Living with Google's Cr-48 and the cloud
Google's Cr-48 has been out for quite a long time now. So long, infact, that the beta testing phase is practically over and Google has moved from the Cr-48 to releasing the OS to two competing manufacturers - Acer and Samsung. So why then, I hear you ask, am I choosing to write about my feelings towards the Cr-48 instead of waiting a little longer and becoming one of the first to review a new, shiny Samsung or Acer?
Well, I'll tell you!
You see, although Google might forget about the Cr as they plough on through their campaign to bring Chrome OS to the masses at a price anyone is supposed to be able to afford (I disagree, by the way - $399!!.. That's a story for another day though), I was one of the lucky few (and only one of a handful in the UK) to get a Cr to replace my old, battered Dell and I plan on using it until it can be used no more. So far, I've started off quite well I think!
I'm not going to go too far into the basics with regards to hardware and software, simply because there are more sites than you can shake a stick at that've done all of that for me. If you don't know much about the Cr then take a little gander here for a review: http://goo.gl/gotgi. For a quick overview, it's got a similar spec to most netbooks on the market. The difference being that it's running an operating system so very light, it makes the competition look diabolically slow. Coupled then with a 16GB SSD hard drive and you have a half decent laptop with a boot speed in the range of 8 seconds.
So, with that out of the way.. When I received the Cr my intentions were simple, take this small, Macbook looking device and use it in lieu of every other laptop and desktop I have. Seems fairly straight forward, yes? I mean, if I'd just received a new HP with specs similar to my current desktop there'd literally be no issues with making the swap. Files, programs, etc would be on the new device within the hour.
But the Cr is a very different animal.
Although it's got the hardware and software you'd expect on a laptop (or rather - netbook), it's not designed to be used as a conventional device. Everything resides in the cloud - there's no room for a cloud/offline compromise on this device.
It's all or nothing.
And this is the issue, the reason I had to consider my intentions, set out a plan of action and even the reason I'm now writing this article. Can you imagine how many times a day you find yourself reaching for a file on your desktop or opening an app you've installed in order to do something? Well that's not possible any more. Files need to reside in the cloud, desktop apps are now web apps and the best part? Nothing is available unless you're online.
Now I consider myself to be a pretty solid and always-connected web enthusiast. My Google Docs account(s) are crammed with an abundance of information I've either uploaded or created there and then within Google Docs itself, my email is handled by Google, my blogs etc are all hosted in the cloud and I use the web interfaces to create and post new articles (I know a number of people who like desktop apps for Wordpress etc). In fact, the only desktop app I regularly use is Photoshop and my Terminal App for connecting to my hosted solutions.
So what could be the issue?
Well to be honest there wasn't an issue as such, just things that bug me with Chrome OS. I could manage with the Cr but often found myself going back to my other laptop or desktop in order to do something or save a file somewhere for later use. I can't upload everything to Google Docs as although they provide unlimited storage for native Google Documents, a lot of what I have consists of stuff that I would perhaps use once and not again, or intended for another computer. It's a pain to have to upload everything when I could download it somewhere else.
It later struck me, if there was a native RDP client built into ChromeOS it would be perfect. I had Chrome for the web, and could connect to my always-on server for everything else I may need to do. That was a bit of a pipe-dream though. There are web apps but they suck, and although RDP has been sat in the about:flags section of Chrome and ChromeOS since one of the first updates on the Cr, nothing has been released and so I found myself continuing to use multiple devices throughout the day. Something I hadn't done previously to getting the Cr.
Frankly speaking, until I get a native RDP client on the Cr which will enable me to spend all day inside Chrome, but allow me to log onto my sever when I need to, it'll be difficult for me to use the Cr as my one and only device. Even then, whether I can call it my one and only device, given I'll need to log onto my server to do some things, remains debatable. At least then I'd be happy though.
I love the cloud, I love working in the cloud 90% of my day, but when it comes down to all or nothing, I just can't quite get along with it.
Luckily, the Cr is very hackable... Watch this space.