Adopting a Chromebook

As I was preparing for “This Week in Ontario Edublogs”, I was checking out Jen Giffen’s blog and found a couple of interesting posts.  The one about Flipgrid, I’m using tomorrow.  I was also intrigued by her post “My Week on a Chromebook“.  In the post, she shared her experience using a Chromebook with her Mac.  Unfortunately, she doesn’t share with us what models of each that she uses in the comparison except that the Chromebook only has an 11 inch screen.

I’m somewhat in the same situation.  I have two aluminum computers that I use depending upon various things.  In my case, the computers are a MacBook Pro, 13 inch screen, mid-2012 and an Acer Chromebook R13.

It’s almost unfair to compare the two of them heads up since there’s a huge difference in price.  However, they’ve both found their way into my regular work routine.  I ended up with the Acer because I wanted a Chromebook but I also wanted a replacement for my aging iPad.  This machine opens and flips around so that its touchscreen is also the touchscreen running Android applications.

So, back I went to Jen’s post and here are my observations as well as a few more.

Keyboard Shortcuts
As with Jen, I’m a big shortcut user and, perhaps because I’m also versant on Linux and Windows, I don’t have a problem with this.  I just have to remember to use the CMD key instead of the CTRL key.  (or the Super key when I attach an external keyboard)

Quickly Flipping Between Accounts 
Yes, you can have two different Google accounts on the Chromebook, as well as a Microsoft account.  To give me a quick nudge as to which account I’m using, I use Gmail for my personal email and Inbox for my professional account.  I actually have two Windows for my two accounts with related tabs pinned in each window.

No Firefox
Since my Chromebook also runs Android, I have Firefox installed on that side.  Also, Opera and CLIQZ.  I find them really handy to test things when I’m not logged into an account to see if what I’m sharing is actually going to work.  The catch?  Because it’s Android, the default is to get the portable version of a website.

No iMessage
I’ve never used iMessage or even set it up on my Mac so I can’t comment.

Split screen
It’s a great feature but I seldom use it, opting instead to having two tabs or two windows with tabs.

Small Screen
We differ on this one.  The MacBook Pro is actually a smaller screen with lower resolution than the Chromebook with its 13 inch screen and full HD resolution.

I hate notifications.  Ooh, a squirrel.  But they seem to be a necessity of life.  I’m not sure there is any way to make them palatable.

This is always the major discussion that comes up when you talk Chromebooks.  I’m bad; I have so much installed on the MacBook Pro.  And, I really don’t use them much anymore (except a browser) because my Chromebook usage has generally got me using web alternatives.  To keep track, I have a “Portal” where I have quick links to everything.  I just replace the new page with my “Portal Page”.  A portion of it…


Glorified bookmarks or Application Launcher?

There does come a time when lack of Programs takes on a serious note.  Applications like database development still don’t have an equivalent in the Chromebook world.  A serious analysis of what you’re going to use a computer for will help determine choice.

Speed – or lack there of.
Everyone’s complaint!  The flag that I mentioned in my “My Week Ending” post makes all the difference in the world.  I hope that it gets moved to the stable release.  It’s the best hack ever.  I find that both computers take a beating from Tweetdeck as it tries to catch up with updates in each column.  I’ve switched to plain ol’ Twitter with bookmarks for each of the Ontario Educator lists and it’s made all the difference in the world.

There is a price to be paid for the extra processing speed on the MacBook Pro and that’s the heat that’s generated and the need for a fan to keep things cool.  The Chromebook doesn’t have a fan since one isn’t needed.

To Jen’s list, I would add:

From a construction point of view, the MacBook Pro has the better trackpad but using the Chromebook convinced me that I was using it all wrong.  I was actually pressing and clicking.  It was only after using the Chromebook and moving back to the Macintosh and just tapping or double tapping instead of clicking that I became a convert.  It’s easier on the wrist and the cursor stays put.

Battery Life
There’s absolutely no comparison here.  The Chromebook claims 11 hours or something for its battery.  Much as I like computers, I’ve never been on anything that long!  However, at a recent full day meeting, I had no problems going 8 hours and not scrambling for an outlet like everyone else.  The MacBook Pro gives only a small fraction of that.  It’s too bad since most of the time is spent in a browser.  Opera with its battery saver is the best at it.

Speaking of charging, the magnet connection on the MacBook Pro is so nice with the amber/green LED easily visible.  But, USB C charging has it beat hands down for speed.

Operating systems have got this wrong for years.  Putting a Dock or Shelf at the bottom of the screen takes up valuable reading space.  I learned from Ubuntu – put the Dock to the left of the screen and autohide it.  I put my Shelf there as well.  So much more space is available now.

I can’t fairly compare the resolution of the two computers.  They were probably both great in their original version but the lower resolution on the MacBook Pro is really noticeable.  You shouldn’t be able to see pixels.

It wasn’t an option on the MacBook Pro and there was a time that I thought it was just a dumb concept.  Now that I effectively have an Android tablet, I can truly be a finger person.  Even in Chrome OS mode too.

Consequently, I’ve become a collector of micro-fibre.

Long time Windows user here.  As such, I make lots of mistakes when I use the Macintosh and the Chromebook.  I still lust for a backspace on the Macintosh and the extra keys on the Chromebook make for some interesting things.  Who hasn’t had the Android launcher pop up at the dumbest time?  They both are mostly under control when I connect my external Logitech keyboard though.  Confused at first, I realize after using the Chromebook, that I never use Caps Lock anyway so I just stopped wishing for one.

External Monitor
When I work on documents that require double screens, I like my old NEC monitor.  It doesn’t have an HDMI connection so that rules out the Chromebook.  I have the bane of every MacBook Pro user.  I do have the ability to display SVGA but require a dongle to do it.  So, for those requirements, it’s MacBook Pro time.

There’s no comparison here.  The Chromebook is very light when compared to the MacBook Pro and especially with my even older Sony Vaio.  I think it’s a concern if you’re carrying things around in a backpack.  A roller bag, not so much.

Thanks for the original post, Jen.  It was therapeutic to respond to your points and to add my own!  How about you, reader?  Hopefully, you read Jen’s post first and then this one.  What have we missed?  What have we got wrong?  What’s the impact in the classroom?

Making decisions about purchases is always tough.  (at least for me)  Chromebooks hit the market with low end specifications and limitations but you can get units with heftier specifications.  It’s always important to take things for test drives to see if they’re going to suit your needs.

OTR Links 02/22/2018

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