Monday, April 22, 2013

Review of the Samsung Chromebook

For those of you that are not familiar with the idea of a Chromebook, it is Google's attempt to create what a netbook truly should be.  In order to accomplish this feat Google created an operating system that was designed to provide as little interface as possible between a person and the web.  Google built the OS around their suite of web apps which serve the same purpose as many traditional computer applications.

The Samsung Chromebook is the more expensive chromebook on the lower end of the price scale and at $250 it is a great deal.  You can see all the specs on the link above, but basically it has a minimal solid state drive and 2GB of ram.  It has an 11.6" screen and with a USB 3.0 port, a USB 2.0 port and an HDMI port as well as an SD card reader.  This model also comes with 100GB of extra storage for Google Drive for 2 years and 12 Free sessions of GoGo Inflight Internet.

The Good:

Speed - The Chromebook is pretty snappy with most tasks.  It boots up and navigates quickly.  The speed is somewhat dependent on the network, but assuming you have solid internet access the Chromebook is speedy all around.

Battery - The battery life is good and solid.  The information page touts 6.5 hours.  I have not used the Chromebook straight through the day, but I have been charging it at night and using it throughout the day.  It seems like computer uses almost no power while asleep.  The 6.5 hours stated on the website seems to be 6.5 hours of constant heavy use.

Size - At 11.6 inches this computer seems much more spacious than I expected.  I have used netbooks before at 10.5 inches they always seem small and unusable.  Considering this is only an inch larger than most netbooks it is comfortable and usable as a computer.  I think this has mostly to do with the full sized keyboard and the good HD screen.  The Chromebook is also thin and light, I would call it ultra portable.

Apps - The app store is also much better than I expected.  There are tons of useful apps in the chrome webstore.  Outside of a few very specialized and resource intensive programs, it is likely that you will be able to find an app in the appstore that will serve your needs.  It is important to note here that apps on the chrome  store are not like apps you download on your phone or Mac.  What Chrome refers to as apps are really online apps.  Most of the apps are simply shortcuts to a web service.

Web Integration - Because most of the work done on a Chromebook is  on the web it means that you don't have to worry about backing up or losing your data.  Everything is on the cloud and if your computer breaks or you are in a place where you don't have your Chromebook you can access your data on any computer through a web browser.

Price - I know I have mentioned this multiple times before, but this computer only costs $250.  That is cheaper than just about any other computer.  That means at some level, this is a disposable computer.  If your Chromebook gets lost, stolen, or broken you simply buy another one.

The Challenges: (I refer to these as "the challenges" rather than "the bad" because I see these as things that can be overcome with a little bit of imagination.  In my next blog post I will talk a little bit about how I plan to overcome some of these challenges for myself.)

Flimsiness - This computer is light and thin, but it is also clear that this computer is not hardened to survive a lot of wear and tear.  That is part of the trade off for getting an ultra portable computer that is also very reasonably priced.  The flimsiness does increase the chance that you will need to replace your Chromebook at some point.  That also means that this model of Chromebook might not be the best choice for the accident prone and children who have the tendency to be hard on electronics.

Small Storage Size - One of the things that is a strength of the Chromebook is also one of the challenges for me.  I use certain applications for Computer Aided Drafting, Music Editing, and Video Editing that simply cannot run on a Chromebook.  This means that if I have to work with one of those programs on the go, then I need to get creative.

Internet Access - This particular model of Chromebook is a wifi only model, so you need to be connected to wifi in order to access most things.  There are a few apps that work offline, but in order to do much you need to have internet access.  There is free wifi in most places and Google is clearly anticipating this need with the offer of free GoGo Inflight Internet sessions.

Presentation - The only Video output that this Chromebook has is an HDMI output.  While this will work with HDTVs and more modern AV systems, it is far from standard.  Chrome has a default presentation app that is similar to Microsoft Powerpoint and you can also get apps for Presi and other simple presentation software.  If your primary use of a portable computer is for doing presentations then you will want to look at one of the other Chromebook models with a VGA port or a more traditional laptop.

Overall the Samsung Chromebook is is a pretty solid computer.  It is small and lightweight and still feels like a real usable computer.  It is snappy and works pretty well for most tasks, but there are certainly some challenges that one needs to overcome if they want to make the most of a chrome book.  For the majority of users a Chromebook could easily serve most, if not all, of their computer needs.  Using chrome OS, and the cloud can be an adjustment, but I think that most people will be happy with the results once they get used to it.

What are the obstacles that would keep you from using a Chromebook?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Why I Want to Switch to a Chromebook

From the time that I first heard about them a few years back I have been intrigued with the idea of Google's Chrome OS and the Chromebook.  Up until recently, that fascination had simply to do with the fact that I am a geek and the idea of an operating system that was totally internet based seemed like it would be a cool system to play around with.  I have been a big fan of Google apps and now that I am at a school that uses Google apps I have made them part of my daily routine.  Even after all this, I thought that I could never make a Chromebook a usable part of my routine.

As cool as the idea of chrome OS was, I am a power user and I regularly need access to a couple of special applications.  I thought that as awesome as Chrome OS is and as much as I wanted to tinker with it, I thought it would never replace my Macbook pro.  About a week ago all of that changed.

My school has a 1 to 1 program for students in the middle and upper schools, and we have recently begun to consider the idea of adding 1 to 1 Chromebooks for at least a few of the grades in the lower school.  As part of this consideration the school bought a couple of Chromebooks so we can see how they work.  I was lucky enough to get one of Chromebooks to test out.  I absolutely love it!  And the best part of this Chromebook?  It only costs about $250!  I have decided that a Chromebook will become an important part of my workflow from now on.  In a couple of future posts I will talk a little bit about the advantages of the chrome book and how I plan to successfully move from a Macbook pro to a Chromebook as my primary laptop computer.

Have you had a chance to play with a Chromebook?  What did you think of the user experience?  Is it something you can see yourself including in your workflow?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What Does "Media Ministry" Mean?

In my previous post I discussed what I feel is assumption that is underlying the book Audio, Video, and Media in the Ministry by C. Floyd Richmond which I feel are also the underlying assumptions of the mainline denominations when it comes to technology.  In his introduction there is a subheading labeled "Importance of the Media Ministry Team" where he lays out what he thinks the media team (and by extension media itself) adds to the worship service.  He speaks specifically about sound system and projection.

I find it very interesting that Dr. Richmond includes both sound and AV into what he calls "media ministry."  I would argue that these two jobs should not be included under the same umbrella because these two jobs accomplish different functions within the worship service.  Running sound in a worship service is a strictly technical job.  The sound does not shape the service, it is simply a medium through which the worship leaders can be better heard by the people of God.  AV is more what I would define as media ministry.  The job of a media ministry team is not simply to run a piece of technology.  The media ministry is responsible for creating content that becomes an integral part of the worship service.  As such, media ministry is should be treated with much more care than simply technical ministries.  The media that is created has to be in harmony with the other elements of the worship service or it will create a disharmony that takes away from the worship experience.

When we look at the different potential technical ministries that a church can utilize in  worship, media ministry stands out as different from the rest.  The creation of content in media ministry places this ministry as more a mix between technical and arts ministry.  In order to do their job effectively the media ministry team must both understand how the hardware and software of an AV system work and must understand the aesthetic quality that the ministry team is trying to incorporate into the worship experience.  I think that the "Media Ministry" at a church would more effectively include the AV team and the "Web" team.  Both of these groups are tasked with creating and presenting content that shapes the worship and the public face of a congregation.

What groups does the media ministry at your church include?  Is your media ministry considered a technical ministry or is it considered more of an arts ministry?