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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.

Speaking of apps, the one criticism of Chrome OS Pixel that reviewers never fail to mention is a lack of applications. Indeed, in terms of sheer numbers, this is quantifiably true. But I've found that for common office and communication needs, nothing's missing. Obviously, anything you already do in a browser works on Chrome OS, but outside of Gmail, my go-to software is Google Apps, a complete and constantly improving office suite that does everything I need while offering better collaboration features than the leading desktop alternative.

But the Chrome Web Store offers a surprisingly complete slate of applications, including niche categories I've found useful like mind-mapping software (MindMeister), outliners (The Outliner of Giants), photo editor (Pixlr), even a secure shell terminal emulator. And for those times when you absolutely, positively must use a PC, there's the Chrome Remote Desktop or VNC Viewer apps that allow you to remote into a Windows, Mac or Linux system.

As the week wore on and my Chrome savvy grew by the hour, helped in no small part by the active, open and incredibly helpful Chromebooks community on Google+, the disconnect between my experience and the generally dismissive spate of Pixel reviews became apparent. Sadly, as the Pixel coverage reinforced, Chrome OS is still tarred with plenty of FUD and half-truths, the most prominent being its dependence on a constant network connection. Not true. All Chrome devices include local storage, typically 16 GB, expandable via SD cards. Also, many apps, including Google Drive, Apps and Gmail, can be configured for offline access.

While this is great for long airplane rides, I think the offline issue should be put to rest. At least for me, no device is worth much when I'm offline, and network access is never a problem today. Wi-Fi is available almost everywhere and cellular data fills in the gaps. If you frequently travel, just make sure your data plan (you do have a smartphone don't you?) includes a tethering option. Chromebook plus smartphone means never having to worry about being offline. If your travels take you to remote (domestic) locales, allow me to put in a plug for Verizon; its LTE network is simply amazing. Part of my week was spent in a one-gas-station burg an hour from the nearest city. Even in this Podunk, Verizon gave me five-bar LTE service with 15-20 Mbps downloads and 3-5 Mbps uploads. This meant that tethered to my iPhone, my Chromebook was getting nearly as much throughput as in my home office. (Why use in room Wi-Fi when it's one tenth the speed?) Conclusion: outside of midflight, there's no such thing as offline anymore.

Another common gripe with Chrome OS is printing. Those of you that still use dead trees as a display medium will be happy to know that the Cloud Print service works quite well. For people like me that replace printers about as often as they buy a new car, i.e. we don't have a cloud-ready printer, you're stuck configuring Cloud Print from a PC running the Chrome browser, although some NAS boxes, like the stellar Synology Diskstation line, also support the protocol. Just remember, don't ever turn off your print server.

My PC-free week went so well that, back home now and having written this piece entirely in Google Docs on Chrome OS, I still haven't found the need to fire up the Mac other than to test the remote desktop feature. In fact, I've rewired the secondary monitor formerly attached to the Mac Mini into my Chromebox and now enjoy almost 4 megapixels of Chrome desktop goodness sprawled across two displays.

Maybe Google wasn't going crazy; something tells me there's a Pixel in my future.

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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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