Tag Archive for google

The Chromebook for Road Warrior Writing

Samsung Chromebook

The Samsung Chromebook

We’ve invested heavily in the Chromebook at my day job, and it’s given me an opportunity to evaluate several models and use them on a day-to-day basis. After using one for several months now, I’ve found they offer a lot of options for those of us looking for a simple, portable, and affordable setup for writing.

First up, consider the price: with some Chromebooks available as low as $170 these days, they’re about a third of the cost of an iPad and a decent keyboard or cover. For that price, a writer could lose or break one without too much heartbreak. Take a thousand-dollar MacBook Air to Starbucks, meanwhile, and one hesitates to leave it sitting on the table during a bathroom visit.

The ChromeOS is also simple to operate and very snappy. Power up a Chromebook and you’re ready to work in seconds, and battery life ranges from a few hours to 12-14 hours for some models. There are shortcuts to all of the major Google Apps, and you’ve got access to the Chrome Web Store and, soon, the Play Store for Android apps. Chrome browser users will also find their browser settings like bookmarks, history, and extensions automatically synced to the Chromebook.

That said, don’t go expecting to install Word, PhotoShop, the latest games (for your kids, right?), or other software. ChromeOS is a bare-bones operating system with enough juice to get you online. You’ll have a webcam, some USB ports, and sometimes an SD card slot, but this is no full-on desktop replacement. 95% of the apps run through the Chrome browser and are Internet apps; the rest are simple apps like the file manager, the camera app, or the calculator.

Chromebook with video

Of course, entertainment’s not completely out of the question

Most of your data will live in Google Drive. Chromebooks have small hard drives for local downloads and for offline file storage, but if you don’t buy into the Google ecosystem, your options are limited. The benefit to Google Drive is you have instant file sync and you’re not juggling file versions or sweating backups and lost data. Writing in Google Docs, writers can log in to any computer with a browser, or use Docs apps on most modern mobile devices, and pick up right where they left off on a Chromebook.

No Wi-Fi available? No problem. With offline file sync, a writer can create or edit a file and the changes will be merged to Google Drive the next time there’s a connection. I actually prefer to use my phone as a hotspot than go without a connection, but I’ve been able to work both ways seamlessly.

Brand-wise, there are more to choose from all the time. I’ve been happiest with Acer for the lower-end models. The Samsung units aren’t bad, but the Acer is a little more durable. Asus units are nice, but I’ve had some bad support experiences that have soured me on their brand for now.

For performance purposes, spend a little more for a unit with 4GB of RAM if you expect it to be a workhorse, otherwise the 2GB models are fine for basic surfing and productivity. There are also some variances in processor architecture, but the only one I’ve really been disappointed in is the HP Chromebook 11, which I found very sluggish with multiple browser tabs open.

Chromebook, iPod, Moleskine

Traveling companions.

There are not a lot of downsides when you consider what you’re paying for. You’re not going to have the variety of apps there are for an iPad, or for an Android tablet, but then again, that’s not why you’re buying a Chromebook. The plastic construction is more fragile than the metal iPads and MacBook Air, but is comparable to most plastic PC laptops. I’ve seen Samsung screens break with just a little flexing, but the good news is they’re very easy and inexpensive to replace, especially compared to standard laptop screens.

Again, be prepared to buy into the Google ecosystem. One could work around it by writing in Evernote or another online service, or by juggling plain text files with Dropbox via their website, but it seems to me that would get old fast. If you’re not into Google’s Terms of Service, then you’ll want to invest in an inexpensive notebook. Or maybe you just prefer the friendly confines of the Apple ecosystem? I don’t judge.

If printing is part of your workflow, don’t plan on hooking up a printer. You’ll be printing through Google Cloud Print, which will allow you to print either to another computer’s printer (with a little setup in your Google account) or a Cloud Print-enabled network printer. Or, of course, you could just print the files from Google Drive on another computer and skip Cloud Print altogether.

All in all, I’m very happy with Chromebooks. If I take one to a Starbucks or a similar joint to work, the Chromebook is up and ready to go before they finish making my drink. I’ll typically have four tabs open: Google Docs, for whatever project I’m working on; Slacker Radio, for tuning out the environment; Evernote, for referencing my notes; and Moosti, a Pomodoro timer. Paper notebook on one side, drink on the other, and I’ve got a nice, self-contained environment I can set up anywhere. It’s even perfect out on the front porch with an adult beverage and a cigar.

If an iPad is too spendy, or tablets and keyboards just aren’t going to cut it, one could certainly do a lot worse than a Chromebook. They’re inexpensive, there’s no farting around with maintenance or antivirus, and there’s no sweating backups or file management. Just travel, open it up, and go to work.

Smells like win to me.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Things I Learned Today

The dude in Fargo got hosed

You all remember the wood chipper scene in Fargo, right?

Poor Carl. Anyway, turns out Gaear got hosed by a bad wood chipper. Today, contractors took down trees at my day job to make room for new construction. They fed entire trees to this thing. Mulched them in seconds.

Mulched Grove

You get surprisingly little mulch from a tree

With one of these bad boys, Gaear would have been long gone by the time Marge showed up.

Plumbing can screw up your whole day

Slip nuts on a sink drain can, apparently, spontaneously break. I drained a sink full of dishwater and heard it splash all over inside the cabinet. It doesn’t look like a lot of water in the sink, but when it’s spread all over your cabinet, it’s quite a mess. Cleaning up, getting parts, and repairing the sink derailed the rest of the day’s plans.

Plumbing repairs are actually fairly cheap

If you do it yourself, that is. I’ve learned more about plumbing in the last two homes I’ve owned than I ever thought I would. I can now replace drains, reseat toilets, sweat pipes, replace water heaters, and replace thermocouples and heat elements on water heaters.

The sink repair above? $1.87 for the part I needed. If I’d paid a plumber, I’m sure it would have been at least $80 for labor.

Four Roses Yellow is good stuff

Really. You should try it. Not as good as their Small Batch, but still good. Goes down smooth.

The Montecristo Chicago cigar is good stuff

Really. You should try it. Separate Smoke Blog post will follow.

Chromebooks can spontaneously reboot

No computer or operating system is immune to occasional glitches, and ChromeOS is no exception. On the plus side, WordPress saved what I was working on, as did Google Docs. And the boot time? Just a few seconds. I was back to productivity in less time than it took for me to cuss the thing out.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Enter the Chromebook

I’m going to be testing and evaluating the Google Chromebook for the day job, so of course I’m going to take advantage and evaluate it as a writer as well.

The attached photos are of the Samsung model we purchased. It has an 11″ matte display, USB, HDMI, and SD card ports, and a full-size keyboard that, so far, is comfortable to type on. For comparison purposes, here’s a photo of the Samsung Chromebook sitting beside a first-gen iPad.

Light and portable

Light and portable

So far I like it. From first boot and setup, I had it fully up and running in just over 90 seconds. This includes the few seconds I waited for the text code from Google for my two-factor authentication. All of my desktop/laptop Chrome extensions and bookmarks showed up within a minute or so. I played a YouTube video full screen, and it looked and sounded fine.

My editor has one, and my first impressions upon seeing his and upon starting this one up are the same: this is a nice little machine. I’ll be hammering on it for the next couple of weeks to get a better idea of what it can and can’t do. Because it has offline storage for Google Drive built in, Google Docs will be my default text editor when I’m writing.

I’ll let you know how it goes in a few weeks, either way.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.