Monday, April 30, 2012

Chromebook: Blogging

The Chromebook is made for blogging.

Since blogging is so much of what I do, there isn't any question about a Chromebook's usefulness, appropriateness, or potential or projected limitations. I write to publish online. What I need is online, where I'm read is online, and what I need to do is online, too.

Here in the 21st Century (you have problems, but I love you!) a writer is often a blogger, too. While I publish, more and more, on outlets like the Kindle platform, (I wrote Cat 911: Fixing their Care,) it is through blogging that I, like so many other authors, reach my audience. It is a way to engage people with shorter, more accessible works, and keep that audience informed and connected.

When we look at the Chromebook as that gateway to the Web it is designed to be, we begin to understand the boon it is. It is for creators, for whom a tablet is not enough. While iPads and the like are unrivaled for the consumption of content, the creation of content is what a Chromebook is born to do.

This is a writing machine.

Lotsa things to lotsa people.
I have three blogs on the Blogger platform. Get the Cat to Love You is about my delight in cats as pets, and my tips and tricks gleaned from decades as a cat rescuer and rehabilitator.

Last Ten, Last Time is about my adventures in weight loss and health, and my joy in finally realizing success in both arenas.

Reality Principles, the one right here, concerns... well, reality. This, like gravity, is the Big Subject that should concern everyone involved in manipulating ourselves through its iron rules. Yet, so often, it becomes shunted aside.

Essentially, this is my most personal blog, where my degree in psychology intersects with my love of the Tao.

As someone with lots of passionate interests, it is an act of will to confine myself to only three blogs. I choose subjects where I can match my enthusiasm with expertise.

This is how I can share my love informed by my learning. My Chromebook is an incredible tool that is actually designed for blogging needs; a big screen, an actual keyboard, a way of downloading pictures and minimally editing them.

Even offline.

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

Monday, April 23, 2012

Chromebook: Gateway

When my Chromebook came I was so excited I missed a step; I just plugged it in and watched the incredibly fast bootup; mere seconds. It didn't mind that I had forgotten to put the battery in.

While I turned it off and plugged in the battery later, my mistake served as an illustration of concept. There's nothing else in there. It is simply a gateway to the cloud.

It's a browser, not a laptop.
I showed a techy friend my new Chromebook, which he had heard of, but not seen. Even so, there were several times in the course of the conversation where his understanding of "it's only a browser" was shaky.

It's not aligned to our usual ways of thinking about computers. It should be especially difficult for me and my friend, since we remember computers before the Internet.

Yes, children, once upon a time, there was no World Wide Web. There was a bit of email, and I remember banking with a 300 baud modem, as part of an experiment. If we knew the right numbers and passwords, we could use our modem to call into a giant mainframe where lurked The Adventure Game. You are in a maze of twisty little passages...

But usually the way we did stuff on the computer was to do stuff on the computer. I remember potlucks which began with me putting the cassette in to load Sword of Fargoal. Twenty minutes later everyone would take a turn. Back in the 1950's, it was the first television in the neighborhood which became the object of fascination. Our household experienced this phenomena as "the one with the first computer."

But I find the transition ridiculously easy. Perhaps because of my circumstances. My friend has a high-end netbook which is vital to his work in IT. It's easily four times as expensive as my Chromebook. He got it when I asked him to heft my new purchase. "Nice and light!" he said. "You get six hours of of this?" He meant battery life.

"That''s right," I said. "I can't afford this in a computer. I can afford it in a browser."

And I saw the light go on in his face.

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

Monday, April 16, 2012

Chromebook: Security

For those of us who love the Internet, it's an incredible treasure chest of information, communication, and amusement.

What Grandma sees on the World Wide Web
But dangers lurk there too. Especially for those who are not confident of their ability to perform the correct evaluations and actions.

There are two categories of accident-prone Web users. There are the ones too young to understand the dangers. They are the ones who will click on anything that looks interesting, and gladly install heaven-knows-what when we've allowed them to use our computer one afternoon.

Then there's the ones who are old enough to understand; but not experienced enough to properly evaluate the risks. They tend to not click on anything; including that email from a grandchild with an attachment and the notices that their operating system needs to be upgraded.

Then they panic and click on the spam banner that promises to scan their computer and check for viruses, free. Funny how those programs always seem to find so many scary viruses!

These are the folks who drive their computer-savvy relatives crazy. The Chromebook can be the right answer for these kinds of Internet users. Because the Chromebook is the most secure operating system around.

It is called Verified Boot. Because the Chrome OS is so small, it can be stored in an encrypted section of memory. Then it can be checked against a "certified copy" to see if any part of it has been tampered with. If it has, it is re-installed with a fresh operating system before moving forward. In about 8 seconds.

This does more than protect against viruses. It also means it is easy to add updates, and get a "system refresh" that is truly fresh. During their running life, computers accumulate small errors in the lots and lots of little programs that make up their operating system. Part of what a computer does is evaluate these responses that are not what they expect, figure out what should be happening, and then make the right thing happen.

Over time, this accumulates into a lot of drag in the computer's responsiveness. The usual prescription is to re-install the operating system periodically. It takes a really hardcore tech nerd to enjoy that process. This also wipes out all the little tweaks and personalizations the user accumulated to feel at home on the computer. Even the most hardcore tech nerd does not enjoy that process.

This is what is supposed to keep my Chromebook as nimble and responsive as my first experience. While the Chrome OS wards off attacks from viruses, my data is in their cloud; safer than it would be on a hard drive that will have to be wiped clean if it gets infected.

Those of us who are used to the ways we maintain our system and keep it safe are not aware that this is any thing more than an onerous chore. But a lot of computer users can't think about it that way. They don't understand it.

Now, they don't need to.

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

Monday, April 09, 2012

Chromebook: Comparison

Many people have trouble understanding the simplicity and power behind my choice. Such as the ones who say, "You could get a netbook for the same price." They are thinking they get more with a netbook; a whole computer.

But when I started researching my options, I found that the "whole computer" part was accurate only in technical terms. The netbook operating system is downsized and the usual programs run sluggishly. Since they try to recreate the entire computer experience in a smaller package, they are heavier, and have a shorter battery life, than a Chromebook.

The computer experience is shrunken, too, from the smaller screen to the narrower keyboard. While the Chromebook gives me more of a laptop size screen, and a full keyboard. And it should, because that is all there is to it.

Netbooks are primarily sold as a way of browsing and accessing email. Over and over I was told they are not meant, or designed, to serve as a full service computer. Which is the central complaint of most negative reviews about the Chromebook, too. So what makes or breaks someone's decision between the two?

If we need the portability and a program that will only run on an operating system, netbooks will give us both. If we aren't sure of getting Internet access to reach the program we need, the netbook will serve it up reliably, if slowly. When I run across articles which outline the zippiest alternative programs to install on a netbook instead of the ones people are used to, I know there's tradeoffs, and additional expenses, lurking here.

Either mow the lawn or race the car.
Of course, there's a better portable computer experience if we get an actual laptop or a high-end netbook, like the Mac Air or Sony Vaio. But now we are talking about prices that are much higher.

It doesn't make sense to buy a big truck just for those times we purchase something that won't fit in our economical car.

Likewise, it doesn't make any sense to mess up our mobility experience... for those times we need to run programs on an operating system.

In one article on the Chromebook, the reviewer quoted a work colleague who wondered aloud why anyone wouldn't just get a Mac Air.

Gee, I don't know. Maybe because they start at $999? I already checked my couch cushions for spare change. Maybe I should do it again.

There are folks who need the portability and the power of an expensive laptop. But I don't. I need a good computer at a reasonable price, so I bought a desktop. Then, with the money left over from not buying an expensive laptop, I bought the portability, lightness, and quickness of a Chromebook.

It truly is the best of both worlds.

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

Monday, April 02, 2012

Chromebook: Acquisition

I actually got two Chromebooks. It turned out I had someone in my life who needed one even more than I did.

Art by Michael Gibbs
My mother-in-law had gotten through successful cancer treatment; but she was worn out. Too exhausted for much activity outside the house, and even in it. Her situation was made for the self-paced, infinite-interest, horizon of the Internet. Yet, she wasn't getting online.

In our regular phone chats, I'd been exploring her difficulties. She was usually too tired to sit at the desktop computer, and it was often being used by others.

Equally daunting was her unfamiliarity with "how it all worked" because of her serious fear of viruses. When I explained the Chromebook was the safest way to browse... I could hear her voice light up with enthusiasm.

For those of us who are long-term computer users, we don't notice a computer's "maintenance aspect." A window pops up, we assess, agree or not, and wait for it to be finished. But for someone who is unfamiliar with the way our software seeks attention, this simple task is fraught with dangerous unknowns.

My brother, also a writer, is following my adventures on this new device with great interest. He had wrestled with a PC for years, resigned to getting it cleaned up once a year, and becoming increasingly annoyed with it as it aged.

While he liked the Mac better, he discovered that any operating system demanded more maintenance than he wanted to supply. Once his auxiliary hard drive went down (it turned out to be a bad power supply) his tolerance was exhausted. When he divested himself of possessions to go traveling he wasn't sure of his next step.

It turned out that his Gmail account, with all his work loaded into Google Docs, was the one piece of guidance I'd given him which matched his new, minimal-tech, outlook. It meant he could pick up where he left off on any computer system. Or, as it turned out, no "computer" at all.

The Chromebook gives him the self-maintaining software and automatic backups that could be the answer for him.

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