Monday, January 5, 2015

Life with a Chromebook

A few months ago, the laptop I was using died.  It just refused to see any network connections at all, and insisted on being connected through broadband, which we don't have.  But I didn't panic.  I had a netbook, and while I knew it was slow and pokey it was at least enough to get stuff done, right?  Except it wasn't.  Maybe a 1.3 GHz processor is fast enough for most things, but for some reason every single page took at least one minute to load (even Facebook), and as for typing...You know how sometimes you type something on a website and the words show up a minute later?  Yeah.  Except all the time.  And it would freeze every 10 minutes.  And tell me so only 2 minutes after I noticed it had frozen.

One of the best things about social media, I've decided, is being able to solicit opinions about stuff.  Most of my friends recommended that I purchase a Chromebook rather than an all-out laptop, and thus far, I must confess I am rather impressed.  I mean, I already spend most of my time online using Google products--Chrome, Drive, I even have a G+ account, Gmail, etc--and the only thing I was using Office for was to write stuff for clients, and occasionally update my spreadsheets of expenses for my accountant.  

Even so, I had a hard time believing that a Chromebook, with all of its shortcomings, could possibly be sufficient for me. Maybe it's just because I grew up in a day and age when more was always better--more storage, more RAM, more power, and the latest OS--but it felt like a dare to order the pretty blue thing (yes, I got the blue one, just because I could).  It helped that I had a tax deadline--in order to have the VAT count towards my 2014 expenses, I needed to order it before 1 January--so on the very last day of 2014, I just sat down and clicked "order", without thinking about the pros and cons any more.  

Getting Chrome to work at first was a little sticky:  when you get your Chromebook, you are asked to enter in your Gmail account and your password, and then it sort of processes and thinks....and in my case, it processed and thought for a long time until finally, thinking that it couldn't possibly take this long, I shut it down and started it back up.  I suppose that's the nice thing about Chrome--even if you do botch up the setup process, Chrome is such a light program that there simply isn't very much to botch up, and after entering my password again everything just worked.  I was delighted to find that all of my work on Google Drive was already there, that my bookmarks were still there, that all of the passwords I'd had saved were already there.  Basically, it just transposed my entire Internet history from the dinky netbook to the Chromebook.  

By and large it's been a wonderful experience with the Chromebook; at least some of it also has to do with the Bluetooth headphones that I bought along with it.  Being able to talk on Skype without having to hold the phone is certainly a plus; being able to listen to podcasts or whatever while I'm away from the laptop is positively delightful.  No, it may not be able to run 90% of all the programs that are out there, but then again, I don't use 90% of the programs that are out there.  It does what I need it to do, and that's enough.  

The main downside, as I see it, is the very limited hard drive space.  I know, I know--Drive offers 10 GB for free, and that'll be sufficient for most of my documents--but I also want to have all of my pictures at my fingertips.  I am debating whether to get an external hard drive, but that would kind of defeat the point of having a wireless system.

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