I HAVE MOVED

After a lot of thought and consideration -- I have decided to retire One Foot in Reality and leave it as an Archive. I will still monitor it to keep the trolls at bay, but will not be posting here any longer.

If you are looking for my new posts, please go to www.haroldlshaw.com .

Thank you for all they years of following One Foot In Reality.

Harold

Thursday, November 29, 2012

My Chromebook after a Week - November 2012

After a lot of thought I have decided to move some of best of my old posts from Aging Runnah and A Runnah’s Story blogs, primarily the old reviews, maybe a few of the better posts and race reports that I have written over the years. I have a feeling that at some point, my WordPress.com blogs are simply going to go away and I want to still be able to go back and read some of the stuff I wrote.

If you are reading this blog post, that is why it is has been re-posted here.

Originally posted on: November 29, 2012




I got my Samsung Chromebook Series 5 550 from Amazon a 9 days ago So how has it gone?

To be brutally honest and in a word - GREAT!

Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been without some scratching my head, muscle memory lapses and “He’s Dead Jim” screens, along with a LOT of experimenting to see what works for me.

However, this is also the kind of stuff that I love doing, trouble-shooting, trying out new apps and discovering how something new like my Chromebook fits into my work-flow and life.

What have I learned?

What I have discovered so far? That my Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook is an amazing computer, that made me stop and really take a look at how I was actually using a computer in today’s world.

I did this from the perspective that I didn’t have pretty much unlimited storage on the machine itself, no native applications to fall back on, that I would be reliant upon Wi-Fi to use it properly and I would have to do some things differently to properly use this computer.

Have I got everything under control yet? No, but at this point the only thing that I have used another computer for is to have Pandora playing in the backgound and using Janetta in full-screen for my Twitter feed on my large monitor. I just haven't had a real need or desire to use either the Mac or PC.
Pros

Speed - It is fast! It boots-up fast, opens apps fast, logs out fast, shuts-down fast and wakes up fast. For a computer with such “awful” specs, it is faster than other computers I have used. I haven’t had to wait to be where I want to be and haven’t had any of the apps that I have tried have any lag time (no I haven’t done video editing on it yet, that is this weekend’s project).

This is also the reason that I wanted the 4GB Ram version and would take more if I could, I really think that a 2GB RAM machine wouldn’t be as fast and be able to handle the number of “windows” or apps I typically have open.

Portability - It is small, light (around 3 pounds) and doesn’t heat up too much while on my lap.
Peripherals - I have attached my USB keyboard, USB trackball and external hard drive with no problems. I still have to get the correct video connector so I can connect my Chromebook to my large monitor and take advantage of the recent changes that support dual screen use. That will happen soon.

Apps - There are a lot more web applications in the Chrome Web Store than I imagined and you can probably find one that you can use to do just about anything you want.

If you are a programmer, work a lot with videos or other high-end computer needs, then you are not going to use the Chromebook as your primary computer, a Chromebook will not do what you are looking for, right now it is too basic for that.

However, if you are like me and much of your time is spent blogging, on social media, checking email, etc. I haven’t been disappointed at all or limited on what I want to do. About the only thing that I can’t really do is play NeverWinter Nights 2, but there are other RPG games that I can access and will be looking at for a replacement for NWN2.

The best part of all the Apps that I have tried so far (which quickly and easily install or uninstall) almost all of them have been free, only one have I decided it was necessary to move up to the pro version, but that will be in another post.

Maintenance - I don’t have to do any of the maintenance or back-end work that other O/S make you do to keep your computer up-to-date. Most of the updates appear to be done in the background and will be better taken care by Google than by most computer users.

Keyboard - The keyboard is one of the best ones I have ever typed on, I would like it if it was backlit, but that would be an added expense. Now that I have a pretty good idea of where things are located and am starting to develop muscle memory, things are a lot better. Finding where the keys are placed, is a typical thing when changing brands, most have their own keyboard patterns beyond the normal QWERTY board.



The only thing that I am really having any issues with is the Caps Lock key not being there - I am always hitting the search key to do Caps Lock - that will be my toughest habit to break. However, when I plug in my old USB keyboard, it works like a charm and everything is where it is supposed to be.

The other key combination I am finally getting the hang of is using Alt-Backspace to forward delete (which is an awful lot like the Mac). However, I have been hitting ctrl-backspace which deletes the previous word, because that is where the forward delete key combination is on a Mac.

Offline - There are ways to work off-line with my Chromebook and yes they are limited in capability, but seem to be getting better. To be honest it is very seldom that I don’t have access to either Wi-Fi or a Network Cable.

This complaint that I hear so much about Chromebooks not being useful if they are not connected to the Internet, really isn't that new of a problem, because having a web connection meant so much to me on both my Mac and PC.

I complained just as much when I couldn’t connect with my PC or Mac, because most of what I do and how I work now is done over an Internet connection. I am used to working in the web and not as much on the laptop, so having an Internet connection in order for my to get work done has been necessary for at least 3-4 years.

This complaint that I hear so much about Chromebooks not being useful if they are not connected to the Internet, really isn't that new of a problem, because having a web connection meant so much to me on both my Mac and PC.
Cons

iPhone - This is the one that bothers me the most - the Chromebook and my iPhone 4S don’t like each other and will not work together. The Chromebook will slowly charge the iPhone, but that is all it does, I can’t download/transfer any photos or files, without using my old MacBookPro or TheWife’s Windows PC. I am wondering if I eventually, I will need to move to an Android based phone to integrate my computer with my phone and make my life a little easier. Yes I am doing some work-arounds, but this is something that I will have to resolve at some point.

Printing - While I don't usually print that often, there are still some things that I have to print-out. I don’t have a Cloud enabled printer, I have one of the “older” classic printers and needed to set it up to Cloud Print through Google. However, I found that I have to be signed into my account on the computer the printer is connected to and that printer has to be added to the cloud from my Google account not somebody else's account. If I want to print, no one else can use that computer or printer.

The printer is hooked to my wife’s laptop and she definitely wouldn’t be very pleased if I was signed into her computer all the time. Best solution right now is to use my MacBookPro to connect with Google Drive and print using that machine. This works but...it is not a permanent solution.
If I am wrong on this I would love to hear what I need to do to set up the Cloud Print correctly, so I can print to it while it is connected to my wife's laptop, while she is signed in to the computer.
Saving to Google Drive - Sometimes saving to Google Drive, just doesn’t work correctly and you have to save to the download folder instead and manually drag the file over to gDrive. This is probably a just a bug in the code somewhere, but I want this to be more stable. If I attempt to save a file to Google Drive I don’t want to have to do extra steps to get it there.

Dropbox Integration/sync - I have to use Dropbox for my work and there doesn't seem to be any real easy way of getting files (Word, photos from Picasa or Google+) from the Chromebook to Dropbox, other than manually downloading and then uploading the file. Drop and drag doesn't work from Google Drive and I can't download directly to Dropbox since it is in the cloud. I do get my files there, but there are extra, unnecessary steps to get there that I don't have to do on a Mac or PC.

Battery - I would like to have about another hour of battery life, but it already a LOT better than my MacBookPro or Dell computers. I have been using it so much at different places around the house, that I just have to remember to plug it in once in a while to keep it charged up during the day.

There are a lot more pros and cons, but these were the major ones that I found for me over my first week as a new Chromebook user. As I get further into this journey, I am sure that I will explore many of the less critical ones to me more fully in later posts.
The reality is

that after only one week on my Chromebook, I don’t want to use my other computers. They feel slow and too bulky. I am quickly learning the Chromebook way, which is different from using a Mac or PC. Actually the different ways of doing things, are actually starting to make a lot of sense to me and as I continue to use them, they will become even easier.

Overall, is my Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook a perfect computer? No it is not for everyone, but it does what I want and sorry Apple but right now for me.

It just works.

However, all I know is that I am enjoying using my Chromebook
What are your experiences with a Chromebook?
What are some things that you would like me to talk about as a new user who is learning the ropes as I go?

Saturday, November 24, 2012


After a lot of thought I have decided to move some of best of my old posts from Aging Runnah and A Runnah’s Story blogs, primarily the old reviews, maybe a few of the better posts and race reports that I have written over the years. I have a feeling that at some point, my WordPress.com blogs are simply going to go away and I want to still be able to go back and read some of the stuff I wrote.

If you are reading this blog post, that is why it is has been re-posted here.

Originally posted on: November 24, 2012


This isn’t my normal running related post, but I am also a bit geeky and many of us runners are on our computers a LOT. So I thought you might be interested in what I think about my new Samsung Series 5, 550 Chromebook (WiFI) Computer.

Why did I decide on the Chromebook? 

You can read about the decision process here, but it seems that I have always been a little non-traditional and enjoy challenging myself to do things a little differently.

The Chromebook was delivered on Wednesday night and it didn’t take me long to unbox it! TheWife said I looked a lot like a little kid at Christmas. I guess I am still a big kid at heart and I tend to get excited about new my new “toys”.

First Look

I don’t know about you, but for me, I don’t get a real sense of how a computer looks or feels by looking at videos and images online. So I always worry (a lot),when I buy something online, whether if I am going to like it or not.

After opening the box and taking a close look at the 550 and I was impressed - it is a GREAT looking little laptop!

The 550 weighs in at about 3 pounds which makes it the lightest computer I have ever owned and in my opinion one of the best looking ones. I didn’t notice any flaws, blemishes or poorly put together/designed areas. Everything was neat and clean, so far so good.
Turning it On

I plugged in the 550 and turned it on, it took about 10 seconds to get to the sign-in screen. When I signed-in to my Google account, (it didn’t do an update until after the first time I turned it off and back on?), I immediately was taken to the WiFi login (after all it is all about the Internet).

This was where my biggest problem occurred with setting up the Chromebook!

It had nothing to do with the computer! 

It was me, I was so excited (TheWife laughed at me about it and my little hissy that I was throwing) that I couldn’t to type the network password in correctly and couldn’t log in any further. 

After I finally typed in the password correctly - 10 minutes later...

The Chromebook booted right into my Google Chrome account, so everything was very familiar from that point on. Any of the web applications or extensions that I have been using in Chrome on my other computers were right there. All my bookmarks, history and preferences were all there ready and waiting to just be used.

The screen has a nice matte finish and websites are very clear and loaded new tabs fast!

Using the Chromebook

I was surfing the web and exploring different features of the almost machine immediately - no setup, no having to delete unwanted programs, no going through and changing a bunch of settings to personalize my computer. Bootup, shut-down and loading tabs was faster than any computer I have ever used.

The keyboard is fine, although it will take a little while to get used to where things are, the short cuts, not having a caps lock key and the differences that a not having function keys make. These are not big deals, just differences.

At this point in my life I don’t feel like having to screw around with setting up or putting a lot of time into maintaining a computer. I want my computers to just work - to just turn them on and go do what I want it to do and then quickly shut-down when I am done.

Can I do all the other stuff - sure, but I don’t want to anymore and this is one of the things that draws me to the Chromebook - its ease of use.

Experimenting


Over the past few days I have been trying to figure out the in’s and out’s of using the Chromebook. This means that I have continued to read reviews and forums (yes I also read the instructions), play around with different modes, keys, extensions, and web apps,

As many extensions and web applications that I have quickly and easily installed or uninstalled, the Chromebook 550 hasn’t crashed or hiccupped at all, which is very impressive to me. The Chrome Webstore has a lot of extensions and web applications that you can “install” on your Chromebook, there is something there for just about anything you want to do and I have tried more than a couple out!

I have had up to 20 tabs open at once and while the 550 start to bog down around 12-15, it still will open more, just more slowly.

Chrome is Different

Chrome O/S is different than other operating systems, so there is a learning curve and a mindset change that I had to do, to switch from using a Mac, Windows PC or even Ubuntu, which I still haven’t quite wrapped my head around completely - but it has only been a couple of days.

The differences are primarily about limited memory and file management. Especially how I get files from Office, Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive, iCloud, Dropbox (which I have to use for my work), or other file types, to play or work together within the Chrome O/S file management system.

When using other operating systems with the Chrome Browser, you are using that O/S’s native file management system, with my Chromebook - I am finding the Chrome O/S’s file management system rudimentary compared to the others.

Example

The Chromebook's file management system as I know it now, has made something that I took for granted like simply downloading a Google Document as a .docx file to a Dropbox folder for my work into a bit of an adventure.

The best way I have found to do this so far - is to create/finish a Word document in M/S Skydrive, download the file to the Chromebook and then upload it to my work’s Dropbox folder. It means having to use another “program” besides Drive, and some extra steps to do what I really want to do, but it is a work-around that I can live with.

This is just an example of how things work differently right now and how I have to be willing to look at simple tasks a little differently and jump through a couple of extra hoops to get things done than I might have done in the past.

I foresee this kind of thing also happening for some photos, videos or some other things, which means that I will probably have to use my MacBookPro for some things, just to keep things a little simple - I hope that it is up to those tasks ;-). At least until Google figures out how to make it simple to make those kind of file management things work quickly and easily on the Chromebooks.
The reality is that

I like my Chromebook so far - A LOT!

Yes there are limitations and work-arounds, that I have to employ to get some things done, that were a lot more straightforward on a Mac or PC, but the simplicity of use, speed and ability to "surf" the web quickly, in my mind make up for the limitations. Now to just wrap my head around them and maybe even find or come up with some that will make my work-flow on the Chromebook better.

The 16GB memory really isn’t an issue, I don’t plan to keep my photos or music here and have an external hard drive that I will plug in at my desk, plus the storage I have on Google Drive, Skydrive, Dropbox, along with others give me plenty of online storage and I plan to have a couple of 32GB SD cards with me. So I shouldn’t have a lot of issues because of having only 16GB of memory (besides I remember when a 4GB drive was huge). Plus as one of the articles I read seemed to say (I can’t remember the exact one) “the Cloud is your computer and the Chromebook is your portal”.

Other than having fun figuring out the file management system and work-arounds, I have been able to do everything that I typically do on a computer over the past few days, without thinking about it. I can manage my blog, post images and do everything that I need/want to do there as you can see by the new theme, that I installed last night.

Actually I haven’t missed the Mac and its spinning wheel of death at all.

Sure there are things that I can’t use the Chromebook for (playing NeverWinter Nights 2), but I knew that would happen when I decided to buy it. In its present configuration, it will do between 80% & 90% of what I need it to, but for a lot less money than I was going to spend on an iPad or Touchscreen Windows 8 Touchscreen PC that I was looking at initially.

So far I have been very happy with my purchase of the Samsung Series 5, 550 Chromebook.

While a ChromeBook simple to use, it probably isn’t for everyone and won’t meet the needs of power users or those who have to use specific applications/software. So don’t run out and buy a Chromebook, because I like mine. Your needs and experiences might be different than mine have been.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Buying a Chromebook Computer - Part 1 The Why - November 2012


After a lot of thought I have decided to move some of best of my old posts from Aging Runnah and A Runnah’s Story blogs, primarily the old reviews, maybe a few of the better posts and race reports that I have written over the years. I have a feeling that at some point, my WordPress.com blogs are simply going to go away and I want to still be able to go back and read some of the stuff I wrote.

If you are reading this blog post, that is why it is has been re-posted here.

Originally posted on: November 23, 2012

Sorry, the original photos taken for this post are no long available.

I know that this isn’t my normal running related post, but I am also a bit geeky and many of us runners are on our computers a LOT. So I thought you might be interested in how I decided to get and what I think about my new Samsung Series 5 55o Chromebook (WiFi).

In part 1 I will go through my buying decision process and part 2 will be my initial thoughts about my new Chromebook.

Over the past couple of weeks you haven’t seen much of me on Twitter, Facebook or even Google+. Yes I have been doing my daily running updates and keeping up with other things, but I have invested a lot of time into figuring out which computer would be my next one.
Why

A few weeks ago when I started using my almost 4 year-old MacBookPro full-time again, even though I had it repaired, it was still running like crap. This had been a big issue back in March/April, when the hard drive died and was the primary reason why I bought the Dell, instead of getting another Mac, that and the costs of buying one.

On top of everything I was getting extremely frustrated by my MacBookPro’s inability to run more than one program or have more than a couple of tabs open in Chrome, without vapor locking and having that damn spinning wheel of death go on for several minutes, while the computer was trying to get back to what I was doing.

This was happening several times an hour and was really putting a crimp in my computing style - it was also the big reason why I wasn’t participating in Twitter chats or contributing to other social media as usual - I was just too frustrated with the MBP’s inability to keep working properly, without the spinning beach ball being in my face.
Initially

At first I really thought that I was going to either go with a high-end Lenovo Convertible Laptop or an Apple iPad setup as I discussed in my I Need Your Help With A Technology Question.

Reality

However, when I sat down and discussed buying a new computer with TheWife (who has more common sense than I do). She made a couple of key observations that I needed to really think about.
What do I actually do with a computer?
Why Apple, when I haven’t had that great luck with their equipment and don’t agree with the direction they appear to be heading?

Another consideration was that either one of those two options was going to be rather expensive to have a setup the way I needed/wanted between the hardware and software/application costs. Plus when I looked back honestly, I was attempting to make the iPad into a laptop, instead of a tablet.

How do I Use a Computer?

Those questions made me think about what I really did with a computer:

  • Create blog posts
  • Participate in social media (Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and a few others)
  • Play NeverWinter Nights
  • Keep track of my running via Google Spreadsheet and websites
  • Create short videos or vlogs
  • Listen to Pandora
  • Video Chat occasionally
  • Photo Management
  • Use it to manage my iPhone
  • Watch videos
  • Read eBooks
  • Read/send email

When I stopped and looked at it, I don’t really use the computer for all that many higher-end functions, even though I seem to be on one all the time.

The next question I needed to answer was what software or applications do I use when I am on the computer?

  • Chrome Browser - Yes I use Safari and Firefox once in a while, but I mostly do everything in Chrome
  • iTunes - to manage my iPhone and music
  • Evernote - my other memory
  • Picasa - Photo Management & upload to Google+
  • Janetta/TweetDeck - Twitter
  • Google Docs/Page - Word Processing
  • Preview or Adobe Acrobat Reader - PDF
  • VLC/Quicktime - to view videos
  • iMovie - Video Editing
  • Kindle - to read eBooks
  • NeverWinter Nights - Game
  • DropBox/GoogleDrive - File syncing to the cloud

I don’t use the Mac’s Mail, Contacts or Calendar software, since I use the Google equivalents.
Looking at the Chromebook

When I sat down and really looked at what I use the computer for and the software/applications I use. The idea of using a Chromebook seemed more realistic and appealing. I decided that I needed to take another look at the Chromebooks, especially with the newest one that came out for $249 and was the number 1 selling laptop on Amazon.com.

Over a 3 day period, I did a LOT of research on the Chromebook computers and decided that they would do about 90% of what I wanted right now, at a much lower price. Yes I could have gone with a another cheap PC and been pretty satisfied, but I wanted something that was light and portable and all the cheaper PC’s seem to be 15 inch, which while portable, I got tired of them being in my lap and they get pretty warm too.

I wasn’t too keen on having to learn Windows 8 and still have the issues that Windows computers are notorious for, slow boot-ups/shut-down, viruses/malware, back-end management - well you get the picture. Also I really haven't been all that impressed with Apple's stuff, except for the iPhone (I know blasphemy, but...) their computers look great and work fine, but are not really all that differently than a PC.

The more I read about the Chromebook, the more they seemed like a solution to the way that I actually use a computer. I use Google products for a lot of what I do and am very happy with them. So even though I might have to figure out some work-arounds and change my mind set when it came to how I use my computer or managing my iPhone, photo/video management and a few other things, I decided that I wanted to go with a Chromebook.

Ordering a Chromebook

After making the decision, Sunday night I ordered the Samsung Chromebook (Wi-Fi, 11.6 Inch) Samsung Chromebook (Wi-Fi, 11.6-Inch) for $249.00. The hardest thing was finding someplace that actually had the new Samsung Chromebook in stock, it seems that they were selling out as fast as they got them in.

Unfortunately, I ran into a few glitches with where I ordered it from. So I cancelled the order Tuesday afternoon. After cancelling the order, I saw that Amazon had them in stock again, but by the time I ordered them, they were no longer in stock and the Chromebook I had ordered was now on backorder.

A Sign

I took all this trouble with ordering/getting the new Samsung Chromebook as a sign that maybe it wasn’t the computer I needed. But I still wanted to have a Chromebook.

Because of this delay I really looked closely at the difference in the specs and reviews between the Samsung Chromebook (Wi-Fi, 11.6 ) and the Samsung Series 5 55o Chromebook (WiFi) which had come out earlier this spring.

When I did that I noticed several things that I really needed to look at more closely, especially the lack of an ethernet cable connection, 4GB of RAM, slightly larger screen size, etc. Also some benchmark tests that I had seen, indicated that the 550 seem to be a slightly better computer for the way I needed it to work, than the newer Chromebook and the differences were enough to make me re-think my choice.

Plus I have had good luck with Intel processors over the years.

The biggest question was whether or not these differences and having to wait on backorder for the new Chromebook were enough to justify the almost $200 extra, it would cost to get the 550.

My gut instinct told me that I would be happier with the 550 (and I have learned to trust my gut) and I ordered it early Tuesday evening. However that extra $200 was still very tough to swallow because the differences while they were there, they were not that large.
Ordering the 550

Ordering through Amazon was painless! (Disclosure - I do have an inactive affiliate program with Amazon).

I also signed up for their 30 day trial of Amazon Prime, added in $3.99 for shipping and had it overnight shipped. The only issue I had was when I went to Amazon’s order tracking site Wednesday morning and it said that my order was “out for delivery” at 9:06 A.M. I didn't know this and had taken Bennie for a walk and when we got back, a big truck’s tire tracks were in the driveway.

Seeing these tracks made me worry that I had been away, when UPS attempted to deliver my computer! I fretted over that most of the day and kept double-checking the tracking site, to see if I would have to go to Waterville to get it.

It turned out that I got all worried over nothing - Kevin (our UPS driver) delivered my new new computer at 6:30 P.M. the day after I ordered it. Very impressive!!!!

The box was pretty damn big for a 12” computer.

But I had my Chromebook 550 and couldn't wait to open up the box and see how it worked.

Part 2 will be about my first impressions of the Samsung Series 5 55o Chromebook (WiFi).