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Chromebook to play with

It’s a bit ironic that I was praising Microsoft’s cloud offerings just about a month ago, and then Google sends me a CR-48 netbook to pilot.  I suppose I am a good candidate to test out the CR-48 as I’m someone who is moving to “the cloud”.

I haven’t had much time to blog lately, mainly because I’m still behind at my day job.  Once I get caught up there (hopefully in the next month), I should have more time to blog again.  In the meantime, I’ll just blog when I have the time and strong inclination.

I think the CR-48 will be a nice tool for my blogging as I can tether it to my cell phone and avoid doing the mobile blog entries from my cell phone in the future.  I just never particularly cared for the moblogging from the cell phone – it is just too hard for me to create links, which is part of what I like about blogging.

I don’t have much time, but I figured I at least owe it to Google to give some first impressions, as they did give me a free netbook.  The netbook/laptop hardware is classic google with  no frills.  A functional and minimalistic design of a small, light, black netbook.  The screen and keyboard are decent.  There is only 1 USB port, but I’m not sure yet for what I’d use it as I don’t have a flashdrive and I don’t know if there are any peripherals that will work with this operating system.  I like touchpads, so I don’t need to plug in a USB mouse (which is one thing they say you can use with the USB port in the little bit of instructions I’ve read.  I have a lot to explore on that front.  There is also a VGA out port for an external monitor.

Interesting – I just noticed now that there is an SD card slot!  Now I know how I can upload photos/videos, but I’ll have to set it up to directly upload to Picasa (which I decided on as my place to store all of my photos and some videos – over Microsoft’s Skydrive).  There is also a headphone jack and the power jack.

There is also a built in camera and microphone just above the screen.  Very functional hardware for my purposes – as I spend a lot of my (free) time  on the web.  The above is all pretty typical netbook stuff.  The area where the CR-48 differs is with the few keyboard and touchpad changes.  The keyboard has a search key instead of a caps lock key (which you can program to go back to caps lock).  Instead of function keys, you have a browser forward, backward, and reload key, as well as a new tab and change tab key.  You also have a screen brightness keys and volume keys plus a power button.  Nothing too surprising.  I haven’t really used them too much.

The touchpad is also unique in that there are no buttons per se.  The entire touchpad is actually a pushable button, but you can left-click by just tapping the touchpad or pressing down firmly until it clicks.  To right-click, you push down with two fingers held apart a bit.  I still haven’t mastered that, but I can do it after a few tries usually.  An interesting option is the scroll feature – where you drag two separated fingers up and down on the touchpad to scroll like a scroll-wheel.

Oh – and the battery appears to have about 7 hours of life when fully charged.  I haven’t come close to testing that, but that will be very nice as I’m used to my 2 hour battery life on my other laptops.

The really different aspect of the netbook is the operating system, Google Chrome OS.  I had read a little bit about it and it is pretty much what I expected.  From my perspective, it is really just an operating system set-up to run the chrome browser and little more than that.  There are a few settings options, but not many.

When I first read about it, I thought I’d really be limited by only having a browser.  Interestingly, for all of my computer use the last two evenings, it has been completely adequate.  I can’t say that I’ve once had to open another computer to get something done.  I know that there are a few programs that I’ll want to do on a full computer, but those are rare events.  Since I’ve moved my most frequently accessed documents to “the cloud” already, I’ve found it easy to work with them on the CR-48.

One of the features I like so far is the instant on / off.  I’d seen the demos online but didn’t really appreciate how nice it is to open the netbook and have the browser ready to go.  You just close the lid to put it into sleep (almost instantly) and then opening it instantly turns it back on.  I think they say it takes just over 1 second to turn back on from sleep.

So far I think it is a nice web browsing tool and serves my purposes for most of what I do.  Mrs. F 2.0 actually monopolized it last night and she liked it.  She also hadn’t used a netbook before, and she liked the light weight compared to the laptops we usually used.  She also spends a lot of time online and can do pretty much everything she does most days on it.  She did give me a chance to use it more tonight, but I still have a lot of poking around to do.

My guess is that when Chrome netbook are released for sale they should be fairly inexpensive.  They will need to be in order to compete with Windows netbooks that can be more of a notebook replacement.  The CR-48 is great for having a handy browsing device around.  You can quickly open it, search for what you want, and keep it handy.  Unlike an iPad, you have a full keyboard which makes editing documents easy.  I’ve never been a fan of on-screen touch keyboards, so I can’t imagine trying to do a blog entry like this one on an iPad.

I’m very curious what the price point will be for one of these.  Obviously Google was willing to subsidize users to begin with as they are supposedly giving away 60,000 of these for the pilot program.  I’m guessing that Google figures they will get their money’s worth not just in press, word of mouth and feedback, but also I’m guessing that they are collecting browsing information of some type.  I know there was an option when I first turned this on to allow or disallow tracking and error reporting, and I did feel a little guilty not approving that option.  I’m guessing they still have some type of anonymous browser tracking statistics though.

I’m sure I’ll have more updates soon – and hopefully more one I catch up with my real work.

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