Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Chromebook

Note: The following information is written with an opinionated slant, and that may make you feel as though you might not want to take it 100% seriously. I think you should anyways, but do what you will.

One day, two of my younger siblings came home excited with a laptop they had checked out from the school library to do homework on (With plans of playing online games). Firstly, I was not aware the middle schools did this sort of thing, but since they apparently do, I was secondly concerned with how, with all the complaints about budgets, they can afford to buy laptops for their students.

To answer my question, it turns out the laptop was a budget option: a Chromebook, by Google, meaning it has Chrome OS. For those unaware, Chrome OS is advertised as related to standard operating system like Windows or OSX, but is heavily reliant on cloud computing; in this case it's powered by Google. On top of that, it's heavily reliant on Google.

The OS is simple and intuitive, seeing as it is basically a glorified  web browser (Google Chrome), which is a plus for many people who don't need a computer to do anything special beyond scrolling through social media sites and writing papers. The problem comes in when you need the computer to do more. There is a very limited selection of apps, and a large number of them do not work without an Internet connection. On the bright side, more and more apps are becoming able to work without an Internet connection - With a noticeable drop in performance due to cutting out the cloud from cloud computing. However, this is better than the beginnings when the Chromebook became a useless slab of metal when the Internet was revoked. On top of that, a good number of Chromebooks now also have an option to buy a 3G data plan to support it.

The Chromebook has a major drawback. Its limited resources (such as RAM and total processing power) cause it to hang up and drag through tasks required of it (And you can guess, the effect is compounded once you're disconnected from the Internet). If you buy the most budget option, you can definitely count on strange disappearing web pages that need to reload and 'Things you swear you clicked on' doing absolutely nothing until you stop doing anything for several seconds. You should also know (Especially if you're somebody who fears the cloud) that all of your documents and files are stored in the cloud, but you can have a local version if you use an SD card. Finally, there's the battery. Don't think it's like a tablet because it's not like a laptop. If nothing else, its battery acts like a laptop. You aren't going to get a Chromebook to run for an entire day without a plug or heavily conserving, it just won't happen, so don't think about it.

As if trying to create an Internet monopoly wasn't enough, Chromebook users are forced to use Google This and Google That as well as Google Everything Else. To sync photos, videos, or with a phone, use Google Drive (Sorry iPhone), to print something, use Google Cloud Print, to video chat - forget Skype - you have to use Google Hangouts. You can't just "Plug in" a device into a Chromebook and expect it to work, because it won't.

The last thing I thought I'd say is you cannot forget that a Chromebook is just a browser. It's not really for a  power user, and in some cases it's not really for a casual user. If you really like all off Google's software (Docs, Slides, Hangouts, etc.) then a Chromebook is a good match. In fact, there's even Chromebook friendly versions of Microsoft's and Apple's suite of programs. But through and through, I don't think a Chromebook can really compete with a "real" laptop, except for its price.

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