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.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

My Chromebook 5-550 a Month Later - December 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: December 16, 2012

I have had my Samsung Series 5-550 Chromebook for almost a month now (boy that is hard to believe) and it has become my primary computer!

How did this happen, I have been a Mac or Windows guy, who usually wanted the most powerful high end laptop that he could afford.

Doesn't that sound familiar, I think a lot of us are that way - enticed by the exponentially increasing specs each generation of computers have inside them.

Well I got tired of the hype, hoopla and work that goes into setting up, re-learning and maintaining those platforms.

I have become someone who wants to just use their computer, not screw around with it or sit and watch the spinning wheel or beach ball of death go round and round, while I wait for the damn thing to disappear.

In real life use

My Chromebook 550 has been stable and works fantastic within the limitations that I knew that it had, before I purchased it.

No I cannot run native apps (those programs you install on a Mac or PC) and had to find cloud-based alternatives, that would work for me. A couple of years ago, oh hell even 6 months ago, this really wasn't a great option and would have been the deal-breaker for me to have bought the Chromebook as my primary laptop or even as experiment. However, things are improving and this is becoming less of an issue every day.

I was still fairly skeptical when I bought it, how much I would actually use my Chromebook and how much I would have to use my MacBook or TheWife's PC to get my "real" work done. It turns out that with exception of one thing, I haven't HAD to use any other computer to meet my computing needs.

My work-flow has changed quite a bit and if you have any suggestions that would help me to improve or make any of my work-flow easier, I would love to hear them.

So what web based applications am I using in place of my typical desk-top based programs?

Web Browser

No choice here - Chrome. That is okay with me, Chrome has been my primary web browser for a long time and I have used it since it was publicly deployed. I try the others when Chrome is going through a bad spell and always end up going back to it. The others just don't have the speed, versatility and most of the time - stability that I expect from a browser.

My experience browsing with the Chromebook for web-based activities has been exceptional! Do I still get crashes, yes but not nearly as often as I did while using Chrome on my Mac or PC laptops. Also when using it everything is fast, I don't get those spinning things, which tell me that the computer is thinking about processing my request - the Chromebook just does it.
Productivity - Mail, Calendar, Contacts

Google products - gMail and contacts, Google Calendar. This is not really a change for me, while I have used Outlook, Live Mail/Calendar, Thunderbird, Zimbra, Apple Mail/Calendar and other similar programs, I always come back to gMail and gCal. They just work for me and since both are available off-line, my needs are met with those Google WebApps.
Task Manager

I am using the paid version of Todoist, it is the task manager that I have been looking for. The only things it doesn't do well on my Chromebook are it is not available off-line and better integration with gMail or gCal could, but those are not deal breakers to how.

I did use Evernote as my task manager for a long time, but it just seemed like a work-around instead an actual task manager and was not a streamlined process. I have tried Google Tasks several times and just don't like it. I attempted to use it and gave up on it when I first switched to the 550.

Todoist is doing what I want from a task manager.
Office Suite:

Word Processor, Spreadsheet, Presentation, Note Taking

For personal use, my own business efforts and most of my blogging drafts, I am using Google Drive, it works well as my primary Office Suite. While the spreadsheet and presentation tools are not available off-line yet, that functionality is coming. No, it is not as powerful as Office, iWork or even Open Office and its clones, but it does just about everything I do on a day-to-day basis.

However, my work requires that I submit drafts in .docx (Microsoft Word) format and Google Documents to be quite honest sucks, when it comes to playing well with Microsoft Word Documents. I have to use a convoluted conversion process in order to simply edit - not just view Word docs and then return the edited document back to my Editor.

So for my work related writing, I have been using the online version of Microsoft Word in SkyDrive to avoid conversion difficulties and having multiple saved copies that seem to be the norm if I use Google Docs for editing my work stuff and no I can't simply just share the document from Google Docs, as I would like to. However, SkyDrive Word does not have off-line capabilities, so it will not be of use to me if I need to work offline.

I would prefer to do everything in Google Drive, but with the changes that have been made to how it doesn't work well with Microsoft Word documents (that silo thing that Google, Apple and Microsoft seem to be doing more and more to keep you tied to their product lines), it leaves me little choice, but to use both WebApps.

Printing or scanning from the Chromebook is next to impossible with the home setup I presently have. There doesn't seem to be an acceptable work-around (other than using my Mac or my wife's PC) when I want to print or scan and no I am not sending a print job out to a local FEDEX office.

This lack of ability to print/scan directly with a Chromebook is a big deal to me and a lot of other people. I hear people say use Google Cloud Print - but it is a cumbersome work-around at best and at worst a pain-in-the-ass that really doesn't work for my situation.

I don't have a Cloud Printer, but I do have a wireless one and still haven't figured out how to print to it from my Chromebook and I am not a novice at setting up this stuff. I will keep working at it, but if I am frustrated about this, more than a few other people must be as well.

If I was still teaching and needed to provide print-outs to my students, this would be much more of an issue than it is now. Perhaps we are all heading towards a paperless office/society, but we are not there yet and the ability to be able to simply and easily print a document is still required by many users.

For printing Chromebooks have a long way to go.

Update: I can now print through Google Cloud Print to my Canon Printer! I had a brilliant idea and went and logged everyone out of the Chrome Browser on my wife's laptop (which we hook the printer to). Then I signed in, added the printer to my profile, tested that I could print to it, which I could. Then I switched users and signed in my wife and then test printed again - it worked!!!

It was just a question of getting the multiple user profiles setup correctly and getting Cloud Print attached to my account.

So when I do infrequently need to print, I now can and my wife doesn't need to even sign out of her computer. Now I am happy - I can print.
Note Taking

I have used OneNote or Evernote (my choice recently) for taking notes, storing information and as a general repository for stuff I want to be able to find quickly and hopefully easily. However, once I switched over to the Chromebook, I learned that am not a big fan of Evernote's web based application or some the updates they made lately, so I looked around for different options.

What I found really surprised me! I found an Extension for Chrome called Clean Print/Save, which allows me to clip and save items I find online to multiple services or destinations, including Google Drive. It is very similar to Evernote's Web Clipper which I used extensively.

Because of Clean Print/Save, I decided to use my Google Drive as my primary note taking WebApp. I like the idea of having most of my stuff in one place and to me gDocs is a great note taking tool, that was lacking web clipper capability. With the addition of the Clean Save app, it does what I used Evernote for.

So far this system has worked great and not having yet another tool that I have to use is nice too!
File Management in Google Drive

I had to setup a file management/tree system within gDrive that meets my needs and have developed something that while not exactly what I want, will work. gDrive has the basic file management systems in place and it works to meet my needs. I can foresee that as they integrate photo and video storage, along with other files there as well - it will become more important for Google to develop a more effective and sophisticated way manage and view files for those of us, who want to keep things within a system, where we can find things quickly and easily.

It will be interesting to see how they improve their file management system in Google Drive and how I use it.

Photo Management

This actually has become a very important aspect of using a computer for me. Not so much editing the photos, but being able to access them from my iPhone and then insert them into my blog, without it being a total pain in the butt.

When I first got the Chromebook, this issue almost became a deal-breaker and caused me to think very seriously about whether to keep it or not. The process I had to go through to get photos from my iPhone to my blog posts was way too complicated. However, since I discovered instant upload in Google+ for both my iPhone and Incredible 2 (which I picked up-used after I got my Chromebook), this has become much less of an issue.

If I do need to do more than just basics of photo editing that I can do in Picasa/Google+, I turn to Pic Monkey , Pixlr or Sumo Paint, all of which more than meet my needs. To be honest, I haven't had the need to use them.

Video Editing

I don't really do a lot of videos, however, in 2013 I am going to start creating them more often. To be honest until the other night, I really had purposely avoided doing any video stuff on the Chromebook, because I thought it would be a pain in the toucas.

It wasn't that bad, I used the Pixiorial Video Editing App and while it wasn't as intuitive or as QUICK as my desktop versions of Movie Maker or iMovie, I can use it to make my 5-10 minute videos for uploading to YouTube or for my work.

This is the other area, where I would rather use my Mac or a PC for now. As the video editing web apps become more mature, I am sure that the issues I have with them are going to go away, the only issue will be the cost of SAAS video editing products online.

Blogging/Social Media

Since this it is what I primarily use a computer for now, this is a huge deal for me. The Chromebook handles it better than my Mac or PC's ever did. It is quick and responsive, and just like a Mac or PC, requires an Internet connection to accomplish it.

My primary blog is on WordPress.org - A Veteran Runnah and OFIR is a Blogger blog. After using both, I have found that the Blogger blog is much easier for me to insert multi-media in, than it is on WordPress.

While that is to be expected since it is a Google product and is more tightly integrated in with other Google lines like Picasa/Google+/Google Drive or YouTube. Still it did surprise me at how much easier it was to do, especially since WordPress still does not recognize Google+/Picasa photo URL's.

I am finding that a combination of Hootsuite and TweetDeck WebApps are working for Twitter. Facebook and Google+ work fine with a lot of different extensions to tweak them the way that you want.

The reality is that

With the exception of printing or scanning directly from the Chromebook, I have found an acceptable work-around to how I work with the Chromebook for all of my needs. Have I sacrificed some useability - not really, because those areas that many people need higher end abilities from their software/WebApp I don't use it that much (i.e. gaming, Photo, programming or video editing) even when I used a Mac or PC.

However, for my purposes and the way I am using the Chromebook, I wouldn't want a machine with less than 4GB of RAM, if I were to use it for my primary computer - which I am.

My Samsung Series 5-550 Chromebook does 90% of what I want, especially now that I can extend the screen on the Developers Channel. I will probably follow that particular functionality up through to Beta and Stable channels, just so that I have a more stability in the platform. Sometimes the Beta and Developer channels can get a little wonky, as Google tries new stuff out.

It was less the WebApps available to use, than it was a change in my mindset that happened as I have used my Chromebook more and more. The Chromebook is not a Mac or PC, it is a Chromebook and if you try to use it the same as the other two, you will not be happy with it.

I had to get over wanting to put things on my computer and learn to trust being in the cloud even more than I was before I got the Chromebook. I don't need to store things on my computer, since it is just a terminal to connect me to the real computer - the Web. Isn't that what Mac's and PC's are becoming more and more like as well? At least that is how I used them.

Yes you do have to plan ahead a little more when using a Chromebook about what you are actually trying to accomplish and checking to see if there are different ways to get to your finished product, that you hadn't used or thought about in the past, especially if you need to do work in an off-line setting, when not all of the web applications are available to you.

While this might be a limiting factor and a difference maker to many people, it doesn't bother me all that much. It is seldom that I don't have access to WiFi and if I do not then I look at it as an opportunity to take a break, get away from the computer, social media or if I have to is there is a way that I can integrate my smart phone into what needs to be accomplished.

To me the Chromebook is not a total solution by itself, it is part of an integrated solution system, where you use the tool most appropriate (smart phone, tablet, or other computer) for what you are doing and the resources available to you.

What does my Mac do now? Not much, my Chromebook sits on top of it at my desk and I print a few things or use it for scanning something and some video editing, but that is about all I ever have to open it up for.

When TheWife asks me to do maintenance on her PC, I just cringe, but go and do it - after all I may need to print, scan or edit a video from it someday.

The bottom line is that I have become very comfortable working on my Chromebook and going back full-time to a Mac or PC environment doesn't even interest me at this time.

Taking a line from another company - "It just works" - for me.

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