My Chromebook Experience

I was listening to Hacker Public Radio episode #3242, which was a lengthy look at Chromebooks by a couple of Linux folks, who were on the whole pretty happy with the experience. This may surprise some folks, but I was not surprised since I have been using one for over a year and have found it useful. Chromebooks have, at the heart, a Linux base, and you can do a lot with them. And the discussion went into things like installing emacs or doing audio and video production, and so on. But the is not my use case at all.

I have home network with several desktops, one of which belongs to my wife who uses it for her work. Although we have Wi-Fi for things like phones, tablets, and laptops, the desktops are all connected via ethernet to the router. And we also have a Drobo NAS box to handle backups (onsite; we also have Carbonite for offsite backup) and for mass storage of things like MP3 music files, videos, and photos. When I do audio production, such as recording my shows for HPR, I do that using Audacity on my Kubuntu 18.04 desktop machine, and I will happily continue to do that. So while I was enjoying the discussion of how you can do that on a Chromebook, frankly I will probably never do anything that interesting. I try to fit my tools to my purposes, and have no problem using multiple tools. I considered posting a comment on the show, but then I channeled my inner Ken Fallon and decided to record my own show in reply. Besides, HPR always needs more shows.

In 2014 I had purchased a Nexus 9 tablet with the idea of having something I could easily carry around and do things like read, check my email, and look things up. Basically things I could do on a phone, but just with a larger screen. But the thing with e-mail is that you have to type, and using the on-screen keyboard never got comfortable for me. I could do it, but it was work. I really wanted a keyboard. So I got a keyboard/case combination, which connected via Bluetooth. Sometimes. It was quite erratic, and tended to drive me nuts. Still it served my primary purpose. I took it with me on my trip to Ireland in 2015 and used it to keep my diary of the trip and similar things. And I took it with me for breakfast on Sunday mornings at a local restaurant. So, it was not excellent, but it was OK, and once I had bought it I kept using it.

Then it started to misbehave. While I was at breakfast at that local restaurant, it started to emit loud sounds kind of like a siren, which is embarrassing when you are out in public. And this happened again after rebooting. At some point I just had to face the fact that it was dying. I could have bought another tablet, but since I didn’t entirely enjoy the experience I decided to buy a Chromebook. So in June of 2019 I spent $309 USD to buy an Acer Chromebook. It has an Intel Celeron dual-core processor and 4GB of RAM, so it isn’t particularly powerful, but it is very light and easy to carry around. I can check my e-mail on it, and when my wife and I visited Europe in Fall, 2019, I used it to keep our travel diary as a Google Doc. I can install and run Android apps on it, and I use it every day to run a couple of Spanish learning apps because typing on a keyboard is much better than trying to do it on a phone screen. If I fold the screen and keyboard back, it behaves like a tablet. And I use it at least a couple of times a week for Zoom calls. It is great for that and easier than plugging in a camera and microphone on my desktop, since it has all of that equipment built in. And as a slim and light machine, it is great for taking on flights or other travel.

So it does a lot of good things for me. That said, it will never be my main computer., but that is fine since I have more powerful computers for other uses. But for something I can just grab-and-go, I am quite happy with it. If this one reaches EOL I will probably get another one. Mine is scheduled to receive updates through June of 2024, and right now I expect I will buy another when that happens.

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