Long ago (1988) I moved to Berkeley and started sending a monthly "newsletter" to my Boston friends. When I returned to Boston (1993), I continued the tradition for about five more years (or until I had kids). Looking back, I realize that I was actually blogging. Each newsletter contained anywhere from a few to several blog posts. Having been silent for the past decade or so, I've decided to resume these activities. Don't expect anything profound -- I tend to focus on what I find entertaining or amusing and perhaps sometimes informative. We shall see!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Margo meets the ChromeOS laptop

I was one of those lucky recipients of a Chrome laptop just a week or so ago. Just for fun, I thought I'd blog about my experience with it.

First, the box arrived without any labeling - I had no idea what it was, who it came from, why I was getting it, etc. Being near the holidays, I thought perhaps my husband had bought me another piece of electronics. I checked with him, but he pleaded, "Not guilty." So I opened it up -- it looked kind of like a laptop ... I know I didn't order one of those. The only documentation was a single 8.5 by 11 inch piece of white paper that had a picture of the open laptop and in the window, it said, "Chrome." Aha -- this is a Chrome OS laptop. (I later found a second piece of documentation -- a half-size brown card with the safety notice that told me I could read it and throw it away and showing me how to plug it in, open it and install the battery (all of which I figured out before finding said card.)

Cool -- who sent it? No clue. Then the rumors started trickling out about Google sending a boatload of these to "some people." OK, I could imagine that someone might put me on a list, but who? I know a lot of people at Google ranging from employee 7 or so to the guy just hired yesterday. I took a guess and sent email to the person who rose to the top of my "Googler most likely to think of me as someone who should play with a Chrome OS laptop." Bingo -- I hit it -- I'll let said person remain anonymous unless said person wants to identify him/herself. But, thank you -- this will be fun.

OK, so now I have a machine and I know who sent it -- let's try it out! First, a bit about myself, since different people are going to have different reactions to this device and those reactions are going to be influenced by what kind of user is using it, so who am I?I use computers and laptops a lot -- but I use them as tools -- I don't really play with them. Although I find it immensely satisfying to write code, I rarely do it for fun (the one exception is writing simple game-show frameworks for my annual soccer banquest). I have been carrying a MacAir with me pretty much nonstop for the past 18 months. I really love it -- I can program on it, read mail, check out news, and do whatever work I need to do. It is my main machine for both of my lives (as an academic and as an architect for Oracle). At the same time, I'm really mad at Apple (like they care). I also have a tablet that runs Windows and when Apple announced that they were about to release a tablet, I got very excited -- instead of carrying two devices, I could carry one -- I was expecting something that looked like my MacBook Air and then opened to let me write on it -- after all, I WANTED A COMPUTER. When I saw the iPad I was devastated -- they had given me an overgrown iTouch; that was *not* what I wanted. Anyway, back to this -- I use my Air constantly and I carry my tablet with me when I'm grading or reviewing written work where I want to scribble on things. I also use the tablet to take notes in 1:1 meetings (because I prefer the pad dynamics to the keyboard/screen dynamics) and if I can get it all to work, I'll lecture off the tablet so that I can scribble on my notes and still project them (as opposed to scribbling on transparencies, which I only abandoned a short time ago).

Back to the Chrome OS laptop -- from a tactile perspective, it's different -- the case is rubberized so it feels rather different from anything ever I've ever carried. It's a tad smaller than the Air in footprint, but about twice as thick. It's about the same size in all dimensions as my tablet, but a bit heavier. All-in-all, the size seems OK, but it feels heavy. Without pulling out the scale, I'd say about 1.5 to twice the weight of my Air, but I'm curious -- let me get the scale out ... fascinating, the machines weigh in at: Air: 3 pounds, Tablet: 4 pounds 13 ounces, Chrome: 4 pounds 10 ounces. So, the air is lighter, but not by the 50-100% it seemed, and my tablet felt lighter even though it isn't.

Ok, let's boot it up! As you open it, the ChromeOS logo pops up and within just a few seconds you get to pick your language and wireless network. The keyboard is pretty similar to the Air, with the click built in to the touch pad -- I still have them separated, so this was kind of awkward for me, but I'm guessing that I'll grow to like it. Then again, the mouse feels sticky -- I can't move the cursor around smoothly -- it feels like it gets stuck and is somewhat irritating. Tried connecting to my home network, on which my Air is happily talking, but Chrome OS was unable to connect ... checked proxy settings and they were off, as they should be. I can still type from the Air onto the network, but ChromeOS can't connect, and it's completely unclear what else I can try. Guess I'll just try again ... aha -- after three tries, it worked. Yippee.

OK, signed in with my gmail account, decided not to take a picture (it's Saturday morning and I'm just not in profile-picture form, thank you very much). But, it was a cute way to demo that you have a camera here.

Now, I've never used Chrome before (I'm still a satisfied Safari user), so I guess I'll go poke around learning about that for a bit. (BTW -- mouse is driving me crazy ... just doesn't move smoothly.) I think I'll end this segment now and write more as I play more with the laptop and figure out what I like to do with it.