the myIT blog

To Chromebook, or not to chromebook...

Here are our thoughts after a few weeks with a new chromebook... it was not for us

Our use case may be different but realize Chrome is not Android. 

  • Netflix. OK, not really a business app but still it didn't run for a couple of weeks because we were in developer mode (not). Eventually flipping back and forth between their stable/beta and developer channel brought us to a version where Netflix works. What happens with the next update?
  • When you download files you can't rename them before opening. i.e. A file names file.cfg wont open even though it is plain text. You can't rename the file. You have to upload it to Google docs, then open it. It's somewhat laborious. If you could rename it, you could open it instead of dancing with it.
  • Occasionally we have the need to serially connect to ancillary network equipment. NO WAY we can do that with Chromebook, there is no USB to RS232 driver or app for that. So carry a second computer along... just for that.
  • As with the serial connection there is a need to telnet (or ssh). SSH can be achieved with a free app in the Chrome Webstore. But if you do not have an SSH server locally to connect to then telnet FROM, you're out of luck (again).
  • The device boots up fast! I'm not happy with the battery life, no where near advertised. When I shut my device off, then open the cover, the power light stays on. That bothers me thinking the firmware has a bug and there is no apparent BIOS option to fiddle with settings.
  • When browsing and using it as a consumer device, the Chrome browser crashes using even the stable channel A LOT. That's a real timesucker.
  • They give you a lot of storage on some devices in google drive, but since you cant manipulate files locally a whole lot, they pretty much have to give you some storage that allows this. The bandwidth is still pretty much on you and it still seems punitive and not efficient.

So although it has a keyboard and boots extremely fast, it is STILL a web browser, and one that crashes a lot! With only 6-8 pages open it simply shuts down, restoring paging doesn't log you back in to all your pages. It seems it could be better and does not happen with Chrome in the same frequency as "gasp" a Windows machine! The Chrome Webstore is sparse in comparison to Google's Play Store. Trying to shore up the OS by using even more impressive hardware makes no sense to us.  Even as a sparse function Operating System, it's really rough around the edges.

As for the new Google Pixel... 1,300.00 dollars for a laptop with a touchscreen? It's STILL just a web browser in reality. It's a Chromebook, not a notebook, laptop or ultrabook.

The unanswered questions (for us) are:

  1. Is driver support for Linux or Windows for the hardware so we can fdisk  the SSD so we can actually use it for real work?
  2. Should we see if HP will take it back? (They did, no questions asked as soon as we started talking about the battery life)
  3. What the heck is Google thinking? They have mis-stepped badly with the Galaxy Nexus on Verizon and really jeopardized the Nexus moniker. Now they have multiple (at least 4) manufacturers of chrome "blessed" devices and they experiences vary far to greatly.
  4. The new Chromebook Pixel is going to be available with a Verizon LTE subscription (limited monthly use) built in (one variant anyway). Why not release both models at the same time? Why not support some USB drivers for aircards (USB modems)?
  5. What they heck are they doing with Motorola mobility? Motorola has yet to ship anything really impressive since the purchase. At the same time, Google hasn't had much luck in showing the value of the Motorola patent portfolio in court, and Apple has them on the ropes still. They should have not entered the stalking horse bid on the Nortel patents and actively pursued that portfolio purchase, they really miscalculated that one and it will cost them for years.

Maybe when ChromeOS grows up it will meet our needs. If all you need is basic consumer'ish stuff, it might suffice for you assuming they can stabilize the platform. Based on the basic browser functionality we doubt it will be very satisfying to consumers, at least for now. 

UPDATE - The small samsung chromebook heavily advertised for 249.00 is something we're fonder of than the last HP we sent back. We've also been testing with a Chromebox. In the meantime, we tried to use the Google (paid) policy to sent a profile down to the device to do the following things:

  • Set the homepage
  • Start the browser in full screen mode
  • Start as guest account, no login required
  • Set a VLAN on the Ethernet interface (seems not possible in any way)

None of these would work. Google still has a LONG way to go.

It's also worth mentioning that the Samsung form factor is really cool but it SUCKS because there is no mounting methods for it (i.e. VESA, etc.). Again, not really sure if the Chrome guys are baking halfway or maybe they are just design geeks and don't manage any networks with devices or how much Samsung pays attention to the details, but they are surely missing a lot of them on Chrome (so far).