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Friday, January 23, 2015

Fun with Chromebook

Chromebook connected to desktop display.
I am being enfolded in the Google's loving embrace / sucked into the vortex of unending torment that is the fate of all Googlers. I refuse to pay Apple's inflated prices, unless it's for my family. I've never liked Microsoft, but it was cheap and easy. Linux is lovely, but who's got the time to spend sorting out all the dribs and drabs? I suppose if you were brought up on it, it might be okay, but if you want to get anything done (on the front side anyway) it's more trouble than it's worth. If you are working on the back end, well, there probably isn't anything better, at least if you are broke.
      Along comes Google. First we get the search engine with no ads on the opening page. Then we get gmail. No installation, no backups, get to it from anywhere, and the reading format makes sense. Then I started a blog, and not wanting to spend any energy evaluating the various blog programs, I took the easy way and started using Google's Blogger. Then I got a camera and I needed something to handle the pictures. I did look around a bit here, but Picasa had some advantages, so one more step into Googledom.
     Now I'm traveling and I need a laptop. Last Windows laptop I bought cost somewhere north of a grand and did not even last two years before it crapped out. Effing HP. What about a Chromebook? Last year's refurbished Toshiba (with better than average speakers) was $200 from Amazon, delivered. As Senator Clay Davis from The Wire says: Sheet. That's a no brainer, son.
     So I took the Chromebook to Buenos Aires with me and it worked fine. It helps that I was in a modern city with high speed wireless internet available. I'm pretty sure it was via the cable TV company, because uploading pictures took actual time, not like what I get at home with 'whoever it is this week but it's not the cable company'. They don't get a mention because they are now like a utility. It generally works and if it doesn't, calling them isn't going to change a thing.
      Problems? I've had a few. The biggest one is that it's a laptop, and trying to type on a laptop sitting on a table for more than about 15 minutes is painful in the extreme. This may be a personal problem. Setting the Chromebook on an empty 3" ring binder helps immensely. Even though I have plugged in a mouse, I haven't bothered to take the time to figure out how to turn off the touchpad, so sometimes when I am in the middle of doing something important something weird will happen and I will have to stop, look around and figure out how to get back to where I was. Since I didn't do anything wrong, and the Chromebook doesn't have any bugs, it must have been the touchpad messing things up, right?
     The keyboard doesn't have a:
  • PAGE DOWN or
  • DEL
keys, and the arrow keys are half-size. The worst part about the keyboard is that it is different than the Dell I have been using for years. I'm looking at them now and the differences are pretty small. It may just be a combination of a slightly different size and spacing, but it makes even plain old typing a bit of an adventure. If there was just some tactile feedback so you could tell whether you were pressing the alt, ctrl or shift keys. That way your fingers could learn even if you could never remember. And by you I mean me. You would never have these kinds of problems, I am sure.
    Just for grins I plugged in my desktop display into the Chromebook's video port, and as you can see the wallpaper shows up fine. You will also notice that the logon box (the white square in the middle of the Chromebook display) does not show up on the desktop display. The mouse cursor only shows up on the desktop display. So we won't be using the desktop display. There was an amazing part to this and that was that I had a cable on hand that worked. Will miracles never cease?
     The 'better than average speakers' I spoke of earlier do have a slight problem, and that is that it takes both the YouTube volume control and the Toshiba volume control in order to get the volume you want. Some audio tracks are so soft you need to turn both up all the way, and for others you need to turn the big one down to a half or a quarter in order to have a usable control range with the YouTube control. That is all for now.

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