Feb 012011

It was about two months ago that a mysterious package addressed to me showed up on the front patio. As I wasn’t expecting any packages, imagine my surprise when I discovered it was a thin, sleek laptop with absolutely no identifying markings.

If I were completely rational, I would have looked through the rest of the box, where there was a thick piece of paper clearly identifying that it was the cr-48. Or I would have noticed that that box it came in matched what I saw online, here. But instead, my first instinct upon receiving a mysterious laptop with no markings was to turn it on.

Kaboom. The Chromium logo appeared, and everything made sense and nothing made sense at the same time. I saw the news of these cr-48 laptops being released to testers just a few days before, but (1) I was pretty sure I never signed up to be a tester, and (2) even if I did, the announcement of these laptops only came 3 days before.

After calling up a few Google contacts, I discovered that Ilya, a housemate who works on the Chrome team at Google, had put my name down

I’ve been using it on and off since then, which probably amounts to about a month of actual use, and I’ve found that my opinions of it has changed pretty dramatically over that time, largely because I’ve tried to use Chrome OS as Google seems to intend, and in that process, reexamined my set of daily productivity applications.

The first thing you must understand is that Chrome OS is essentially just Chrome running on a homebrew Linux distro that just boots Chrome on startup. Everything is inside Chrome, so any app used is a webapp. There are a few more things like a basic file system for saving files, screenshots, etc, but you’re pretty much using a browser.

This seems extremely limiting at first glance. Why would I want to use a netbook that only allows my to use a browser when I can just get another netbook and install Chrome OS and get the same experience? Forcing myself to use Chrome OS has pushed me to reach out to a suite of cloud apps to replace such simple applications such as text editors, image editors, mail and news readers, etc. But after I got used to using Evernote, LastPass, Instapaper, Pixlr, and a suite of other apps, as well as syncing all my Chrome browsers across all my computers, I realized I could do about 90% of my work on the browser, and with the advantage that it syncs to all my computers as soon as I start Chrome.

As a result of the cr-48, I now feel much less tethered to any single computer, which is very freeing. Because of all the processor-heavy coding and photo editing I do, I will still work from a fully-powered laptop or desktop most of the time, but I won’t hesitate to now just carry the cr-48 if I decide to pack light.

Finally, the cr-48’s hardware is somewhat lacking–the trackpad is seriously deficient, and the keyboard feels awkward at times, but I was told that these were known issues and would be fixed.

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