Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Living on a Chromebook – Week One (or so!)

14 June, 2013
Living on a Chromebook – Week One (or so!)

A thousand apologies for the delay in getting this blog posted.  I am afraid preparations for a business trip and family commitments had to take priority, and it was further delayed by poor internet access.  This blog should have been renamed “Month One”, but I have restricted my comments generally to those issues from the first week.

This post will cover how I am feeling about my Acer C7 Chromebook after using it almost exclusively for the last week. Is it all I thought it would be, have I been able to switch to a ChromeOs world, and will I keep on using it?  These are the questions we are all dying to know, so let’s get started!

Over all Impression

Over all the Chromebook Acer C7 has not disappointed me at all. I had some transition issues with the keyboard, but that was simply my hands getting used to a new typing position. Other than that the physical transition from my Windows desktop and Android Tablet has been very smooth.  Is it what I expected?  I would have to say is has fulfilled my expectations, and I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to embrace the cloud world.  I had dabbled in it before, primarily using cloud storage, but that was really it.  The Chromebook forced/enabled me to much more fully integrate myself in to the cloud and allows my computing experience to transition from tablet, to PC, to Chromebook, to any other connect system nearly seamless.  Yes, anyone can do this with any system, but it is the natural state of the Chromebook, which makes it intuitive and simple.

Was I able to Transition?

With the exception of gaming, which I still primarily do on my Windows PC, I have been able to find the exact or at least similar applications to meet my needs on ChromeOS.  I have been using Google Docs, spreadsheets and presentations in place of MS Word and Libre Office and it has been completely satisfactory, with one exception which I will discuss shortly.  gReader, an Android news feed application similar to Google Reader, I have replaced with Feedly, which is very nice, but I can easily use Google Reader as another option if I desired.  Where I use Feedly to track very specific websites, I use Google News for a quick, “what’s happening around me in the world” application – so no change and no impact with switching platforms.  I have traditionally not been one to upload and edit photos very much, so I haven’t really worked with any one specific program, like Photoshop for example.  But with the new auto enhance features available right through Google, I am happy to let the system do it for me – of course, I am just looking for a half-decent picture and that may not meet needs of everyone. For those of you who are avid photographers and need a system which will allow you to have more direct control over how your pictures are transformed, there are a wide range of applications to meet any level of expertise – from simple tools such as PicMonkey, to more robust solutions like Gimp, which is more akin to Photoshop.  So, thus far I have not had any problems doing anything I need or want to do on the Chromebook.  Pretty much any application you use now, you can find a corresponding app for ChromeOS

But it can’t all be sunshine and lollipops, can it?  No, you are right, it is not. One of the “problems” I have had is working offline.  What I have not made clear, and this is because I hadn’t fully appreciated it, is that while the Chromebook can operate offline as I have written about previously, it really doesn’t like doing so.  “No kidding,” you yell! “That’s why we have been nervous buying a Chromebook.”  Yes, I understand that, but fear not it isn’t all doom and gloom. 

As mentioned in some of my previous posts, the Chromebook has several application that will operated when it is not connected to the internet – Google Drive (with both Docs and Slides), Gmail, and many more will all work offline.  But there is a very important catch; they will not work at all offline unless you open/run them at least once connected before trying to use them offline!  This is why many of the game apps which should run in offline mode did not; I had installed them when I was online, but hadn’t tried to play them until I was offline.  This would not normally be a problem, because you most people will install an application and then run it right away to see if it works and that it is the right application for their needs.  However, if you have recently wiped all the data from your Chromebook to reset it, allowed all you apps to sync and then went somewhere where you can not get internet access without launching any of the application, nothing will work that isn’t normally native to ChromeOS.  This is exactly where I find myself at the moment, and why I am writing this entry on Windows Laptop – insert frowning face here!  So my bad luck for not having accessed the internet after I reset the Chromebook, but I had run out of time and wasn’t thinking the process through.  But as soon as I am next connect, all that will be quickly rectified and I will me back to being able to work smoothly both on and offline.  I must say that, as I am typing this piece, I sorely miss the auto save feature.  Oddly enough (insert sarcastic tone here) shortly after I had written that last line, this Windows Laptop blue screened and I lost a chuck of this blog and had to retype it.  Even offline, each time you type something in the Chromebook it is immediately saved.  The only way to loose something is to create it in offline mode and then have something happen which physically wipes it off the HDD, and with a linux based OS, that is not likely to happen.

Conclusion – Will I keep using it?

While there are some limitations to Chromebooks, they are all manageable as long as you are aware of them and come to this OS with reasonable expectations – I remain completely satisfied with my purchase.  I believe this style of holistic computing is the future, and that you will see the other Operating Systems evolve shortly too better match the vision of Google OS and/or Ubuntu.  For the price of this fully functional laptop (and remember you can put linux on it if you do not like using only ChromeOS) it is worth making your own foray on to this system.  If you approach it with realistic expectations, and an understanding of what you are getting, you will not be disappointed.  In answer to the question, I absolutely will continue to enthusiastically use and explore this wonderful computer!

 I hope these blog entries have helped to answer some of the question you may have had, and I look forward to sharing my next major experience with my Acer C7. Until then, share and enjoy!

<Edit – I was finally able to link my Chromebook back to the internet, after re-imaging it, and it once again is able to function as I had come to expect in offline mode.  Good lesson learn for myself, but only a minor inconvenience.>

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