The Chromebook is an internet connected device and while it has Android capabilities on ChromeOS and a Linux shell on ChromeOS and ChromeOS Flex where possible it’s nice to run things from a web browser.

This is my list of some of the as a service applications I use and like which have solved problems for me while running ChromeOS.

VoIP: SipGate

https://www.sipgatebasic.co.uk/

The days of needing an on-premise phone system are far behind us, VoIP phone systems are two a penny. What I found with many VoIP solutions in whatever guise they come in, they are all about the monthly contract. So when I was looking for a local number which I could use to put on forms and run from a sip client when needed on my Mobile or Laptop I was looking for something more of a Pay-As-You-Go model

My use case is pretty simple, I swap SIM cards every few months, usually, this involves a PAC transfer if I want to keep the number, however, the usual reason for swapping is robocall or “sales” calls. If I could have a number which was consistent but not linked to a phone, I’d use that when filling out paperwork.

So I was looking for a VoIP provider which supplied

  • Local (UK) Numbers
  • PAYG
  • Easy Softphone setup
  • Cheap calls

The Sipgate service provided all of these for me, as well as a nice Web interface for managing my account, a softphone which didn’t need a bunch of setup and the PAYG model where I’ve had credit last over years for the service.

What I also like is the scalability, it easy to scale up user-wise quickly and if there is an existing phone system in place there are trunks from the PBX to Sipgate available.

4/5 – Good Service.

Text Chat: Element.io

https://element.io/

Like Sipgate and VoIP services out there there are many chat services out there that do text, voice and video. Teams, Slack and Mattermost all spring to mind.

Element is all of these and to a degree, it’s not as slick as any of the above however it’s a factor of 1000 more secure than any of them.

Element is a secure communications app based on the Matrix infrastructure (the software, not the movie) where you can create a private, end-to-end encrypted communications solution. Once you’ve got that in place, with a little development time bridges can be added, these link Element to third-party services such as Slack, Mattermost or WhatsApp.

Where possible Element will do the heavy listing for you and set these bridges up.

This all works on Desktop, web browser and mobile really well

This is an example of a niche player as most companies are going to use the main commercial options, however, that’s what SaaS products are all about. Niche offerings.

4/5 – Good Service.

Office Suite: OnlyOffice

https://www.onlyoffice.com

Walk into just about every office in the world and you’ll find a Windows or Mac and on either of those devices, you’ll find a copy of Office365 and a user running Word, Excel or Powerpoint.

That’s fine, it’s the right tool for the job. What happens however if you don’t want to invest in Office365 because you use Linux desktops, run off mobile devices or tablets and are not fully immersed in the Microsoft ecosystem?

There are actually a fair number of Office alternatives out there, LibreOffice springs to mind however like many of them I find its interface cumbersome and even after years of doing this, it’s still a bit flaky when it comes to opening Office files.

This is where I stumbled across OnlyOffice

To start with for you OnlyOffice will be the Desktop application replacement for Word, Excel or Powerpoint you’re looking for on Windows, Mac, Linux, ChromeOS, Android or IOS and you’ll be happy.

The part which gets it onto this list however is its back-end cloud OnlyOffice Personal which adds back-end storage to save documents to and a web interface to manage, collaborate and edit those documents. This is all a free tier.

To Enterprise this SaaS offering there is OnlyOffice Workspace which expands on personal with Project Planning, CRM, Forms and additional integrations into things like NextCloud, Box or Dropbox.

OnlyOffice even at the free tier for most is a great alternative to Office365 and still highly compatible with it. It’s quick, the web interface for editing documents is a work of art and so is the compatibility layer.

5/5 – Excellent Service.

Podcast Content: Listenbox

https://listenbox.app/

There’s an old *nix nerd saying, “each Linux tool does a job and does it well”, the idea is that rather than a tool being a swiss army knife of functionality, it shows own what it does and does it as well as it can.

Listenbox is a service much like this. It doesn’t do much, but what it does well if you need it, it does better than anyone else.

Do you listen to Podcasts? Do you watch YouTube? Do you wish you could have your subscribed YouTube channels in your podcast app?

This is what Listenbox does

Post the URL of a YouTube subscription, playlist or video into the Listenbox web interface, in less than seconds the webpage will be asking you which of the myriad of popular podcasting apps it supports do you want this to be subscribed to and playing in.

I use Pocket Jellys Pocketcast and once the YouTube video is subscribed I’m able to plan downloads for offline listening, set up the number of available videos I can listen to when it should start cleaning etc. Essentially once the Youtube Channel is subscribed to it’s treated just like any other podcast.

3/5 – Useful Service.

eMail: Protonmail

https://proton.me/

Email, love it or hate it, for over 40 years it’s been providing the OG messaging service for the internet.

There are plenty of mail services out there offering all things to all people. What makes ProtonMail different is security.

Not all email is created equally and it seems most is not secure, there is a good TED Talk on that here

While Proton won’t win design awards for being the most beautiful web or mobile application it is secure with all data held on the service fully encrypted and offers a simple out of the box options for encrypting mail sent to others using a rather interesting method.

Click on a little padlock on the mail create a page and enter a passcode and click on send and the people you are sending to get a message like this.

Enter the passcode (sent via SMS or Whatsapp) and they get the message until a month has passed then they lose access to the message, so your data can be secure in their inbox.

There is a lot of love put into this product for sure and the addition of VPNs, Disk storage and a few other items shows that they are looking to take on Google and Microsoft head-on as a location to house secure internet.

5/5 – Excellent Service.

Remote Access: RemotePC

https://www.remotepc.com

Like many on this list, there are a good number of options for getting remote access onto systems from Google s Chrome Remote desktop all the way to Teamviewer.

I like RemotePC because it just works, as OS’s like Linux start migrating to Wayland there are numerous issues with a lot of these products which I’ve found as I used each of them from my Chromebook attaching to Fedora, OpenSuse and Ubuntu servers.

RemotePC is the one which works right now.

There is an agent to install on the remote device, there are agents for Mac, Windows and Linux and once installed they provide access from a rather nice web interface

You can also use the agent or Android/IOS apps as well on phones or Tablets to get remote access.

Once connected even over a flaky 4G connection on a train to Waterloo the connection stood the test of poor latency on more than one occasion

Weather: Lightning Maps

https://lightningmaps.org

Let’s be honest, if I want to know what the weather is like I either look out the window or ask Google…

If I want to know why my dog has suddenly started getting twitchy on a close night I need to know if there is a storm in the area.. At that point, I reach out and open this..

It’s a real-time map, based on OpenStreetMaps, showing where there is thunder and lightning all over the world. you can zoom in, and out, its accurate to within a couple of seconds with its data and oh so useful when out and about, camping or just trying to keep the pooch calm.

Alerting: Freshping

https://www.freshworks.com/website-monitoring/

I host this website myself and it’s useful to know when its up, to do this I use freshping website monitoring service which tries to connect to my website from multiple global locations and tells me not just when it’s down, but the latency of the site as well.

Comes with a pretty dashboard and I can add 50 services to monitor for free

Useful, simple, works well..

Pipelines: Buddy.works

https://buddy.works/

If you’ve heard of IFTTT then this is that, and some. Its a pipeline delivery system

A pipeline is a set of commands followed in an order to have something happen. So for example if i wanted to update my Ubuntu servers daily.

I could use buddy to create a pipeline
The pipeline will ssh to a remote server and then run some commands

It then notifies me on success or failure.

Theres a lot more to this than just this basic pipeline and its a very simple example however of all the SaaS solutions I’ve tried this was the easiest to get setup for running these back-end automation pipelines, especially on a home setup

Documents: DocHub

https://dochub.com/

DocHub is Docusign for the common person, its a simple no frills, free for low volume document signing system for adding a signature to forms and editing PDF files online…

Thoughts

By davidfield

Tech Entusiast