Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Chromebook in Practice

In my previous posts on the Chromebook I expressed how excited I am about the Chromebook, I gave you an honest (but certainly biased) review of the Samsung Chromebook, and I told you that I would like to work the Chromebook into my personal work flow.  Today I would like to express how I see the Chromebook fitting into my personal workflow.

As I have mentioned in my previous posts, I consider myself a power user when it comes to computers.  I do a fair amount of Computer Aided Drafting, as well as Video and Sound Editing.  As such, I thought I would always need a powerful, high end laptop to be able to work on projects on the go.  The one thing that made the Chromebook a feasible part of my work flow is the fact that there are multiple ways to remote control another computer from a Chromebook.  To be clear, I don't think that I could use the Chromebook as my only computer, but I can do 90% of the work I have to do on a daily basis on a Chromebook.  For the rest of the work I have to do I can remotely control my home or work computer to complete the tasks.  I will point out here that I recently found out about a number of apps in the Chrome app store for video, audio and photo editing as well as a solution for coding in chrome.  I haven't played with them yet, but these apps have the potential to let me do most of what I need to do without a complex work around.  There is also an app in the chrome web store for programming, so if you are a programmer and that is a deal breaker for you there is a solution for that.  For a list of cool apps to check out look at this article.

I have just purchased a Samsung Chromebook (in fact it arrived in the mail yesterday!)  I will keep my Macbook Pro until it finally dies (It is about 4 years old right now), but I will likely keep it plugged up on my desk most of the time.  When that computer finally dies instead of buying another laptop, I plan to build myself a computer.  I just built my first "hackintosh" and I am planning on building a really powerful "hack pro" as my primary computer.  I will point out here that a hackintosh is a great project for someone who is comfortable working with a computer and tinkering to get things working.  A hackintosh is not a good solution for someone who who wants a solution that will work out of the box.  If you need a desktop at home, but do not have the skills or comfort level to build your own machine I would suggest the iMac.  The iMac is an incredibly powerful all in one computer but it is also reasonably priced for a mac.  I would highly recommend buying a desktop computer of some kind for your "main" computer because you generally get more bang for your buck with a desktop computer.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been searching for a good solution to remote control my computer.  There is a version of VNC viewer in the Chrome web store, but it is not compatible with the processor in the Samsung Chromebook.  I found Chrome Remote Desktop in the chrome webstore and it could not have been easier to get up and running.  This installs from the chrome web store on the Chrome browser on any computer, but installs as a utility (at least on the mac).  Once it is installed and set up to be accessed you assign a pin to the computer and you can control it by signing into Chrome Remote Desktop on any computer that has a Chrome web browser and access to the internet.

The internet issue is one that can be challenging.  If there is no access to the internet, then a Chromebook becomes all but useless.  It is still possible to work on a Chromebook offline, but you are very limited in what apps and documents you have access to.  Most likely you have wifi at home and at workand there are many restaurants and businesses that offer free wifi to customers.  Hopefully this will cover a great majority of your everyday life.  This Chromebook offers free sessions on GoGo inflight wifi, so if you are traveling you will be able to access the internet on planes.  If you fly a lot, GoGo offers a few subscription options, so you might consider subscribing.  That just leaves anywhere on the ground where there is not free wifi.  There are tons of options from your cellular provider, they make wireless hotspots and most smart phones can also be used as a wireless hotspot.  My solution for this problem is an Android app called FoxFi which will allow any Android phone be used to connect to the internet.  Most phones will support a wifi hotspot through FoxFi, but even if your phone won't work as a wifi hotspot you can connect via usb or bluetooth.

These are simply my thoughts and suggestions on how I can make a Chromebook workable for me.  How would you make a Chromebook work for you?

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