Chromebook Mobile: August 2014

Cloud Computing and Blogging w/ Chromebooks, Chrome, and the Google Chrome OS: - Simplify your life!

After: Migrating to Google's Chrome OS

Making the Apple and (or) Microsoft switch to Chrome via Google's Chromebook (Pixel) Laptop

Have you been wondering whether it's possible to switch entirely to a Chromebook (or Chrome and the Google Chrome OS) from Microsoft Windows or the Apple OS? Join our adventure into computing exclusively from a Chromebook Pixel (or any Chromebook) from the largely cloud based environment to see if it's for you!

PCs and workstations are morphing into terminals networked to the mega-computer known as the "cloud" which envelopes nearly everything we do in the world today. Cloud computing gives users access to resources they could never afford otherwise. How far are you or your company integrated into this communications network which is moving towards the speed of light?

Chromebook Pixel 64 laptop pictured on desk with accessories plugged in
Google's Chromebook Pixel 64 laptop
Since the beginning of 2014, 100% of our computing has being accomplished via the relatively expensive Chromebook Pixel pictured above, but the majority of mainstream Chromebooks cost between 200-300 dollars and can achieve nearly identical results. That's probably a fraction of the cost of what most people end up paying just for their software alone with other OSs!

Author's note: In my case, computing with Microsoft was getting so expensive that it wasn't even pleasurable anymore. Google's Chrome has changed all that. It's been an experience making a total switch to Chrome, but computing is actually fun and affordable again. The Google Chrome OS is the best thing that's happened to personal computing in the last decade. If you search the internet for articles about people making the switch to Chrome you'll find much whining and complaining, but in 99%+ of the cases it's simply because those authors are unwilling to find new ways to do the things they do on the PC, unless of course they have terribly slow internet connections holding them back from the full Chromebook experience because, after all, Chrome is cloud computing.

OK, if you're curious about the exterior connections on this laptop (on the left, from front to back): 1) standard 1/8" stereo cable running from the headphone/ microphone jack to a set of powered monitors 2) Plugable USB 2.0 to 10/100 Fast Ethernet LAN Wired Network Adapter connected to router 3) Mini DisplayPort to DVI Cable for external display 4) power cable to PSU (charger). Note: this was all "plug & play" with no hassle or configuration difficulties. We're kind of sticklers for wired connections around the office, but you can yank all these cables out and get power from the battery while getting your network access (or Internet) via the 4G LTE from Verizon (on the Pixel 64) or, more commonly, by just using the standard Wi-Fi found on nearly any Chromebook. Note: we can max out our ISP's 90 Mb/s download speed on either the dual-band Wi-Fi or USB 2.0 Ethernet connector (neither is faster in our case). Also, a VPN (virtual private network) is a breeze to set up on the Chromebook if you want to tighten the security up to avoid snoopers.

If you're looking for more details on any of the externals hooked to the Chromebook in the photo you can view more info via the links below (these are our Amazon affiliate links).

Looking for an entire Chromebook Pixel laptop? Unless you're prepared to purchase a new one from Google Play, we recommend using eBay. Amazon lists new ones also, but as of this writing they were more expensive than the ones you could get directly from Google via Google Play. The main thing we recommend when buying laptops on eBay is 1) the seller has at least a dozen sales with +98% positive feedback 2) the seller is not raping you on shipping charges 3) you pay via PayPal so you're covered by their buyer protection policy 4) the seller has great pictures of the item and not generic photos taken from the web 5) the seller is offering the minimum 14 day return policy 6) the seller is not trying to downplay any damage to the unit. Assume the Google warranty on the Pixel NOT going to transfer to you as the second owner, so check it out closely.

We've mentioned this elsewhere, but you don't even need to run out to buy a Chromebook if you want to see if it's for you. Just use Google's Chrome web browser combined with "Google Drive for your desktop" exclusively. You can also use G-drive via your web browser, but the "desktop version" is going to more closely emulate what you'll experience with your Chromebook. Oh, and don't worry if your hard-drive crashes, or you loose your computer, everything you copied to Google drive will still be there unless you went into G-drive in the cloud and purposefully deleted files, in which case, it'll still be in the G-drive trash unless you went in there and deleted that too. You can also backup or sync your G-drive (and more) to other online drives for the ultimate in redundancy, but that's the content of another article.

So, let's say you've got the Chrome and G-drive combo up and rolling: Do everything you normally do completely from within the Chrome web browser (Chrome control center) and G-drive. If (when) you run into a problem, search for the solution that works for you. Use Google's Web Store to find Apps and Extensions (we've listed a few here). You'll also discover that there are website based solutions for nearly every mission you're trying to carry out. Move (copy) your files over from your computer to Google Drive and get it organized and customized just how you like it. Experiment opening all the files you use (within G-drive) without using a Windows (or Apple) application so you can figure out what your alternatives are going to be in Chrome. If you're a Linux user you probably know the Chromium and Google Chrome OS is a lightweight and lighting quick Linux build.

The computing world is progressively moving into the cloud these days as Internet connections pick up speed. Google is the leader while Microsoft is arguably scrambling to keep up in the cloud computing environment for the average end user. If must use Microsoft, VMware is working with Google to bring Windows applications to your Chromebook. There is also MS Office Online but, for now, it's really just a companion to the expensive Windows PC retail version. We're not going to spend much time with that solution on Chromebook Mobile, because then you're heading right back towards the expensive operating environment we've freed ourselves from. For the most part, those lamenting the loss of Microsoft are going to be looking for their beloved Office products, so while you're experimenting with Google's cloud computing spend plenty of time giving Google Docs or their "Apps for Business" a try, it's a bit different, but fully effective once you become proficient. There's also "Zoho" online office which is a beautiful alternative. Zoho's also free for your basic to mid-level users, plus you can use your web domain name for your email address ( for free.

Some see the Chromebook as consisting of not much more than a web browser. Actually, in the Google Chrome operating system, the Chrome web browser doubles as the "Chrome control center"; it's a web browser / combination control panel for the Chrome OS and all the software you'll install. Also, most of the "software" you add on is, in large part, yet another group of interfaces connected to much more powerful and constantly updated web-based versions. Simply installing nearly everything on the "outside" of the Chrome browser and the Chrome OS (automatically) helps protect and shield your computer's core operating structure, plus, you're leaving the bulk of your web-based software's security worries to the people you trusted to design it in the first place. Windows 8 has masterfully done nearly the same thing (though most of its software is machine installed vs. cloud based) but you can pretty much wipe any corrupted or unwanted software (apps) off the top of Windows 8 leaving the core operating system rock solid and unmolested.

Back to your Chrome G-drive combo experimental setup, and here is the great part; after you're fully setup and configured within the Chrome browser and Google Drive combination, just go to any computer or a Chromebook, logon to Google, and presto... an editable duplicate of your preferred operating environment will load right up. You can make changes from anywhere. This includes your personal settings, bookmarks, extensions (software), and what have you. Just make sure that in the Chrome web browser (aka Chrome control center) in the "Advanced sync settings" you've marked "Sync everything". Generally, the only exceptions in your problem free transition will be with a few isolated incidents where you didn't realize Windows or Apple software was still assisting one of your tasks, but the fix will be simple. When you're satisfied with your customization of the virtual Chromebook OS (Chrome browser Google drive combo), just make sure you've logged into any Chromebook with its Chrome OS to verify your setup with absolute certainty before you commit and put all your Windows and Apple gear on eBay.

Also, think about this... if your Chrome device breaks (or is misplaced, stolen, or you just want a new computer), you can drive down to Walmart, buy an inexpensive Chromebook, plug it in, log-on, and presto!, you're right where you left off in no time at all. No muss, no fuss, terror, nightmares, or huge time expenditures. Try that with a Windows, Apple, or another Linux machine! Oh, yeah... livin' large in the cloud baby...

Back to Google's Pixel Chromebook: The Pixel is pretty much a functional work of art (yeah, we know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder). They're much more costly than nearly any other Chromebook available today, but you can find them on eBay with the "like new" ones averaging about half of what they cost new. Sometimes, you'll notice people mention that the Pixel doesn't sell like hotcakes and that Google must be disappointed in the sales figures. The Pixel is a showcase Chromebook and wasn't designed to be a big money-maker (90% of Google Chrome related sales will be budget tightening based expenditures, whereas a Pixel purchase would generally be considered splurging). You might also worry about not getting the 1 or 2TB Google Drive offer when buying a used Pixel (most sellers linked into Google and cashed in on the "free" online storage offer that came w/ a new Pixel, and it's non-transferable), but don't worry, Google is dropping the G-drive prices continuously and as of this writing, 100GB is 2 dollars a month. Ultimately, there is an ever-growing selection of excellent Chromebook choices besides the Pixel. You can also buy a secondary ultra-cheapo or used Chromebook and toss it around wherever you go, for anytime access (in a modernized environment) to your computing needs. Two Chromebooks can easily be had for what you'd normally pay for a single mainstream PC, and that's not even considering the massive software savings coming your way with Chrome.

After reading some other reviews of the Pixel 64 we shuddered at the thought of the 64GB SSD. Well, it turns out that nearly everything is in the cloud and the Chrome OS takes up almost no space at all. The 32GB Pixel would have been plenty. We moved and converted everything from Windows and Mac (including all personal files) and are only using about 10GB locally on the Chromebook (that's with everything set up and installed!). That's 10GB total on the Chromebook; All other data is in the cloud via G-drive even though it operates like it's all stored inside the machine. On our last Windows 8 Pro machine we consumed 35GB on a fresh install with just the OS and factory installed bloatware, nothing else! Then, the SSD factory minimum recommended over-provisioning (for reliability) sucked up another 25GB. That's 60GB consumed on a fresh Windows install with not a single file or preferred software program even installed yet! When comparing a Chromebook to your typical Microsoft or Mac notebook it's like comparing apples to oranges if you're boasting about the hard-drive capacity on the latter.

Also, speaking of storage media; we had some Windows external back-up HDDs lying around, and the Pixel reads every standardized file on them without issue when plugged into one of the USB ports. You can also use USB thumb-drives (though the Pixel ports are 2.0 vs the faster USB 3.0 available on some Chromebooks). But wait! There's also the SD/multi card reader slot and (if you have the money and just have to have extra compact physical storage space) with cards like Toshiba's 16 & 32GB SDHC EXCERIA PRO memory card hitting the market, you're in like flint with speed to burn! In other words, your storage options seem limitless with a Chromebook.

The Chromebook Pixel boots in a snap. Reportedly it's about 7 seconds, but in reality, it just boots up with no delay unless you're wired out as hell and a second seems like an eternity. The 12.85" Pixel 2560 x 1700 screen is drop-dead gorgeous! It's touchscreen as well, but we disabled that function. In our opinion, the Pixel is not realistically functional as a touch device and this feature was intended to showcase the technology for upcoming Chrome touch capable hardware and software (Google also has a beautiful virtual keyboard and input tools that are nearing perfection). The Pixel laptop is smaller than we expected (0.64" x 11.72" x 8.84") because it always looks big in the pictures and we prefer larger laptops, but most people do not and will love its just under the average Apple 13-inch MacBook like dimensions.

The next thing you are going to notice, after the screen, is the etched glass touchpad. It seems a bit odd at first, but after a couple of hours, or days if you're going to master it, you won't even consider using a mouse. We would go into all the details about using the Chromebook Pixel, but that would be idiotic since Google wrote up a better "Tour of your Chromebook" article than we are going to come close to here. The link goes to the touchpad section, but move forward or back in the Google article for the full tour.

The Chromebook Pixel keyboard has excellent feel and the backlit keys are a pleasure to use in diminished light conditions. The Chromebook has a multitude of well designed keyboard shortcuts, and unlike Windows, we actually feel they're intuitive and compliment the system and are fun to learn. Visit Google's page on the Chromebook keyboard shortcuts or on a Chromebook press Ctrl+Alt+/ for an interactive keyboard map.

All surfaces are superior on the Pixel: The glass touchpad, beautiful and crisp backlit keyboard, the glass 12.85" high-res display, the machined aluminum chassis, and so on. The internals include an Intel Dual Core 1.8GHz i5 processor, 4GB or DDR3 RAM, and a 32 or 64GB SSD.

Then, on any Chromebook you are going to get automatic updates for your software, which includes Chrome, the Chrome OS, and all the software you install via the Chrome Web Store. Your other Chrome operated software applications like Zoho, VMware, or whatever else you choose will be secured and updated by the cloud based vendors as well. This means no more worries over the latest and greatest software updates or concerns over your antivirus arsenal. The Chromebook is easy to deploy; You're good to go 24/7.

This article isn't intended to be a Chromebook Users Guide, but here's a list of authoritative Chromebook links for some of the best info you'll find on Chromebook basics. On this site we'll present you with an end users experiences in moving towards Chrome as a primary operating system and will cover the specifics in our articles. In this article we're just generalizing the overall experience of migrating from Microsoft Windows using a Chromebook Pixel as our new platform, and these ideas apply to any Chromebook.

Anyhow, migrating to the Chromebook has been the most pleasurable computing experience we've ever had. It's not for everyone yet. There is the 0.01% of computer users who actually need some type of superior super-processing power locally that is not yet readily available to the average Chrome user. For the most part, this relates to heavy graphics users, like "serious" beyond the basics video editing for pros. There are also the heavy-duty video gamers that play games like "Battlefield 3", "Crysis 3", or "Far Cry 3", and for now, you can forget about the Chromebook. Note that the majority of gamers play only browser-based games that they mistakenly think could take advantage "gaming PC" specs when in reality those games operate perfectly (or even better) on the Chrome OS and don't even come close to requiring expensive and resource intensive top-tier hardware. In a few years the most immersive alternate reality video game fantasy experiences will be based almost totally in the cloud with sensors, switches, and robotics reacting in real-time to your input while simultaneously incorporating whole body experiences for all of your senses, but for now, a Chromebook is not going to replace a heavy-duty (mainly graphics card dependent) gaming, or an entertainment industry type editing rig. Lastly, if you're unfortunate enough not to have easy access to reasonably speedy internet you'll be limited. Let's put it this way, if you can watch Hulu or Netflix over your connection, you're good to go.

The Chromebook does everything that over 90% of the people actually use their computers for. Just go back to the exclusive Chrome web browser and Google Drive combo test we talked about earlier to see where you really fit in. Obviously, you'll be choosing some new tools, but it's fun discovering them, and, to your delight, many will now be free or incredibly inexpensive.

For us, a used Chromebook Pixel, or even a new one for that matter, was less than we would have laid down for another laptop or desktop we like as much, and that's not even including the huge investments we would have had to make in software purchases and updates when using something other than the Chromebook. Using a more typically priced Chromebook like those from HP, Acer, Toshiba, and the others will leave you even more money for use elsewhere. Right off the bat, we're saving hundreds of dollars a month. As software junkies, with Microsoft and Apple we always had a costly software wish list that was never fulfilled. With the Chromebook, the software is either chump change, or free. Then there is the Microsoft and Apple hardware never-ending wish list. Let's not even get into the expenses of a good backup system for Microsoft or Apple, if you even bother. With the Chromebook things are affordable and we actually have money left over for more responsible expenditures, and on top of that, the Chromebook is actually a pleasure to use.

Speaking of hardware, the only problems we've run into so far have to do with connecting or communicating with our GPS, camera and a few other devices, and these issues could all be resolved by simply using a portable android device (like a smartphone) as a replacement. Cloud printing is a snap once you've decided how you want to configure your printing, but if you want to print locally you may need to upgrade to a "Google cloud print capable" printer. Your new network will be via the cloud.

If you're thinking about advanced studio quality audio or graphics manipulation you're going to likely run into multiple hardware communications problems until things advance a little further, and you'll likely need an Internet connection starting at just shy of fiber optic speeds. We'll be covering compatible Chromebook hardware and software possibilities in detail, so stay tuned for articles on "beefing up" Chrome and the Chrome OS by subscribing to our newsletter. No SPAM ever, only notices of new articles when they become available. Finally, even though we're huge fans of Chrome as it ships, we will "Never Leave Well Enough Alone" and we'll keep you up to date on available security and performance improvements of all kinds.