web  chrome os  

Apr 14, 2015 • Michael Chen

Netbooks failed to thrive because people tried to put every heavyweight applications into a relatively lightweight client. With the flourish of Web-based applications, a web browser becomes a lightweight operating system. Chromebooks show us a possible model of a thin client. It’s workable out-of-box, virus and malware-free, zero-configured, always updated, and, mostly important, affordable. Initially, geting everything from the cloud seem impossible, but, after some evaluation, you may find this model making sense.

a Chromebook

You may still doubt the possibility and usability of Chromebook, since a browser-only OS goes against what we know about a PC and the small volume disk of a Chromebook seems too small. However, Google promotes Chromebook with many Web-based services prepared, e.g. Gmail, Google Map, Youtube, etc. Besides, evaluating Chromebook is deceptively simple; just install and open your Chrome browser on your PC and fiddle its applications and extensions. You don’t need to worry about hardware compability because every Chromebook just works out-of-box. Before buying a Chromebook, just evaluate it on Chrome.

Applications

A sophiscated OS without any useful application means nothing to its users. So, make a list about your possible situations and try to find out alternative solutions. However, be open-minded; web-based applications sometimes work in different ways. Here is a possible list:

SituationSolution
Surfing the NetChrome, the only thing and everything in Chromebook
Receiving e-mailsGmail
VideoYoutube, Pluto TV, or use Chrome for online video stream
BBSPttChrome (p.s. Ptt is the largest BBS forum in Taiwan.)
Calender and appointmentGoogle Calender
Office softwareGoogle Doc, or you may try other online office solution like OneDrive.
TypesettingShareLaTeX
Image editingSumo Paint
StorageGoogle Drive
Ebook readerReadium for EPUB. Kindle Cloud Reader for Kindle books. Noteable PDF for PDF.
GamingThere are numerous Ghrome game apps.
ProgrammingCloud9, a Web-based multi-language IDE

You can build your own list and your choices may be different from mine.

Using Linux on Chromebook

Although Chrome OS is a customized Linux, Chromebook is not designed for command-line use. There are some way to use traditional Linux command utilities on Chromebook. One way is using a SSH client to connect a remote Linux machine. Secure Shell, a Chrome app, can help you. You may use your own private Linux server or rent a virtual host. There are several inexpensive virtual hosting providers, like Linode, DigitalOcean, Vultr, etc. You may get larger disk volume with better budget if using private Linux server, but virtual hosting services provides almost 24x7 uptime. It’s a trade-off.

If you prefer a local Linux machine, Crouton is a good solution. Crouton provides a Xfce desktop on Ubuntu, without too much applications. Since the local disk volume of a Chromebook is not sufficient for a full desktop, it’s better to stick to command-line utilities mostly. You may compare a SSH-based solution to this one, evaluating which one is better.

The Hardware

The peripherals of each Chromebook vary. There may be USB ports, web camera, SD card reader, HDMI, etc. You may choose according to your need. Since we can get most things and do most jobs through the cloud, don’t worry too much about the peripherals. Besides, the CPU of Chromebooks may be x86 or ARM. The CPU is not a real issue for most Chromebook users; however, if you need to run Linux on your Chromebook, a x86 CPU is better because of more Linux software on x86 machine. A good wireless network is of utmost importance for good Chromebook experiences, so check your network environment at each possible locations.

Verdict

Although ChromeOS may be not as fully functional as Windows or Mac OS X, Chromebook provides an easy and affordable environment. Besides, many Web-based solutions are available, supplementing the not-so-powerful hardware of Chromebook. If Chromebook can fulfill your most need, why not give it a try?