Using a Chromebook for a Week

Apologies for the lack of posts, I’ve been heads down incubating at SRI.

Last week, on almost an 18-month basis, it was time to send in my HP laptop into warranty. I’m not sure why I continue to buy AMD based laptops considering they are plagued with over-heating issues (and I’m sure my over-use lifestyle doesn’t help). In any case, the laptop was off to warranty and so I only had my Chromebook.

I made sure to copy all relevant docs off my laptop into a personal folder on my Dropbox and my recent move to Office365 with some pain (for another post) meant all of my email was in the cloud (and yes, I use Gmail as well but I am an Outlook fan). I also took out the primary drive since warranty seemingly wants to format the primary disk as if that helps solve the problem (but that’s for another story).

Day 1 with the Chromebook wasn’t too bad, it was a lot lighter than my 17-inch laptop and so that made it easier to work with and the battery life was awesome but then I hit my first snag. Not sure what are the odds, but I received an email with a video product demo attached. I probably have only received a video attachment in my email maybe 10-20 times in my life and it happened to be this week, ha! In any case, you realize pretty quickly that the Chromebook can’t really open or play miscellaneous attachments. So I had two options, open it on another computer or upload the video to YouTube to than watch it (sounds counter-intuitive); I decided to defer until I got my laptop back.

Day 2, 3, 4 etc went pretty smoothly. I was finding that the Chromebook was very sufficient but I was starting to miss something and I realized it was the geek in me. Windows and Linux desktops allow you to constantly just “tweak” around, I’m not sure how you describe it but it’s the moving of icons, adjusting folder properties, renaming files, re-ordering your tray, performing pointless upgrades etc etc. Maybe it’s just me, but I find these little bits of activities to be almost fillers of micro-boredom, maybe best analog’ed to the mobile app ecosystem where much of the fun is in just browsing and randomly downloading/uninstalling. That piece was missing with the Chromebook and it almost felt like I was not being productive since I was always in the browser?

Five days had passed and I somehow managed to not have to edit a PPT or an XLS considering I’m a PPT and XLS monkey. Part of that was because I timed the warranty with a long weekend and so I was mostly offline. In any case, this is where the fun began. As much as I love Google docs and use it extensively, it’s no substitute for Excel or Powerpoint (or even Keynote, I’ve had a Mac laptop as well). Editing a financial plan in Google Docs was a non-starter and so I thought I’d give Office Web Apps a shot and this is where it broke down. Whether it’s Microsoft or Chrome, Excel and Powerpoint online was not really working via the Chromebook. I’ve certainly played with it in the past via Chrome on my PC but it just didn’t work on my Chromebook. Considering that these items were time critical, I ended-up borrowing another laptop to edit these docs and unfortunately had to keep that laptop because I can’t “slideshow” from the Chromebook. I suspect Google is thinking through all of these scenarios and is probably targeting the more casual web user as opposed to the hyper-prosumer but I would add that I did make time for Allies and Empires and Flash is awfully slow on the Chromebook.

My laptop arrived a day early and I was back to my PC. Fortunately, I managed to not sign-into Skype that week since it was a meeting-full week but I do remember one day where I was looking for the calculator app and realized that there is no calculator on the Chromebook; I tried simple arithmetic through the Google search engine and that did pretty well πŸ™‚ Anyways, summarizing, I was pleased with the Chromebook but it wasn’t sufficient for my needs. For vacation, it’d probably be perfect and for most folks I know who primarily only browse, it’s more than sufficient. I presume Google will build more stuff locally into the Chromebook to substitute for some of these problems (looking more and more like an OS) but regardless of how rich they make the device, if it feels like it’s all in a browser, I will certainly miss the pleasure from tweaking arrays of options and menus!

Author: mobileraj


One thought on “Using a Chromebook for a Week”

  1. Good post on first world problems on PC vc Chromebook. It was funny to read the problem of having a hosted Gmail on Outlook compatibility, and now we want Gmail on hosted Outlook :). The preview functionality of Google Labs is great and looks like Gmail on iPad on PC, and bridges some gap, if not all, with Outlook.

    I was wondering that Windows 8, specifically designed for tablets, may be a better OS for PC. Looking at how our PC habits have evolved, specially since iPhone; the Windows 8, if implemented well, could be the best of cloud and server. However, Microsoft has the ability to screw up user experience, as it is evident from their mobile platform.

    One of the ways I thought Apple could make iPhone/ iPad better was through ability of temporary download/ play ability. This is perhaps the reason, your post resonated with me. Everything on cloud, but things can be downloaded to play/ edit seamlessly and uploaded back to cloud. If this problem cannot be solved by the big 3, then there could be a a product conceptualized to augment cloud with ‘temporary cloud launch pad’ :). If Windows 8, does not address this issue, I will think about this.


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