Chromebook

So I posted before about my iPad and how much it was helping me work remotely. I had actually started that process with an Amazon Fire tablet that I had purchased a keyboard for. It worked but it was a bit small. The iPad worked better. Unfortunately, I received the iPad towards it’s end of life and Apple was not supporting the hardware anymore (it was a Gen 4). When things started to shutdown and not work anymore due to the outdated operating system, I had to find an alternative. I immediately looked at other iPads. At the time, I was invested somewhat in the Apple ecosystem. I was carrying an iPhone and pricing Macbooks. It was all very expensive. I started looking at something cheaper.

Enter Chromebooks.

The first Chromebook I bought was an experiment to see if it would fill the void left by the iPad. Primarily, would it allow me to connect to work? It would. It worked very well as it turned out for connecting to work. It also worked very well for using Microsoft’s 365 Office environment. Suddenly, this little inexpensive box was proving to be more and more useful.

If I could create documents and such on it, what else could I do?

My primary interest in any computer, is software development. It’s been a hobby of mine since I was very young. I discovered that with an application called crouton, I could setup a legitimate development environment that looked and felt very much like Linux (which I loved). I started playing with coding on the chromebook. Unfortunately, that little base machine was a little under powered for the coding I was starting to do.

Meanwhile, Google was hard at work making it better. Google recognized the power behind crouton and the developer community that was growing around it. They decided to provide the ability (natively) to run a Linux subsystem directly in the chromeos. I immediately jumped on the bandwagon.

Again, the little chromebook that could was a bit underpowered for the development I was trying to do. I started shopping again. I was already very much in love with the chromeos ecosystem so I found a slightly higher powered machine (same memory, better processor). Enter the Samsung Chromebook Plus.

I have rarely found myself enamored with a machine, but the Samsung Chromebook Plus seemed to tick all of the boxes. It just worked. I had Linux setup and Microsoft’s Visual Studio. I actually sat in a Microsoft building at one point taking classes on how to work in Docker and Azure and did the bulk of the work on the Chromebook while my associates were all hard at work on their Microsoft Surface machines (I had a Windows machine with me, but the Chromebook just worked). I was more than able to keep up with the course.

When I again found myself running out of resources while compiling programs and debugging programs, I fired up a virtual machine in Google’s cloud space to take over the bulk of the work. Microsoft made it easy by providing the plumbing in Visual Studio Code to remotely code, compile and debug the software. With the addition of two extra clicks, I might as well have been doing the development on my local machine.

Now my little iPad replacement had become a multi machine development environment where I had the Chromebook 3 hosting email and coursework and the Chromebook plus hosting the development work while attached to the VM. It has been a lot of fun.

Christmas 2020. It’s been a rough year. I changed jobs. I’ve spent a lot of time taking technical courses on the chromebooks and been issued a shiny new windows machine by my new employer. I do develop on the windows machine for work, but I’ve found that some of the training that I’ve been doing is difficult to do on the Windows machine because of the way it’s locked down (and my own reticence to install things into the environment). As such, I’ve done the majority of the coursework on the chromebooks. Unfortunately, the limited memory and hard drive space on them has still been a challenge. Until….

My beautiful Bride found a Google Pixelbook for sale on-line. The Pixelbook is the “premier” Google ChromeOS device; better hardware, better build quality and its beautiful. Within moments of booting it up and signing in, it looked and felt like “mine”. Shortly after that, I had the Linux system up and running and had installed the development tools that I enjoy using for my classes. Since the bulk of what I have been doing lives in the “cloud”; once the security measures were in place to allow me to connect to things, I was completely up and running in minutes. It’s worth noting here that in the past when I’ve had to setup a new Windows machine for work, I’ve written a whole day off to do it.

The Pixelbook is amazing. Everything I loved about the first two chromebooks only better. It’s faster (7th gen i5 processor and 8gb of Ram). It’s able to store *all* of the applications I use (I had one of the two previous machines setup with Android Studio and the other configured with Visual Studio Code). The screen looks amazing. I’ve now fixed bugs in a previous javascript project that I hadn’t before. I only mention that because I’m already able to develop on it, but now I can do it locally without the need for the external server.

I feel a little like I’ve achieved “nerdvana”. I’m writing code in C# and javascript which are the languages of choice for my job right now. I’m doing it in a Linux environment, which is my environment of choice for about the last 25 years (since I was put on a project at my first job which was almost exclusively unix based). I recently found myself prototyping a solution for my current job, completely on the Chromebooks. Once completed, I was able to check it out on the work machine and integrate the solution with the company’s code.

I found myself recently justifying the chromebook to a user on reddit. Their claim was that I wasn’t really using the Chromebook itself so much as using it as a dumb terminal to get to the VM, which in their defense was true to an extent (sorry Microsoft). That said, with the introduction of the Pixelbook, that changes. Everything I could do before, works better now and it works locally. I could create a complete project with database, APIs and a front end all from the Pixelbook and if I ever find myself on a plane or in an airport concourse, I could do it offline and provide the results when I had a connection again. That experience had previously required me to carry a machine that weighed as much as my children did when they were born and cost almost 3 times what the Pixelbook would have new.

Google is still actively working on this environment and it’s getting better all the time. If you haven’t tried ChromeOS yet, I can’t recommend it highly enough. From the first “cheap” box I bought, I’ve been converted to this environment and it’s only improved as I used it. Now it integrates with my phone so if my phone is nearby and I give it my fingerprint, I don’t have to log into the laptop. If the laptop needs an internet connection and it’s not finding one, it can connect to the phone and turn on the wifi hotspot the phone. If I get a text message on the phone and want to respond, I can do it from the laptop keyboard. All of these factors play into the idea that my attention stays where it needs to be, on the code in front of me.

As you can tell by the length of this post, I’m a fan.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: