2 Weeks with Chrome OS

In continuing with my experience report, regarding Chrome OS, I’m making an update with a general impression 2 weeks later.

It’s actually been a bit longer than two weeks since I first booted up my Chromebook. To be perfectly honest, in that time I have had no occasion to boot up my Windows Desktop, and my iPad usage and dropped significantly as well. I find my Android Phone and Chromebook to be my two most used tools, at present.

Communication:

I have been relying primarily on Google Hangouts and Gmail, as I always have, so this part is easy. I get my SMS messages through Hangouts as well, so everything is quite centralized for me.

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I have done video Hangouts with several people, including multiple Hangouts on Air sessions and have not experienced any lag on the $260 ASUS Chromebook. At this pricepoint, such performance in live video is fairly impressive, as my Mother’s All-in-One Windows HP demonstrated a worse experience, with (of course), much more generous computing power available to it.

I do frequently find myself on Facebook for Messaging as well, which has proven lag free on the Chromebook. Overall, my communication habits have been unaffected, and if anything, slightly more pleasant.

Note: The state of Skype on Chromebook is still pending proper resolution. There are options, but I assume this will take care of itself in time. I don’t care much for Skype, so it’s not impacting me much.

Productivity:

Screenshot 2015-02-06 at 8.40.38 AMThis can be a tricky one, as some folks rely particularly strongly, on specific apps for Office, Collaboration, and Task Management. As long as you are willing to modify your habits, this is not a problem on a Chromebook, but don’t expect to be able to do things the way you’ve always done, on a Chrome OS device, if you were not accustomed to doing everything in the Chrome browser in the first place.

Personally, I rely on a combination of Google Calendar, Keep, Now, Trello, and Drive. I find that this approach suits my lifestyle and does not slow me down in any way. It is consistent across my 3 primary devices (Android Phone, Chromebook, and iPad), so it is very holistic and accessible.

Other productivity apps like Workflowy, Evernote, Wunderlist, and more provide a wide variety of options for your lifestyle. Essentially, this is one of the strongest aspects of the mobile experience right now, across all devices.

Work:

For me, work entails Graphic Design, Programming, file management, training videos, and occasionally creating videos.

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On the Graphic Design front, things are workable, but not really up to snuff. This will change when Streaming Photoshop becomes available for public consumption, but for the time being I am limited to a few apps. Pixlr, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to work on my Chromebook, which is my preferred web photo editor. Gimp runs, via rollApp, and performs reasonably. It’s good in a pinch, but lackluster for heavy use as it can be a bit laggy and interferes with the Chromebook’s normal keyboard shortcuts. DeviantArt’s Muro, and PicMonkey are also fairly decent tools.

Programming is quickly coming to speed, at least for Web Development, thanks to the ever increasing functionality of Web-IDE solutions like Nitrous.io, Codenvy.com, c9.io, and more. Nitrous.io is my favorite of the bunch at present, providing me with configurable VPS options (including free boxes for sandbox coding), a working and quick terminal (that isn’t very limited), and easy configuration for collaboration and instant environment setups (Ruby on Rails, good to go!) It’s difficult to say whether or not these solutions are ready for the professional web developer at large, but I think they are certainly contender worthy at this point, and eventually, I agree with Codenvy’s founder, that they will surpass Desktop solutions in pretty much every regard.

File Management is the easy one. Of course efficiency of moving large files is based largely on your internet speed, but the easy of sharing and organizing through Google Drive and Dropbox is just a joy at this point. Having well over a terabyte of space at my disposal, I have no worries when it comes to storing data or sharing it with others. Drive allows me to link people to files, collaborate with them, or attach massive files to emails far more quickly than I could do any of these things on a Desktop machine (presuming Drive is not being used there).

Video Editing and Training Videos. This is a mixed bag that is mostly rough. When it comes to video recording and editing, Youtube is really the best thing happening, but it is minimally effective in regards to video professionalism. You can get basic recording, editing, and screencasting happening here, but don’t expect the out of programs like Camtasia. Chromebook just isn’t there. And due to limited space, when working with video, you are streaming that data constantly, so the process isn’t very fluid (yet). Honestly, for the time being, I am still recording and editing my videos on my iPad, which as far as a mobile device is concerned, performs quite well for my purposes.


 

That’s it for this round of Chromebook impressions. So far I’m quite happy with my low-power, high-battery-life solution. I feel more mobile, less cluttered, and generally enjoy using it. And I still don’t regret selling my Windows laptop!

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.