Sunday, December 29, 2013

Chromebook

I've been curious about Google's Chrome OS for awhile. And recently I've been reading that the new Acer C720 Chromebook finally nailed the sweet spot between price, quality, battery life, and performance. At $199 it was supposed to be a pretty good value. Finally, a Chromebook that lives up to the promise.

So I decided to give it a go. One free offer that comes with the Chromebook purchase is 100GB of extra Google Drive space for two years. Nice. That means I can downgrade my $99 per year Dropbox account to the free level of service and save... $198. Hmm... that would make this a $1 laptop.

The Acer C720 has an Intel haswell processor. Battery life is supposed to be 8+ hours. Not sure what to expect as far as performance goes. But pretty much all the OS has to do is run the Chrome browser.

That's really the Chrome OS in a nutshell. It's the Google Chrome browser with all it's various extensions and plugins. And of course there is whatever level of hardware support to make it all work. With the standard Google Chrome browser you go into "Settings" and you get the browser settings. In the Google Chrome OS... if you go into "Settings" in the browser you get the browser settings and various hardware and operating system settings. There seems to be very little else to it.

I've been arguing for several years that anymore all one really needs is a good browser with a few choice plugins. Obviously Google has been thinking the same thing. And in 2013 it seems that Chromebooks have captured a pretty significant chunk of the notebook market.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Full circle

Back on July 21st of this year I started playing around with Linux again after about a 12-year break. The first distribution I chose to try was Linux Mint 15 MATE edition. Linux Mint had/has the distinction of being the most popular distribution out there (neck and neck with Ubuntu). I've installed and reinstalled many different Linux distributions since then. Playing around with just about all the more popular ones.

But not long ago, Linux Mint 16 MATE was released. So I've come back around to where I began and installed that to give it a whirl. It's pretty nice.

This reminds me of when I started using Macs. When I made that choice, it was because the new Mac OS was unix-based. And I had been playing with Linux and FreeBSD a lot. While the Mac had always had a reputation of being "easier" than Windows. I insisted that I was not chosing the Mac for that reason. Because I truly did not need computers to be easier. I was perfectly fine running Windows or whatever. I was not after easier, I was after "better".

Linux Mint has a very similar reputation for being easier. Only maybe now I'm not so adamant about not using that as a reason for running an OS. After trying so many different distributions, it is rather refreshing to run one where things work without a great deal of effort. And when it comes to Linux, it's not so much a matter of easier or harder. It's a matter of things working or not working. I don't mind doing my homework to figure out how to do something. But I'm still an end-user, not a Linux developer. If I can choose a distribution where things work without having to spend days and weeks getting them to do so, then great!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The other side of the story

My last post was less than two weeks ago. At that time I was seriously questioning any benefit I would receive from running Linux. At that time I wiped Linux off my machine and went fully back to Windows 8. This was easy due to having good backups.

But about one day later I wrote up a document of pros and cons to running Linux. I like doing that when I’m making a decision. I debate with myself in the form of a document. It helps me come to a decision and solidify my logic.


Well, in doing this with my decision whether or not to run Linux… I was sort of surprised. I was able to find solutions to each and every drawback to running Linux except one. Quicken.


Ok, not totally surprised. That’s been a recurring theme. As a matter of fact, that’s why I got rid of my Macs and went with Windows computers back in 2008 or so. I was tired of dual-booting or running Windows in a VM just so I could run Quicken.


However, I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I’ve been tinkering with the mother of all budget spreadsheets on Google Docs. I keep honing it and making it better. And that, like Linux, is also a lot of fun. And it can totally replace Quicken in my life if I choose to do that.


So as much as I’d really rather that my choice to run Linux was not a philosophical one, it very well may be. The desire to run Linux, just for the fun of it, prods me into ridding myself of the shackles of proprietary software. It has definitely moved me in the direction of things that are “operating system independent” like Google Docs, non-DRM media files, and web-based applications in general.


The nice thing about this… if I decided to move to a Chromebook for example… no problem. I’ve been moving that direction for years. Just give me a good browser with a few essential plugins and I’m good to go.


So it is philosophical. And there is a definite benefit.