Even though One Foot In Reality is primarily a running blog, I am going to thrill and regale you all, with my adventures, exploits and thoughts about my new to me Chromebook every so often, over the next few months.
After all, technology is an integral part of our lives in today’s world and I use it to write about running, keeping track of my running and to stay connected to other runners.
So the laptop that I use is an important part of Harold the runner.
The other part is that I like to chronicle things that I use, to give myself (and others) a good idea if something actually worked for me, not how I remember it, which is not always all that accurate. It will be interesting for me to look back at what I wrote six month months from now and see if my return to a Chromebook was just a novelty that quickly wears off or something that I use because it works for me.
To start off
I had a Chromebook for about eight months in 2012-2013 and because of where I was working at the time, the system limitations caused too many work-arounds, so when I accidentally face-planted it into the fireplace bricks, I didn't replace it with another one.
So I am familiar with how they work and the Chrome OS, what the strengths and weaknesses were then and pretty much what I would be using one for now. You can read more about the reasons I bought another Chromebook.
This Chromebook was bought with the intention of it becoming my back-up and my general knock-about laptop.
Me being me, since I ordered it last weekend, I have been reading the top tips, how-to’s, beginner, intermediate and advanced Chromebook user guides, looking at forums, communities and all things Chromebook. You know - to get ready for when it did get here.
However, since I unboxed my refurbished Samsung Series 5-550 Chromebook that I bought for just over $50 from Amazon on November 19, 2015 (this is four days later), I haven’t bothered to open up my ASUS Win10 laptop.
Pretty simple...the Chromebook:
- is a bright new toy - yeah newness is a factor
- I enjoy the challenges that go along with setting up and then learning/mastering a new computer.
- I like how it works for me.
I have been experimenting with what channel (Beta), figuring out if I want to change any flags (none yet), general settings, the apps/extensions that work best for me (which is slightly different than what works best on the Chrome browser on other OS’s) and re-learning where the commands are.
You know - all that working on how to use my Chromebook semi-efficiently.
So far what are the good things about the Chromebook
Ease of Use. I turn it on, it signs onto the network, I login and start using my Chromebook. No worries about maintaining it, buying extra software so I can do the things I want/need to do or deleting off a bunch of crapware or programs that I will never use or even want on my computer. Chromebooks in my experience are very easy to simply use.
Short Learning Curve. I think back to when I first started to using Windows, Mac, Linux or other operating systems and hardware, it took me time to learn the basics, become familiar with what I was using and then many of the tricks that make that computer something I could use effectively and efficiently - you know make it mine. I still go through this every time Microsoft and Apple make a major update to their various operating systems or when I change/update my hardware.
Let’s be real, to do more than simply use a Chrome OS or any OS, we need to be willing to: read about the OS; how others have used it, incorporate some things that they do and make them work for you; experiment with different settings, apps/software or ways of getting stuff done. So far switching back to Chrome has been pretty painless compared to those other systems, because it does limit what you can do with it - on purpose.
It just works. Over the past few days few days, I haven’t been interrupted because the machine automatically updated (then restarted), frozen or crashed and had to wait for the OS to collect crash stats/reason, go through the shutdown/boot cycle and then log back in and hope that whatever I was doing or working on wasn’t gone. I have had to do some updates, but did them when I wanted to do them and have not had any problems with anything else.
Use the System You are Using. Every time I switch operating systems (Windows, OS-X, Android, IOS, Linux, Chrome, etc.), I have to look at how, why and what I do or use on that system from the perspective of the OS I am currently using.
When I do, I usually find out is that the tools and how I will get stuff done with my new OS are different than what I needed to use in my old OS. So changing my perspective to doing things the Chrome OS way, is just part of changing operating systems.
Some people have a problem or issues adapting to a new OS, then whine, piss or moan about how they did things differently on such and such an OS. If you liked how you did things on something else, stay with something else, so far I like using my Chromebook.
Fast Starts/Shut downs. Both measure in seconds, not minutes, which is not always my experience with other systems that are more powerful, larger and subsequently more complicated.
Security. This is supposed to be one of the Chromebook’s big selling points and I haven’t any issues with security. I have even gone ahead and put my password back on for when I restart, because it boots up so quickly. The inconvenience of having to type in my password every time is outweighed by the boot-up speeds and added security it provides.
Apps. There are plenty of apps that I can choose from that will do most of the stuff I want to do...online and offline. While the offerings might not be as powerful as some of the legacy software that I have used, at the same time how many people actually use more than 60-70% of the capabilities of most software? I know that most of the time I do not and even though in some of the Office Suites I am a fairly advanced user. Often good enough, is good enough.
Keyboard. The keyboard setup makes sense to me and works fine, I can touch type without any issues. However, caps lock is back in the same place, that is was on the old Royal manual typewriter that I learned how to type on back in 1971, in my freshman typing class. Old habits die hard.
Offline. No problems, I made sure that I set it up ahead of time, instead of when I suddenly find myself without Internet one day - then it is too late and I have no one to blame but the person in the mirror.
Yes, as much as I have enjoyed using my Chromebook over the past few days, it does have a few things I don’t like.
Screen. This is an almost four year old laptop and the screen shows its age. The colors on my Samsung 5-550 are a little washed out and grainy, but even so, for the most part it is viewable/readable. However, if I do upgrade to another Chromebook at some point, I have a feeling that the screen resolution might be the biggest reason. For now the screen is simply good enough.
Garmin. I cannot upload data from my Garmin through the Chromebook. However, I knew this would be an issue when I bought it, since Garmin has not created an app for the Chrome OS and the way my old 310XT uploads data I cannot do it manually, it is not a supported function. So I had to setup my Garmin up so that my wife’s desktop PC uploads the data.
Which is something that I had planned to do anyway, because my ASUS only has 2 USB ports and my wife’s desktop had 2 more free ones even with all the other stuff she has plugged into it. So while it is a work-around that I had to implement, it turned out that it wasn’t that big of a deal and works well.
Games. They are very limited. I can’t play Neverwinter Nights II, Divine Divinity or any other number of games. The Chromebook just doesn’t support installed software and the graphics on most Chromebook hardware can’t handle modern high-end games. However, since I returned to work, I haven’t played my games very often, so it is less of a concern than it could be for me.
If I want to play one of my games, I can always go open up the ASUS and after it finally gets done doing all the updates and allows me to use the computer, read the notifications about how I can save money on Office 365 or earn Bing points, I can go play my game.
If I was a gamer, I wouldn’t get a Chromebook for a primary computer, BUT I would prefer to carry around a $300 Chromebook laptop for general use, rather than a $1,500 or higher gaming laptop (which I would prefer to leave at home).
Battery. Since this is a refurbished machine, I have a feeling that the battery is going to be an issue at some point...probably sooner than later, since I only get 2-3 hours out of it now. Which really is not that big of a deal since I do most of my work with my laptops plugged in. However, if the battery does go, it will be one more reason to upgrade.
Memory. I have 16gb of onboard memory on the 5-550, it is enough to store my files to work offline without any issues. I guess in some ways being an old fart who not that long ago thought the idea of having a 4gb hard drive was a huge amount of storage and I haven’t bumped up against my 36gb of online storage from Google yet (I am at 16gb).
I really think that how you use on-board storage is a matter of perspective and how you plan to use a machine. I have a couple of 500gb external USB drives that work nicely with my Chromebook and I can always slide in a larger SD card if I find that I want or need extra storage. I don’t really see this as a big deal.
It's Google. Yeah, I know Google collects and uses our data to drive their advertising business among other things when we use their services and devices, but so does Microsoft. I am also willing to bet more of our apps or computers than we realize, either do or attempts some kind of data reporting back to someone for some purpose. So having the Chrome OS be a part of Google or Alphabet might really bother some people, but it doesn’t bother me.
I learned a long time ago, that if you are going to be connected to the Internet, carry a cell phone or even walk down many streets, you do not have privacy. Someone or something is tracking what you do for their purposes and it is only getting worse as the many surveillance systems become more sophisticated. Privacy in today’s world is pretty much an illusion, unless you are willing to completely cut yourself off from the electronic world we live in, which would be inconvenient at best and probably a pain-in-the ass the rest of the time.
Personally, I like living in today's world.
Personally, I like living in today's world.
The reality is that
So far I have thoroughly enjoyed my return to a Chromebook.
Enough that I have semi-retired my 2014 Window 10’s laptop with 8gb RAM, 500gb hard drive, i5 Pentium Processor, etc., for a 2012 Samsung Series 5-550 with 4gb RAM, 16gb hard drive, 1.3 ghz processor with a “good enough” screen.
If my move to using a Chromebook as my primary computer means that I will be turning in my power user hat - so be it. I have reached the point where I don’t really want to keep doing all that stuff now as a regular part of owning a computer. However, I still love to tinker from time-to-time, it is just that I want to do it when I want to, not because I have to.
I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures with my new to me Chromebook.
No, I am not receiving anything from Google, Amazon or Samsung for doing these posts, these are my reflections on how my experience with my Chromebook are going.
This post originally appeared on One Foot In Reality if you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission, please go to my site to see the original post.