Sunday, February 6, 2011

Drinking the Chrome Kool-Aid

The end of December brought a special holiday surprise to my house. My family had just returned from a short vacation, coming home right before the Christmas. Amid the mail that had piled up in our absence was an inconspicous box, which I assumed to be a late arriving holiday present I had ordered.

I was almost right about that.

It turned out that my desperate pleas to the folks in charge of the Google Chrome Netbook distribution plan were heard after all. I had been given a Cr-48, the test computer for the new Chrome operating system (Chrome OS). I had no advance notice from Google that I had gotten a golden ticket, it just showed up. I am the only non-press person I know with one of these machines, and I was (and still kinda am) ecstatic.

In exchange for getting one of these units, I pledged to use it as my primary computer, which means living exclusively in the Chrome web browser. For those not familiar with the ChromeOS vision, there is no software on this machine in the traditional sense of the word. The operating system provides you with a web browser, and everything else you need comes to you via the browser. Word processing in the browser, presentation software in the browser, and of course, the web in the browser.

With the help of some key Chrome Apps and Extensions, the experiment thus far has been a rousing success. My primary, non-work needs have been met very well. There are bugs, to be sure, as with any beta product not yet released for purchase. I wasn't able to use the Slide Rocket for a presentation in class, for example, because I couldn't get the remote mouse to advance the slides. Everything else with the presentation worked.

Here's where it gets fun.

Last week, my PC refused to boot into Windows 7 properly. I'm not sure what I'd done, but I break operating systems through unadvised tinkering on a fairly regular basis. So I decided to install a clean copy (I hadn't done that since Windows 7 launched, probably about time anyway). I got my nice, fresh copy of Windows running and then began my usual software installation process. I got Office 2010 on and updated, as there are some times I still really want the full Office product. I installed Chrome beta, and it synced to everything that was installed on my Cr-48, as it promised to do.

Then I stopped.

Did I really need anything else? I installed my printer. OK, really, what else, now? Microsoft Security Essentials. OK. Anything else? It was two days before I discovered I had failed to install a .pdf reader, so installed that. And Dropbox. And my PC has been humming like never before. No bloated software demanding unnecessary updates. No extra anything in my task manager. Just Chrome, a few essentials, and I'm on my way.

I should note that I've had a particularly good year for getting new tech toys to play with. I won an iPad at a conference Tweet-off. I got a new Android phone. So it occurred to me I have Windows 7, Ubuntu (dual boot on my PC), iOS on the iPad, Android on my phone, and ChromeOS on my netbook. With all those options, what I really want is my browser that syncs across every device. I even gave up using Outlook for home (I still have it at work) and live in the Apps email client.

I've moved to fanboy status. Kool-Aid = consumed.

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