. The guidelines for MUSD Chromebooks are here.  The gist of the rules are: don’t lose it, don’t break it, don’t be an idiot or jerk when posting online, and bring it to class everyday fully charged. So kudos to MUSD for allowing kids and families the option to use the Chromebooks privately.

So, for safety, privacy, and to maximize student and taxpayer value, I am sharing instructions here for booting the Chromebook into the unlocked Developer mode to use their own personal Google login.

If you find this useful, please share the link, and also join Ownshelf.com for sharing free ebooks with friends.

Note that when in class, each teacher can see who is logged in and on the network.  This is a good tool for classroom instruction.  So be sure that when at school, you are logged in with your school _lastfirst format account. It is likely that when the Chromebook is in devmode, and the student logged in with a school account, the school district and teachers will be aware that the device is unlocked. But to be safe, and respectful of teachers, you might want to be out of Devmode and back into Schoolmode when on campus.


Chomebook Unlock Hack (switch device into Devmode) 

Before you start, make sure you are reading these instructions on a device other than the one we will reboot to unlock, so you can follow along.  Backup all files to the cloud or external storage; switching into and out of devmode will erase local settings and files (this is not usually a problem since it is a web connected Chromebook that runs from the cloud).  Also, have a personal Google or GMail account to log into when in Devmode, so you can avoid the restrictions of Schoolmode. And do all this at your own risk.  I will not serve detention for you if you mess up.

  • Shut down your Chromebook
  • Hold ESC and Refresh (F3) while you turn on with the power button escapekeyrefresh
  • Next will appear a screen with a “! Chrome OS is missing or damaged.” in middle. Press and hold CTRL + D
  • A new screen opens with “To turn OS Verification OFF”,  press ENTER 
  • The Screen now says “OS verification is OFF”, wait, or hit CTRL-D
  • It takes about 90 seconds to boot back up in Developer Mode. All local data is wiped.
  • The Screen now says “OS verification is OFF”, wait, or hit CTRL-D
  • Login with your personal Google or Gmail account.
  • Congrats! You now have access to the open free internet

You can “Add user” to have a login for your School account in Devmode. Then you can change users based on setting. School officials will likely know you are in dev mode. This is not a violation of policy. In fact, MUSD allows students to bring their own personal Chromebooks to use in class in Schoolmode. So Devmode should not be a problem.

If it becomes a problem between you and a school official, switch back to Schoolmode by repeating the steps above, but make sure “OS verification is ON”. Do this by hitting Space and Enter per the screen instructions. The boot out of Dev into Schoolmode takes only a few seconds.  Remember, all local settings are wiped clean when shifting modes, so keep preferences, files and setting in Chrome or Google Drive.

PROTIP: Share Google Drive  folders between your School account and your personal Google account for easy access.

PROTIP 2: Put a piece of tape over your webcam when not using it.

And if you are clever enough to want a dual boot Chrome OS and Ubuntu setup, you are clever enough to figure that out without my help.

If you have found this useful, please share the link, and also join Ownshelf.com for sharing free ebooks with friends.



Kickstarting an Ownshelf app for iOS and Android

After a terrific start on the web, we are starting to build an app for Ownshelf. That way you can use Ownshelf as an app on your iPad, iPhone, Android phone or tablet.  We are on Kickstarter to build awareness and get your support to build the app. Kickstarter is a site for “crowdfunding” projects.  Your support for our project will join a “crowd” of other supporters to help us build the eBook sharing app YOU want.

There are great deals on our Kickstarter page for supporters who back the project. Ownshelf is free and will always be free, but we are building premium features that will be available for Premium subscribers. Our Kickstarter backers will get unlimited access to all the premium features for TEN YEARS.  We appreciate our early users, and the Kickstarter reward is our way of giving you the best deal for the upcoming Premium features.

If you think Ownshelf in interesting, useful, or even important to eBook freedom, please pledge your support and tell your friends about it.  Check out the details of the Ownshelf app, a video, and rewards at Kickstarter!

Kickstart Ownshelf App

Free Christmas Ebooks



The Holidays are here, and so is the Christmas Bookshelf at Ownshelf.com. Fourteen free Christmas eBooks to read and share.

There is a bit of everything for everybody. A colorful and historical eBook Christmas tour of the White House courtesy of the Obama family; SciFi Xmas tales; Classic Christmas stories; the MOST classic Christmas story of all (The New Testament), and even some love for Atheists in the exclusive epub of The Atheist Christmas Coloring Book.

Grab some free Christmas eBooks to share and read, and deck the halls AND your e-reader for the holidays. And please tell a friend about sharing free ebooks at Ownshelf.

SWARMWISE – Rick Falkvinge’s Leadership Book FREE

Swarmwise eBookPolitical activist, tech entrepreneur, and outspoken evangelist for digital liberty Rick Falkvinge shares his new book SWARMWISE free on Ownshelf. In this Leadership book, Rick Falkvinge shares his experiences with forming, leading, and winning with a swarm-style community. The free ebook shared here on Ownshelf is launching day-and-date with the print book. We are proud to be chosen by the author to launch the eBook, and to spread his leadership message whilst boosting sales of the print book.

It is a book filled to the brim with his experiences of founding and leading the Swedish Pirate Party. Growing from zero members into the European Parliament, spreading the movement to 70 countries, and most importantly, beating the major parties for a fraction of their costs.

The book doesn’t go deep into theoretical details.  Rather, it is very hands-on leadership advice from pure experience – it covers everything from how you give instructions to new activists about handing out flyers in the street, up to and including how you communicate with TV stations and organize hundreds of thousands of people in a coherent swarm. Above all, it focuses on the cost-efficiency of the swarm structure, and is a tactical instruction manual for anybody who wants to dropkick their competition completely – no matter whether their game is business, social, or political.

Rick FalkvingeA little more about Rick’s remarkable story. In 2006, he decided to change the world for the better. He chose an unorthodox route and founded the very first Pirate Party. Less than ten years later, there are Pirate Parties around the world, and the pirate movement has become a political force to be reckoned with.

In 2011, he was named one of the world’s top 100 thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine, and in 2012, he was shortlisted as one of the world’s 100 most influential people by TIME magazine. He also writes columns for CNN, Russia Today, and TorrentFreak.

You can read more about Rick and his thoughts on his website Falkvinge.net

BTW, Ownshelf is a free service to share ebooks with friends. It is like Dropbox for ebooks. Or a virtual bookshelf to show off your ebook library, and discover new books posted by your Facebook friends. Yes, it does require Facebook to login and create an account on the website. But we only use Fb for the sign on, and all your book data is kept on our cloud servers, and shared only with your friends.  So grab a free copy of Swarmwise for your shelf and share it with friends. Help share Rick’s motivational message.

The Startup Bookshelf

Starting a tech company takes smarts, guts, and hard work.  Founders take great risks to invent a solution, build a company, and prosper from their creations. Fortunately, there are resources to help guide entrepreneurs as they charge ahead to make the next great service or app. Ownshelf is sharing some ebooks to help startups get started.

Ownshelf is a service to discover, read and share ebooks, all for free.  We are a bootstrapped startup, and are always seeking insights on how to grow.  Ownshelf regularly features authors and genres to help promote great books for you to share for free.  Books on starting and growing a tech company are very interesting to us, and we thought you might be interested too. So we have a featured shelf called The Startup Bookshelf with great books to help hackers and founders launch and grow.

Free Startup eBooks

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, entrepreneur, and Shark on ABC’s Shark Tank is sharing ebooks on Ownshelf. Here is what he says of his shared book The Gospel of Wealth by Andrew Carnegie: ”This was a reading assignment in an M.B.A. entrepreneurship class that I snuck into at Indiana University. Bottom line is that among the many patriotic things you can do, one is get rich and pay your taxes.”

Some of the books are written by entrepreneurs. Others are some of their favorites that they recommend to others who are starting up a company.

Here are a few of the free ebooks on the Startup Bookshelf at Ownshelf:

  • How to Win at the Sport of Business by Mark Cuban. Plus other business books Mark endorses
  • MakeUseOf guides to help you master topics such as analytics and social growth
  • The Startup Game by legendary venture capitalist Bill Draper
  • Notes from Peter Thiel’s Stanford class on startups – CS183

PLUS many other free ebooks by or recommended by Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki, Cory Doctorow, Ayn Rand, and others.

Hopefully other startups like us can benefit form these free ebooks and wisdom from founders who trailblazed before us. Please share and download these books and tell your friends about Ownshelf. You can share this page on Facebook and Twitter with the links below.

LEGO Lit – Classic Books in Lego

Ownshelf logo

Classic books built in LEGO!  At Ownshelf, we love LEGO almost as much as we love books. So we built scenes based on classic books and authors out of LEGO!

If you are new to Ownshelf, it is a service to share ebooks with friends across devices. You can get many of these ebooks free to read and share on your own shelf at Ownshelf.com.

Hope you enjoy our LEGO Creations. Please share, Pin, Tweet and Tumbl these pics and invite your friends to share ebooks with you.

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Hunger Games   Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451?!? ABS plastic melts at 221°F?

Fifty Shades   The Bell Jar

Mr. Grey is such a LEGO stud.

The Bible   Charlotte's Web

You can get many of these ebooks free to read and share on your own shelf at Ownshelf.com.

WW Z   The Fountainhead

Howard Roark left nothing but bricks.

Sherlock   Moneyball

You can get many of these ebooks free to read and share on your own shelf at Ownshelf.com.

Moby Dick   Lord of the Flies

Thanks for taking a look at Ownshelf’s LEGO creations based on famous books.

Visit Ownshelf to share and download free ebooks.

We will keep working on these and have Vol 2 soon!

B is for Beta

Free ebooks at Ownshelf betaOwnshelf is BETA!! But what does that mean for you? Beta is a technical term that means the site works, but is still in development.  Our team has bootstrapped Ownshelf to be live and running in a jiffy, so we can get feedback and insight from users like you. What features do you like most, what needs more polish, and what should our priorities be for development. So let us know what you like best and what you want to see on the service.

Our workload will be prioritized by what users want:

Do you want more social features?

Are you here for the free  ebooks from featured authors?

Do you enjoy browsing and borrowing ebooks from friends?

Would you like better sorting and cataloging tools for your ebooks?

Is a dedicated app something you would use?

We are on our way to over 10,000 users sharing 50,000 ebooks.  Getting real usage statistics and real world feedback will help get Ownshelf to a MILLION happy users! Thanks for your support.

Banned Book Week

This week (Sept 30 – Oct 6, 2012) is Banned Book Week.  This week is part of an awareness campaign by the American Library Association to remind people that our rights to read freely is often challenged.  It is always surprising to find so many beloved books on the challenged, banned, and burned lists.

Perhaps that is why people love these books, because they are thought provoking.  And perhaps that is why some people in power feel threatened by these books, because they provoke thought.

Learn more about Banned Books Week here.

In the digital age, suppressing or censoring ideas has become much more difficult for oppressive officials.  While book banning was limited to a country or county, the Internet is binary.  On, or Off.  There are no longer borders or boundaries to restrain knowledge.  The future of censorship will be restricting internet access, filtering key words, and blocking files.

Ownshelf hopes that our cloud based libraries controlled by individual users will help keep us all reading freely.

We Love the ALA

There is something sacred to a free people about their books.  Books are how we share and learn ideas.  In a free society, both books and ideas need to flow unhampered.  This is why we founded OwnShelf, to give a person control over how and where they can read their own books in the digital age.  The American Library Association has been at the vanguard of championing the freedom of the press and the freedom to read since 1876.  The ALA makes kick-ass declarations like “all individuals have the right to express their ideas without governmental interference, and to read and listen to the ideas of others.”  That is some super hero stuff!

Check out the ALA Library Bill of Rights:

The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

For years, the ALA has promoted freedom to read through their Banned Books Week awareness campaign.  In the ebook age, Librarians are fighting against unreasonable copyright protection that restricts readers’ access to books.  To wit, this awesome “Open letter to America’s publishers from ALA President Maureen Sullivan“.

Since you are at OwnShelf reading this, you obviously love books.  Now imagine that librarians love books about a hundred times more!  Their love of books, and championing of freedom to read, makes librarians super.  Next time you meet one, thank a SuperLibrarian for protecting your right to read.

A is for Alpha

Today Ownshelf is Alpha!  Alpha is an early project milestone named after the first letter of the Greek alphabet.  At Alpha, we start testing the core functionality of the service, and ask a few friends and family to use it with us to see how it works.

Alpha is like an early preview.  It is still buggy, will not work on all devices, might delete data, and WILL change over the next several weeks.  Ahh, the joys of being an early adopter!

The Ownshelf Alpha features allow users to create an account using Facebook, upload and download books, and see their friend’s shelves.  If you are one of OwnShelf’s friends or family, then come on in and try it out.  If you have a big or comment to report, ping Rick. We are focused on fixes and foundations for the next few weeks, then we will dive into new features to make Ownshelf more robust and user friendly for the Beta milestone in the Fall.

OwnShelf exists to help people share their love of books.  Your OwnShelf shelf is an expression of what you know and love, and that you want others to know about you. So go get some books from the Good Links in the right hand column, and fill your shelves.  Happy reading!