What I Read This Week – 01/12/2015

Welcome to 2015! Happy New Year!

This is the first link post of the new year so let’s get to reading:

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Why I Bought A Chromebook, Part 2

Now on to part 2 of my Chromebook review and how it works best for me.

When I first opened the box my Chromebook came in (via Amazon), I was pleased. Visually it’s not a Macbook Air in terms of style but it’s a nice gray color and it is light! It weighs less than 2 pounds. It’s well made, it doesn’t feel cheap or flimsy and it opens and closes snugly.  It’s a lot smaller than your average laptop at 11.6 inches corner to corner. But for sitting on the couch or in the bed chilling, it’s a nice size that sits in your lap. And if you gave it to a kid to use, it would be more than adequate. The screen is average and has brightness controls which help. There are decent sounding speakers that get loud enough for you to watch a YouTube video or a movie but obviously you aren’t dealing with something high-end so don’t think you are going to get Beats by Dre type bass.

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My Acer on top on my old Compaq laptop.

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How the Chromebook screen looks.

My Chromebook is made by Acer and comes in 3 variants: 2GB RAM, 4GB RAM, and a 4GB RAM with a touchscreen. The base model (which is what I have) starts at $199. Are you starting to see why these little computers are popular? The price is definitely right.

I’ve had my Chromebook since Christmas and I use it daily. It charges in a little over an hour and I’m able to get 6-7 hours off of a charge. Because Chrome OS is so light, it’s almost an instant on. I open the top and get to doing what I want to do. I’ve gone to the Chrome App Store and downloaded various web apps such as Pocket, Any.DO, Dropbox, TweetDeck, Pandora and Netflix. They have been optimized to run on Chrome, and often they will sync with your phone. The Chrome App Store has various apps and extensions for business, education, games, social media and more.

A Chromebook is not a Windows laptop and as such has a very small hard drive, about 16GB, which is the same storage space as my phone. And of course, you cannot load full fledged programs. So what do you do if you need to be productive? You can use Google Docs, which allows you to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations and save them in Microsoft formats. Or you can set up a SkyDrive cloud account and use their Microsoft web apps for Word, Excel and PowerPoint for FREE. They are more than adequate for light work or for a student. If push comes to shove, you can actually remote into your Windows PC using Chrome Remote Desktop. Pretty cool huh?

In fact the only major limitations I see with my Chromebook is the ability to upload music (and Google is currently working on a way to sync Chrome OS to Google Play Music) and the ability to upload pictures. I will still need to use my old laptop for that. But even then, there are several photo editors that can be used in Chrome to edit, correct or add filters to the photos you have stored online. And because Chrome is constantly evolving, Google typically puts out updates every 6-8 weeks with new features and functionality.

So those are my impressions of the Chromebook in a nutshell. I think that I made a good choice for my needs and I will be able to use this device for several years. There are several manufacturers to choose from and a few different screen sizes. In fact I typed this whole blog post on my Chromebook.

Here a few links to give you a bit more info:

If you have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Why I Bought A Chromebook, Part 1

I am admittedly a bit of a techie, in particular when it comes to phones, tablets and laptops. I follow several personal technology blogs and Twitter accounts. I keep our devices updated. Between the two of us we have 2 cells, 2 tablets, a laptop, a desktop, an Xbox 360 and the brand spanking new Xbox One. We have a lot of gadgets to play with right? So why add another one?

Well my Windows laptop is 4+ years old and between all the updates/virus protections, it has gotten slow as molasses. I’d read several reviews about Windows 8 and it seemed that folks weren’t that thrilled with it as well as being confusing to use since it has been so radically redesigned from Windows 7. And then I thought about what I really use my laptop for. So I made a list.

  • I tweet. And I like to live tweet TV shows so I prefer a keyboard to typing on my phone or tablet.
  • I go on Facebook.
  • I stream/upload/download music.
  • I read books.
  • I surf the net in general.
  • I check my email.
  • I upload photos.
  • I might chat online a bit.
  • I watch Netflix or other TV shows that can be streamed.

And guess what….I do ALL of that online for the most part. All of that is done within a browser and in my case normally it’s Google Chrome. And because I am a person who is heavily tied into Google services such as Gmail and Calendar and use Android devices it made sense to take a closer look at the Chromebook.

First off what is Chrome OS:

With Chrome, the browser actually is the OS — in this case, the Chrome OS builds on the Google browser of the same name. It’s pre-installed by PC manufacturers who adhere to Google’s hardware specifications.  The OS uses Web-based applications, so you don’t need local storage for software, either.  Chrome OS is based around the cloud computing model. That means that all of your data and applications are stored online, in the “cloud,” so that you can access them from any computer, anywhere. Chrome is a seriously stripped-down, fast OS. Because Chrome supports only Web capabilities, it can do away with much of the bulk and unnecessary system checks that slow a traditional OS.

A fairly fast Windows machine might finish booting in around 45 seconds. In contrast, Google wants Chrome laptops to be up and running in 7 seconds or less. The Chrome OS user interface looks much like the Chrome browser. Beyond this browser-like OS, these laptops have no pre-installed software. There’s an integrated media player that lets you watch movies, play music and view photos when you’re offline. Adobe Flash is already integrated into the Chrome browser, so you can view all Flash Web sites, too. When you want to write a report, for example, you just access a Web-based word processing application.

For more basic computing tasks, though, you should be able to find applications that suit your needs, using Google’s Chrome Web Store. Similar to Apple’s App Store and the Android Market, the Chrome Web Store will offer applications for a huge variety of tasks.

So then I thought long and hard about what the Chromebook could do that my tablet couldn’t do and it came down to the fact that sometimes you really just need a keyboard to do certain things. And I was getting frustrated by my old slow laptop, when I needed to do it. So I didn’t look at the Chromebook as a total laptop replacement, it became more of a companion to the old laptop I have as well as my other tech toys.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I will talk about my initial impressions of the Acer Chromebook that I got for Christmas and how I’ve been using it.

Odds And Ends: It’s Monday, Bishes!

  • How was your weekend? Mine was pretty good. We laid low on Friday and Myron whipped up a tasty curry chicken dish. Our house was smelling like an Indian restaurant all evening. I’ll have to snag the picture off his FB page to show you guys.
  • Saturday was a lot of sleeping. We woke up, ate French toast, fell asleep again, woke up and ran a few errands to pick up some shoes I’d ordered and hubs got an early Christmas present: a new Nexus 7 tablet. I’ve played with it a bit, I’ll try to have a full review up sometime this week.
  • Hung out with my BIL and my homegirl @CaliGirlED to watch some football yesterday and my Houston Texans are 11-1, baby! Bulls on Parade! My husband had a GREAT time and is currently at work drinking a LOT of water. 🙂
  • Got a pedicure yesterday. What’s the big deal you say? Well the fact is that I got BLUE TOE NAIL POLISH!!! LOL! Being that I am risk adverse and resistant to change from my normal pinks, red and oranges..going blue is a walk on the wild side. Hubs liked it too. Now green polish is probably a bit too much for my delicate sensibilities right now.
  • I decided I’m going to do some Christmas cards this year. I felt quite trifling after all the nice ones we got last year from folks. Hubs wants to take pictures but it’s December 3rd, I might need to get in where I fit in with these cards.
  • Does anyone out there use Amazon Prime? I signed up for it to get free shipping when I ordered a case for Myron’s tablet and you get 30 days free. Is it worth the $80 bucks per year??
  • Read this article on the NY Times site this morning and had a lot of say about it on Twitter –

College isn’t for everyone, but EYE cannot in good conscience suggest to a black/brown kid to skip college/trade school/military svc when the majority of our black/brown kids are already undereducated coming out of high school. Per the usual, the NYTimes article is written from a place of privilege and that’s annoying. The playing field for US that encourages entrepreneurship is still not level and the barriers to entry to run your own business for people of color are still very high. Not to say that it cannot be done because it is occurring, but right now if I had a kid, I’d be sending them to college.


That’s all I got this morning..what’s going on random with you?

 

 

There’s An App For That

This year I resolved to finally get my life better organized in terms of remembering important dates and tasks as well as coordinating the social calendars for two people instead of one. So Google Calendar and Tasks have become good friends of mine. Whenever we have bills due, or there is a event coming up, I’m getting into the habit of noting it on the calender and setting a reminder.

But I am, like most of us, constantly on the go and need to be able to access information on the run, so for the last few months I’ve been downloading (and uninstalling) apps and programs that I can use on my phone and tablet, when I’m not in front of the PC.

I’m using SpringPad  (Android/iOS) to organize my thoughts. If I see a recipe, or a hot pair of shoes while I’m browsing online, I “spring” the link to one of the various notebooks I’ve set up and I can come back to it later. I have notebooks set up for clothes I want for the spring, recipes, and vacation spots that Myron and I have discussed.

I’m using Taskos (Android) to manage my to do list. I like that Taskos is simple and easy to use and it syncs with Google Tasks. It’s not fancy but it gets the job done.

I’m using Business Calendar (Android) to manage my Google Calendar. Google Calendar is nice and all but the app for phone/tablet is rather plain. Business Calendar has features such as:

Views for “week”, “4-day”, “month”, and so on, you start with a month view and can tap and drag on a certain set of days to shrink the view to those days. It’s really well done. Tapping on a specific day brings up a small pop-up of that day’s events, and you can swipe to an agenda view if you’d rather see your month that way. It has a list of calendars at the bottom from which you can show and hide different calendars, though it gets a bit unruly if you have a lot of calendars.” – (Source: Lifehacker.com)

Business Calendar also syncs with Google Calendar. The only complaint I have is that it takes 2 apps to do the job for me. I haven’t found an app yet that will manage my calendar and tasks together, at least one that I am willing to pay for. All the apps I listed above are free.

I’m carrying around a mini-computer all day. I might as well make the most of them, so I don’t have to remember every little detail!

So you’re uber connected, right? You have a smartphone, laptop, maybe a tablet too, right? Well with all that technology at your fingertips what apps or software programs are you using to organize your life? Or are you still using a day planner or kicking it old school with a pad and pen to keep track of your activities? Any other cool apps you want to share? Let me know in the comments.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Hands On: Part 2

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Here are a few pictures of the tab sitting in the keyboard dock that I ordered. It’s about the size of a netbook. The keyboard is very sturdy and sits flat easily. It will be good for blogging or tweeting during an awards show!  Lolololol!

The keyboard dock will also let you plug in the charger and power up through the dock as opposed to plugging the tablet directly into the wall. Cool, huh?

Hands On With My Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9

As you all know, I’ve been on the hunt for a larger tablet/e-reader to use as a laptop replacement for around the house and when I travel. I already have a Nook Color and I have probably been a tad bit obsessive about how much I really enjoyed it as an e-reader and as a hacked Android tablet.

But I wanted something a little bit bigger, still small enough to toss in my purse but larger so that I could surf the web without squinting and that would have enough processing power to stream movies and TV shows from the internet or Netflix without getting hung up. I didn’t necessarily require cellular wireless access, WiFi is suitable for me.

After doing my research and polling nearly everyone I could think of, I decided to go with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9. It’s the longest name for a gadget on the planet but since Samsung has several tablet sizes in their lineup, it’s helpful in knowing what size you are dealing with. My tablet measures 8.9 inches from corner to corner, diagonally. It runs the most recent Android tablet OS, Honeycomb 3.2 and has 16GB of storage. It is not expandable beyond that.

8.9 and Nook Color side by side

A word on the storage capabilities. There are other Android tablets that are able to be expanded for additional storage with microSD cards (such as Acer and Toshiba). They also tend to be thicker and heavier because of the ports required for the additional expansion. I use the Dropbox app to store music, documents and pictures in the cloud. I will be streaming movies and TV shows wirelessly and my e-book files are very small. Based on my needs, I determined 16GBs was more than enough for me.

I decided to go with an Android tablet to stay on the same platform as my cell phone, it was cheaper than an iPad, and most of the apps that I use scaled up decently enough for me on the larger screen size. I know that Apple has more tablet optimized apps than Android but I found over 2000 tablet apps in the Android market that I could utilize if necessary and that number is growing daily. I blog, I tweet, I Facebook, I use Google Reader, read, and play games and all of the apps that I have so far work just fine on my 8.9.

Facebook App for Android

Email on the Samsung 8.9

Myron ordered a case for me from Amazon that protects the tablet and allows viewing horizontally or vertically. I also splurged on a keyboard dock as well. I haven’t gotten it yet, but I will update this posts with pictures when I get it in.

Case for the 8.9..Delta Red of course!

Overall, I am enjoying this tablet.  The screen is bright and the colors look awesome. It’s lightweight, the build quality is good and it doesn’t feel flimsy, I can customize the look the way I want (which is why I tend to like Android over Apple in some ways) and it seems to be satisfying the needs that I have in a tablet. It’s around $400 dollars at Best Buy, which is $100 bucks cheaper than the base model Wi-Fi iPad. If you want a similar size to the iPad, I would suggest the Galaxy Tab 10.1, which is actually a bit larger than the iPad’s screen size of 9.7 inches.

Here’s a review of the Galaxy Tab 10.1. The 8.9 has basically the same specs, it’s just smaller.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments?