Friday, November 25, 2011

I have a new toy!

It’s a Chromebook. Google nicely gave it to me ahead of its official launch in Germany in order to put it through its paces, and tell as many people as possible about it. And this is what I’m using right now to write this post.

For those who don’t know what a Chromebook is, it’s basically a netbook with an operating system consisting of a file manager and a browser. And that’s it. The idea is that most computers these days are pretty much exclusively used to connect to the internet, so all you really need is, well, a browser. And since pretty much everything these days is done on the web — e-mail, social networking, and even (thanks to Google Docs) word processing and spreadsheets — that’s all you need, most of the time.

I’m still finding my way around it, but it’s an interesting little tool. Some are skeptical about whether it’s really any better than a tablet PC or a smartphone, but I do appreciate having a proper keyboard (as “proper” as is possible on a netbook).

Since it hasn’t any need for a hard drive, or any drive at all, and the OS really is just a glorified browser, there’s precious little to boot up, a process that therefore takes a little under ten seconds. It’s also quite light — about the same as a medium-weight hardbound book.

I’ve been given the Samsung version (Acer also does a Chromebook). The version sold in the US comes with a Verizon chip for those times when you can’t get a wifi signal, but that’s illegal in Germany (it ties you down to a specific provider), so instead it has a slot for a SIM card, and it’s really difficult to get the SIM card in and out. There is a SIM card provided free with a German Chromebook, with free three months’ flatrate internet access, but the provider Google chose to team up with happens to have the worst HSUPA coverage in Germany, so in my village I can only connect via GPRS which is horribly, horribly slow. So thank you, German lawmakers: I can switch to a different provider (which I may do when my three months free trial is up).

But it is a nice gift from Google all the same. Thanks, fellas.

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