TagCR-48

Simple Tools

I spend my days repairing computers for the federal government. I support the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institute of Health. I support Macs, PCs, iPhone, Blackberries, iPads and a host of scientific equipment I don’t pretend to begin to understand their function.

Day in and day out I scratch my head, Google obscure error codes, and reach deeply into my brain for the acquired knowledge I’ve accumulated over the near-decade I’ve been doing this work.

My home is an extension of my geekiness. I have a small armada of computers. Some run all the time performing menial functions. Others are test beds for my random whims. Some are the work horses I turn to day in and day out. And some, I honestly no longer have any real use for and need to sell.

My primary machine was a little white MacBook which served me dutifully for years until a fan replacement gone wrong fried the logic board and the cost to replace it was just too great.

Today, it is a PC laptop that I bought thinking it was what I wanted. These days, I find it looking a little long in the tooth and never quite matching up to the Mac’s speed and stability. ((And I’m not going to get into Windows 8 here…)) More and more, when I get home I reach for the simplest tools in my arsenal.

I have a 1st Generation iPad and a prototype Google CR-48 Chromebook.

When I get home, all I want to do is dive into a book-in-progress. When I get home, I reach for my iPad, open the Kindle app, sync it if I’ve read at all on my iPhone during the day, and pickup my story where I left off. There is something very calming and peaceful about reading. After a long day of diagnosing, repairing and explaining I want to get lost inside a story.

After putting down the book, I’ll dig into my RSS feeds on the iPad, stick my toe into Twitter and then open Instapaper and thumb through the articles waiting for me there. I’ll do some filing since Instapaper is my catch-all for any interesting article or story that catches my attention throughout the day.

Once I’ve moved the items for safe keeping or for reference later, I read what is left. I love reading and I post the things I’ve read and liked to Twitter at @CarlLikes.

After I do my reading I’ll move to the CR-48 for some writing. Sometimes there is an article that has sparked my interest or an idea that’s been bouncing around in my head. Often times I reach for it to evict thoughts from my head into 750 Words where I make an effort to put 750 new words on the page every single day.

The CR-48 is ideal for its light weight and relative slowness so it combats my wish to open countless tabs in Chrome. Where I will usually keep 5 tabs open in Chrome always, I always quit every tab on the CR-48 and start fresh every time I open the lid.

I find starting fresh on the small machine lends itself to not getting sidetracked into a social network or a forgotten story I’d left half-read when I closed the lid. When I sit down to write, I want to sit down and make the clackity noise.

In addition to being small, the laptop runs very cool and has great battery life. As I sit here, I have 46% battery left which afford me nearly 3 hours of time to clack along.

There are so many great apps to put words into and the web apps are not lagging behind in quality.

I am typing this entry into Dillinger. Though more and more I have been writing in Draft which deserves a post of its own. When I’m offline I will open Pillarbox which is free from the Chrome Web Store and a great, simple writing app that will auto-save your work and works even if the Chromebook doesn’t have a network connection.

Falling in love with Google’s CR-48 (again)

I’ve recently fallen back in love with my CR-48 Chromebook. I received it last February and have used it intermittently since then. It’s free Verizon 3G connection has saved me a time or two. Clocking in at just 3.8 pounds and with a better pushing 8 hours it becomes an incredible travel companion.

I’ve been using it to write most of all as I love the feel of the keyboard. It has the short, flat keyboard the first Apple MacBooks made popular and I love the feel of it. It is the first laptop keyboard I’ve ever fallen in love with. The trackpad still leaves much to be desired but it gets better with each new stable release of the Chrome OS.

I do not even use a vast collection of apps for it. It is my sleek, little black book where I share my thoughts and best of all, it stays cool to the touch even after hours of use. Something no other laptop I’ve ever used can boast.

I love the Chromebook but it is not without its shortcomings. I’ve been asked if I would purchase one now that they’re for sale. The answer is still no, but it’s not due to the lack of quality of the Chrome OS. ((Chrome browser with a rudimentary file system attached.)) My reluctance is based on the price they’ve set for the devices.

Now, I am sure the finished machines will have a higher build quality than the small machine sitting neatly in my lap, hopping under the pressure of my key presses. I have not seen any of the Chromebooks in person so I cannot judge them for what they are.

I would love the CR-48 if it were not for a few nagging issues.

Back-lit keyboard. Perhaps this is asking too much but I tend to use the machine in bed or in the evenings when I’m not under a bright light and while I’m practically a touch typist, I am not perfect and seeing the keyboard would be nice. Again, nothing a well-placed lamp wouldn’t solve.

The trackpad. It’s luxurious size betrays its flawed function. If it were as solid as the Apple equivalents this machine would shoot to near perfect status.

Random slowdowns. I don’t know exactly what causes them. I am not viewing flash content at the time. It may be that the two dozen or so tabs overwhelms the machine. I have only had to reboot the machine twice when it became unresponsive but it does tend to slowdown at random.

Power port on the right side. This bothers me. Perhaps it’s because I have the left side of the bed, or the couch is not setup for power on the right, or it could just be MacBook ownership for 4 years prior has conditioned me to expect a left-side power port. It bothers me. Totally personal preference but I don’t care for it.

I have never used the VGA port, SD Card slot and rarely use the USB port. I have used the webcam to take a goofy picture of myself for the login screen and for nothing more. I do not video chat so I have no need for it.

I am very curious to see where Google takes this project and this browser/Operating System. I a devout Chrome user since it has stepped into the place Firefox used to hold. ((The sleek, speedy new kid on the block browser.))

I love my CR-48 and hope to get many more years out of it. There is no reason it should not support the newer versions of Chrome OS since it’s nothing more than software. In the age of most things being web-based it is not far-fetched to live solely inside a browser and even though I still miss running multiple applications, there is very little I find lacking. Sure, you’re not going to edit video or perform high-end graphics work on the Chromebook but that is outside their intended use. For the grandparent, parent, teen or employee with modest web-based needs, the Chromebook can serve their needs very easily.

I have fallen back in love with my Chromebook and see a bright future for the fledgling operating system.

Google Chrome CR-48 Notebook First Impressions

This was originally written in February, when I receive my CR-48 in the mail from Google and excitedly tore into the unknown-but-laptop-sized box on my door step.

The moment Google’s announcement about Chrome OS and the Chrome Notebooks was over I raced to the site and signed up in hopes of receiving one of the elusive beasts. I figured the coveted CR-48 laptops were going to tech bloggers and tech journalists. I assumed from the start that lowly me, a nobody in Internet Land would have no chance at landing one of the units.

Much to my shock and delight, Google proved me wrong.

I came home last night to a strange box from a man named Brian in St. Louis on my doorstep. I picked it up, at first assuming it was just another in the line of Christmas presents my wife and I had purchased from one of many retailers but upon checking the label and feeling the weight, I was optimistic. I wanted to believe it was a Chrome OS test machine but I didn’t think I’d be that lucky.

Enough with the shock and awe, it was a Chrome OS Notebook. I had the CR-48 unit unwrapped and sitting on my desk in no time. I took some pictures of it because I am a nerd like that. Being an avid Chrome user, I was really excited to crack it open and start syncing and using the Browser as Operating System.

So far I really like it. The keyboard is just like the original MacBook which I was skeptical of at first, until I tried it and instantly fell in love with its wide, fat clicky keys. They feel nice under my fingers and I can fly across them with greater speed than the current Lenovo machine I’ve been primarily using at home.

The track-pad is another story. While it is a generous size, again taking a cue from Apple, it feels like my original First Generation MacBook track-pad after three solid years of use. It is not very clicky and the two finger scrolling and two finger tap for right-click has some accuracy and stuttering issues. The tracking itself works like a charm as you would expect. However, the track-pad/button just isn’t as clicky as I’d like. The tap to click option is a must, though it ships disabled.

The screen is plenty bright with and crisp. While there is no brightness level indicator when using the brightness button in the keyboard, it goes plenty dark for that late night surfing and brightens up nicely for the daytime. The killer addition to this machine would have been a back-lit keyboard, though being as this is a demo unit, I can see why it is not included.

I love the new window handling in Chrome OS. If you are familiar with Spaces on the Mac or Virtual Desktops of any kind you should feel right at home. Each Ctrl+N gives you new window to the right of your current window. You can Alt+Tab between them though in sequence which is confusing if you have multiple open windows (or as I just found out, two identical sets of tabs open from when I rebooted last night).

The MacBook Air is the crowned king of light computers across the Internet but not having one of those, I can’t get over the lightness of this machine. The whole machine is very slim and light. I want to tuck it under my shoulder like a newspaper and take it everywhere with me.

I also really like the smooth rubbery feel of the case. It feels soft. Unlike how most laptops feel cold and hard in your hand. The rubber gives it a warm feeling when you hold it, or as your wrists rest upon it, like they are doing as I type this.

The lack of Caps Lock is receiving a lot of coverage all over the place. Across the top of the keyboard, where the Function keys would be on any other laptop, the CR-48 features the following from left to right: Esc, Back, Forward, Refresh, Full Screen, Switch Window, Lower Brightness, Raise Brightness, Mute, Lower Volume, Raise Volume and finally Power, which I have yet to hit.

When I first took the laptop out of the box and inserted the battery it powered on immediately, no need to press the power button. The OS has seen an update once since I had the unit, it happens identically to how the browser updates. You get the dot on the wrench and you click Upgrade. Seconds later, you’re back up and running right where you left off. The Chrome browser also updated today so I imagine they’re both in sync or close to it.

The volume is plenty loud out of the speakers for casual use and the headphone jack is nothing special. I have not used the SD Card slot or USB port yet. I’m sort of at a loss for what you’d need either for. The Eye-Fi card in my camera eliminates the need to use the SD card and I’m not even sure what I could use the USB port for, plugging my thumb drive into it last night yielded nothing.

I have seen some random slowdown in the OS as I’ve been scrolling down pages or waiting for things to load. A 1.66GHz processor and 2GB of RAM power the machine. I have no idea what the hard drive is on the machine and I’ve seen no mention or need for it. Perhaps that’s where the USB and SD Card slots come into play.

I’ve also had problems getting certain wireless networks to work with the machine. I tried tethering from my rooted Droid earlier and while the iPod Touch picked it up just fine Chrome OS reported there was an error trying to connect to it. Similarly, on initial setup, I had to remove the MAC Address filtering on my home network to allow it to connect so I could login and get the MAC Address.

I have not yet signed up for the free 100MB of cellular data from Verizon yet because I haven’t had the need and it requires entering a credit card number which I am reluctant to give. I am going to work on the Droid tethering option some more and see if I can figure out what the issue is there.

I watched a lip of the Daily Show from YouTube last night full screen and had minimal issues of minor slowdown with it. It was still plenty watchable though since it does not support Silverlight I cannot use Netflix. My test of Hulu worked fine at the default resolution on the page However, when I tried to make it full screen it ran a bit slow. In this case, I was watching American Dad and the mouths were slightly behind the voices. It was still perfectly watchable but if you were watching something with a lot of fast action, it would be more noticeable.

I’ve not had it long enough to give the battery a proper test. However, I am at 55% and Chrome OS claims to have 3 hours and 27 minutes of life left. I have the cellular disabled, the WiFi on and the brightness maxed out. I have not used the VGA port for anything yet.

All in all I really like the unit and the typing feels as good as typing on my original MacBook. The trackpad, despite its deficiencies is usable. Seeing as how I got this computer shipped to me free of charge with no mention of return, I am very pleased with it and I hope the hardware that will ship with Chrome OS when it gets a commercial release will be even better. This is a very good start to the Chrome OS and I am optimistic to see where it goes and what the first wave of hardware looks and runs like.