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Is the Chromebook What the Netbook Should Have Been?


raymac46
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Most of us old timers remember the heyday of the Netbook (2007-2012.) They seemed like a good idea at the time - a cheap laptop that you could use for getting online and doing stuff.

The problem with Netbooks was that they were grossly underspeced to run Windows. They had to be because the Windows XP licence was part of their sunk cost.

Linux based Netbooks ran far better but the interfaces the makers designed for Linux were so brain dead that nobody wanted to use them. As well, a lot of Netbook hardware was Linux antagonistic - bad wifi, video solutions that had to be kludged to work - resulting in a version of Linux that could never be updated or replaced.

Microsoft made matters worse by introducing a cheaper, stripped down version of Windows for Netbooks that was even worse than the original. Add to that the fact that broadband was not always available and cloud storage was in its infancy and the Netbook was doomed.

Fast forward a few years and we now have the Chromebook. It's still cheap compared to a Windows or Mac based laptop. But it runs a decent OS and you can get one with plenty of power and memory for a decent price. People aren't as Windows-centric anymore. Chromebooks are secure and updated frequently without a hassle. The education industry has embraced them. And the cloud infrastructure to support the apps and storage has been built out. Chromebooks are secretly Linux but nobody makes a big deal about it.

So it's taken a decade but I think we can conclude that the Chromebook is everything the Netbook was envisioned to be - and more.

 

 

Edited by raymac46
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There's no way I'm ever going to embrace cloud-centric computers. I take some effort in removing any of that rubbish from my desktop and notebook.

I did like my old ASUS EeePC and it performed well for years as a travel computer and later as a music player, once I replaced the feeble Linux it came with and installed siduction. Still works but I have a nice 11" Thinkpad Yoga for those tasks now.

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Chromebooks probably do not make a lot of sense for anyone who can select a used laptop and install a full-featured Linux system. But for those who cannot, or those who think you have to be a propellerhead to use Linux, the Chromebook offers a secure, cheap, and easily available option. We have always thought that Linux would succeed better if it were offered on a prebuilt system. The Chromebook sorta does that. I could see my son-in-law getting one for the kids if I were not around to install Linux.

That said, any machine I take for travel would have to feature enough local storage to back up my digital photos. I don't want to use the cruise ship's horrible Internet to store the photos in the cloud.

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13 minutes ago, raymac46 said:

Chromebooks probably do not make a lot of sense for anyone who can select a used laptop and install a full-featured Linux system. But for those who cannot, or those who think you have to be a propellerhead to use Linux, the Chromebook offers a secure, cheap, and easily available option. We have always thought that Linux would succeed better if it were offered on a prebuilt system. The Chromebook sorta does that. I could see my son-in-law getting one for the kids if I were not around to install Linux.

That said, any machine I take for travel would have to feature enough local storage to back up my digital photos. I don't want to use the cruise ship's horrible Internet to store the photos in the cloud.

Most Chromebooks come with an SD or microSD slot, so you should have plenty of storage for photos.

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23 hours ago, Bookmem said:

Most Chromebooks come with an SD or microSD slot, so you should have plenty of storage for photos.

True enough, but I'd still prefer to take my full featured Linux Thinkpad which not only has fast storage but a full size SD slot to accommodate the camera's card, plus a photo organizing program like Shotwell. My last cruise Internet experience was really bad, unless you take the very expensive Web stream and surf option.

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3 hours ago, raymac46 said:

True enough, but I'd still prefer to take my full featured Linux Thinkpad which not only has fast storage but a full size SD slot to accommodate the camera's card, plus a photo organizing program like Shotwell. My last cruise Internet experience was really bad, unless you take the very expensive Web stream and surf option.

And I'd prefer my HP with Ryzen 7, 16gb RAM and 500gb NVMe SSD.  But for some people, it isn't a question of what they'd prefer but what they can afford.  

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Well you can get a 8-10 year old Thinkpad or Dell Latitude for the price of a Chromebook, install Linux and you'll have a good travel companion. My Thinkpad is a T430 from 2012. However if you aren't comfortable installing an OS like Linux, then a Chromebook may do the trick. Either way you'll be secure enough.

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2 hours ago, raymac46 said:

Well you can get a 8-10 year old Thinkpad or Dell Latitude for the price of a Chromebook, install Linux and you'll have a good travel companion. My Thinkpad is a T430 from 2012. However if you aren't comfortable installing an OS like Linux, then a Chromebook may do the trick. Either way you'll be secure enough.

A laptop that old will not come close to the battery life of a newer Chromebook.  BTW, I've been installing Linux on laptops for close to twenty years.  I don't personally use a Chromebook but I can still see the value of one for many people.

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I replaced the battery on my Thinkpad and I get maybe 4 hours life which is nowhere near a Chromebook. However power is readily available in hotels and on the ship so it's no problem.

I agree with you that Chromebooks make sense for a lot of folks.

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I bought a chromebook. 10 hours battery. I haven't tested it to see what runtime it actually gets.. I don't plan to travel with it but it will make an excellent in home surfing/email, watching movies companion when the power goes out for more than the time on my UPS. I can use my phone as a hotspot if I want to surf or do emails and use the microsd slot to watch movies. (56 movies on  64GB and  32 GB microsd cards )

I also have a supply of portable battery packs to use on the phone and chromebook. Sometimes I just don't feel like driving to a hotspot for free wifi.

 

When I see I have a need for something, then I purchase it. (Our power was out for 13 1/2 hours on Christmas 2020.) Our last really major outage was for over 8 1/2 days in 2011. Everything was out of juice in that time frame.

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Netbooks ultimately were a failure because:

  • Although cheap, they were underpowered for Windows and users would not choose to buy them with Linux.
  • Tablets came along at the same time, as did smartphones - and both were viable alternatives.
  • Later generation netbooks came with a stripped down version of Windows 7 which restricted their memory capacity. That made matters worse.

Chromebooks have fared better because:

  • Broadband, wifi and cloud services have improved by an order of magnitude over the years.
  • Although still a low cost option, Chromebooks have beefier specifications and run much better than the older netbooks.
  • Education has embraced the Chromebook in a way that it never did with netbooks. Remember OLPC?
  • Windows is no longer the only OS any new user would think of. Mac OS, Linux, iOS, Android, Chrome OS are all possibilities now.
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  • 3 weeks later...

With the grandkids coming out here and often using my machines for school and for play, I thought it might be a good idea to get an actual Chromebook.

I took advantage of Black Friday pricing and got a mid-level Lenovo on sale. It has impressed me.

What I like:

  • Decent build quality. The Lenovo features light weight, good 1080p display, backlit keyboard. The screen has an magnesium back, the keyboard is plastic.
  • Good hardware. The 11th gen i3 and 8GB RAM is on the low end for a Windows laptop but it has plenty of power for Chrome OS.
  • Excellent wifi and Bluetooth capability.
  • 12 hour battery life.
  • Fast boot, instantaneous start from sleep.
  • Updates automatically and quickly.
  • No CPU sucking security apps - like Linux in that respect (of course.)
  • Can install Android apps if desired or enable Linux.
  • A good interface, unlike the brain dead Linux on Netbooks a decade ago.

What I don't like:

  • You are pretty much stuck with the Google Chrome universe. This won't bother the grandkids though as that is where they spend a majority of their time.
  • There is an Automatic Update Expiration date after which you don't get security or other software updates. That is 7 years from now so no urgent problem.
  • This might not be the best vacation machine. Internet on cruise ships is often sketchy, local storage is limited, and it does not have a full size SD card slot for photo backups.
  • I have had trouble in the past signing on to hotel wifi with a Chrome browser.

That said for the bulk of users who just want to surf, stream videos, play music, and do some light office work in the cloud I would have no trouble recommending a Chromebook. If you need full blown Microsoft Office, want to edit video or photo data, or play the latest games - a different matter. But maybe you don't want a laptop at all in that situation.

 

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I use Google Chrome all the time but my wife doesn't. She likes Firefox better. If I wanted to use an alternate browser, I think I'd enable Linux and install Firefox that way. I am not too keen on the mobile versions.

 

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I actually use Brave on my chromebook. I don't like FF's mobile version either. I have it installed and check it out from time to time to see if they've improved it.

On my phone (I rarely surf on it) and my android tablets , I have 4 browsers. Brave, Chrome, FF and Samsung Browser. You don't have to be using a Samsung device to use it. An internet friend installed it and discovered it was faster than other browsers.

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Surfing on the phone doesn't work that well for me either. I hate mobile keyboards and small screens. One problem I have with mobile browsers is you often land on the mobile version of the website. I find that you may as well use the native app for a particular site like a newspaper instead of trying to read it in a mobile browser.

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