• Chromebook

    27 April 2019
    Tags: cloud 
     

    Why switch to Chrome OS
    My main home computer for the past 10 years has been a Ubuntu Linux machine. It served me well but was always lacking good Google service integration. This led me to eventually switch back to Windows, Windows 10 Pro specifically. My main personal laptop eventually became outdated and I wanted something different. The latest line of Chromebooks looked appealing because they are secure, well integrated with Google services, and can run Linux apps. I no longer require a powerful home computer now that cloud services can do almost everything I need. Portability and convience is more important.

    Don’t get me wrong, I really like Windows and Ubuntu. I use both OSs at work. But home is a different story with different requirements. I basically need a cheap and simple computer for basic tasks with some occasional software development. A simple home computer that just works is nice to have when your working life consists of fixing IT problems and coding. Chromebooks appear to just work.

    Which Chromebook
    I decided that the HP Chromebook x360 G1 was my best option.

    The Pixelbook looked great but was a bit overpriced. The ASUS Flipbook looked nice too but I couldn’t find one with the specs I desired. My biggest problem with picking a Chromebook was choosing the right specs. This isn’t the same as a Windows or Linux PC. Storage is less important but still important. I’d recommend at least 64GB if you want to run Android and Linux apps. 128GB might be nice for the long term but SD card support keeps improving, so 64 should be OK.

    A quick break down of space, after setting up a reasonable collection of apps:
    chromeos storage

    Installed: A few android apps (Spotify, Crytomator, Snapseed, Authenticator Plus, Microsoft RDP), Linux (VSCode, Python, Git, Seahorse, gedit) and some simple PWAs

    You can always add an SD if you must store lots of media / files locally for some reason, but it really isn’t an issue if you are always online. Instant tethering makes using your mobile phone for data almost too easy.

    This should give you a good idea of how far storage goes.

    CPU is important too, but less critical then I assumed it would be, an i5 should be more then enough. Memory matters too, I’d say 8 GB is desirable for Linux usage, but 4 GB should be fine for just Chrome and Android. Linux runs in a VM, and VMs need their own memory.

    PWAs, Linux and Android
    Chrome OS is nice and simple, but the addition of Android complicates things a bit. I really like that Android fills the small gap that progressive web apps cannot. I am glad that Cryptomator, Microsoft RDP, OpenVPN, Snapseed, Spotify, and Google Home are all supported. I know that Spotify can be used in the browser, but I found it wasn’t great for controlling Chromecast audio, (the Android version does this well).

    The main problem I have with Android, is that it feels very separate. Files, settings, and everything else all have their own places. It feels alot like the way Windows does, with the new and classic control panels. I know everything can't and should not be unified, but some unification would help. Unless Android is just a passing phase before PWAs can do it all, or Google cooks up something better. We will have to wait and see. Obviously it's something I'd rather have, even in this form, so I'll deal with it.

    Linux is what really drew me to ChromeOS. The feature is currently in beta, but it is good enough to build a simple development environment. Things will only get better over time, once USB and audio are supported. It is also nice that Linux apps run in a secure container, this keeps a nice separation between development work, and the rest of your computer.

    Summary
    A Chromebook can be a great home computer, for someone who needs a cheap, reliable, and portable machine. You never really have to worry much about backups, updates, or security. It is very easy to set up your system and get stuff done. This might not work for everyone, but I am really enjoying it so far.