Still using my Chromebook

While I am quite bored with most new tech announcements (especially smartphones), I realize that I still care most about small affordable laptops or convertibles. Tablets are great, I enjoy Apples iPad Air, but it has its limits, and so do Android tablets – limits in productivity. Of course it is entirely possible to do blogging or almost every other task that doesn’t require special business software on a tablet – but it just isn’t a great experience. Well, most likely it is just unwillingness to adjust – when you can choose between using an application that you know since almost forever, or a new app, that maybe is – at least for the advanced stuff – a little complicated and does not grow on you within minutes, then you might find yourself wanting the experience that you are used to. At least that’s the case with me.

As the headline says I am still using my Samsung ARM Chromebook with 3G. It is my main laptop now, which seems strange, given the fact that an iPad Air or the LG G2 most likely deliver better (benchmark) performance than this laptop. And then there is this OS – Chrome OS. Well, nah – I mostly boot into Arch Linux ARM running from a 32 GB SDHC card. I made it so that it is almost just as user friendly1 and has a broad set of applications I am used to2. While it is definitely not the fastest computer under the sun, it performs decent enough – the keyboard, the touchpad, the screen, the overall performance – nothing is really top notch, but it is more than good enough for me. BTW: The killer feature is, still, the following: No fan = no (constant) noise.

While it is great to be able to take the SDHC card out of the Chromebook, boot it into Chrome OS, launch guest mode and hand it over to a random person in order to provide that person with a way to access the internet, it feels decidedly hacky. And I like to have the robustness of Chrome OS at hand, which BTW evolved notably since mid 2013. But then the real question is: Would I purchase another (next gen) ARM Chromebook, like one of the announced and soon shipping “SAMSUNG Chromebook 2” with 8-core Exynos?

The answer is: It is unlikely. While – as mentioned above – most things work, getting an ARM-powered laptop set up to work a 100% fine with GNU/Linux seems almost impossible today. Rather essential stuff like standby is hit and miss, from time to time my Chromebook doesn’t wake up properly. Accelerated graphics (I am not talking about gaming, but much rather of video playback) or using a newer kernel: Painful to impossible. And as fanless Bay Trail netbooks/subnotebooks become available out there, that – depending how well the UEFI plays with Linux – are supposedly almost painless in that regard I would rather go for one of these if I had to upgrade.

But fortunately I don’t have to. And so I am sticking to my XE303C12H01DE.

(More on laptops soon.)

  1. thanks to using XFCE with NetworkManager and Modem Manager []
  2. Starting from Firefox, including LibreOffice, Gimp, Inkscape and even great stuff like LyX for LaTeX. []

10 Days with Chromebooks

I now spent ten days with my  Chromebook. Pardon me, it is actually Chromebooks. It didn’t take me long to realize, that this is a device that is better off connected, and so I purchased yet another one, this time with 3G1.

I quickly went “Bleeding edge”. In fact, I find the development alphas stable enough. And I put my Chromebook in dev mode to crouton it. What I mean: I installed a Chroot environment of Ubuntu Raring (13.04) with LXDE. Works great, too, and it is certainly great to be able to run LibreOffice for some documents or Firefox for the fun of it2. On the other hand, I can’t get DVD playback (video) to work, which might actually a kernel related thing (I really have no idea), and so I will try out the other “real standard Linux” option, Chrubuntu, rather soon.

What else happened? Not much. The iPad is catching dust. I hate booting up my Thinkpad Edge3, because it is so heavy and has worse input devices. Unfortunately, it does not really feel much speedier, either. But let’s get back to the iPad. With the Chromebook loaded with my Data SIM (and thus the iPad 2 being forced on WiFi) the iPad is a lot less useful on the go. The only app I miss on the Chromebook is Salvatore Rizzi’s Reeder, but I could really move my data into one of the more beautiful Google Reader Feedly alternatives like Feedbin.

So the iPad is still in my daily bag. It is with me on the both commutes and during lunch break, but I rarely touch it. Everything I want to do works well enough on the Chromebook so I don’t bother taking the iPad out of my bag. In fact, I think that I will need to take my hacked Barnes&Noble Nook Simple Touch with me. A smaller form factor could actually add something. But then I might as well replace the Nook by something else…

  1. XE303C12-H01DE, as Samsung call it, the other one (slightly better build, slightly better screen, slightly better battery life) is going back where it came from (eBay) []
  2. Firefox on a Chromebook + Chrome on a Firefox OS smartphone… That would be fun. []
  3. Lenovo E320 []