Monday, 5 October 2015

Back to Chromebook

A nice quiet lazy morning goes down nicely after a busy Sunday. Time to recuperate. I seem to need more of it these days. Then after lunch a walk. I also need constant exercise to stay fit. So, I walked first to the GP surgery with a prescription renewal, and booked myself a 'flu jab appointment, although I forgot to book an doctor's appointment as requested, but as the 'flu jab is tomorrow, all I have to do is remember to book as soon as I arrive. Then I walked part of the way to Victoria Park, hopping on a convenient bus to speed up the process of returning church keys from Sunday morning to Fr Mark, and from there walked over to the Staples store in Western Avenue and back, to buy a new Chromebook.

I gave Owain my 'early adopter' Samsung model. It has served me well over the past two years, and is in good nick, although its battery life is only four hours, about 60% of its original,. He's always made a bee line for it when he's visiting because of its convenient quick access for casual use. I've had my eye on a Toshiba Chromebook 2 for some time, as there's a model with a higher resolution screen which boasts more RAM and a better processor, although a Chromebook's speed relies as much on internet connectivity as anything due to its downloadable operating system. Staples had one one display last time I was in store, twenty quid cheaper than John Lewis, so my walk had added incentive.

There were rain showers as I arrived at the store. The rucksack I'd taken to carry home my purchase was too small for the containing box, and it slipped out and fell to the floor as I was leaving, fortunately not on a corner, so there was no damage to the box and none to the computer when I unpacked it. It was wonderful to set it up and be using it in under five minutes with all my Google account details and bookmarks in place. I'd waited a month before buying a new one, just to find out what it would be like to do without it, and rely just on the Asus Transformer for quick casual usage away from the office desk. 

Well, if you keep the Transformer switched off it takes minutes to book up and re-sync its registered accounts. The native browser is unbearably slow. Chrome and Firefox user interfaces are not fully consistent with desktop or phone versions. The software is showing signs of age in lacking user interface updates, and offering no convenient path to acquire them. I found I was repeating keyboard errors when writing or editing as use of certain keys is not the same as that acquired from habitually using other keyboards. While the keyboard itself is not that bad, the speeds of interaction of both keyboard and touch-screen with the display seem to fluctuate in practice. Such a relief to get back to the simple consistency and responsiveness of a Google Chrome device. Touch screens aren't always as precise as they need to be to avoid error, a good trackpad and/or a mouse is superior in my experience.

The other thing I like about Chromebooks is that the time from switch on to work is half a Windows 10 device and delivers a fully updated operating system. What Microsoft ads don't tell is the amount of time that has to be spent machine minding, either as the PC syncs filesystems, or while updates are installed, either at switch-off or start-up, and this can add a five minute delay to whatever you're doing. Time is always of the essence when you need information from an internet device. Closing many PCs while performing these essential routines may lead to it switching into sleep mode in the middle of updating, and that carries the risk of error. No problem if you rarely switch off your computer, but a risk if you're conscientious, and always switch off, to save battery or isolate from network hackers while unattended. 

Will Microsoft ever be as good as Google in delivering devices that address these issues at source? I find it very interesting that Microsoft partners are now marketing basic PCs in the same price bracket as Google Chromebooks, and with similar specifications. But, sales promoters always have to offer internet security packages to customers, to cover the glaring design deficiency in Windows operating systems, exploited in so many ingenious ways by global cyber criminals.

I notice that Five USA is currently promoting the launch of new CSI series on cyber crime. It'll be very interesting to see what kind of product placement (both hardware and software) features in the laboratory mis-en-scene.

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