What is a Chromebook like to own?

tl;dr: It’s better than I thought it would be. You need just need to learn the tricks. Install crouton and Chrome Remote Desktop.

 

Over the past few months, I’ve been watching the ultrabook market for something that would have sufficient power, a day-long battery, and enough portability to allow me to carry it around comfortably.  I found ordered one (a Dell XPS 13) but after an issue with Dell mysteriously canceling my order and not being willing to tell me why, I was left without a viable option.

I started to reanalyze the options, ~1 month ago and started to wonder if I really needed to carry around something as powerful as a XPS 13.  I need a more powerful computer at home and at work but if I’m sitting at a coffeeshop, writing code, why would a i7 CPU and 8gb of RAM really be needed?  That’s when I started looking at a Samsung Chromebook.  I bought mine from best buy for under $220 (refurbished).  It came with 2gb of RAM, a 16gb SSD, and an ARM processor.  I specifically went for the ARM Chromebook because of it’s great battery (~8-9hrs).

ChromeOS Login Screen

I can hear you saying, “but Joe, Chrome OS is just a web browser!” You are only partially correct.  Chrome OS itself is basically just a web browser.  There are ways to deal with that, though.  Googler David Schneider created the ChRomium Os UbunTu chrOot enviroNment (aka Crouton).  It installs on-top of Chrome OS and allows you to run whatever linux apps you want (as long as you can find a compatible binary for the app).  It allows me to run Xfce without a problem.

ChromeOS CroshSuccesses:

Despite what you might think, I actually spend most of my time within Chrome OS (vs Xfce).  Chrome OS really does handle most of what I do.  Previously, I have used Hamachi and RDP to connect from my laptop to my various PCs.  Hamachi is not an option on Chrome OS but Chrome Remote Desktop does NAT traversal.

I was able to get pidgin and Hotot working within Xfce.  It wasn’t too hard.  I don’t think LibreOffice would be hard to install but I haven’t had a need for it yet.

Issues:

I kinda wish Sublime Text 2 and Flash were available as ARM binaries.  Flash works in Chrome OS but not in Xfce.  It means that if you want to listen to Pandora, you need to be within Chrome OS.  As for Sublime Text 2, there is always Nano as an alternative.  I’m debating installing Sublime Text in a VPS and just remoting into it for dev work.  I’m not sure yet, though.

Earlier versions of Chrome OS did not support ad-hoc networking.  As a result, out of the box, I couldn’t tether my Galaxy Nexus to my Chromebook.  I even ended up returning my first Chromebook, out of frustration.  It turns out that a firmware update on the Chromebook fixes the issue.

Right click on the track-pad doesn’t work (apparently by design).  If you need to right click, you hold down alt and then left click.

There is no home button or end button but ctrl+alt+up and ctrl+alt+down work as adequate replacements.

Final Thoughts:

This will never be my only PC but it is quickly becoming my primary PC.  The 8+ hour battery is awesome.  I’m never going to be able to run apps like TurboTax on it but that is what my windows PC is for.  I am afraid to say it but I am starting to understand why someone might buy a Pixel.

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