The Discord roundtable is back again this week with the perennial discussion among technology and open source enthusiasts – Will we ever see the year of the Linux Desktop?
- Mix & Production: Tim King
We deep dive into the world of Chromebooks and find an answer to the question : Can you survive on a Chromebook. We walk you through the possibilities and limitations of the Chromebook. We enlighten you on how to use it for work, connect back to your home network and how to use your Chromebook to entertain you. If thats not enough we go beyond the design specifications and sideload Linux on your Chromebook turning into a low budget sliders dream machine. All of that and more .. in Kw905 : Life on a Chromebook. Catch the live recording of this podcast in the Youtube video below and see if you can catch Sulu the dog as our Podcast assistant.
Sometimes i’m an early adopter. So much so that if we ever had any kids I would probably be trying to teach our unborn child all the names of the Star Trek DS9 characters before it was born. Sometimes I just can’t wait for things to just ‘get there’. However, when it comes to Chromebooks i’m late to the party. While others raved about how they could ‘do everything in a browser’ I was not impressed with this locked-in substitute for a terminal client. But… yesterday I budged and forked over some cash for an Acer C730 Chromebook (Also known as the Chromebook 11) and am preparing to set out on a quest to answer the ultimate question : Is a Chromebook enough ?
So join me in my quest as I discover the Pro’s and the cons of a 249 Euro device that has sold his soul to the Googleplex and try to “Cross-platform-slide” the Chromebook.
Knightwise, Meet the Acer C730.
The Acer C730 is Acers 3rd iteration of their popular Chromebook line. As the successor to the immensely popular C720 model (Loved by many because of its ability to dual boot into Ubuntu) it is a low budget – low powered “Terminal to the cloud”. At 249 euro’s you what you pay for. A plastic 11 inch Laptop (I got the girly “White” edition by accident).
The C730 has an Intel Celeron CPU, (specifically a dual-core Haswell 2957U) and comes with 4 gigs of Ram. The on board SSD gives you 16 gigs of storage and the AC Wifi should be able to get you the speediest of wifi connections. The 11 inch screen comes with a standard resolution of 1378×768. As for auxiliaries the Chromebook comes with a webcam, 2 USB connections (1x 2.0 , 1x 3.0), an SD card slot a full HDMI port and an audio jack.
Unboxing the C730 reminded me a little bit of unboxing my first Asus EEEPC back in the days. For some strange reason you are extremely excited about buying a 249 euro Laptop .. so when you unbox it .. you get a 249 euro experience. The box is bland (brown), there is no Styrofoam (eco frienly) and the laptop is packaged in one of those little veils to keep it scratch proof.
The Chromebook itself is pretty sturdy. Not too light to feel flimsy, not to heavy to feel like ‘a real laptop’. which is a good thing. The plastic unibody design feels .. plasticy. You have keep reminding yourself : This is not your average laptop. Its basically a mainboard, a network card and a battery having a threesome inside a plastic shell. And that is all you need.
Well, you need to interface with the device of course and for that you need a keyboard and a screen. I feared for a flimsy crappy keyboard to ruin things for me but was pleasantly surprised with a fairly decent Chiclet-keyboard with enough space between the keys for fast typing. The screen is a little more ‘sobering’. We didn’t expect Acer to bring us a Retina Amoled display but the viewing angles on the screen do remind us of a laptop from the 80’s. As long as you sit right in front of the (fairly bright) screen its fine. But don’t expect to have a pleasant experience from any other angle. The colors on the display are a little washed out and the contrast is lacking .. But we aren’t going to edit the next Victoria’s secret calendar on this thing anyway.
What we do love is the battery ! It just keeps on going. Even if we don’t make it to the promised 8 hours of operational use .. we still have a very light cheap laptop that you can chuck in your bag without having to worry that you forgot the charger.
Chrome OS is exactly what it should be. A very thin layer of functionality that glue your browser (and your apps) to the hardware. There are not a lot of options, there is limited storage, you can’t tweak the crap out of it … and as Grumpy cat would say : GOOD ! It helps us realize that this is a web-terminal with a keyboard and a mouse.
The Acer C730 is a great gateway into the Chrome and Chromebook experience. You get what you pay for … and then some. What I love about it is the great battery life, the decent keyboard and the fact that the combination of ‘light and cheap’ make it a great device to chuck in your bag and carry it around anywhere.
I have a 15 inch Macbook pro that is my main production machine. But every time I need to take it on the road i’m afraid it might get stolen. With the Acer I don’t have that concern.
In the next couple of days I’ll be writing up some more posts on how the Chromebook works for me in my Cross platform Lifestyle .. Stay tuned.
Its time for episode 2 in Season 9 of the Knightwise.com podcast. Today we take a long overdue look at Windows (Both Windows 8 and Windows Phone /RT) Triggered by a recent purchase of a Dell Venue 8 pro tablet we take a look at what Windows still has to offer. What are the cool apps in the store, what are the killer apps you need on your desktop and which tools give you the best “Cross platform slider – friendly” experience.
You can download the show or watch the live recording (Which is full of glorious bloopers and distractions from the Live chatroom).
I love Apple products. Seriously. I do. They have liberated me from a life of ONLY using windows into a world of creativity and ease of use. Over 8 years ago they made helped me switch from a life of cleaning up temporary files and cookies on Windows 2000 machines to a computer environment that allowed me to compose music, record podcasts, edit video’s and do so much more. On a Mac it ‘just worked’. I still use Macs today. The high quality of their hardware is exceptional but unfortunately , so are their prices. Over the years a rift has arisen between what I demand of an operating system and what Apple has to offer. The fact that I have become a slider , who switches from OS to OS to get stuff done is not always very compatible with some Cupertino’s hardware and software interoperability’s. (Read : vendor lock in). Luckily I am free to choose : I hop from Linux to Windows to OSX and use the best operating system for the task. I’m free .. free to “leave the walled garden” when I want to.
We love our iMac.
So when my beloved wife started to notice that our 4 year old iMac was getting a little slow, I started to wonder what I could still do with it. Although I can still install the latest version of Mavericks on the machine, I do hear the silent whispers from Cupertino calling to “Buy a new Mac”. Perhaps that would not be a bad thing. Sell it off second hand and buy a new one. Problem is : its a 24 inch iMac. It fits wonderfully on my wifes desk and brings her a lot of joy. The options we have is buying a smaller 21 inch or a bigger 27 inch iMac. In both cases we would have to spend valuable cash for a small speed increase. Was it worth it ? I decided to ask the most important question I ask ANYONE who needs a new computer :
What do you use it for ?
To be honest : Niejana doesn’t use the Mac for that one thing that makes a Mac special : A reliable multimedia workhorse. She uses it to surf , do administrative tasks, manage her emails , her photos and stuff like that : No Final Cut Pro , Logic or any other of the great Apple production tools. So I asked the question : Why not keep the machine but ditch the OS ?
Time for a light weight alternative.
Linux is the obvious answer. It runs on almost anything and has a high degree of versatility. Its many graphical interfaces are strange, alien and mostly built for and by geeks. But that was not what we wanted : The goal of this project was to offer the SAME experience .. only faster. So what LOOKS like OSX but IS in fact Linux. The answer : Elementary OS.
Elementary OS : ‘I-can’t-believe-this-is-not-osx‘
So I bit the bullet, downloaded the 64 bit version of Elementary OS and installed it on the system. (No dual boot, no nothing). I don’t recommend going through this route if its your first time running Linux on a Mac. ( See our “Dual boot” articles to learn how) Elementary LOOKS like OSX and is a beautiful combination between the complexity (and power) of Linux (Elementary is based on Ubuntu 12.04) and a simple interface that LOOKS like OSX.
Making it look right.
Installing the standard tools Niejana uses ( Chrome, Thunderbird, Openoffice, access to Gmail and stuff) was not hard, because we largely use “slider friendly” applications in this house. Next morning I just pointed at the machine, told her the “close” button was gonna be on the other side of the windows, and left for work.
Time to jump the walled garden.
So was I done ? No, I was just beginning. This is a cross platform household with Macs, Linux machines and Windows machines. That meant I also need to “liberate” all the data from iTunes and iPhoto into an environment that would be accessible to both our remaining macs AND our linux machine.
So hang in there.
This week you will get more tips and tricks about “liberating” your data from a proprietary application like iPhoto, iTunes, iCloud and others so you can access them in a “slider-friendly-world”. Installing Elementary was just the beginning. Because whoever told you can only play YOUR music in CERTAIN application on SPECIFIC hardware … was wrong.
As I’m punching out this blogpost on my older but trusty HP Pavilion dm1, I’m somehow overpowered by a sense of nostalgia and … irony. I remember getting into computers years ago, starting out on machines like these (back in the days they were home built beige boxes) using a predecessor (or should I say forefather) of the operating system that is running today. The last couple of years I have swayed from that path of using a ‘Redmond Based’ operating system on my primary machines in favor of the one created in Cupertino. The last year or so I have even moved away from that one, to start using the ‘pengiun’ full time. For those of you baffled by my ramblings : I’m a slider. I move from operating system to operating system and use the one that works for me. From Android to Ios, from Windows to Osx to Linux … and today .. back to Windows again.
The new Windows 8 Metro interface was not something that stalked in quietly in the night. The press had seen this one coming and had been tooting their horns on how “different” it was to Windows 7. The Redmont company had had rough times. The ‘Vista disaster’ had left its mark and even though Windows 7 was a descent project, the flame of innovation was lost in Balmers ranks. Windows was going the way of the Blackberry … or were they ?
Windows 8 brought a unified ‘metro’ interface that was radically different then anything they had done before. Not only did they launch a version for the PC, there was also a unified interface for the mobile world and their own tablet device. Microsoft being Microsoft did make a simple strategy like this very complicated to explain and pretty soon you had Windows 8 Pro, RT, Phone and we even thought we would get an oreo-flavored version of the OS sometime later this years.
But never mind all that : Windows 8 is here and this week I decided to dive in deep and install it on one of my laptops. After poking it with a stick in a VM on my Linux machine, I was confident (or should I say ‘Daring’ ) enough to try out a full install. And I must say : I’m quite impressed with Windows 8. Because it is radically different then anything Microsoft has done the last couple of years. It is BOLD ! The Metro interface takes some getting used to, and everywhere I hear people spouting tips and tricks on how to get “passed” it and crawl back to the Start Menu .. but I say to you : Embrace it. Give it a try for a couple of days and give your human brain (that has been accustomed with the Start Button approach for years) a chance to adapt. Because even beyond the ‘in your face’ start menu the operating system preforms fast enough and lets you do what you want to do. So as a passionate Mac and Linux user I dare to say : I like Windows 8.
And now for me to tell you why :
Windows 8 has one specific quality that is very VERY important to an operating system. You hardly know its there. Once you are working in your application full screen (or in a window) you do not notice the operating system is there. When you NEED it, all you need to hit is the Windows button to bring up the menu , or poke the sides of your screen with your mouse. And the rest is business as usual. Using cross platform applications like Chrome, Firefox, Thunderbird don’t even give you a clue that there is in fact a ‘different’ os running under the hood then the Osx or Linux flavour of your choice.
So whats the deal then ?
Human kind is genetically designed to gang up on a certain individual and make fun of him. Microsoft-bashing is SO OLD , that its first instances are now the subject of historical re-enactments at county fairs. Its easy to bash on Microsoft .. We always did, so why not now. The problem with this approach (and the scuffing of anything that is ‘different’) is the fact that it is somewhere based on bias. And bias is a self-inflicted restriction of personal freedom. You decide to dislike something (or some-one) without getting to know it.
A lot of this bias is based on the fear for change. The uproar when Ubuntu decided to go for the Unity interface, has still not died down. The rage against Microsoft because of the Metro interface will surely echo into eternity. The reason for this ? We are afraid of change. We are the generation that is in the transition between the ‘Classic OS’ with the tiled windows (not Windows) and the start buttons. You can find the back in rock-paintings of the very first version of Xerox-OS through many versions of both Windows and Linux. But that ship has sailed. We are going to have to adapt and learn how to work with our computers differently. The age of the “visible” OS is over and with the advent of ‘full screen applications’ comes the clear message that the OS is but a means .. not a goal.
So put down your pitchforks and step away from the angry mob to take a good look at Windows 8. A product from a very ‘old’ company that has been bold enough to innovate and to change. To bring something to market that is not perfect (it has its flaws) , but DIFFERENT from the competition. And in times of economic crisis that takes balls.
And before you decide to burn ME on the stake for my heretics .. let me round up and get out of here. Computers are about YOU. They are the enablers of your digital power. They are coated with the fine slime of an operating system that should facilitate the smooth interaction between you and your applications. You applications should be your tool set to interact with your Data .. and whatever you do with that data should be directly tied to whatever personal goal you have. Nowhere .. nowhere in this process should you hinder yourself by making an uninformed choice why you should not want to use X or Y. Computers are about YOU .. not about computers.
So let my slide back to another computer lying around the house. Whether that be my Macbook air running Ubuntu, My Macbook Pro running Mountain Lion. I might get a call on my LG Nexus 4 (running Android) or pick up my book where I left off on my iPad .. I don’t care .. an neither should you. Windowss 8 might be your thing, or not (you should at least try it) As for me it has one good quality of a good operating system : it is invisible. In the end I forget what device runs what OS .. in the end it does not matter anymore.
Pitchforks, angry mobs and stakes in the comment section 🙂
Keep it simple.
If visitor statistics have proven one thing in the last few days, then it is that keeping it simple works best. A small article about configuring a Ubuntu workstation for grandma turned into a site-rush overnight. The moral of the story ? Linux is being presented as an operating system that is way to hard. Somehow I think that the one thing that is holding back de destribution of Linux desktops to the mainstream is … The Linux community itsellf.
Blame the community ?
Now don't get me wrong. Whenever I was in need of Penguin related information, I knew where to turn. Tons of forums, newsgroups and websites where jam packed with information. And they where more then happy to provide it …. Only .. it was presented in a way that was only comprehensible for “the inner circle of linus-ians “ They where friendly and nice, and the howto's started out pretty friendly and easy , but three posts later in the thread the learning curve had gone allmost vertical and they where talking Grep this and Ls that and what have you. When this sudden increase of complexity startled me and I asked or a little more directions I was redirected to another thread that dealt with that problem on its own. Its like asking somebody to help you because your car door is stuck, and as an answer they give you a manual in automechanics.
My wires are crossed.
Wireless support in Linux is a pitfall in that account. When it works out of the box , its fine , when it does not : You're screwed ! And this is sometimes the fault of the evil hardware manufacturers that don”t want to release their drivers (poor Linux heroes even reverse engeneer them to get it to work). But other times there IS a way to get it going, but you have to edit this, copy that, compile this , download that … AAArg ! By the time I have figured that out my laptop will be outdated anyway.
And once more all together : AUTOMAAAATIX !!!
An example that it CAN work is the famous automatix script, instead of posting a gigantic textfile with a complete list of applications you can make, they decided to script it in a little Gui so people could click and pick what they needed. Is it Linux-geeky cool : NO ? Would bash-brawlers frown upon this de-geek-i-fi-cation of technology ? YES .. Does it work ? Hell yes !
Strip the technobabble from the how-to and bring it down to playschool level : Copy this, past it there, click that. No pipes , no grep, no compile, no wget .. just copy paste and click. And the result : A newbie proof way that has done MORE for the linux community since its early rise a year ago , then pages and pages of “man” files have done in years. I'm not saying we don't need these because we do and they are a wonderfull work of patience and passion, but to somebody who just gets started .. they just don't work.
It can be for dumb people too.
And the other thing is : Using Linux does not mean turning it into some major command line operating system that will be able to run the planet should the white house ever decide to pull the 64 k of ram out of the presidents head. It can also mean using it for a simple system. Or a safe-surft computer. So you see my bearded linux-zealots ! Keep'in it simple is keepin it popular !
The Knightcast Episode 30 ' What operating system to choose '
Direct link to the show : http://www.knightwise.com/podcasts/kc200506.mp3
Join us for show number thirty where we triple the normal crew of the Knightcast and have a globe spanning discussion with two more experts about what operating system to choose. Windows ? Linux ? Apple ? Along with Sebastian Prooth and David Gray of the GlobalGeek podcast we compare the pro's and the con's of the major Os'es on the planet. It starts of seriously but goes slightly downhill from there so be sure to listen in for well founded arguments and totally off-topic hilarious banter as the Knightcast has some friends over to come and play .!!!! This podcast is not entirely family safe. (but we don't swear at all) !!!!
For more information go to www.knightwise.com or subscribe to The Knightcast in Itunes.