- After 30 years, enough with Windows, already!
- Chromebooks dominate in education because they're powerful & easy to use.
- Chromebooks are REALLY secure.
- Chromebooks are fast! (Thanks to the ChromeOS.)
- Chromebooks are customizable.
- Buyer beware! It may be cheap, but when does that low-cost Chromebook expire?
- My Chromebook: Part of a Powerful Ecosystem of Google Tools
- Final Thoughts: How 40 Years of Personal Computing Has Led Me to a Chromebook
- Bonus Tip: Don't throw away that old Windows PC or Mac. You might be able to make it a Chromebook!
[FYI: This article contains over 60 links to references for further research. Enjoy!]
After 30 years, enough with Windows, already!
Chromebooks dominate in education because they're powerful & easy to use.
The first Chromebooks went on sale in June of 2011. They were developed for use in the classroom as a low-cost and safe tool for kids who were working with the net. Since then "... according to analytics research by Edweek Market Brief in 2019, Chromebooks make up 60% of the devices sold for K-12 schools in the U.S. This figure since then has only seen improvement as Chrome OS continues to dominate the educational sector..." (from Chrome Ready's post 9 reasons why schools use Chromebooks instead of laptops)
Over the years Chromebooks have become much more powerful and able to run all sorts of programs, apps and tools used by creators. This has largely been driven by the needs of teachers who demanded Chromebooks help them with complex classroom presentation, communications and distance learning and networking chores. Today, those ever-improving Google programs (like Docs, Sheets & Slides) are in the hands of most of our kids, along with other classroom-specific tools that greatly enhance their learning. And for most of us, we will never need more tools and computing power than those kids and their teachers are using, right there on their Chromebooks.
What's more, this latest version of the ChromeOS comes with Screencast, a real video-creating powertool. It lets anyone easily make, record, and edit screen-based videos while automatically generating a searchable transcript! And there's no additional software needed! Engaget explains: "[Screencast is] a new built-in app that allows teachers to build a video library of lessons and demos students can turn to if they miss a class or need help with a homework assignment. Available as of ChromeOS version M103, the software includes tools for trimming and transcribing clips." (from Google's Screencast app for Chrome OS lets teachers record video lessons...)
Chromebooks are REALLY secure.
Many tech experts recommend Chromebooks for banking and other uses requiring strong online security. Here's a quick list of what makes Chromebooks so secure. The list (and all quotes) are from Are Chromebooks more secure than laptops? from the Tech Advisor website.
- Automatic Updates: Chromebook updates are automatic and more frequent than Windows updates, rolling out every 2-3 weeks as compared to monthly. And the user typically doesn't need to do anything... they just roll out and install when you turn on the computer.
- Sandboxing: "Each tab in ChromeOS acts as a separate entity with a restricted environment or ‘sandbox’. This means that only the affected tab is vulnerable, and that it is very difficult for the infection to spread to other areas of the machine."
- Verified Boot: "Whenever a Chromebook is turned on it goes through a self-diagnoses process, looking for any code that doesn’t belong. During this Verified Boot the device automatically quarantines and removes anything that isn’t from Google."
- Data Encryption: "The majority of software on a Chromebook is stored and run in the cloud. There are still local files, which take the form of downloads, browser caches, cookies, and whatnot. These can be used by hackers to find out what a person has been doing online, so Google encrypts them on the device to prevent any snooping. Turning it off and on again really does fix things."
And to Tech Advisor's list above, I would add Chromebook's Powerwash capability. This erases everything on the device and resets it to factory settings. Sound drastic? Sure. It's a "last resort" kind of measure. But since almost everything (your data, account info, etc.) on your Chromebook lives in Google's cloud, cleanly & safely backed up, it can be quickly restored. (See Insider's article How to 'Powerwash' your Chromebook and reset all of its data.)
Chromebooks are fast! (Thanks to the ChromeOS.)
"Chrome OS is a lightweight operating system compared with Windows 10 and macOS. That's because the OS centers around the Chrome app and web-based processes. Unlike Windows 10 and macOS, you can't install third-party software on a Chromebook -- all the apps you get come from the Google Play Store. This is both a pro and a con. With Chrome OS, you don't have to worry about a bunch of Windows junk programs clogging up your storage space. Chrome OS is also speedier than Windows and macOS for this exact reason -- Chrome OS isn't weighed down by dozens of processes running in the background. On the flip side, you simply can't run all your legacy Windows or macOS programs on a Chromebook." (from Chromebooks vs. laptop: what's the difference and what should you buy?)
|This link is for your research purposes only. |
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Chromebooks are customizable.
The 6-year-old article Customize Your Chromebook remains a great introduction to the many ways you can make your Chromebook your own. I've highlighted the methods it lists (and several more). All of which are still available today:
- Personalization: Set up your own profile picture, wallpaper, etc.
- Keyboard settings: Set up unique key functions, find your favorite shortcut keys, change touchpad settings, etc. (Here's Google's list of ALL Chromebook keyboard shortcuts. Or get an excellent PDF reference poster for your office wall here.)
- Voice typing (dictation) Why type at all? Just use the Chromebook's microphone to dictate and have your speech translated to text in any document or web page field.
- Apps and extensions: Add your favorite Android apps, Chrome browser extensions, unique launcher & more.
- Offline Use: Set up your Google Drive and tools like Docs, Sheets, etc to work offline.
- ChromeOS flags: If you're a bit adventurous, you might want to try some "ChromeOS flags" to use new, powerful features that haven't been finalized by Google. Many of these eventually become stable features of ChromeOS as Google approves them for everyone to use. Some are really powerful and useful. Learn more here in this Chrome Unboxed article: How to use Chrome flags for experimental settings.
Here's a screenshot of the ChromeOS flags that I have enabled (and really like!) on our new Asus Chromebook:
Buyer beware! It may be fast, but when does that low-cost Chromebook expire?
"Chrome devices (e.g. Chromebook, Chromebox, Chromebase, Chromebit) receive automatic updates that enhance both the device and its software. Device updates provide the latest features and keep the device secure, and are applied across the operating system, browser and hardware. These updates depend on many device specific non-Google hardware and software providers that work with Google to provide the highest level of security and stability support. For this reason, older Chrome devices cannot receive updates indefinitely to enable new OS and browser features." (-- from Google's Auto Update policy)
My Chromebook: Part of a Powerful Ecosystem of Google Tools
So how do I use my Chromebook? I work with Google creation tools on my Google Home smart speakers, phone, tablet and Chromebook. Here's an example of how they fluidly integrate to keep me focused on creating.
This article began as a Google Keep note. The basic concept occurred to me while I was on an exercise walk. So I popped open Google Keep on my phone and began dictating a bunch of rough notes via the microphone on my earbuds. Later, when I got home, I opened my tablet and began researching some of the articles linked here, adding them to the Keep note. For a few days I went back and forth like this from phone to tablet with Keep capturing a whole bunch of ideas and references. A couple of ideas even occurred to me while I was showering, so I yelled them out to my Google Assistant smart speaker in the bathroom, who added them to the Keep note for me. Eventually, using my Chromebook, I went to my account at this Google Blogger website, begin a new blog post, pulled in the rough notes from Keep, then added some screenshots I had stashed in Google Photos and later edited with Google Drawings. Finally, I polished the finished post, adding formatting, links, etc.
As you can see, the integration of all these tools and the ability to use most of them offline makes for a fluid user experience that enhances, rather than gets in the way, of the creative process! (And I hope to expand my Chromebook uses in the near future to include the creation of "how to" videos using the new Screencast tools.)
And, of course, our Asus Flipbook Chromebook (see photos above) is also a high-speed 'net surfing wonder, playing back all sorts of media trouble-free in its partly folded "tent" form or as a compact tablet. In addition, as a Google Cast-friendly device, we can cast anything we want to stream or photos to display on our big-screen Sony Bravia Android/Google TV.
Final Thoughts: How 40 Years of Personal Computing Has Led Me to a Chromebook
As I said earlier, I've experienced over 40 years of personal computer use. I've seen lots of operating systems, user-friendly (and unfriendly) software and more than my share of hacking scares, virus overruns and relentless upgrades, reconfigurations and re-booting. Here the history:
Our PC Life Before Windows
Our early clients were tech companies (Epson, Apple, Xerox, etc.). They expected us, as instructional design (ID) contractors, to be tech-savvy, early adopters of the same tools they were using. So my PC experiences began long before Windows, as listed below:
- The Epson QX 10 w/Valdocs (as in "valuable documents") - This was my first ever, as part of a instructional design (ID) contract with Epson. It ran the Epson-only TPM operating system, had no hard drive and did all its work with two 5 1/4" floppy disks. Software was text only, green characters on a black screen. But it was a start.
- Apple Macintosh SE - Our team got two of these things via a contract with Apple for instructional design (ID) and development. It ran OS System 4.0 & Finder 5.4 and early versions of MacWrite & Visicalc (an ancient spreadsheet). We ditched these right after the contract was complete because they weren't compatible with anything other clients were using.
- Northgate PC - (History) Can't remember all the details, but as our ID contracting business became more complex we spent $10,000 on this complete with its character-based (not WYSIWYG) screen, along with a cheap dot-matrix printer. It ran both the CP/M and Microsoft's Windows precursor, MS-DOS operating systems, rudimentary spreadsheet/accounting programs and our venerable ID word processing tool, WordPerfect. We also had a primitive Northgate laptop with a character-based screen.
Early Windows Machines
Based on our need to remain compatible and interact with our corporate clients, we adopted many iterations of Windows machines over the years, starting with a couple of Windows 3.1 PCs from Gateway. Here's the list of our workhorse Windows computers, as best as I can recall them:
- Gateway - Two desktop machines and a couple of laptops got us started with Windows.
- Dell Inspirons - We used several of these over many years.
- Dell Vostro - A powerhouse for its time, we upgraded its Windows OS many times over the 10 years it was in use!
- Asus touchscreen - This is our final Windows machine, it's high-quality Asus hardware came with annoying, never-ending Windows security issues. It works fine, so we'll probably turn it into a Chromebook. (See details on that Windows to Chromebook conversion below.)
Bonus Tip: Don't throw away that old Windows PC or Mac. You might be able to make it a Chromebook!
If you're ready to ditch your old PC because it's slowing down or can't be updated properly, then you may be able to convert it to a safe-to-use-online Chromebook running Chrome OS Flex. Gizmodo says:
"Google’s Chrome OS Flex has officially arrived to rejuvenate old PCs and Macs, by turning them into Chromebooks. Eventually, your Mac or PC will struggle to run after being bogged down with software or crippled from wear and tear following extensive use. It could take a few years or a decade, depending on various factors, but there is practically no escaping the inevitable. Instead of repurposing or recycling your aging system, you can now use Chrome OS Flex to convert a PC/Mac into a Chromebook." - from Google's Chrome OS Flex Is Here to Revive Your Old Mac or PC
- Go Full-Time Chromebook In 2020, Save Money, And Ditch The MacBook And Windows 10: Here’s Why (Forbes)
- Three Ways Chromebooks Are Better Than PCs or Macs (How-to Geek)
- Chromebooks versus Windows laptops: Which should you buy? (PC World)
- Best Chromebook in 2022 (Laptopmag.com)
- Chromebooks: an overview (Quartz)
- Chrome Unboxed website & Chrome Unboxed YouTube Channel
- 50 Chromebook tips for maximum productivity (ComputerWorld)
- 11 Essential Chromebook Keyboard Tips You Need to Know (MakeTechEasier)
- The 20 Best Chromebook Keyboard Shortcuts (Online-Tech-Tips)
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