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Why I left my new MacBook for a $250 Chromebook (medium.com/thinking-about-startups)
29 points by hajak on July 24, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 38 comments

> As every password was saved in Chrome, I was up and running in less than five minutes.

Passwords sync just fine between Macs or PCs if you use Apple or Microsoft's complementary services (or something like 1Password). iCloud Keychain for example makes this just as seamless.

> A new Mac or PC costs you at least and hour of downloading apps and getting things up and running. And then you forgot something

Most of the time though all they did was use the web version or give up. But apparently that's better than "an hour of downloading apps and getting things up and running". There's also plenty of ways to automate that, or just restore it from a backup.

Granted, not as fast as just using the web versions of everything but then again, I can do that on my Mac or PC just fine too, without any additional setup time.

> Of course, most things don’t work very well without an Internet connection, but then again, what does?

A whole lot of things.

> Lending a computer to someone is not a pain or fear. You logout, they login (or run as Guest), do whatever they needed, then logout, you login, and everything is back as you left it. And boot times are minimal.

This works with any OS that has a Guest mode. Both Windows and OS X do this, and just about any Linux distribution can be set up in the same way. Without (re)booting, requiring an internet connection or a Google account.

True! I still think Linux is superior for people who want to configure their devices more, but I think a vast amount of people live their lives either online or in one of the services which on a Chromebook works well offline. That - and games & media - which I think tablets/phones/consoles are better at. I think Chromebooks seem to have reached a maturity point for "most people".

I have no doubt they have. I've used Chromebooks and they're great devices nowadays. Having Android apps available is great too.

But the title of this article is why the author left behind the Mac and the reasons for that are extremely shallow. Most of the time they don't even go into what makes it better than a Mac, that was mentioned maybe twice and honestly not for great reasons. A one time setup cost isn't exactly a great reason either.

The rest is just "look at this shiny that has more than enough oumpf for most users". Which is totally fine, new and shiny is awesome to write about and having a great experience with it that makes your realise you can change some aspect of how you work, improve your productivity and not pay Apple's hardware prices is great. But then just write that.

Hahaha :) yeah - good sweet short post.

Did I miss something, or is my reading comprehension failing me? It seems like the author's reason for switching platforms, and ultimately a lot of hardware (remote speakers, phone), because they sometimes can't find their files? And that it sometimes feels faster.

No, it is that I can't feel that my MBP/Macbook adds enough value to cost 5x plus that the Chromebook actually beats performance of my new Mac quite often.

Wait until you discover GalliumOS[0].

Now you can have a finely tuned native Linux OS that's designed for Chromebooks. You can always dual boot it with ChromeOS to solve the problem of guests using it.

I actually just ordered a Chromebook yesterday. Can't wait until it arrives this week and set it up with Gallium.

[0] https://galliumos.org/

GalliumOS irritates me because to read their marketing copy, ARM Chromebooks don't exist, and I own an ARM Chromebook and would dearly like a normal Linux OS finetuned for it. I get that it's not their fault and ARM is a different beast, but it wouldn't kill them to add the word "Intel" to their front page, to spare others the disappointment I experienced.

You're right, that could be more clear. We plan to add ARM support, but we aren't there yet. Sorry for the disappointment.

There are 101 (really) Chromebook models, past and present. 33 are ARM, but GalliumOS supports almost all of the remaining 68.


Such a polite reply to such a grumbly comment. Thanks for the work you do, even if I can't take advantage of it yet.

The main issue with desktop Linux on ARM Chromebooks (that I encountered) is HW acceleration. GLES support is sketchy to nonexistent among the current crop of window managers. I am hopeful that some of the work the Pyra team is doing to bring a standard accelerated desktop to a mobile device can be reused on the Chromebook - I've already had some success with GLshim, which was developed for the Pandora.

How is the driver support? In my experience with Apple laptops, Linux drivers are awful to the point of draining the battery much faster than macOS would, and using the hardware becomes flaky, e.g. sporadic wifi access, issues with video playback or plugging into a projector, etc. Are these issues solved with GalliumOS for Chromebooks?

I get about the same battery life in GalliumOS as I do in ChromeOS. Maybe a little more, actually. wifi access is solid, and I haven't experienced any flakiness in any of the hardware. it just works.

And you get to use all your favorite Linux programs, like Emacs and Chrome, without draining the battery to fast?

very much, yes, though I prefer a full KDE desktop (and Vim). I don't see a difference in battery life. if I used XFCE or LXDE, I'd probably have even better battery life.

Awesome. I may very well buy a Chromebook and use GalliumOS for my next laptop. This rMBP is on its way out, it's so buggy and crashy.

Hmmmm... looks very interesting. I'll check Gallium when the freshness of ChromeOS fades :)

so, see you in a week?

Yeah, probably ;)

I'm interested in this exact setup. We'll see...

I don't know but all that sounds horrible:

> I found that under “About” I could get a newer version, and for some reason I had to help it

> it [Spotify] sometimes asks for Flash (?!) but with a reload it works.

> It [Skype] doesn’t support video yet

> Keynote [...] No solution found yet.

> I have to find a replacement for Hindenburg

> it would make it impossible to be a developer using one

> on the ASUS I ended up using this direct link to get it to work. You are supposed to see a little checkbox “Available for Android” [...]

> most things don’t work very well without an Internet connection,

> When I’m on an airplane, I would watch a video or listen to music on a tablet or phone anyhow

> I am selling off my AirPlay speakers and buying Chrome Casts at home to plugin to “dumb” speakers.

> to learn to love Google Slides or find an alternative.

Lately I've found that more and more of my work can be done running emacs in screen over a mosh connection to a server, so the idea of a cheap Chromebook with excellent battery life is increasingly tempting. The Pixel looks lovely to me, but I don't need a touchscreen and the price is very high - are there any lower end options that people think are particularly nice machines? Most of the cheap options just seem to have crappy build quality when I've played with them in stores.

I haven't tried it but the new HP Chromebook 13 G1 looks absolutely fantastic. It doesn't have USBC on both sides like the Pixel but it comes in a huge variety of configurations that range from $499USD to > $1000. HiDPI screen too and no touchscreen. I'm going to evaluate when the new MacBook Pros come out and see if the price is worth the differences.

I really enjoyed my HP Chromebook 14. Ultimately, at the ~$250 price point, builds are probably going to be mostly plastic and not particularly attractive looking, but it's perfectly durable, which is all that matters to me.

Acer C720P or better will change your life.

Reading the title I thought: Because you're a hipster. And his rationalizing reasoning have proven that.

If you mean "hipster" as in "jumping on a new thing too early and bragging about it" I agree. I totally admit that Chromebooks are not mainstream or usable for all kinds of professions, but I was surprised on the maturity it has gotten to.

The read is overly optimistic, sometimes feels like an advert. But I agree that having some things in the cloud is certainly an advantage.

Sorry, my expectations were just so low. But I agree - I will complement the coming days with things I dislike.

With a broadwell (or higher)-based Chromebook running GalliumOS, you have just about the best laptop money can buy.

Reading this and the comments I can't help but think that:

A) Microsoft's windows business will go away quicker than we think.. Which is why I never hear them talking about it anymore. Nadella seems to be embracing the cloud as their new platform.

B) Intel is in a lot of trouble if ARM chromebooks catch on.

I've been using Chromebooks as my only portable device for about three years now. Throw crouton on an Intel chromebook and you've got a cheap development machine that can do lots of things locally without involving the cloud.

The slideshow issue is significant though. Where are the great FOSS presentation tools like Prezi or that have the polish of Keynote? The most recent PPT is decent.

Trying to do presentations on a Nix machine is a nightmare.

Agree. That will be the big test for me. Google Slides have gotten a lot better, but still doesn't beat Keynote.

For me, killer feature of Chromebook is keyboard layout - standardized throughout lineup, and with all non-essential keys thrown out. Lower row with bare minimum: ctrl, alt, space, alt and ctrl - just plain excellent - clean layout, left ctrl/alt keys are of proper size, making them super-easy to hit with a pinky.

In contrast, on Windows/Mac side of things - desktop keyboard is already bad enough with bottom row cluttered with win(command) repeated twice, plus menu/right-click key (why does this thing even exist?); On laptop, it gets even worse by adding add "fn" and often pgup/pgdn and other clutter to the mix. Then there's question of order in which they all come - is it fn, then ctrl, or other way around? was that alt beside spacebar, or is that win? etc...

You can't conflate the 'windows/mac' side of things for non-standardized keyboard layouts - that's ridiculous. Macs have very standardized layouts, to the extent that the Apple external keyboards are modeled on the laptop ones.

Why can't I? For the purpose of this argument, Windows and Mac keyboards aren't all that different. See for yourself - modern mac keyboards have two layouts:

- Full / 105-key layout, which is a copy of Windows 105-key layout with renamed and re-shuffled lower row, featuring: control, option(alt), command(win), space, command, option, control; [1]

- Compact (laptop / magic), where lower row has: fn, control, option(alt), command(win), space, command option; [2]

Other (Windows) layouts of the bottom row:

- Full/Desktop 105-key: Ctrl, Win, Alt, Space, Alt, Win, Menu, Ctrl;

- Lenovo laptop: Fn, Ctrl, Win, Alt, Space, Alt, Win[4]. Ctlr; [3]

- Dell laptop: Ctrl, Fn, Win, Alt, Space, Alt, Ctrl. [5]


Now, this is ridiculous.

So my point is: sure, there are (ad-hoc) standards, but way too many of them, and all of them try to pack too many keys around core QWERTY field, especially lower row. Chromebook is the first one on record to prune this and offer a clean, usable layout.

[1] http://www.apple.com/shop/product/MB110LL/B/apple-keyboard-w...

[2] http://www.apple.com/shop/product/MLA22LL/A/magic-keyboard-u...

[3] http://www.lenovo.com/images/gallery/main/lenovo-convertible...

[4] On some models, PrintScreen takes place of second Win key

[5] http://kbimg.dell.com/library/KB/DELL_ORGANIZATIONAL_GROUPS/...

I really hate the vertical enter key. Not present in US, but somehow popular in europe. Brrr!

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