I guess I’m fiinally going to get around to blogging about the Google Chrome CR-48 Notebook. I was one of the lucky ones who received one of the beta programs notebooks. Imagine my surprise when Cynthia let me know that a larger package arrived for me when I hadn’t been expecting anything. As soon as the box was opened and I saw that awesome packaging that accompanied the CR-48 I was overjoyed. Then there was just the painful wait of letting it reach room temperature.
Once it did I pressed the power button the Chrome logo appeared on screen and just a few short seconds I was at the account creation and setup screen. The setup was very user-friendly asking to link a Google account and take a picture with the included web cam. And the guided tour that followed was equally user-friendly. It did a great job of explaining the mostly familiar keyboard. It has the usual QWERTY keyboard but lacks function keys or CAPS LOCK key.
If I have one complaint about the setup it is the fact that the wireless MAC address could not be found on the notebook or in software at the early stages of setup. Since I have MAC filtering setup on my router this is major inconvenience. With the Chrome OS being self contained within the web browser there is no command prompt for using a utility like ipconfig, as in Windows. A blog entry by Thomas Amsler helped me find the necessary information for finding the Wireless MAC address but I had to resort to connecting to a neighbors unprotected Wi-Fi to complete the setup.
Once the setup was complete, I ran the command from Thomas Amsler’s blog and added the CR-48’s Wireless MAC address to my router. From there it was just a matter of adding my router’s security key and the wireless sprung to life. The Chrome tutorial was helpful and user-friendly as I mentioned above and then it was just a matter of playing with all the Chrome CR-48 has to offer. Which is both a feast and a famine.
The Google Chrome CR-48 is entirely Chrome web browser. It’s nothing more and it’s nothing less. And Chrome is my web browser of choice. So you’d think it would be a match made in heaven, but ultimately it is not. I forgot how many of my web browsing daily has to be done in Firefox due to incompatibilities between Chrome and my website of choice. My school classes use a web application called Blackboard. And the main notice on the website is Chrome is not supported. The text-boxes don’t render all of the text editing options and I’m unable to upload anything. That fact alone means that I have to resort to Firefox.
Then there is also the fact that several web forums I visit for some reason have a CSS style that doesn’t support Chrome leaving many images with just a broken image box. Which is a minor thing to complain about but it does present a problem with building an OS around a web browser. Now in fairness to Google, this is more an issue with the creators of the CSS but if Google wants this platform to flourish they aren’t going to be able to sit idly by when they can build a psuedo quirks mode of their own and support some of the functionality that other browsers support, if only for expanding the usability base.
Although that being said, the sooner the web gets away from quirks mode and gets standard the better.
The Google Chrome CR-48 beta is really about running the OS through it’s paces, not so much the hardware. But it’s hard not to be aware of hardware flaws when you’re living your online life and doing the things you do on a normal full-feature operating system. HTML5 videos seemed to run well enough on YouTube despite running at a reduced resolution. Videos utilizing Flash were iffy. Sometimes I’d get a great feed and it would play decently. But a trip to Hulu to watch Chuck produced a bit of chop that was subtle enough to watch if you were hard up to do so but it was still pretty annoying.
And that’s been my experience in a nutshell. I want to like the Chrome OS. It’s a fantastic web browsing solution but the web site support is lacking in some functionally important areas for me personally. Once those areas come around though I can see this being a really powerful convenient platform.
There are some specific use cases that this platform seems ideal for.
The first thought that came to mind as I dug into the Chrome OS platform is: I wish this were out when my Dad was looking to get started on the Internet. It’s nothing BUT Internet. There is no having to mess with resolutions, or drivers. There is no learning where the web browser is. And the troubleshooting is beyond easy. Are you online? No? Is your network cable plugged in? Yes? Internet outage or hardware. There are minimal settings. It’s ideal for the person who only wants a system to reach the web for email, facebook, research, etc. The one area lacking in this particular use case is printer support.
As I sat down to regretfully skewer the CR-48 I was reminded of all of it’s virtues. It has great boot time from shutdown to startup and instant on from a standby perspective. One quirk I’ve noticed is that sometimes upon wakeup I see that I have a wireless connection but I can’t browse any websites. I have to disable the Wi-Fi and reenable it to get connectivity again. The battery life is nothing short of spectacular even with my forgetting to disable cellular service. I haven’t activated this perk yet, but I think I may give it a shot just to get the full story.
But I have reached a definitive conclusion regarding the Chrome CR-48. I’d be suffering from extreme buyers remorse had I paid even $200 for this, but that is tied wholly to what I need to do online and what I need in a netbook, which is competition Google is going after here. But given this was free and I was given a much appreciated opportunity to test drive it I’m still very enthusiastic about the possibilities.
All things considered I am still very much a Google fanboy. They’ve done enough to earn my conditional loyalty. I’m a big fan of Gmail. I love my Motorola Droid. I dig their approach to the openness of the Android platform. Google Chrome is my web browser of choice. When I say I’m going to Google It, I mean I’m going to google and doing a search. In terms of web ads their adwords are as unannoying as an ad can be. And lastly, how can you dislike a company that sends you a free laptop?