Monday, March 26, 2012

Chromebook: Decisions

It has been a year since my kitten, Tristan, killed my old aluminum Powerbook with a glass of wine. I had been making an effort; the wine was being put away on a shelf behind me, safe from kittens. Tristan grasped this, because he tried to leap into my lap while I was drinking it. While I was holding it in such a way that even drooling (from either of us) would have kept my keyboard safe, a kitten head exploding the wineglass right out of my hand was a contingency I had not planned for. (Note to self: invent sippy cups for Chardonnay.)

I adore the kitten, and the Powerbook was not long for this world, anyway, being almost eight years old and already throwing up barriers to updates, enticing new software, and playing videos longer than thirty seconds. So I got philosophical about it, and explored the horizons of my iPod touch for my portability needs. I have to say I wound up amazed at all the things I could do with it; especially during a bout of pneumonia that stranded me in bed for several days. I could read free eBook classics or summon fresh on my Kindle app, explore upcoming movies on the Turner Classic Movie app, surf the web, even draft new work with ShapeWriter, about which I cannot say enough stunned and admiring things.

It cannot be beat for portability, either, being about the size and weight of a deck of cards. A crucial element of writing, the rewriting, was possible; but so slowly and painfully that my way forward was clear. Whatever I next chose for my mobility/writing slot would have to have an actual keyboard.

There are Bluetooth keyboards for both the iPod touch and the various tablets which have sprung up on the market. This would be fine for those stream-of-consciousness word dumps that is proper drafting; but I have ShapeWriter for that. The iPod touch's smaller screen would still be a barrier to the "fiddly bits" that is editing. The iPad is bigger, but has a touchscreen keyboard. A "reality" keyboard would undercut the portability element by requiring two devices; each with their own  battery duration, charging times, and quirks.

I have several life factors which make desktops literally out of reach for writing. I'm not always home. I have a lunch hour, I have a gorgeous view from my apartment house's front porch (down three flights of stairs,) and  I go lots of places and wait, especially doctor's offices, since my husband has a chronic illness. When he's feeling lousy, he lies in bed and watches TV. I enjoy that, too, but it's often the kind of show or movie that doesn't need that much attention; and I could be writing.

This mantra inserts itself into so many of my daily tasks when my complete attention is not needed. I get as much writing done as I do because I have become a Zen Master at grabbing bits of time. Even though I have written on a computer since the Commodore VIC 20, I also had to be able to write wherever I was at the time. Once, when laptops were new, large, and expensive, I relied upon a leather portfolio with legal pads and a fountain pen. (Fountain pens have the least drag of all paper-based instruments.) I once drafted a whole novel with these primitive instruments.

In a universe of infinite money, I would simply get a Mac Air, next day shipping. I don't live in that Universe. (In such a Universe I would also have more kittens.) So even with such new variables I was left with my previous best choice; an older Mac laptop from, chosen with the help of the awesome Michelle, which would come with a warranty and still fit my budget.

But then Google changed all the variables.

They came out with the Chromebook. It is a device of stunning simplicity; it's a Chrome browser. That's all.

This fact is seemingly so simple it was ungraspable for 33% of the reviewers and 50% of those commenting on reviews.

During my research I learned to ignore the stars on the retail sites which actually sell Chromebooks because so many of the reviewers complained that it was just a browser in a laptop case. What part of Does Exactly What It Says On The Tin do these people not get?

Whereas I grasped the implications immediately. What did I do with my laptop, after all, that wasn't on the web? Desktop, sure; I Photoshopped and FTP'd and edited videos and built websites. I couldn't do those things without having a state-of the art laptop I couldn't miss because I'd never had one. Because I used my laptop lying in bed or on the couch or sitting on porch steps and I didn't want to do complicated things at such times. I wanted to research and surf and write and blog and play Bubble Shooter; and I did all those things on the web.

My brain caught fire at the possibilities. The Chromebook was a fourth of the cost of that Mac Air, and half the cost of a tablet plus keyboard. I had WiFi at home, at work, the doctor's office, and my favorite restaurant.

This could work.

  • This post is one of a series of articles about living with my Chromebook. See all my posts about life in the cloud.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

I love President Obama.

I was very clear in the title...why?

Because I believe he truly cares about all Americans. He is a kind man, or he wouldn't have passed the Affordable Care Act. My own life has been ruined once by lack of health care*... and is currently greatly impacted by such an issue.

Because I believe he is a genuinely intelligent and open-minded leader; and that this is one of those crisis times when we need the best our country can come up with.

Because he's a feminist; raised by a single mother, with an awesome First Lady and two daughters. One of his first actions was to pass the Lily Ledbetter Equal Pay Act.

Because he is extraordinarily skilled; his opposition is very powerful, with a propaganda organ masquerading as a "news outlet" and unlimited funds. And yet he is able to wipe the floor with them. Regularly.

Because have you seen the clown car that passes for the Republican candidates this year?

What has President Obama done?

*Short version: I had my own business with my first husband of 18 years. We couldn't afford health insurance. He died, I lost the business, the house, most of my pets, and 90% of my possessions.