About two and a half years ago, something happened in my technical life which has happened only a few times before. Like my first experience using a PC in 1985, and then when switching from Windows to OS X in 2005, and once more when I purchased the first iPhone in 2007, I experienced a complete change in what technology could offer to simplify my life with computers.
What happened you ask? ChromeOS happened. Of course, I was late to the party having only heard about Chromebooks, Chromeboxes and the world of ChromeOS in August of 2016.
This “new to me” operating system actually debuted in 2011 with several Chromebooks offered the same year and the first “made by Google” Pixel Chromebook going on sale in 2013 with a hardware refresh in 2015.
In September of 2016, I started my journey toward ChromeOS with a simple test. I would see if I could live in the Chrome browser without running any applications from my Windows Desktop or MacBook Pro for 30 days. I learned a lot from that experience. I learned all the things that Chrome could do that I didn’t know about, even though I’d been using Chrome as my primary browser for several years.
While I had used a few Chrome extensions, I didn’t realize that much of the work I was doing in Windows or Mac applications could be done with a web-based app or browser extension. I learned that I could run a web application in a window without the browser’s tabs or toolbars so that it felt more like a real application. And though I had used Gmail years ago and had a Google account dating back to November 2004, I was ignorant about the myriad of services, most of which were free, that Google had to offer.
So with some conviction that I might be able to switch to a simpler to manage OS, I started looking to purchase a Chromebook. My timing couldn’t have been worse. Just the month before, Google discontinued sales of the 2015 Google Pixel, and the prices for remaining stock and used units just seemed too high for my experiment.
After reading about other Chromebooks, I decided that the Acer Chromebook R11 with a 365 hinge and touchscreen fit my budget, $350, and would be a good starting point. It was love at first sight, or use, as I had never had a laptop that started so fast, was extremely lightweight and that could be folded back to use in tablet mode while reading and relaxing in my recliner. I started to read about three things Google included in their mantra about Chromebooks, the three S’s, speed, simplicity and safety, and as I started using the R11 as my daily driver, that mantra became real for me.
Speed – I’ve already mentioned how fast it was compared to my past experience. Starting from power on was unbelievable, as was a restart and reengagement upon opening the lid. In fact, I rarely shut the thing down, just closing and opening the lid to start computing.
Simplicity – It was, in fact, the simplest OS I’ve ever used. Now there was a bit of a learning curve in the beginning as I tried to find things I was used to with other OS’s, but I quickly found that there really wasn’t a lot that needed to be learned to perform daily tasks. To ensure I had all of the basics I spent some time reading the posts at Chromebook Central, Google’s primary community-based forum for Chrome OS. You can find the recently revamped site at https://support.google.com/chromebook/community/
Security – While it took some time to trust that this was a more secure computing environment than Windows or OS X, I did come to understand that this platform did not need the usual virus protection software that more times than not slowed my computers down, but was built with security in mind. Google outlines these security components better than I can in their Chromebook Security Help page.
While Google only includes the three S’s I’ve listed here, I believe there is a fourth S that should be included, and I’ll be detailing that in a future post.
Stay tuned, and thanks for reading, J
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