I was perfectly happy with my second-hand, six-year-old MacBook, until its logic board bit the dust. Before that, I had been quite content with my two-year-old, factory-refurbished Thinkpad; that is, until my often-reinstalled copy of Windows XP started making vague threats and angry gestures and oh, whoops! I lost a second hard drive out of that machine. (Coincidence? I wonder. I thought at the time I heard something about leaving the gun and taking the cannoli…)
I tried The Linux Experience, but wound up spending more time trying to make it work than I ever did using it to get work done. Now I tap this out on the virtual keyboard of an orphaned tablet running a hacked version of an outdated operating system, and who knows how many hoops I’ll have to toss it through before it winds up on the blog?* I feel like a character in a dystopian science-fiction comedy (nothing new there, really), and as I write this it’s not even Thursday. This feels more Douglas Coupland than Douglas Adams.
I must admit to feeling a certain sense of defeat with regard to my impending purchase of a brand-new computer, even one as modest in scope and scale as the $249 Samsung Chromebook. But, having reached the limits of both my time and talent in trying to find a viable alternative, I must now reluctantly part with some of my treasure.
I take some solace, though, in having found a truly inexpensive and lightweight solution. At $249, the Chromebook is in the ballpark of the second-hand machines that have vexed me so over the years, and as far as I can determine there will be no additional costs down the road. No need to purchase expensive proprietary software, no disc or hard drives to replace, hardly any moving parts to replace at all. Is it eco-friendly and sustainable? Probably not in absolute terms, but for a personal computer, likely more so than most.
Will it last? Who knows? Probably not more than a couple of years, as that seems to be the typical life span of these products- in my use, anyway. This device presents two advantages in that respect, though. First of all, it has a shockingly low replacement price for a brand-new computer. Second, it stores everything in the cloud! That’s right, except for a nominal amount of on-board drive space- currently 16 GB, same as most tablets in its price range- all music, document, and photo storage is done on-line. The operating system is derived from the Google Chrome web browser and it runs web-based programs, with desktop-style extensions. I’ll know more in a few days. There is some trading-off, as in every transaction. But from all the reviews I’ve read, the machine does what it does very well. The question lies with the user: will this system work for a particular person? Does it do what User X needs it to do?
I will know the answer to that for sure in a few more days, once I get it home and get to working with it. But obviously I strongly suspect that it will handle what I need it to do- writing, mail, web-surfing, and social media-with a minimum of fuss and a minimal footprint. And, with two tower PCs, two Windows notebooks, and two tablets already in the house, that should be plenty.
*The correct answer is four: tablet word processor to local storage (sd card); sd card to Dropbox; Dropbox to desktop; desktop to web. Quite a workout. Thanks to all of you keeping score at home.