A slightly unfair early review of my new Chromebook

Chromebook-15_gallery_03Eh.  It’s fine.

Okay, I can probably come up with more to say than that– since I was specifically asked in comments yesterday to provide my thoughts on the new toy, and since hell if I know what else I might blog about tonight otherwise.  I’m going to be spending a lot of time this year messing around with, learning, and teaching Google tools (along with a lot of other stuff) and it didn’t take a whole lot of effort to talk myself into buying a Chromebook so that I can see what Google’s tools look like on hardware Google crafted especially for them.  Plus I got paid $200 for the training I was at over the last couple of days, so I figure that paid for the computer.  Yes: I bought a laptop that cost $200.  The point of Chromebooks is that they’re supposed to be cheap, and while my easily-available options ranged up to $750 and I actually looked pretty hard at one in the $450 range, I did actually end up buying the second-least-expensive one I could.  It’s an Acer Chromebook 15, and not the one that’s a two-in-one and can be folded into a tablet and that comes with a nicer screen.  The tablet mode is utterly useless to me and I don’t need a high-def screen for something that will be used purely to handle non-computing-intensive, non-video-related tasks.  The one I bought supposedly has a touchscreen; I have not touched it and it’s entirely possible that I never will.  I don’t know why a laptop would have a touchscreen and I don’t want one.

However: in general, I’m pretty pleased with it despite the lack of enthusiasm in the first paragraph.  The monitor is huge, the laptop is reasonably light, and most importantly after eight hours of basically constant use today the battery was still at 70%, which impressed me, particularly since working on documents that other people are editing at the same time has been murdering the battery on my Macbook Pro.  The keyboard isn’t all that much different in responsiveness and feel than my Macbook (which surprised me; I’m picky about keyboards) and in general the build quality feels pretty nice for something I only dropped $200 for.  I would expect it to be built from cardboard at that price.  I have some concerns about the power supply– the plug that actually goes into the laptop feels kinda dodgy– but I noticed no other obvious issues in a day of pounding on the thing.  It could definitely be a bit faster, but again: $200.  If you’re deeply or exclusively tied into the Google ecosystem, you could do worse than this little machine to navigate through your day.

If I hate it in a week, I’ll make sure to let y’all know.

Oyster review, sorta: On libraries and ebooks, part 2


It is surprisingly difficult to find a good-looking picture featuring oysters.

I got my invitation email for the Oyster app a couple of days ago.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out both the link on the phrase “Oyster app” back there (man, is that how the Interwebs work?) or take a look at this post from last week.  They got my invite to me within a couple of days, so at least right now there’s no Mailbox-style queue of six million people in front of you when you try to sign up for the service.  It may get longer as/if they get more popular but right now it’s no big deal.

Signup was relatively quick and easy.  There’s no way to just do a trial run on the software– if you want to use it at all you have to pony up the $10 for the first month’s access– but at least signing up was relatively painless.  Once you’ve chosen a login (it used my email address; I don’t know if you can change that and do a username) and a password it prompts you to create a profile and offers to hook itself to your Facebook account.  I declined both opportunities, so right now all the program knows about me is my email address and password.  Oh, and my credit card number.  I don’t know what it tries to do for you if you hook it to Facebook; I don’t plan to find out.

At that point it takes you to a screen with maybe fifty or so books on it and asks you to choose five you want to read.  It’s pretty specific that it wants you to choose from those; I don’t think you can search yet.  I decided on one book that is on my Amazon wish list and is therefore likely to be purchased by me sooner or later (Time Reborn, by Lee Smolin) and four books that have crossed my radar at some point or another but that I’m not ever going to actually buy unless they’re great:  Life of Pi, by Yann Martel; Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen; Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin and Game Change by John Heilemann.

I didn’t actually try to read any of them.

I decided the other day I wanted to reread Lord of the Flies.  After pawing through my bookshelves for a while I decided that I didn’t own it (I was pretty sure I didn’t, but figured it was worth looking) and figured that I’d use it as my first Oyster book when the app finally decided to let me download it.  So after it downloaded my first five books, I searched for Lord of the Flies.

It’s not available.

“Huh,” I thought, and looked through the first few pages of Rosemary’s Baby to see how the books actually looked.  You can choose a few different skins, change the text size, and change the brightness.  There’s no immediately obvious way to save the page you’re on, so I assume it autosaves that when you quit the application or switch books.  I closed it and downloaded it on my iPad (there’s no native iPad version but you can still use the iPhone version) and discovered that it does remember your books that you’ve downloaded but doesn’t actually save your page across apps.  While I won’t be doing much reading on my iPhone, even compared to the minimal use an ereader will get on the iPad, this is still a dumb omission.  There’s clearly some sort of cloud-based account saving going on somewhere or the second app would have no idea what books I had on the first one.  Page numbers should be included too.

And, other than opening it up to get author names for this post, I haven’t opened the app since.  Maybe if it had had LotF I might have read that by now; maybe not.  Clearly I still don’t like ebooks very much.

(This is why it’s “sorta” a review, by the way.)

As the weather gets colder I’m doing more and more of my grading at OtherJob, since there are fewer customers this time of year.  Our gradebook software basically demands that I have my laptop with me for this– there’s an app but it absolutely sucks and the spreadsheet style of the gradebook program kinda demands a laptop-sized screen.

My laptop is starting to shit out on me, and this is incredibly annoying.  I don’t understand how I can get four or five years out of a desktop easily but it’s a miracle if a laptop lasts longer than two or three.  I can afford a new laptop right now in the strictest sense of the word “afford” but it’s a really stupid idea and I don’t want to do it.  Do not do this to me, technology.  I’m not in the damn mood right now.