Chrome OS and Why You’re Wrong About It

Ok, admittedly that title might sound aggressive… but I meant it sincerely. I have been surprised to see just how many people are staring down the Chrome OS “shortcomings” without being able to recognize it’s boons.

Chrome OS

I think it takes a moment to realize what a Chrome OS device is, and what it is not.

Obviously, it is not a Windows, OS X, or desktop Linux deployment (practically speaking), and so we can obviously remove the expectations that we have about those technologies from our assessment. Don’t buy a pear and be insulted that doesn’t taste like an Orange.

It is also not “just a Chrome session”, strictly speaking. That is the core, but you also have the excellent notification center (which is making it’s way onto other operating systems now thankfully), more offline support for web apps, Google Goodies like bonus storage or LTE connectivity, a great Google Drive file browser (which is benefiting from a powerful new API that could make it one of the coolest storage browsers out there), and the wonderful low-power high-performance philosophy that makes these devices even marketable.

It sells Chrome, and Google’s vision of computing, short when you isolate a Chromebook to what’s actually, physically, on that device. While that may seem objectively reasonable to most of us, it’s really not.

I sold my powerful ROG ASUS Gaming  Laptop and bought a Chromebook for $275.

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I am a web developer, computer enthusiasts, musician, and hobbyist gamer and artist. And I just sold my strongest computer for the weakest laptop I’ve purchased (comparatively).

Am I stupid? Maybe.

I’m admittedly impulsive and make decisions very quickly and sometimes destructively. So let me be clear: I did not sell my laptop and buy a Chromebook because the latter is a better computer.

I did it because I wanted to make a lifestyle change. Objections like “You can’t run Office or the Adobe Suites”, “There are no strong video or audio editors”, “You can’t play AAA video games” etc… these are statements about how you like to compute. They are not criticisms of the Chrome OS technology.

Similarly, “Make sure to check if you can run Linux on the Chromebook you’re looking at”, “Remote Desktop to a Windows Machine so you can actually be functional”, “Use Crouton to get Ubuntu running so it’s not useless” are workarounds to make a Chromebook something it’s not (go right ahead, install Linux. This is good cheap hardware to use how you wish. But don’t use that in a discussion about Chromebooks and their place in the market).

There is a core change in how we are using computers as it relates to the cloud infrastructure (placing power on the server side, instead of the userside) that are making Tablets, Phones, and Chromebooks increasingly more practical and capable by the day. Soon, the mighty Photoshop will be available on most devices, for instance.

Low-cost machines, long battery-life, with rapid boot times, that do not store your private data directly and are easily replaceable. This fits the mobile lifestyle while not being financially prohibitive. My data is never at risk to being stolen (I can even remove access from a Chromebook to my account, remotely), it’s accessible on my Phone, Chromebook, Desktop, or iPad, and I no longer have to modify my habits between devices since apps like Google Drive are largely becoming accessible across all of them.

I still have a Windows Desktop in my room, and I do use Remote Desktop with it for some things (mostly just the convenience of not going up to my room, lately), and I’m planning to grab a flexible VPS to SSH into for more serious development, once I need it.

Anyway… enough theory. I plan to blog every so often about my change in computing habits. So if you’ve been eyeballing the Chromebooks, but aren’t sure about how to practically live with one… stay tuned!

My SMS contacts are numbers with no names!

I recently picked up the new Moto X from my local AT&T store, and so far, I’m extremely happy with the phone. But one troubling thing I found upon the first week of use was that none of my SMS messages had Names/contacts along with them. As a result, I didn’t know who was texting me!

This may not fix it for everyone, but in my own case, the problem was solved with a simple check box. By default, I found, that my Moto X on the latest Android version (KitKat) was not actually syncing all of my contact information.

To fix the problem I did the following (after much fumbling around on my Phone and Google Search):

First go to your “Settings” app, in the App Browser, and scroll down to “Accounts”. Tap on your google account(s) and then (here is the sneaky bit) tap on the account again on the next screen.

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Then scroll down and find “Contacts” and turn on Sync. Why this isn’t on by default is beyond me, but I’ve seen a number of people complaining about it online.

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Lastly, make sure that you sign out of your google account and SMS app (or just restart the phone after the sync is complete. This solved the problem for me… Hopefully this information will help someone else.