Chromebook

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al_yrpal
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Chromebook

Postby al_yrpal » 27 Feb 2015, 11:26pm

My PC is getting a bit long in the tooth so for a long time I have been looking at replacing it with a laptop. For the past few months I have been looking at laptops, and a week ago I saw a Which report recommending an ACER Chromebook. I didn't know anything about Chromebooks but read up on them, looked at some YouTube reviews and that prompted me to really think what my wife and I actually use our PC for:-

Sometimes emails although our tablets usually take care of that,
Writing the odd long document or preparing or amending an occasional spreadsheet.
Planning journeys on Google Maps
Planning cycle rides and generating .gpx files for smartphone navigation
Storing and retrieving photographs
Scanning and editing photographs using Photoshop and Lightroom
Web surfing, looking at a few forums
Web shopping
Banking
Ebay

Of course many of these things can be done on our Android smartphones or tablets and they often are. But most if not all of these things can be done in a Chrome browser which we also have on the PC, phones and tablets. But sometimes you do need that bigger screen to see what you are doing and get a good sized overview.

The things that were attractive about the ACER Aspire CB5 311 Chromebook that Which highlighted, was that it is compact, light, quick and inexpensive and it comes with a huge free (for 2 years) online file cloud storage of 1Tb via Google Drive. That would enable us to sort out all our documents, scans and photographs and properly organise them to be continuously synchronised and available anywhere on any any of our devices. The ACER got a particular Which thumbs up for battery life - genuine all day working of 13 hours plus and the Chromebook is completely silent. It has a local solid state disk storage of 16Gb. There are 2 USB ports, an HDMI socket an SD card slot and a headphone socket.

So, I bought one, and so far I am not disappointed. Lift the lid and its up and working in 7 seconds, or less if you left it switched on. It runs all day and will run several days without a charge under our modest use. Google Docs ad Sheets take care of documents or spreadsheets which can be saved in Word and Excel format as well as being able to read Microsoft files. No need to save anything, its save into Drive automatically. If you don't have Wifi it stores them and uploads them to the Google Drive cloud next time you do. It tethers by WiFi to my phone, so even if no local Wifi is available you can easily go online anywhere. Although there is no Photoshop or Lightroom available for Chrome but there is the free Pixlr and Polarr programs which seem to be pretty good substitutes. Our photos were easily transferred with a memory stick, they are now safely stored in the Google Drive cloud. Printing is a breeze with Google Cloud Print to my HP wifi printer. I can print from literally anywhere if the printer is switched on. No antivirus software needed, Google takes care of that. Every piece of software I have downloaded has been free although I do subscribe to Spotify. I can cast Youtube, Spotify and Now TV to my TV via a Chromecast. Scanning was a bit more complicated. But I am lucky, I have an HP Wifi all in one printer/scanner. After putting the printers IP address into the Chrome browser the printers control panel popped up on the screen. Using this I am able to scan straight from the Chromebook wirelessly.

So far I have found nothing that I want to do that I cannot do from the Chromebook.

For a laptop to take cycle touring I think the Chromebook would be a good choice. Its very light, 1.5Kg, its inexpensive £189, so if it got damaged or stolen its not such a disaster and all your data will always remain safe because its always saved in the Google Drive Cloud. If you have no Wifi you can tether it to your phones data service and still get online. The ACER is well made, the only thing thats not absolutely top class is the screen. Its a 13.3” 1366x768 HD screen, but the trade off is its low power consumption and eye popping battery life. Chromebooks are definitely worth a look for straightforward tasks.

Al
Last edited by al_yrpal on 2 Mar 2016, 2:28pm, edited 1 time in total.
Touring on a bicycle is a great way to explore and appreciate the countryside and towns you pass through. Make a difference...

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barrym
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Re: Chromebook for touring?

Postby barrym » 28 Feb 2015, 6:43am

I've been a fan for sometime. Well done for committing to the 'cloud'. Liberating isn't it? Its a big step to take but once made you wonder why you worried.

As for Photoshop, didn't they recently announce it as an online service?

Cheers
Barry

Edit: Good review BTW :-)
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Cheers
Barry

Tacascarow
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Re: Chromebook for touring?

Postby Tacascarow » 28 Feb 2015, 7:40am

Yes the latest versions of photoshop & lightroom are available online for a monthly subscription.
Whether that's cost effective for the non professional user is debatable IMHO.

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al_yrpal
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Re: Chromebook for touring?

Postby al_yrpal » 28 Feb 2015, 9:45am

Thanks Barrym. I have the subscription version of Photoshop Elements and Lightroom Desktop on my PC, that costs £8.57 per month. To buy these programs costs about £200 so thats what I chose to do a year ago. They run standalone in Windows. All programs on the Chromebook have to run in the browser and Photoshop and Lightroom wont do that so the versions I want arent available. I am trying out the free Pixlr and Polarr and if I find them satisfactory will cease the Adobe subscription.
Its worth noting that with the Chromebook I wont be paying for purchase of and upgrades to:-
Anti virus and firewall
Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Office
Photoshop and Lightroom (hopefully)
Cloud storage for 2 years at least.

A Chromebook is an inexpensive computing solution and should pay for itself quickly.

Al
Touring on a bicycle is a great way to explore and appreciate the countryside and towns you pass through. Make a difference...

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barrym
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Re: Chromebook for touring?

Postby barrym » 28 Feb 2015, 9:51am

Al,

You're preaching to the converted :D

I'm still not convinced that the Photoshop service won't do all that the desk top one does.

For example, you can run a thin client like Citrix in a browser, and that executes full versions of whatever on a remote host. I imagined that was what Photoshop was doing. There was certainly a big fanfare about this being another 'tick in the box' for ChromeOS to shut up the nay-sayers who were saying you can't do this or that..
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Barry

bohrsatom
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Re: Chromebook for touring?

Postby bohrsatom » 28 Feb 2015, 10:41am

Have you found a way to do offline route planning/GPX creation?

Psamathe
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Re: Chromebook for touring?

Postby Psamathe » 28 Feb 2015, 10:47am

I think a lot must depend on "geography". Living in a rural location my internet is slow and not 100% reliable. Out and about (e.g. cycle touring ?) Wi-Fi internet connections are not available everywhere all the time or you start to pay a lot for a slow GSM data connection. So for me, my circumstances and use, mean that local storage is pretty essential and being able to operate without an internet connection is essential. My understanding is that a Chromebook really needs an internet connection to do much.

Ian

simonhill
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Re: Chromebook for touring?

Postby simonhill » 28 Feb 2015, 10:57am

I know it was sort of said above, but can you download and run apps, or is it ONLY in the browser?

I've found my android tablet really useful with a combination of apps and chrome browser. Seems strange google wouldn't have it running apps.

I've thought about one to replace my PC, but wouldn't want to travel with it after using 7" nexus tablet. Wafer thin and about 300 gms.

Thanks for review, very interesting, keep comments coming but don't get too bogged down on photo stuff.

Psamathe
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Re: Chromebook for touring?

Postby Psamathe » 28 Feb 2015, 11:17am

al_yrpal wrote:Thanks Barrym. I have the subscription version of Photoshop Elements and Lightroom Desktop on my PC, that costs £8.57 per month. To buy these programs costs about £200 so thats what I chose to do a year ago.

Which means that after 2 years you have paid out more than buying outright. And if you purchased outright then next release you would only have to buy cheaper upgrades.

But, stop paying the monthly subscription and you lose the software as well as the work stored in the Adobe proprietary file formats.
barrym wrote:Al,

You're preaching to the converted :D

I'm still not convinced that the Photoshop service won't do all that the desk top one does.

For example, you can run a thin client like Citrix in a browser, and that executes full versions of whatever on a remote host. I imagined that was what Photoshop was doing. There was certainly a big fanfare about this being another 'tick in the box' for ChromeOS to shut up the nay-sayers who were saying you can't do this or that..

I'm sure you can do all that, but my understanding is that Adobe doesn't (although I'm not sure what sort of internet connection you'd require to run graphics intensive applications like Photoshop with a Citrix client). I'm unsure what you mean when you talk about "the Photoshop Service". Adobe Creative Cloud is basically the way Adobe have decided their software is purchased (i.e. no perpetual licence, but an ongoing "pay forever" rather than "use forever"). So now, to e.g. have/use Photoshop you have to pay Adobe a monthly subscription and you get copies of the software to install and run on your PC/Laptop/Mac, just that now you go on paying Adobe forever. They also throw in a little cloud storage (depending on your subscription model e.g. £17 per month get one app and 20GB - which is nothing when talking about the sort of work you are doing); and some much criticised "broken" syncing (that has even been withdrawn before).

But even worse (and probably one failing of the Adobe Create Cloud model) is that on occasions the login mechanism has failed, leaving everybody unable to use their software - can you imagine the reaction from all those professional graphics people with deadlines to meet, materials to be submitted for print deadlines ... and of course Adobe declined to offer compensation nut did than users "for bearing with us".

Of course Adobe do financially very nicely out of it as you end-up (over time) paying vastly more for the same products. I've had Photoshop and Lightroom for years and had I been paying CC subscriptions I would be vastly worse off (and Adobe and their shareholders would be better off). And I will be moving to one of the many alternatives for Photoshop when I feel the need for a new version. Same with Lightroom should that go CC rather than perpetual licence (later this year).

I've nothing against "the cloud" it's just that when your internet is not the fastest around, not the most reliable around you really don't want to have to sit and wait for BT to get their act together when with local (non-cloud) configuration you could happily do what you want, when you want, where you want.

(But maybe I've only experience of one aspect of the CC).

Ian

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al_yrpal
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Re: Chromebook for touring?

Postby al_yrpal » 28 Feb 2015, 11:38am

For route planning I use Richard Fairhursts excellent cycle.travel (just type that in your browser). That gives you a very low traffic suggested route and directions and maps that you can export as a .gpx file. Just save the .gpx in your Google Drive then you can pick it up on your phone or possibly in an internet enabled Garmin? I use OSMand on my phone and the .gpx opens straight into that via the ESM File editor App. OSMand will then navigate you along the route with an onscreen display and voice instructions.

As for operating offline with no wifi my Chromebook has a huge 16Gb SSD which is usually completely empty. If you were to create a Word file this will be temporarily stored automatically until Wifi becomes available, it is then synced to the Google Drive cloud automatically. Nothing but the Google Office suite is available offline.

I agree with Simon about just taking a phone or tablet on tour, that's what I do too. However some folk do love their laptops and for them I believe a Chromebook is a very good option because they are generally light and inexpensive and they all seem to have great battery life, particularly the one I purchased.

There is a Chromebook App store and they all run in the Chrome browser, a lot have a full screen button.

If you have a poor internet connection at home forget the Chromebook it relies heavily on a good continuous internet connection.

I never store my photographs in Adobe formats. I often shoot in RAW but the latest version of Polarr handles that.

Hope that helps?

Al
Touring on a bicycle is a great way to explore and appreciate the countryside and towns you pass through. Make a difference...

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BeeKeeper
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Re: Chromebook for touring?

Postby BeeKeeper » 28 Feb 2015, 2:08pm

Can you store documents when not connected to the Internet? Even in this country there are places, for example in the mountains or the coast where broadband doesn't work, could you still write up a journal in an equivalent of Word and store it on the device?

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Re: Chromebook for touring?

Postby al_yrpal » 28 Feb 2015, 2:44pm

BeeKeeper wrote:Can you store documents when not connected to the Internet? Even in this country there are places, for example in the mountains or the coast where broadband doesn't work, could you still write up a journal in an equivalent of Word and store it on the device?


Yes, you can use 'Write' offline and save the blog document onto the SSD (16Gb) in the downloads folder. Next time Wifi is available the Chromebook will save it into the cloud if you so wish. With documents in mind 16Gb is huge. If you take photos on an Android phone and save them to Drive they will become readily available to embed in your blog when you have an internet connection. A lot of mobile contracts offer all you can eat data, enabling you phone to become a mobile hotspot, thus enabling you to have internet on the Chromebook whilst on some camp sites without wifi. But, you have to have a decent phone signal. If you have a camera with an SD card you can pop that in the Chromecasts SD card slot. I think you can get adaptors to house phones tiny SD cards too.

Just recharged the battery from 25%, it took 1hr 15m and now predicts more than 11 hours continuous use!


Al
Touring on a bicycle is a great way to explore and appreciate the countryside and towns you pass through. Make a difference...

Rogo
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Re: Chromebook for touring?

Postby Rogo » 28 Feb 2015, 4:34pm

Great bit of kit.

I've got the Asus C200. Perfect for the tour where you're expecting to be away from power for a long time. 11 hour battery! (tested)

Looking forward to more app (Skype) integration, probably won't be too far away I'd imagine.

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al_yrpal
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Re: Chromebook for touring?

Postby al_yrpal » 28 Feb 2015, 4:43pm

Rogo wrote:Great bit of kit.

I've got the Asus C200. Perfect for the tour where you're expecting to be away from power for a long time. 11 hour battery! (tested)

Looking forward to more app (Skype) integration, probably won't be too far away I'd imagine.


Apparently Google Hangouts is an alternative but then you probably both have to be wedded to Google?

I am about to have a play with Chrome remote desktop which will give me access to my old PC and its software..

Al
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Re: Chromebook for touring?

Postby BeeKeeper » 1 Mar 2015, 4:43pm

al_yrpal wrote:I am about to have a play with Chrome remote desktop which will give me access to my old PC and its software..


It will be interesting to hear how you get on. I tried a remote access app on my Android phone and was able to access my PC at home while sitting in a tent in France. It worked, but only after a fashion and used a huge amount of data as you were effectively watching a video of the PC screen.