Don't Sleep On The Chromebooks
I originally intended to sit down tonight and write a post about how to do paella on the cheap.
But as I sit here with a runny nose, watching Food Network, and swigging DayQuil; I keep finding myself dicking around with my Chromebook.
And just to paint the picture in your head, imagine a guy who looks like Gru. Toilet paper stuffed up left nostril. Locked in a hotel room wearing sweatpants, a sweatshirt, and currently one sock. It seems I have lost the other sock at some point and I don't have the energy to search.
Yeah. I use a Chromebook exclusively for all of my proper computing needs. And I've decided to tell you why you should take them seriously.
I guess we have to start with parameters.
If you use proprietary software that is specifically designed for a certain platform, this post is probably not for you. But, if not, keep reading.
I liken the introduction of the Chrome operating system to an album released by The Cult in the summer of 2001. The climate of rock music at the time was super weird. It was rap/rock heavy. Kid Rock, P.O.D., Linkin Park, and Limp Bizkit dominated the airwaves on Rock radio stations throughout the Western Hemisphere. And depending on which artist you happened to be listening to, the lyrical content was either hellishly introspective (i.e. Linkin Park, In The End), or it was self-serving boorish braggart-ism (i.e. Kid Rock, Devil Without A Cause).
Now, that's not to say that there were no straight-ahead rock bands. But they were relegated to “also-rans” or pushed off to Alternative radio stations. The sound of the day was heavy rock backing up poorly crafted rap lyrics.
Digressing. Damn. I can’t help it. Listen to Dirt On Your Shoulder/ Lying From You. The mashup by Jay-Z and Linkin Park. Those kids weren’t even in Jay’s league.
Back on track. So that was the sound of the day. Abysmal, depressing, and worst of all, we didn’t even know we were living in shit.
Then The Cult dropped Beyond Good and Evil.
The Cult had long been a staple of Classic Rock radio with hits like She Sells Sanctuary and Fire Woman. But, they were done! They were over. Matt Sorum had left the band to play drums for G&R, Billy Duffy was off enjoying being kickass, and Ian Astbury was just fucking weird.
Out of nowhere they dropped Beyond Good and Evil. While it did not get much traction on the radio airplay charts, EVERYBODY noticed! There was a collective “oh yeah! This is what kicking ass sounds like. We had forgotten.”
Because that is what The Cult does. They just grab you by the throat and kick your ass. Rise was the first single off of the album. Hard driving, guitar driven, no-frills ass-kicking rock with Ian Astbury on vocals doing the shit that only he can do.
The second release was Breathe. Crunchy, big balls, crush your throat guitar riffs (which is all Billy Duffy does), absolutely immaculate drumming from Sorum, coupled with Ian Astbury on vocals doing the shit that only he can do.
It was a game changer. And no one saw it coming.
That album will forever go down in history as the album that began the end of rap/rock. Nothing was the same after it dropped. And it took a band with the legendary status and beyond reproach credibility like The Cult to do it.
Back to Chrome OS and the tie-in I’ve hopefully done a decent job setting up for you.
Apple is murdering the game. Windows is still the gold standard of the business and institutional world, but they have lost the personal computing game. The climate is very status-quo. But there is a bit of an arms race...and everyone is getting rich. iOS and OSX have the market cornered on cross-compatibility. Shit has never been better for Apple. Shit is still very good for the PC market. And, most importantly, they’re charging whatever the hell they want for their products. Price point is out the window because people are willing to pay.
Additionally, hardware is driving the bus. I may be mistaken, but for the first time in computing history, hardware, not software, is fueling innovation. The computers are getting faster and bigger and more expensive. They’re packed with bells and whistles. They’re encased in aluminum and carbon fiber. The screens are producing colors and images amazingly rich and vivid.
Then Google shows us its first Chromebook. Actually, Acer and Samsung manufactured the first Chromebooks. Google just created the OS and gave it out to companies willing to take the production risk.
And honestly, on the surface it is antithesis of the standard laptop configuration of the time. Deficient in every measurable category. Alarmingly under powered, basic casing, unimpressive screen, disappointing sound, and comes equipped with a hard drive that is a fraction the size of standard setups of the day.
What's more is that it doesn't have the bells and whistles. No features. Limited functionality away from an internet connection. Hell, it didn't even come pre-loaded with a plethora of drivers for printers!
In short, it was a 12” x 9” x 1” box of nothing. It was 2lbs of nothing! Not sleek, not powerful by the standard of the day, not sexy, and not what the industry thought we wanted.
Until it actually hit the market in June 2011, that is. Everything changed. We were shown a new animal. A completely new species.
A laptop marketed and targeted to provide powerful functionality, with apps we are already using, in a completely secure and stable operating system, with system resources so efficient that one battery charge is good for up to 11 hours of use.
And the price point was less than $350.
WT Actual F!! Paradigm shift.
Since 2011, Chrome OS has gone from a platform that the industry discounted as yet another attempt to make Linux commercially successful, to gobbling up fully 60% of the education computing market. Chrome OS has also found its way into numerous businesses and even point of sale system integration for enterprise. Why? Price point, customization for enterprise, and cloud computing power.
Since that moment in 2011 though, Apple began really developing its iPads to be a viable alternative to traditional laptops. Microsoft began allowing companies to sell scaled back versions of Windows laptops at a much lower price point. Microsoft began really beefing up the functionality of its web-based productivity apps. Apple began developing iCloud beyond the data dump it had been. They have even released free online versions of their mega-shitty iWork apps.
I can lay success stats on you all day. But I think that a personal testimonial is more effective to convey my point.
Being a bit of a nerd, I had fiddled with Linux. I even had a machine or two in the house that ran Linux. It was fun, but not super efficient. I was always trying to find a workaround for this or that. So, I had a MacBook Air in the house for serious work.
Fast-forward to 2013 when, through shitty circumstances, I found myself in need of a new laptop. Pricing the MacBooks at Best Buy and cringing, I happened to walk by the end cap that held three different models of Chromebook. The most expensive model was $325. Ok! You have my attention.
Bought an Acer for $199 from Walmart. Minimal investment. Thought to myself that if it didn’t do what I needed it to do I would give it to one of the kids for a Netflix machine.
There were growing pains. The screen is not good. There is almost no onboard storage. But it took me a while to figure out that the screen doesn’t need to be great and a laptop with an OS that exists almost completely in the cloud doesn’t need a large hard drive.
All it did is exactly what an average computer user needed it to do. Internet browsing with integrated Google Chrome. Integrated Google productivity apps like Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides. Email with integrated Gmail app. Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu.
It is fast, lightweight, minimalist without sacrificing functionality, and flexible.
But most importantly it is powerful. Not powerful by 2011 standards. It is powerful by 2019 standards. It exists in the cloud. This gives me the ability to make any Chromebook MY Chromebook with a simple login. But it also gives me the ability to make ANY computer with internet access MY Chromebook by simply logging in to Google Chrome.
Do you get how huge that is? All of my files, all of my settings, all of my apps, all of my pictures, all of my movies, all of my music...everything is just one login away. On any damn computer in the world.
I needed a specific scan of a specific document for work. I logged in to Chrome on a PC in the building I happened to be in. Got in my Google Drive and pulled down the document. Done!
Was stuck in an airport in South Carolina for 5 hours. Got on airport wifi, pulled up Google Drive, watched LOTR The Two Towers from MY movies folder.
My Chromebook was in the car. My car was not home. I logged into my daughter’s Chromebook. Within seconds, it was my Chromebook. It even had my desktop picture in place.
When I was pitching Chrome OS to my father, a dyed in the wool Windows user, (who honestly doesn’t have the internet savvy necessary to use Windows), he asked about Microsoft Office.
I showed him the Google apps. He was not interested. So, I showed him Microsoft Office365. Web based Microsoft Office apps that he can use just like Office on his laptop now. Also showed him the free version of Microsoft Office Online. He was outraged that there was a free version of something he had been paying for faithfully for over 15 years.
The man has resolved to make a Chromebook his next laptop. And good Lord he needs one. He is constantly screwing with settings and mysteriously deleting apps.
I think that the biggest vote my Chromebook’s favor is the longevity. Google pledges to support each Chromebook fully for five years from date of manufacture. This includes apps that are always up to date and an operating system that is always secure and current. Five years really kind of is a long time for a computer...especially in the case of my poor Acer. It is nearly six years old and I just had to put it out to pasture. The screen was getting kind of shitty, and it was incapable of being updated any further.
My new one is an ASUS C300s. Dual core 1.6ghz Intel. 2GB RAM. 20gb Hard Drive. And it is kickass. New enough to allow me to install and use select Android Apps, but still priced at $259.
I am using it to get into Podcasting a little bit. I also used it to build this website.
My experience with Chrome OS has even made me into an Android user. I’ve had every iPhone since the iPhone 4. Found myself in a situation where it made better sense financially to buy a middle of the road Android device. And since I have had such an amazing experience with Chrome OS I was not scared to give it a shot. Logged in to my LG Stylo 4 with my Google ID and poof!! All of my pictures, all of my contacts, all of the songs, all of my files, even my fucking apps from Chrome OS that have a mobile version! All of this seamless integration at a price point I can live with.
So there you go. That is my gushing pitch as to why you should take the Chromebook seriously. I am positive I have done a fairly shitty job hitting the points that matter the most, but to me, the most important things to consider were price, longevity, security, compatibility, and ease of use.