Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Dave Ghidiu

In Defense of the Chromebook!

Today, I'm all about the Chromebook. I think it's really a misunderstood piece of technology. Techy educators love them, Mac users lament them, and everyone else is caught in the crossfire and do not know who to trust.

I've been a Chromebook user for about a year now. And I love it.

They are cheap, reliable, productive, and logical.

And sexy.

I was reminded of just how wonderful Chromebooks are, as I received my second one from Amazon this week. I had been using the Samsung Chromebook for about a year, but I was tired of shuttling it between work and home (such a hardship to port a computer that clocks in at just under 2.5 pounds).

So it was a good excuse to buy the Acer C720 ($269 for the 4GB RAM version). I won't go into the nerdy details (look them up at Amazon if you're interested), but it's sleek, fast, and the touchpad is awesome.


For starters, it's cheap. My Samsung was $250 last year, and I snagged the Acer 720 (4GB model) for $269 last week. And feature rich. Both of them have solid state hard drives, web cams, SD slots, USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports, and HDMI out. All that is pretty sick for a light computer.
Now I can be twice as productive!

Instead of drooling over how beautiful the machine is, I thought it would be appropriate to defend the Chromebook against all the Negative Nancies out there.

Hot Swappable
Since all work and information (including bookmarks, extensions, and profile information) is stored in the cloud, Chromebooks are nothing more than gateways. If you break or lose your Chromebook, just log into another one, and you won't skip a beat. Everything will be there. If you don't really leverage the potency of Google Chrome or Google Drive, then you probably won't see the value in a Chromebook. But I suggest you start using Google Drive. The gateway mentality is especially useful in classrooms, where computers can break. With Chromebooks, there is virtually no disruption of workflow.

Battery Life
My Acer goes strong for about 7.5 hours, and my Samsung can do about 6 hours. Perfect for the workday (I use my desktop while in my office, but my Chromebook for all my meetings). Extended battery life is great for schools, too.

Quick Boot Up
Both computers go from a shut-down to fully operational in under 10 seconds (the Acer can do it in about 6). From sleeping, the time is closer to 3 seconds for both computers. When I taught Computer Science at a local high school, older computers could take 10 minutes to boot up (and then install updates). Speaking of updates, the Chromebook doesn't really have any noticeable updates (yeah, there are updates, but they are automatic and blazing fast).

Cloud-based Paradigm
There is a lot of collateral learning that occurs with a Chromebook, mostly on file storage and living in the cloud. Naysayers claim that cloud-living isn't safe or effective. To them, I point out that email with web access, bank statements, and a host of other services are cloud-based; chances are you've been living in the cloud without even knowing it. And regardless of if you want to be living in the cloud or not, you probably will be using it in the future. It will slowly creep it's way into your life, bit by bit, piece by piece. One day, you will wake up and realize that most of what you do is in the cloud. And on that day, you will be complete (and you'll think back to today, and wish you had bought a Chromebook). A major criticism of the Chromebook is that "it can't work without internet access". This is not true - a Chromebook can't access the internet without internet access, but it can run offline. Many apps are designed to allow offline work (and upload when connection is restored).

Productive
The most polarizing aspect of the Chromebook is the production value that it provides. Critics argue Chromebooks are only for glorified web browsing. I, however, disagree. I think it's perfect for most people. I work in education, and almost everything I need can be done on the Chromebook. Sometimes people will ask about loading Microsoft Office on to their Chromebook. The answer is no - but that shouldn't be a deal breaker! My snarky answer is, "Why do you need Office? Google Docs functions just as well, but are easier to collaborate with and are more portable". But my follow-up answer is that Microsoft has a cloud equivalent - Microsoft SkyDrive - that allows you to work on Microsoft Office documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote) online. For free! And it totally works from a Chromebook.


Using Microsoft SkyDrive on a Chromebook
Word to your Chromebook.

I find that I can do some light coding from www.compileonline.com, as well. In many different languages. I don't code for a living (if I did, I'd use a fully featured IDE on a sweet production machine), but this is really slick as a cloud solution:


http://www.compileonline.com/ as a platform to code in the cloud
Coding in the cloud!

I'm not a power user with Adobe Photoshop, but I use it enough to consider myself an average user. It's great if you have a solid computer and a license for it. Orrrrrr.... you could use Pixlr. This cloud based photo editing software is surprisingly fully featured, and I use it for whatever editing I need (there is also an "express" version that helps for frames, effects, and other quick fixes). Oh yeah, and it ties in to Google Drive seamlessly

http://pixlr.com/ as a photo editor
Happy sailors!

There are merely just a taste of the things you can do completely online. Take a look at your daily tasks. If it is just using a web browser, Office, and some other software that has a cloud equivalent, you should really consider a Chromebook (my favorite, to date, is the Acer c720 with 4GB of RAM). It's a game changer in the sense that you'll be happy to carry around a cheap, lightweight, fully functional device with a long battery life that is more productive than an iPad (I forgot to mention that the Chromebook can process sites with Flash).

Don't get me wrong - I have an iPad. And I like it. I use it a lot. But it doesn't have the production quality of my Chromebook. I can't navigate as well. I can't leverage Google Drive as well. I can't multitask as well. I love the iPad for presenting and consuming, but not for producing.

In addition to Pixlr, CodingOnline, and SkyDrive, the Chrome Web Store has hundreds of high quality apps that are free (some cost money, but most are free). And you can find extensions and desktop apps there. I have apps for almost everything I do (video editing, video conversion, PDF creating/editing, audio editing, etc.).

I own nine computers, but the Chromebook (despite it's cheap price) is my preferred option. I can do everything I need with it. Everything I do for my blog is done with a Chromebook (web browser, Snagit to get screen shots, Pixlr to edit them).

If you are a graphic designer, desktop publisher, or video editor, you probably have software and a machine that works for you. You probably wouldn't use a Chromebook for most of your work tasks. But if you are like me (pretty nerdy with a lot of interests but not talented enough to use the Adobe suite everyday), then grab a Chromebook.

You'll thank me next year when you wake up and realize you live in the cloud. 

Dave Ghidiu

About Dave Ghidiu -

Dave Ghidiu is a Senior Instructional Designer for Open SUNY.

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John Ghidiu
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December 4, 2013 at 12:48 PM delete

Chromebooks ARE misunderstood. I would also emphasize that they are *undervalued*. Anyone in charge of purchasing decisions in the education world should be thinking VERY hard about investing in Chromebooks. Not only are they more than sufficient for all but specialized classes, the downtime for repair is limited to the time it takes to boot up a replacement. Also consider the initial hardware cost is extremely low - coupled with smaller and smaller budgets, it just makes a LOT of sense.

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