Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Chromebook Experiment

I can get obsessive over certain things. jazz music, progressive politics and Apple computers come to mind. I have been one of those Apple fanboys since the early 1980’s. I have stuck with them through good times and bad for thirty years. I have bought dozens of Mac’s and nothing but Mac’s for myself, family, friends and coworkers through all these years. 

So it is not insignificant when I broke with tradition and bought a Google Chromebook. When my 6 year old MacBook Pro bit the dust I was unsure how or if I would replace it. I still had my desktop iMac, iPad, iPhone and another MacBook Pro (company issued). I have always wanted a MacBook Air but with all those Mac’s in my possession I just couldn’t shell out over $1,000 for a new Air.

I had seen this Chromebook designed to look like an 11” Air. It’s physical specs of 0.7 inches thick, 2.4 lbs and an 11.6” screen are nearly identical to the MacBook Air. While they look very similar, under the hood they are completely different animals. But for less than $250 I figured I couldn’t really go wrong.

The Chromebook runs Google’s Chrome OS. Unlike conventional operating systems, Chrome OS does not run programs from its hard drive or rely on storing documents or media on its internal disks. Chrome OS is almost completely “Cloud” based. Power up and the computer boots right into Google’s Chrome browser in about 6 seconds. All of it’s apps are web based and are served from the Internet (not your hard drive). Files are stored on the cloud based GoogleDrive. No internal spinning hard drive, no fan, no viruses, the charged battery is good for over 6 hours. All your files are backed up automatically and are accessible from any computer with an Internet connection.

You are pretty well locked into the Google ecosystem. That is not a big deal for me since I had already been making extensive use of Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, Calendar, Contacts on my Macs and iPhones. You will find that Apple computers and iPhones sync very well to the Google universe even though they are arch rivals in the mobile space. 

I am finding tons of useful apps beyond Google’s office suite. My +10,000 songs in iTunes have been synced to Google’s music service. Evernote is indispensable for note taking and organizing information. Blogging, social networking, news, video and games are available from many sources.  I can even remotely operate my iMac from the Chromebook without getting up from my recliner. About the only task I can't do on this platform is rip and edit the audio files for my Jazz and Beyond Podcast.

The Chromebook has thus far been a great experience for 90% of my personal computing needs. Light word processing, social networking, email, Internet browsing and consuming media are great on the Chrome platform. These web based tasks are even a superior experience on the Chromebook than on an iPad or tablet. For the heavy lifting, like editing video or graphics, technical writing, serving databases or specialized applications that you may use in your professional career, get a real computer (May I recommend an iMac?). For leisurely, fun personal computing, this Chromebook is a great way to go.

Notes: This blog post was created on my Chromebook. For clarification, some software resides on an internal drive (media player, document viewer, image viewer/editor). Google Docs can be viewed and edited off-line. Chromebook comes with 16 GB of internal SSD storage for downloading files and 100 GB of Google Drive storage for 2 years for free.