Contractual obligations have me drawn away from OpenBytes, its a shame because my time doesn’t even seem to have the opportunity for many 140 character one liners on Twitter. G+ seems to me like the social media that everyone knows about and didn’t want. Its funny because I’ve noticed that it seems to get more activity when linking articles on other social media rather than conversations created by a musing on G+ itself. Maybe G+ has the charm of being an outlet for people who want to comment on an article and feel more comfortable doing it on their own ground (as in their own G+ page)
FB? Well FB, I’ll come on to that. In the meantime, I rack up the miles in travel (and its getting rather silly now) as I am in a constant state of flux between numerous locations. At the end of this year I’ll add up my mileage, place it onto a map of our Solar System and see just how far I’ve travelled from Earth!
This post is more of a collection of issues which if time permits will be written about further in the future, but in the meantime be a critique of things that are wrong in the tech world.
Facebook and its privacy issues. I’ve yet to see why any allegedly privacy issues with Facebook is a problem. People use social media to post things socially, public posts which would be very similar to conversations that they have in the bar or restaurant. People on the whole want their posts to be seen by many and for some Facebook friends are seen as a “score” as to how successful they are in real life. So keeping that in mind; If their posts can be read by anyone, what’s the issue with that information falling into the hands of any government agency? It’s posted publicly after all. If people are so concerned with privacy, why are they not getting rid of their debit/credit cards dealing in cash only and not having a passport? Oh yes and not driving a car, not using a mobile phone – the list goes on and all these things can be used by a government agency to keep tabs on you (if in fact they even care)
Facebook has directed ads, it does try bless it, to throw adverts at you that are relevant. It should do, presumably a purchase or subscription as a result of clicking on a Facebook app will get them more revenue (or at least encourage the advertiser to continue paying for the service) and with a concerted effort spanning a couple of days and much clicking, I think I can say whilst I still get the unwanted adverts at least they have a small bearing on what I am interested in.
Then we look to G+ and all its connections. In case you didn’t know, I’m a big fan of shoes, cosmetics and an internet program called “Lucky Penny Shop”. I’ve also been looking at handbags, a few wildlife programs and I’ve a love of a certain brand of perfume (apparently). Why? Because with all the connections on my services, should my wife or son use the PC, their personal likes et al get sent to my social media as proud announcements and stored away for future advertising no doubt and an evil government agenda (if that’s your thing). Not a problem, but perhaps if certain peoples paranoia about how a lack of privacy and large corporations being involved with the government is correct, I’m going to be one complex character for a security service to profile. I’m a shoe, perfume and handbag loving viewer of the “Lucky Penny Shop” who uses a Chromebook, paints Warhammer miniatures, looks for recipes about cakes, likes football and is an author.
And I use the word author with confidence now, bringing me onto my next subject. Written a book? Self-published or traditionally published? what do you do? I chose (mistakenly now I think) to take the “official route” to authordom. Real authors have agents and publishers don’t they? Real authors have a team backing them up with PR releases and people to act as your PA? Well the publishing houses may want you to think that, but times have changed. My biggest regret was putting my work into the hands of others because in doing so, my work became their property, their concern and as a consequence the fun, the individuality of writing a works was diminished slightly. After an initial date of around March 2014 for the release of my title, delays and a few IP issues have seen the date fall back. Launching a book can apparently, be like launching a space shuttle, the optimum release date needs to be adhered to and this has a number of factors affecting it. Just like how a planet needs to be in the right place before launch, certain factors need to be considered when releasing a product, is it a time when people buy books? are there similar title’s in the early days of its release? does the subject matter press any buttons with current affairs (and this can be both a positive and negative). You don’t simply release a book when you go through the publisher route.
Then I have my other contractual obligations and I’ve been brought in on a documentary which has seen me step out of my comfort zone and into a world of camera’s, scripts and some very lively situations. There will be more on that later.
Now moving onto the Chromebook; A while back I wrote an article having to correct certain people as to what the Chromebook is. At that time (unlike them) I had actually been using one a while (HP Chromebook 14″) and when I say using I mean using exclusively. I’ve had a very large move recently and I’ve continued my work using the Chromebook because lugging around a desktop PC was not an option. I am writing this on a Chromebook, I have used nothing but a Chromebook for getting onto a year, so I think I am more than qualified now to highlight what’s wrong with the device and its potential implementations elsewhere.
Lets start off by clarifying something. The Chromebook is just a PC with certain items (that I don’t need) removed. Maybe the – what’s wrong with the Chromebook? should be more – whats wrong with ChromeOS?, but the two are intrinsically linked. HP’s device as in the 14″ laptop sized machine I’m using at the moment is very good. For the price it offers very good value for money and whilst it’s display isn’t the best I’ve seen, the keyboard feels a little cheap and the trackpad is awful (are they not all?) it doesn’t hamper my productivity; and for the price, it’s unreasonable to expect the Hennessey Venom GT of the PC world for less than $250.
So where to start? Here is a list of the issues relating to ChromeOS specifically, they have been covered before and maybe that’s the point here, these issues should have been addressed long ago as I consider them to be pretty simple minimum standards.
No facility to turn off the track-pad with a one click feature – You can turn off your track-pad by dropping into the command line and then repeating the process every-time you boot, but if I said now to even a seasoned PC user to do that on a Chromebook, they would (I assume) have to look up the command and how to get there. A simple one click feature is all that’s needed.
Multiple windows cannot be opened. Remember those all GUI’s for MS-DOS from the 80’s, where after opening a simple graphical representation of a directory you had to skip through pages to your destination folder and use a combination of keys and/or mouse click) Well those happy days are here again. There’s no multiple windows for you, so CTRL C, V and/or your right mouse button are what’s needed for you!
The “app store” – or more accurately for most packages, the URL store (most applications are simply online webpages) is a mess. There is no other way to describe it. Lets forget about the malicious software for a second and go straight down to the really bad stuff. You see an app, lets say a game, you install it, it’s icon is there on your desktop. Lovely. You then click that icon and you are taken to a webpage. Thats OK, we understand that most apps are nothing more than web-based. Then you get a message telling you to download an .exe file. A .exe file? Right. Congratulations, you’ve just installed a worthless icon with a link to a Windows binary on your Chromebook. Just what is this stuff doing on the store? If Google can’t check up and remove all the stuff like this, then that’s a compelling reason to lock down the app store in a similar manner to Apple. There’s pages of this stuff. When you add into the mix the malicious stuff too (and there are still many users falling for the scams) the app store becomes a minefield of broken links and Windows binaries.
There are some people out there who will promote the Chromebook as a great device to install another OS onto. So lets look at that in more depth. You can, but there are better alternatives than the Chromebook if all you intend to do is buy one to try and put Linux on.
The specifications of Chromebooks, their features et al, are designed to run web-based apps and a few locally installed applications. Once you start delving into the realms of other operating systems, forgetting the local storage issue (which you will need to add to I’d suggest) we’ve the problem with the processor itself. The processor and the RAM and on-board graphics card used in these things was intended for web-based apps. Not World of Warcraft through Wine, nor the rendering of a new Avatar movie or having an enormous spreadsheet open with the galactic sales figures for a hyperdrive. Here’s an example. The Chromebook is not intended as a multi-media system for all your home entertainment needs, so when for example you are streaming or running an HD 1048 movie and doing one or two other things, the system quickly starts grinding to a halt. On the other Chromebooks I’ve seen too, the hardware will struggle if you do anything a little unexpected. The Chromebook is an online device so when say presented with a folder of 500 high resolution images that it needs to create thumbnails for, its probably going to struggle a little. Get yourself a traditional laptop or desktop and run Linux on it, it won’t.
When you start stepping outside of that which the Chromebook was intended for, the CPU starts to really work hard, the little fan inside the Chromebook buzzing so fast, that it’s not far from my Chromebook lifting off the desk and becoming one of those hover-boards from Back to the Future 2, that’s if I try to use it as a fully fledged machine. Stick another OS on if you wish, just remember the hardware you have bought was not intended for you to do that. I’d suggest the footprint and CPU demands for ChromeOS are just as small as you can get, the hardware provided takes that into account. Add some more storage space to the Chromebook and get it running other software and for me that’s a relationship doomed to failure. Want a Linux laptop? Great and I still fully advocate the use and benefit of a Linux desktop, but buy yourself some other hardware to do it on.
I could make further lists that say the ChromeOS device won’t support an external DVD or Blu-Ray (but then that should be obvious) and I did not buy a Chromebook for that, in fact I actually bought the Chromebook because I didn’t want those devices as part of my laptop.
Finally there are many reports about Chromebooks in schools. Do I think this is a good idea over the traditional desktop? No. Here’s why.
Anyone who has seen a PC after its been used by a few individuals will know that regardless of the ages of the user, the machine comes in for some heavy wear. If the idea of a web-based machine suits an educational institution, great and that can be achieved (I’d suggest) with hardware they already have. There are plenty of Webcentric Linux distributions out there (I’ve covered many in the past)
Lets consider what would get the most wear in this environment. Would it be fair to say the keyboard? Having a Chromebook for this reason flashes warning signals at me, because the Chromebooks cheaper price and intent to be something without the frills and excess of a more expensive machine means that the keyboard whilst fine, I’d suggest would not last long under heavy use. And what keyboard would? Even the most sturdy of keyboards is in for a rough time as the carefree hands of many different users type an essay on them. Here’s where your traditional desktop is far better suited. If a Chromebooks keys start popping off, you’ve the entire device to send in for repair. At least with a traditional desktop (no matter what OS it’s running) you can merely replace the keyboard without any loss of the device itself. I consider my HP very well made. I would not though give it longer than about 2 weeks in the hands of numerous people who will not look after it as they would their own property.
Chromebooks running ChromeOS have the benefit that everything is so well integrated, my local storage and Googledrive seamlessly interact with each other, as they do with my apps too (either the local or the web-based ones) but for the purposes of Schooling I’d suggest a browser, any browser would give them similar functionality as machines which are used by numerous members of the public don’t usually support local based storage.
I had the time the other day to drop into a social network (of sorts) for a few minutes which I’ve not looked at for many months. What was maybe more shocking than seeing the same users having the same arguments was that whilst the rest of the computing world moves on, there are some who are not so much stuck in the past as merely out of touch. These people seem under the delusion that somehow are “elite” or “in the know”, when actually there are only about 30 regulars, not one of them questioning why the elite of the tech world have no interest in their outdated modes of communication (and I use the word communication very loosely) I would make light of their delusions, however a quick look at some of the posts suggests there’s more than a few of them who need some sort of professional help – and I mean that seriously. Grown adults spending years engaged in childish banter arguing about any topic which happen to be raised by one of their “enemies”? This is not normal behaviour.
There’s big changes in computing, brought about I’d suggest by them being accessible to everyone. Gone are the days where you type ATD (enter telephone number here) and wait for the connection to your BBS. Gone are the days when traditional methods of social media are seen as desirable, its all about Youtube, animated gif’s and high resolution images. Is this a good thing? Well ask the people clinging on to technologies of yesterday and they will say no. In a few years time Youtube etc will probably be replaced with something else and those who still cling to Youtube will be looked at in the same way. It’s exciting when you think back to the days of the BBS in the 80’s. Did we really imagine anything like that which we have today? I certainly didn’t, I was impressed when Micronet displayed a page of text in about 20 seconds.
But I digress, the same tired arguments (just under new topics) by the same people with a plethora of claims about their individual successes in life. I don’t know how many (if any at all) are true, but I can’t see how a successful working person can have time to spend like they do and if they are retired (like some claim) I can only hope than when my retirement day comes, I will not have so little in life that spending time in a social media of yesterday and typing the same things is seen as fun. That’s a depressing thought.
After a month, that completes my musing, maybe next post will be something more substantial. I see the PirateBay is down again which goes to show, if, after all this time the government can’t even bring down that properly, how can anyone have concerns over privacy? The governments of the world are so incompetent, it really matters not.