The Chromebook Test: Living In Google Chrome For A Month (Conclusion)


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Well the month is up and I’ve fallen in love with the Chromebook concept, as they’re more affordable than the Windows powered Ultrabooks on the market & the MacBook Air.

The big selling points in my opinion are:

  1. Lightweight & Portable
    Chromebooks are more lightweight and portable than Netbooks that are on the market and have a bigger screen and keyboard making them easier to use.
  2. Affordable Computing
    They are more affordable than Ultrabooks that use Windows 8.1 or the MacBook Air meaning that anyone can afford one.
  3. Don’t have to re-install all Applications or Drivers when re-install Chrome OS
    All your Applications saved in your Google Account meaning that if you buy a new Chromebook or do a factory reset everything just syncs back to your Chromebook, & you don’t need Hardware Drivers for all the Hardware in your Chromebook.

Storage Upgrade

The only drawback to a Chromebook is the measly 16GB of SSD Storage meaning that you don’t get much space to store files locally & with the internal SSD being of a super slimline portable format to a regular SSD you can’t go to PC World or an independent Computer shop and buy an SSD to upgrade and it’s probably going to take a bit of searching online to find anywhere to get an upgrade from. I found a website that makes the form factor SSD’s used in Chromebooks, but they only do 128GB which is still on the small side compared to a regular 2.5″ Laptop SSD that can go up to 240GB of Storage, and the retailers that sell the Chromebook size SSD’s only seem to be USA, Australian or Chinese based meaning that if you live in Europe you’ll be having to wait a while for one to arrive and will possibly have to deal with import duty if you purchase one meaning that it could be a costly upgrade.

Usage

The reliance of being online all the time to do anything that can’t be done offline means that you’ll need to have a MiFi unit or Mobile Phone with Tethering when you’re away from home or anywhere without an Internet connection.

Chrome Web Store

One big problem that’s not to do with Chromebooks or Chrome OS/Chromium OS is the rather poorly designed Chrome Web Store that says that all Apps are Free even if they’re only limited trials that then need an ongoing Subscription, or in the case of some games on the Chrome Web Store needing an in Game Purchase to unlock the game fully.

This can  be a bit miss leading especially if you install a game and get nearly all the way to the end and find that you can’t complete it without an in-game purchase to unlock the full game.

Chromium OS on none Chromebook Hardware

The drawbacks of using Chromium OS on none Chromebook Hardware are.

  1. There is no Search Key on none Chromebook Hardware Keyboards
    The lack of a Search key means that even if you set the Search key within Chrome Settings nothing happens, but you can disable the CAPS LOCK Key.
  2. Still Heavy and lacks portability
    Making your own Chromebook using Chromium OS still means that you’ve got the lack of portability and weight of the Laptop you’ve used unless you use a pre Windows 8/8.1 Ultrabook.
  3. Poor Battery life
    You still have the Battery life of the Laptop you’ve used, but you do get a slight increase in Battery life over Windows or Linux, but you can always purchase an extra battery or two and swap them out as required.
  4. A redundant internal CD/DVD Drive
    You’ve got a CD/DVD Drive built into your Laptop that you’ll probably never use while using Chromium OS & I’m not even sure if an internal IDE CD/DVD Drive will even work within Chromium OS.
  5. Lack of Flash Player Support
    Adobe Flash Player isn’t supported in Chromium OS so you’ll struggle to watch most YouTube Videos and won’t be able to listen to music on Google Play Music.
  6. Lack of Media Support
    mp3,mp4 and some other Media Codecs aren’t supported meaning that you’ll not be able to listen to locally stored music or watch locally stored videos.

Conclusion

If you want a distraction free work environment to write letters, create Spreadsheets & Presentations along with check your email & social Networks e.t.c then Chromium OS is the ideal OS for you, but if you need full Media & Flash Player support then you’re better off just getting a Chromebook (which I’ll be doing at some point in the future).

Roland

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The Chromebook Test: Living In Google Chrome For A Month (1 Month Review)


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I originally intended this series to chart a month of me living entirely in the Google Chrome Web Browser then do another month of me living in Chromium OS via a virtualbox Chromium OS Virtual Machine, but after not being able to get the Chromium OS Virtual Machine to work properly I decided to go and nuke my Windows 7 Ultimate Install and use Chromium OS only.

This post will review my two weeks of living in the Google Chrome Web Browser & one week living in Chromium OS.

Two weeks of living in the Google Chrome Web Browser

The two weeks of living in the Google Chrome Web Browser was easy, but it provides the option to go back to Windows 7 Ultimate with it being at its heart, and things like being able to take Screenshots had to use Windows Paint to save them . I even themed my Windows install to look a little like Chrome OS to help with the experiment.

Chrome OS Styled Windows 7 Desktop, Showing Windows 7 Taskbar

Chrome OS Styled Windows 7 Desktop, Showing Windows 7 Taskbar

Working with a Chrome OS themed Desktop helped with the experience a little, and the two weeks I spent living with this setup was enough to convince me to have a look at living solely in Chrome OS and attempt to Install Chromium OS.

Two weeks of living solely in Chromium OS

My two weeks of living in Chromium OS has been really easy as I’ve not had any distractions from Windows or Windows Programs.

Chromium OS/ Chrome OS Desktop

Chromium OS/ Chrome OS Desktop

Chromium OS is more minimalistic & lightweight than Windows with my 1TB HDD having 908.2GB of free space left when I’d first booted into Chromium OS. The Chromium OS Desktop isn’t as cluttered as the Windows 7 Desktop with just your Desktop Wallpaper and the Taskbar (Known as the Shelf in Chrome OS/Chromium OS), Chromium OS also has a fast Boot time along with a fast Shutdown time which means there is no need for a Hibernate function like in Windows, you also are more productive as you’re not waiting as long for the OS to boot.

Battery life is also increased, but not to the quoted level that you get with official Chromebooks, there is also the lack of updates that you will get with official Chromebooks & Flash Player doesn’t work in Chromium OS. Sound will vary depending if you have a Sound Card that’s compatible with Chromium OS (Which the Sound Card on my Toshiba Laptop isn’t compatible with Chromium OS) Sound actually works in Chromium OS, it was that I was using my USB Microsoft Life-Chat Headset that doesn’t seem to work with Chromium OS/Chrome OS and will need an official Chromebook to verify if USB sound Cards & Headsets are supported or not.

Printing in Chromium OS

Printing is handled via Google Cloud Print in Chromium OS, so as long as you’ve got a Google Cloud Print ready Printer or a spare Computer with the Chrome Web Browser Installed to use as a Print Server you’ll have no problem Printing in ether Chrome OS or Chromium OS (a feature that I’ve not used from my Chromium OS Install yet) Your Google Documents will print perfectly fine within Chromium OS but pictures don’t printout without having to first create a Google Document and inserting pictures into it (shouldn’t have to use this work around for pictures on an official Chromebook, but without having a Chromebook to hand I’m unable to test this out).

Applications in Chrome OS/Chromium OS

There is a wide choice of  applications that can be Installed in Chrome OS/Chromium OS, from the Chrome/Chromium Web Store. Chrome OS/Chromium OS Applications aren’t traditional Applications and are just bookmarks to Websites.

All the Google Services are present such as Google Search, GMail (including GMail Offline) Google Calendar, Google Keep, Google Maps, Google Drive/Docs (With Offline Support), Google Play (Music, Books, Play Website), along with a large list of other third Party Services such as Microsoft Outlook (outlok.com) and Games. If you’re a Microsoft Office user you’ll need to use the Microsoft Office Website (http://office.microsoft.com) and use the Microsoft Office Web Apps.

If you need more powerful Software such as Adobe PhotoShop, Premier Pro, After Effects e.t.c then your out of look as there are only basic photo editing Applications, unless you can find Online services that allow you to do what you want you’ll be out of look.

Files in Chrome OS/Chromium OS

before you start using Chrome OS/Chromium OS you’ll need to make sure that your files are on a FAT 32 formatted external HDD, USB flash drive, SD Card or online using Microsoft SkyDrive, Dropbox, Box or Google Drive otherwise you’ll not be able to use them when you switch.

Storing your files on Google Drive is the easiest option as there is Google Drive support built right into the Chrome OS/Chromium OS File Browser. Chrome OS/Chromium OS allows you to store your files locally. In the case of Chromium OS you’ll have whatever is left of your HDD/SSD after you’ve Installed Chromium OS. If you’re using an official Chromebook then you’ll have whatever is left of the 16GB SSD that’s installed.

Chrome OS/Chromium OS has limited offline video & music playback functionality and some basic photo editing as well as limited Document creation & editing using Google Drive Offline.

Media Playback in Chromium OS

Previous Articles

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2
  3. Part 3
  4. Part 4
  5. Part 5
  6. Part 6
  7. Part 7
  8. Part 8
  9. Part 9
  10. Part 10
  11. Part 11
  12. Part 12
  13. Part 13
  14. Part 14
  15. Part 15
  16. Part 16
  17. Part 17
  18. Part 18
  19. Part 19
  20. Part 20
  21. 3 Week Review
  22. Part 21
  23. Part 22
  24. Part 23
  25. Part 24
  26. Part 25
  27. Part 26

Roland

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The Chromebook Test: Living In Google Chrome For A Month (Part 26: 1 Day To Go)


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With only one day left on this experiment and another two posts at most to go, it’s been a great experience using Chromium OS and even though my fake Chromebook doesn’t have the Battery life of a real Chromebook and there isn’t a working search key on the keyboard and some other things that I’ll discuss in the final part that will come possibly on Friday (depending how quickly I get it written).

Chromium OS is a pleasure to use, with its lightweight UI that makes it lightning fast, the only thing that’s really holding Chrome OS back is the need to be online all the time, meaning that people who have used Computers since the early days of the Internet won’t want to rely on keeping everything online, especially with the small amount of SSD space for local storage.

I’ll go into more detail in my Conclusion Post that’s to come.

Chromium OS Desktop

Roland

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The Chromebook Test: Living In Google Chrome For A Month (Part 25)


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Chrome Web Store

The Chrome Web Store is chock full of Apps, Themes, & Extensions, & the Web Store will probably have an Application that you need or use from Google Drive to games such as Angry Birds & Solitaire.

The Extensions range from Ad Blockers to Twitter Notifications, & there is Google Chrome Themes (Chromium & Chrome Web Browser not Chromium or Chrome OS Themes).

But there is a big problem in that it doesn’t always define what Applications are free and which need to be paid for via in App purchase’s such as Monthly or Yearly subscriptions. If Google want to see a big take up of Chromebooks then they really need to address this, as Installing an Application on the basis of it being advertised as free could leave some people feeling ripped off.

If the Android Google Play Store can say which Applications are free and which are paid for then why can’t the Chrome Web Store? Surely it would be easy to implement, & even get any Subscription info in the Applications description.

Chrome Applications may just be glorified Bookmarks, but it would make perfect sense to display any pricing within the App listing so people know what to expect when downloading, especially when it comes to games where you can get really into the game only to find that you have to pay to unlock the rest of the game.

Chrome Web Store Application Listing Page.

Chrome Web Store Application Listing Page.

Roland

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The Chromebook Test: Living In Google Chrome For A Month (Part 24)


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Applications in Chrome OS/Chromium OS

There are 1000’s of Applications, Extensions & Themes in the Chrome Web Store and unlike Games (Also falls under Apps) they all state whether you have to buy them, unless they’re subscription based where you get a free trial or limited feature free version or if they’re totally free, Google really needs to bring more parity into the Chrome Web Store and display if there is a cost involved with a Game as a lot of the games what I’ve tried aren’t free at all but are a Demo version where you have to buy the game to continue.

I’ve even played a game early on in my experiment in living in Google Chrome that let me get all the way to the end, but I was then unable to complete the game without purchasing, the Game is Murder Files (which I’m now unable to find).

Roland

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The Chromebook Test: Living In Google Chrome For A Month (Part 23)


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Gaming in Chrome OS/Chromium OS

Gaming in Chrome OS/Chromium OS is in the Chrome/Chromium web browser, so is mostly small simple games in HTML 5 like Solitaire,

Solitaire game selection screen.

Solitaire game selection screen.

A new game of Klondike Solitaire.

A new game of Klondike Solitaire.

A game of Klondike Solitaire in progress.

A game of Klondike Solitaire in progress.

but there are more complex 3D games. along with a large list in the Chrome Store that I’ve not  looked at yet.

The only thing is that some of the games although they are marked as Free actually need an in App style purchase to Unlock the Full game, but this can be highly miss leading as it makes you think that a game is free when it’s actually a demo of the game.

So far out of the games that I’ve had chance to try Solitaire seems to be the best of the bunch & Cut The Rope seems to be the worst as it doesn’t really translate out of Mobile gaming due to the lack of Touch screen Chrome Devices & that it’s probably going to be a pain in the rear getting Chromium OS running on a Touch screen Windows 8/8.1 Ultrabook.

Roland

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The Chromebook Test: Living In Google Chrome For A Month (Part 22)


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British On Demand services & Chromium OS

The BBC’s on Demand service iPlayer along with itv’s itv Player, Channel 5’s Demand5 & Channel 4’s 4od are other video service that are not able to be used on Chromium OS due to the lack of Flash Player support, even though the Adobe Flash Player website says that Flash Player is installed.

This means that if you use video services such as YouTube as well as listen to music on Google Play Music on a daily basis using Chromium OS isn’t recommended, but if you do none media playback stuff then Chromium OS is recommend, but if you do a mixture of Media Playback & none Media Playback on a daily basis then I’d recommend using Chromium OS only as a test to see if you could live with a Chromebook on a daily basis.

Roland

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