Beta Testing the CR-48 Google Chromium Notebook

When I first received the Chrome notebook, otherwise known as the CR-48 so named for the Chromium 48 Isotope (which I’ve since learned is a fairly unstable isotope) I was elated and still am. In fact I was so Geeked Out that I shoved my cellphone into my daughters hand and instructed her to record as I unboxed it.

I love being part of the beta for this OS. I love being in the beta for anything. 🙂 I was fortunate enough to be in the closed beta for Logos 4 and I still run the beta for each successive version. From my perspective, beta’s are great because you get to help shape emerging technology. Overall I can’t wait to see where Google Chrome OS goes in the future.

What’s wrong?

Thus far of course since Chrome is designed for and since the CR-48 is designed as an internet only computer I’ve gotten plenty of online stuff done. I’ve surfed Youtube participated in the Logos forums. I’ve googled to my heart’s content and wasted a bit of time of facebook. In short I’ve done all things that I do on the net, including typing this blog entry. But as early as two days into using the Google Chrome notebook I’ve encountered it’s fatal flaw: When you lose network connectivity, it’s little more than a nightlight.

In my limited but growing experience with the CR-48 I can’t yet do anything without a network connection. I knew that already of course but it’s one thing to know it and another to run into it head on. That’s what happened on night two. I decided to try it for reading a teardown or two, as well as reading the specs .

The real story is all about the OS, the hardware is only meant to give the OS something to run on. From that perspective, everyone can get 90% of the Chromium OS/ CR-48 experience by downloading and using the chrome browser and limiting yourself to online tools.

The Chrome OS is a stripped down Linux distro designed to securely run only the Chrome Browser, it does that well enough. Though there are a few shortcomings, one of them being that as a Linux system there is no Silverlight plugin that will enable Netflix viewing. Apparently there are other similar issues, but I haven’t run into them personally.

Working With the CR-48

Monday came and I sat down in my office determined to get some work done on the notebook. Normally the first thing I do is Fire up Logos and a few other programs to start my devotions with. My current reading plan is a few days behind (oh the shame of it) but There is no way on earth Logos or Bibleworks would run on the CR-48. On the upside and both work just fine in Chrome. First I attempted to read on the Biblia site, but it wasn’t long before I wanted to highlight something and couldn’t. I was forced to fire up Logos on my Windows 7 machine to make the annotations.

This is the kind of difficulty I’m facing as I work with the Chromebook; there are some web-apps such as Google Docs which enable me to write online, and a large amount of plugins and various other web enabled programs that permit me to get a surprising amount of text based work done online, but the programs that I have grown to use – and indeed have spent large sums of money to use anchor me firmly to the traditional “heavy footprint” computer. The solution is already underway as Logos is currently investing in a major rewrite of the backend of that will permit more advanced Logos Bible Software kind of behavior. While I do not have access to the list of features in development, I believe we can expect things like highlighting and perhaps even annotations in the somewhat near future. The post linked above indicates that it may be some time – whatever that may mean in “internet time”.

As the day progressed I’ve found it increasingly difficult to the point of frustration to focus on the CR-48 as my main device. I Simply can’t do what I want to do with it. As a result I’ve had to shift my focus from full on use to complimentary use. I am now able to keep the CR-48 on my desk right next to my main computer and use the former for email, small document editing, social networking and the things of like character which distract me. 😉 While letting the latter perform the heavy lifting of Bible study it was purchased for. Of course that now means that I have four monitors on my desktop thus elevating my geek threshold to an even higher level than before.

One more thing

While it’s not about the hardware, I have one complaint that constantly frustrates me regarding the CR-48:The Touchpad.

The Chrome notebook’s touchpad is essentially a single button capacitive resistance touchpad. Three issues collide to drive me nuts every time I use the touchpad.

  1. In order to “Left click” you tap with a single finger. In order to “Right click” you tap with two fingers spaced just far enough apart. As you expect a right click brings up a right click menu as it should. The problem comes in about here. I use an addin on my Windows 7 Notebook that enables me to open dozens of tabs by right click+dragging over them. This is my secret to getting things done in the Logos Forums. However, the right click+drag maneuver has only been accomplished once by yours truly on the CR-48 and try though I might, I cannot repeat it.
  2. Simultaneously there is a known bug about the selection mode getting stuck and that happens all the time on my device. The ESC and “drumroll” solutions do not work for me.
  3. 2) I have to turn up the touchpads sensitivity almost all the way to make it work for me – apparently I’m a light tapper – and that means that while I’m typing a random bump of the touchpad or simply near proximity to it with my thumb or wrist can cause the cursor to jump somewhere else in my document and thus I repeatedly find myself typing a paragraph higher every once in a while and I then have to edit my edited edits to make it right.