Head In The Cloud’s


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Welcome to the Chrome Age: my new Chromebook. Picture taken by David Gay, with permission to use provided credit is given to the author.

If my friend sticks to her current moving schedule, I have 2 months left to find new places to couch-surf. The type and number of places I end up staying at will affect what I can carry with me and how much. If I have to hop a lot from place to place, then the best I can carry is about a week’s worth of clothing and supplies. My current laptop, a Lenovo Thinkpad running Ubuntu, will not work under these circumstances. It has served me well in my job search, but it’s too heavy and awkward to lug around. A lighter alternative is required that I could carry at the drop of a hat. The problem, however, was that most of the notebook and laptop brands were out of my budget — except for one.

Enter the Chromebook. An example of a thin-client, produced by Google, this type of notebook uses the cloud to store most of its user data, and runs on the ChromeOS operating system, which is a Linux-based and requires the user to work most of the time from inside a browser. At a back-to-school bargain at around $250 (Canadian), was it worth it?

Well, first the pros: It’s very light, thin and has nice large keys for my clumsy sausage fingers. The 11.6 inch screen is very easy to read, and the fully charged battery gives between 6 and 7 hours of off-outlet use. The boot-up time is very fast. Instead of traditional function keys that represent a feature (brightness, volume, etc) that you have to remember, there are a row of keys that explicitly state the above functions. You work with apps, not programs and the Chromebook comes preloaded with apps like the Chrome browser, Gmail, Google Docs (documents), Google Sheets (spreadsheets), Google Slides (presentations), Google Drive, Google+, YouTube and more. If you want to install more apps, Google Play is the place to get them. The Chrome browser uses the Pepper-based Flash plug-in so if you like Farmville, Criminal Case, Trainstation or any other Flash-based games, fear not, the Chromebook can handle it very well. This particular Chromebook (HP) uses a dual-core Samsung processor.

It has its limitations, though. The amount of RAM and file storage on the Chromebook is quite small: it only has 2 gigabytes of RAM and 16 gigabytes of local storage, both using flash drive technology.  The Chromebook is designed to allow the user to create, store, and manipulate data on the cloud courtesy of Google Drive, not locally. While Google claims any stored data is both secure and always easily accessible, and you get 100 gigabytes of additional storage free for two years on top of the additional 15 gigabytes a new Google account is allocated, you are very dependent on a constant Internet connection. The Chromebook can operate in offline mode, but in that mode you have to work with is the base 16 gigabytes of storage. You can use USB flash drives to increase offline storage, but those are not directly synchable with Google Drive. You’ll need to drag and drop there, which on a Chromebook is murder to do since there are no mouse buttons on the track-pad. To emulate a specific mouseclick, you need to tap the pad with one, two, or three fingers. I’m very computer-savvy, yet found the group finger taps hard to do, so I decided to use a portable mouse instead.

The bottom line? If you want a very affordable laptop that is great for working on the cloud and for websurfing, has a fast boot-up time and a long battery time, the Chromebook is perfect for you. However, if you are comfortable with Windows and how a mouse traditionally handles under that operating system, enjoy the wide variety of Microsoft games and applications, and need a lot of offline hard drive storage, perhaps you may want to try putting more money towards a standard notebook, laptop, or ultrabook. In my case, the Chromebook will serve me well as an important part of my mobile life and job search strategy.

Thanks for reading.

David

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5 thoughts on “Head In The Cloud’s

  1. David ~ thanks for the review.

    I hope you enjoy your Chromebook.

    However I personally would prefer a netbook where I have more hard drive for offline purposes and onboard storage verses predominant online storage alone. I especially would also prefer a netbook living a mobile lifestyle due to it being more portable due to size & weight. And all media : movies, music …etc can be converted to a file format to be installed / stored on the netbook via USB. Thus very little necessity for a built dvd-rom drive. One could even do dvd conversion to ” iso” format , when needed, at most internet cafes. Hard drive space & ram could be increased internally or externally at one’s own leisure; but I’m sure you’re aware of this aspect.

    And I’m with you on the portable / external mouse 🙂 I’ve never liked the built in trackpad neither.

    Furthermore, for online storage you can get 50GB of free storage at Adrive. Open two separate accounts and you got your 100GB of storage free, if desired.

    Adrive Personal Free storage : http://www.adrive.com/personal

    Moreover, Netbooks can be acquired rather cheaply as well. In example see the link on Ebay to many netbooks. Therefore far cheaper than a new Chromebook , especially when on a tight budget too.

    Netbooks via Ebay : http://bit.ly/1lHQu2E

    Granted the battery life / time would be the only possible con or shortfall since it is not new. But nothing is perfect and of course the battery life depreciates with every laptop/netbook anyway. Albeit one could simply by a battery replacement on Ebay at their leisure or when needed. However, until then as long as you have access to an electrical outlet that would pose little problem. And libraries, Macdonalds, and some coffee shops have electrical outlets to access anyway.

    Lastly, I’m also not a big fan of Google due to its questionable privacy issues and its quiet association with homeland security. Anyway each to their own on that front. I too am PC savvy for the sake of mention, not that it makes a difference since I’m just lending a little of my own experience on the subject matter.

    Nevertheless David thanks for your review on the Chromebook.

    All the Best,
    Ed

    1. Hi Ed.

      Thanks for the comments about this post and for your great points. It has a lot of great suggestions I’m sure others could use.

      The Netbook was one strong contender with the power and size offered, but it was a little out of my price range as a job seeker. I probably could have waited a little longer for the price to drop, since I read the back-to-school sales season was rather lackluster, but with a two month window to get things ready before my stay ends with my friend, I had to get going. I don’t have an E-Bay account so that’s probably why I did not go down that route. Maybe it’s time to create an account there!

      I agree with the Google privacy issue but haven’t found it a major concern with what I use the Internet for, which mostly is for job searching with some Facebook activity and news reading tossed in. I suppose it’s all about give and take.

      I appreciate the suggestion to try Adrive. I’ve never heard of it, but will look into it later.

      Thanks again for your comments, a very informative one indeed.

      David

  2. Hey David,

    No problem and you’re very welcome.

    Given your two month window to get things ready I can sort of understand your decision on the Chromebook. It looks like a nice one too 🙂 And yeah I agree that would probably be to your advantage to create an Ebay account; its free anyway. You could buy future items with a virtual debit card, credit card or Paypal … so its quite flexible. Ebay is also a great source for cheaper items compared to the regular stores. And of course a Paypal account is free to open as well.

    Moreover I agree if you’re mostly job searching, reading emails, surfing the internet and nothing questionable like downloading movies / software via torrents …etc, then the Google privacy issue is not insomuch a problem.

    Cheers,
    Ed

  3. I think I know what you are doing wrong with the drag and drop.

    Press down on the pad until you feel/hear a click like a mouse button. While holding your finger down, use another finger to slide across the pad, and that will drag the object.

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