The other day I needed a smaller laptop than my monster HP laptop that does not fit in my lap when I’m riding my near-daily commuter train. When I took a look around I saw a small footprint laptop that pretty did exactly what I would do on the train and when running my blog, and that is interact with the internet and my websites.
I happened upon the incredibly inexpensive (for laptops) Chromebooks on Amazon. One of the two was the Acer C720 Chromebook (11.6 in, 2GB).
The Acer C720 Chromebook Features include:
- Built-in dual band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n
- Intel Celeron 2955U 1.4 GHz (Haswell micro-architecture)
- 16 GB Solid-State Drive (That’s code for internal USB stick!)
- 11.6-Inch Anti-Glare Screen, Intel HD Graphics
- HDMI port, 8.5-hour battery life
- 2 USB ports (One USB 2.0 and One 3.0 port)
- Chromebooks also has what they call “Built in security and Virus Protection,” via Google.
Literally, for ~$200 I picked up this 11 inch laptop and a bag for it, its powercord and wireless mouse. (I bought a wireless mouse to accent the operation of the laptop. (I am not the most touchpad friendly user. It is doable but I have to actually think to use it. Ug!)
First up, being a Google Chromebook, it would seem you need a Google account to run this web-based platform. For me that was no issue. I am rather integrated into the Google experience with my websites. Plus, Chrome IS the operating system. But it is one way that Google has found to bring even more people into their fold of users. (In other words, they’re trying to find the 100 or so people that haven’t used Google for one reason or another._
Being a sub 12-inch machine, space is at a premium. That’s code for a almost small keyboard. Despite the size, this is not that small as it is an almost a fully stocked keyboard. But there are a few things here and there that are missing or swapped out for space considerations.
I’m addicted to my F-keys, and they are missing (OMG!). In their place are these Chromebook Control Keys:
Key 1: Esc key
Key 2: Go to the previous page in your browser history
Key 3: Go to the next page in your browser history
Key 4: Reload your current page.
Key 5: Open your page in full-screen mode.
Key 6: Switch to your next window
Key 7: Decrease screen brightness
Key 8: Increase screen brightness
Key 9: Mute
Key 10: Decrease system volume.
Key 11: Increase system volume.
Key 12: Power
(Huh… had no clue what 2-6 were until I fond this. Cool!)
Where your caps lock key on the left would be is a dedicated search key.
What I did discover is that pressing the search key+1-12 replicates the F-key functions.
There is no page-up or page-down keys, but Alt-‘up’ and Alt-‘down’ replicate those keys
There is no ‘end’ key, but Ctrl-ALt-down replaces that.
There is no ‘home’ key, but Ctrl-Alt-up does that.
The forward delete function is done by pressing Alt-Backpsace.
And so on.
Notepad for Chromebook
The very next thing I encountered was my need for a basic text editor like NOTEPAD. Chrome does not come with that. I looked around to find something that would fit the bill.
First thing that came up was to open the browser and type “data:text/html, ” in the address bar. This actually starts a text editor in the browser. (Type it then bookmark it so you can bring it up if you need it)
But this editor isn’t quite as format-free as Notepad. Many of the text editors I encountered, Caret, Writebox, Text, Google Docs, Write Space, Scratchpad, and Drive Notepad treat text in different ways. My test was to copy some web content and paste into an app. What I was looking for was something that did not paste the actual images.
I ended up going with Text. The reason being that as I was testing, it was the one text editor that truly did not apply any formats that I picked up in my copy test. I did not test many, but this one met the bill right away.
“Text is a native (“v2″) app, so it runs directly on your Chrome OS device, and hence works great offline. It’s a plain and simple text editor – no syntax highlighting yet, but it’s fast and functional.”
I like the offline option also, for when I have no internet access.
I don’t always like how Chrome translates things I copy. It is a personal thing, so I thought I would look into installing FireFox web browser. It is on all my machines. I can’t say that any more.
Chrome has a mind of its own on this issue because this is its playground, so the open source web browser FireFox, or any other web browser for that matter, cannot be loaded.
Yahoo Email: Cycle Prohibited
My Yahoo email shortcut on my custom home page gave me a peculiar error when I tried getting into Yahoo, “Cycle Prohibited…”
All I had to do to was skip using my shortcut that I’ve been using for years and navigate directly to Yahoo and sign into my email that way.
As far as other apps go, if you are fine with Google apps online or Chrome extensions that work online and/or offline, then you will be fine.
Other facets or thoughts: The underlying meat to this beast is Linux, which is a billion percent more stable than any Windows OS. The operating system will always be looking to update itself so you should always have the latest and greatest version of the OS.
I tend to do quite a bit of photo tinkering to post to my sites. I was going to use Google’s Picasa but I’m leery because the last time I tried using it, it cataloged by entire hard drive on me, despite my trying to prevent it to. So I’m giving the online photo editor app, http://apps.pixlr.com/editor/, a try.
I am adapting nicely and I am impressed with how easy it is to use, considering how connected it is to what I do online.
I love the lack of moving parts (AKA, solid state drive), the super super quick boot up time when I open the top, the super long battery life (If I turn down the screen, I can get over ten hours out of the battery.), how freaky light it is and that it only cost almost $200.
These are not super-user or power-user machines, but these Chromebooks can give any other brand name laptops or tablets a run for their money.
For me, so far, so great. Light, small and cheap. Effective and hey, I constructed this entire article on our new Chromebook.
A few resources: