The Reality of Chromebooks/OS – Not as limited as you think!

My family PC finally took its last gasp last night.  It’s GPU fan finally packed in, but then after about 4 years of being “always on” and used nearly every day, its done very well.  I would have liked to have simply whipped the cover off the machine and replace the fan myself, its not an expensive repair and simply done.  I couldn’t do that.  Why? Because one of the caveats of a cheap desktop machine and an onboard GPU/card, there is no room to get access to the device without destroying parts of the PC.  I suppose this is the drawback of “disposable tech”.

So with that in mind I went armed with my trusty debit card to our local store.  What I found was a collection of Windows 8 machines, that didn’t offer particularly good specs for the price and I resent buying a Windows PC only to wipe off Windows and install a Linux distro before I get started.

My solution was to buy a custom built OSless machine with decent specs that will see the machine through its natural life.  In the meantime I’ve decided to go 100% Chromebook and see if it made any difference to my computing useage.  Its also a good time to show that despite what people claim, your Chromebook is just as flexible as your desktop and I challenge you to find many things at all that can’t be done on a Chromebook.  Hopefully this article will show you that.

My Chromebook is a HP14″ Chromebook – I bought this a little while ago for its larger screen and I consider that a good purchase.  Before I go any further, if you are a hardcore gamer who wants to run the latest Windows games, then stop reading now and save yourself time.  Chromebook is not a gaming device (although it does play Angry Birds et al).  If you are convinced that Photoshop is the best graphics package and not prepared to ever try anything else, please read something else too.  And if you spend most of your computing time without net connection, then again, please stop reading.

Still with me? Good.

I want to perform Office tasks!

Since the Chromebook is integrated with Google Services, its a given that Googles suite of software is available.  I can’t speak for your use, but I’d consider that for most peoples needs Google Docs will be more than they require.  You want LibreOffice? That can be accommodated too, its available in the Chrome Store (free) albeit in a web based incarnation.

I want to edit Photographs!

There’s so much choice available here.  There are many Photoshop pro’s who will frown at the reduced feature sets of these online apps, however what features do you use?  Are you a professional graphics artist? Then you should not have read this article.  For the majority of users we simply want to take and display the best pictures we can and with so many available on the Chrome Store, you’ll be able to reduce red eye, crop, increase contrast and saturation etc etc.  I personally use Pixlr Editor, but there are many others.

I want Bit-torrent!

What? You think because your Chromebook is mostly in the cloud you can’t run a bit-torrent client? You can and in exactly the same way you would on any other desktop machine. JSTorrent is probably the best option and whilst its not free, its less than £2 on the Chrome Store.

I want to code!

Whats the language of choice? There’s so many IDE’s out there for a number of languages.  I code in Python as a hobby, create a few scripts and try out a few concepts.  PythonFiddle steps in here and runs entirely in the browser.  This is one of many.

As I explained earlier, I am without a traditional desktop PC at the moment.  Has the Chromebook hampered my productivity? Not at all.  There will always be something which you can’t get from the Chromebook and for me, the lack of Mumble is an issue (which means I cannot give up a desktop rig entirely).  I think my requirements step over the “average user” yet the Chromebook fits my needs perfectly and there’s IRC clients, MUD clients (and even a version of FreeCiv!) to keep me happy.

People make a big issue out of the Chromebook needing a net connection in order to be useful. Not entirely true, many apps will work offline and sync when they get a connection, however, ask yourself this: How useful is your PC right now if your connection was removed?  I’d suggest the majority of people spend most of their time needing (and wanting) a net connection and the answer would be “not very”.

So when you consider your next PC purchase, give ChromeOS a consideration and when you look at the sales on Amazon, it appears many people are starting to do just that.  I would suggest though if you are looking for a Chromebook replacement to a bulky desktop PC with features you don’t need, you go for as large a screen as possible.  14″ seems to be the best size and accommodates web pages, apps et al, comfortably.


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