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3/11/2013
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Chromebook Pixel: My First Week Living In Cloud

After forsaking all other PCs for a week to work with just a Chromebook Pixel and an iPhone, I learned a few lessons about the post-PC era.

Google Chromebook Pixel: Visual Tour
Google Chromebook Pixel: Visual Tour
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Was it was some subconscious desire to prove that, in building and pricing the Chromebook Pixel, Google had suffered a temporary bout of insanity? Or a fit of self-flagellation to directly experience the contortions necessary to live and work completely in the world of cloud services and mobile apps? Either way, for more than a week I didn't touch a conventional computer. No Macs, no Windows, no Ubuntu. Just a man and his Chromebook (and smartphone, of course).

I was planning to travel for several days last week and have previously lived off an iPad for short trips, but for longer stretches, or if I know I'll have to do some serious writing and editing, I'll normally drag along a MacBook or old Dell Latitude reinvigorated by Ubuntu. But this time, having bought a Chromebook last fall for some testing, finding it to be quite usable and having no fear of being offline thanks to Verizon's impressive LTE network along with a data plan allowing tethering (more on that later), I figured why not give the cloud a try? After all, the Chromebook is lighter than either of my laptops and I'd used it enough to have apps and services set up for all of my basic IT needs.

The PC hiatus started on a Saturday as I tweaked the Chromebook, but the real sink-or-swim moment came when I decided there'd be no last-minute cheating, so I disconnected my trusty Mac Mini from its monitor and plugged in a Chromebox I'd picked up on eBay (with the best of intentions of turning it into a YouTube-streaming set-top box, but I never overcame bouts of procrastination and the inertia associated with setting up a new device).

I knew the Chromebox was snappy, since I'd snagged one of the limited edition models running a Core i5 that Google distributed at last year's I/O Conference (this same basic configuration has recently surfaced as a commercial product), but its performance reaffirmed my conviction to stick with the strategy. It may be overkill for a lightweight OS like Chrome, but like all Chrome devices, the first thing you notice is how fast this thing boots: under 10 seconds (8.43 to be exact as per Chrome's system diagnostics), while its desktop CPU can handle as many browser tabs you care to throw at it. Having satisfied myself that I wasn't missing anything important on a local disk drive, I set out, Chromebook and iPhone in hand.

[ Want more about the Pixel? See Google Chromebook Pixel: Hands-On Review. ]

I am actually a perfect test case for Google's cloud-based enterprise strategy. I've moved my personal domain to Google Apps, relied upon Gmail for both personal and business email and scheduling for years, use Google Sheets to track invoices and Google Docs for many shorter columns, replicate all of my business-related files from local storage to Google Drive, don't edit video ... In sum, there's virtually no service or application that ties me to a native client running on a PC. Still, I've had PCs for decades and much of my research and writing workflow remained centered on native applications. Old habits die hard, so just in case, I loaded a copy of all my important work folders onto an SD card, providing gentle reassurance as it protruded out the side of my Chromebook.

Although Google has made great strides at making Chrome look more like a standalone OS and less like a browser with lots of tabs, it still often looks like a browser with lots of tabs. Unless you specifically configure apps to open in their own window, which I highly recommend for many of the more self-contained apps and utilities like Drive, Gmail, Calendar, IM+ (a multi-platform IM client) and Calculator, clicking an icon in the launcher just opens up another tab on your last-used Chrome window. But, if you've used Chrome on a PC, it's a very familiar experience.

The real beauty of Chrome isn't so much the UI (while lacking the polish of OS X or the novel look of Windows 8 or Ubuntu Unity, it is certainly not ugly), but its speed, stability and simplicity. The thing just works -- fast and without software maintenance. Chrome OS updates download and install automatically, and the cloud-based apps are inherently auto-updating. There's also no data maintenance, since, unless you make a conscious effort to store something locally, it's all online, meaning there's no need to worry about making copies of email attachments or to save documents you're working on -- Google Apps literally don't have "save" functions. Chrome devices are also inherently self-replicating: your environment, settings, profile, apps, bookmarks and data are automatically synchronized to the cloud and show up on any Chrome device you happen to be using.

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Jan
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Jan,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/30/2013 | 5:05:28 PM
re: Chromebook Pixel: My First Week Living In Cloud
Fritz,

I have a series 5 Samsung C.B. that I plan to use pretty much as if it was a tablet once I get my Pixel, i.e. for schlepping around in my bag. They are still available on Amazon, and will get you at least 9 hours on one charge. And they are very light! (the pixel, much heavier)

But they are WAY slower than the Pixel, of course.

Something to think about?

Ah, aparently not, it was a couple of used ones. Didn't see that, sorry.
Jan
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Jan,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/30/2013 | 4:50:58 PM
re: Chromebook Pixel: My First Week Living In Cloud
This article mirrors my exact experience. Not long after getting my Chromebook (the first one from Samsung) I got the Chromebox as well, and my order for the Pixel is going in as soon at my next paycheck is off the printing press. I have NEVER missed my mac, not even for one second.

I live in Northern Europe, and am at a loss when reading reviews of the Chromebook from the US... is wi-fi service really that bad over there? No wi-fi at an airport (we even have free wi-fi on some city-buses now)? My goodness. Glad to hear at least one person who has figured it out.

Anyway, brilliantly written article. You made me laugh, and I really needed that right now. Thanks
SMP
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SMP,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/25/2013 | 11:51:18 PM
re: Chromebook Pixel: My First Week Living In Cloud
Yes I got one of those Windows notebooks, and you certainly get more -

more expense, more boot up time, more system maintenance, more malware and viruses, more hassle, more time spent on unproductive system configuration and system troubleshooting, more hassle, more time wasted, more battery charging, more disk space maintenance, more time spent on backups etc.
SMP
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SMP,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/25/2013 | 11:43:54 PM
re: Chromebook Pixel: My First Week Living In Cloud
Your Windows notebook can't do Zero Maintenance, Zero Touch Administration, sub 10 sec boot especially with a networked domain authenticated system, it can't do instant sleep and resume etc.

There is one other major deficiency in your Windows notebook - you have to carry it with you everywhere in order to be able to access all your data and applications. With a Chromebook, you can access your complete environment - data, apps, settings and preferences from any device with a browser - your office PC, your home Macbook, your smartphone, your tablet, even a netcafe if you have no device with you at all. Of course you can do that with a Chrome browser installed on your Windows laptop as well - one of Chromebooks strengths - but only if you use it in pure Chromebook mode. But then why would you do that since you would be stuck with hot, heavy, noisy, short battery life, expensive, high maintenance, insecure, Windows?
kmarko
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kmarko,
User Rank: Strategist
3/12/2013 | 4:36:06 PM
re: Chromebook Pixel: My First Week Living In Cloud
Really? You've found an airport with no Wi-Fi? Sorry that Your Mileage Varied, but since most of my work involves communication and research, on-line is a must.
kmarko
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kmarko,
User Rank: Strategist
3/12/2013 | 4:34:43 PM
re: Chromebook Pixel: My First Week Living In Cloud
I didn't test battery life Fritz, since I'm rarely working with any device for more than 2-3 hours at a time without being able to get to a charger (this may change at Interop :). Samsung quotes 6+ hours for the S5 550 that I have and that sounds about right since using it for a couple hours straight will leave you with well over 50%. Recall, these devices (other than the new ARM model) have more powerful, and power hungry, CPUs than tablets, so you won't get 10 hours like on an iPad.
jimbo0117
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jimbo0117,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/12/2013 | 3:44:39 PM
re: Chromebook Pixel: My First Week Living In Cloud
Sorry dude, but you jumped the shark with "At least for me, no device is worth much when I'm offline, and network access is never a problem today". Really? I can't tell you the number of times I've needed to accomplish work on a flight where no Wi-Fi is available. Same thing for some airports. I'm a software developer, and a device where I can only be productive when I'm online is nearly worthless to me.
CAC1031
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CAC1031,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/12/2013 | 11:14:01 AM
re: Chromebook Pixel: My First Week Living In Cloud
"The think about Chromebook that I still don't get is that there's nothing it does that I can't do on my less-expensive Windows notebook that does a whole lot more."

I make this point continually: Many people (who've tried it) PREFER Chrome OS over Windows or Mac because it is hassle-free--no clunky software installations, no ant-virus, no attention to updates or maintenance, and there is barely a need to troubleshoot issues. When it does occasionally crash, it repairs itself within seconds with no data loss. So that is why some of us who can live in the cloud would buy a Chromebook over an identically priced Windows laptop.

Now as to why one might prefer the PIxel--well, those with the cash may be willing to pay a premium for the stellar screen, the terrific audio and mike set up and the other added details that make it a luxury device. Same as there are those who will pay for high-end Windows or Macs that do the same as cheaper ones, but in a nicer way.
FritzNelson
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FritzNelson,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/12/2013 | 4:51:35 AM
re: Chromebook Pixel: My First Week Living In Cloud
Kurt, what was the battery life like? Did you test that at all? I wonder whether its low client processing footprint helps in that regard. But like Larry and David, I also run into some sites that don't behave well in Chrome.
George Ou
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George Ou,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/11/2013 | 10:58:46 PM
re: Chromebook Pixel: My First Week Living In Cloud
I can't see myself sending my print data to some "cloud" Internet based server only to have it send the print job back to either a dedicated machine that hooks up to the printer. I'll stick with my old school HP Jet Direct protocol thank you.
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