Chromebooks, Chromebox, Chrome OS, “Chromium” and the cloud simplified!

We are sure you must have heard of the word “Chromebook” before.

A Chromebook is not a brand of laptops. So saying you have a laptop called “Chromebook” is not actually correct. It is a special type of personal computer concept (of a somewhat notebook form factor) which runs a Linux ported Operating System called Chrome OS by Google. So, does it run Windows… or maybe Macintosh? Nope! Its a whole new Operating System of its own; and it’s “linux-like.”

google-chrome-OS-logo

Now here comes the most important thing you need to know about Chromebooks running the Chrome OS: The Chrome OS, is specifically designed to support applications that reside on the web and this means that it is designed to be used WHILE CONNECTED TO THE INTERNET! So, if you are the kind of computer user who loves to do things offline, you might want to really consider this. Almost everything operates within the web browser which looks and feels like using Google Chrome on your Windows or Mac. You might as well say it is a cheaper, savvier option for those PC users that are most interested in web activity such as email, social media, online video streaming and cloud based document editing via Google Drive.

As at now, only a handful of IT companies have taken on making Chromebooks: Google was of course the first in 2010 and then others: Samsung, Acer, HP and Lennovo joined in. Hence the specifications of each Chromebook varies in hardware, build and features. Chromebooks, are netbooks (smaller laptops designed for web use) with 11.6″ to 14″ screen size and they are thin, lightweight and easy to carry around. “Chromebox” is the desktop computer equivalent of “Chromebook.”

homepage-promo

The Good…

The first good thing to consider about Chromebooks is that they are rather inexpensive to buy. They are also extremely mobile – beautiful looking ultra-thin computers and a much less cumbersome tool to carry around. Chrome OS is running a Linux kernel; so you would not have to worry about viruses and certain levels of security threats. They come with Solid State Drives (SSD) which make boot times super fast and application management flawless and intuitive. All Chromebooks boast of about 4 hours of battery life; which is a plus (but could be better). Don’t worry about connectivity: most Chromebooks also come with SD memory card slots for your devices, and a DisplayPort ++ which is compatible with HDMI, DVI and VGA cables. For internet, they also have WiFi a/b/g/n connectivity, Ethernet and most come with 3G. All these features make the Chromebooks your cheapest option for relative day-to-day activities such as email and web, as well as for office and business use.

Chrome_OS_R19_Aura

The “Not so” Good…

However, it is worthy to note a couple of things you might also want to consider about Chromebooks. First off is that though they come with fast Solid State hard drive technology, they usually come in with about 16GB worth of space! The Chromebooks are expected to be used over the cloud so it is expected you would be doing much more of your saving online than anywhere else. Only the Acer C7 as at now, has a 320GB hard drive; but guess what? it is NOT Solid state. Next to also note is that they host pretty much only Google apps on it and the Chrome browser, is pretty much everything there is to it. Gmail doesn’t open a dedicated Gmail app, but rather in a new tab in the browser. It’s the same with any Chrome app, including games, with the exception of the downloads and Google Drive file browsers, which have their own windows.

dd931_Screenshot_2013-04-22_at_2.44.31_PM_610x343

ChromeOS is optimized for users who already use Google’s numerous applications. The three quick launch apps on the launchbar are the Chrome Web browser, Gmail and Google+. Within the apps drawer, the Google love continues, with YouTube, Google Calendar, Maps, Drive and more all present. Every installed application ends up in this app drawer, but the default apps are all from Google. Unlike Windows or OS X, these app icons function more like bookmarks rather than independent applications. Instead of opening new windows, each icon opens a new tab in the Chrome browser to the desired Web app. ChromeOS has an app marketplace, where users can download and install a maybe large selection of apps; but nothing really new is there that we have not seen. So, the conclusion on this is rather clear: they are rather useless offline. Did you also know that Chrome OS has NO printer drivers. Yes! None!

There is not much to say about the hardware configurations of Chromebooks. Most of them are Intel Celeron CPUs and at most, the Samsung Exynos 5 Dual. With the exception of a few, most of them run on 2GB DDR3 RAM so, we are hoping you were not even dreaming of running the likes of Call Of Duty or major PC game releases on it.

Acer-C7-Chromebook-logo_original

By now, you probably can picture yourself and a Chromebook by now. It’s pretty much all about the web. One could say that it is a very strong direction suggesting a possible future of computing but whether you are suited for that future depends on your needs. “Though Chrome OS has been dinged in the past for not being a “full-time OS,” Google’s “pace of improvement”…is ambitious,” says CNET reviews and you may not believe it, but currently, the demand for Chromebooks could match up with Windows 8.

Chrome and Chromium?

To set the record straight about a well known confusion, Chromium is an open source development version of Chrome and just like there is a Chrome browser and a Chrome OS, there’s the Chromium browser and Chromium OS! So here is an easy way out of this for you: “Chromium” is the cutting edge, giant testing environment designed for developers with code that is available for anyone to checkout, modify, and build. So Chromium would of course have a few more professional, developer or administrative options to it than Chrome. We would love to go into the specifics about the two but the bottom line is that apart from the consequences of developer options in Chromium, the user experience in both is practically the same! This is why Chrome OS is what you would find installed on your Chromebook – not Chromium (and that includes both the browser and the OS).

A “smaller” Surface… for a “bigger” issue?

MSS_LV_F_L_CMYK_Pos

Microsoft’s contribution to the personal computing market has, once again, risen our eyebrows… as well as a lot of other people… and maybe yours.

We are at a time when the personal computer industry faces a major setback. Sales figures for everyone has gone far lower than it used to be and thus, the ongoing battle for dominance for personal computer supremacy has become even more gruesome. It’s not so easy for consumers as well; there are so many different types of mobile phones, mobile computers, tablets and the very like out there each with their respective pros and cons. The general public does not have so much money to spend on any technology and make the wrong choice.

The tablet sector unlike before has a myriad of options on familiar mobile Operating Systems. Microsoft made its grand entry with its very own Surface RT which brought competitors alive to the new tablet oriented (and restricted) Windows 8 RT and the growing Microsoft App Store.  Following the Surface RT was the Surface Pro which was another bombshell Microsoft placed combining the native Windows 8 Professional with the appealing Surface design. And though these two entries from Microsoft come at pretty hefty price tags, sales figures indicate that people do not really mind having a tablet with Windows 8 on it.

The Wall Street Journal writes that Microsoft, looking to catch up to rivals in the tablet industry, could soon be putting out its own 7-inch tablet later this year stating that “making a small tablet wasn’t an original part of Microsoft’s strategy, but that the company is seeking to adapt to a changing market.” This is most likely as a response to the new 7 inch “mini tablet” wars currently spearheaded by Apple’s iPad mini, Google Nexus and the Amazon Kindle Fire HD.

It might take some time for computer manufacturers to come out of the very declined sales figures of the first quarter of this year. Possible questions to ask are: would a “mini-Surface” bring more positive changes that Microsoft (and pretty much every one else) needs? Would introducing a new tablet solve the already existing problem of declining sales?

All we can do is wait.

A laptop?… or a tablet? The Nigerian ordeal

Laptop-or-Tablet

Many of us reading this post are most likely to have asked, pondered and maybe dreamed about the question at least at one time or the other. Others were put on the spot with it and some lucky people didn’t really need to bother since someone else helped them out in making the silent, salient yet important choice between the two prevailing forms of mobile technology that has swept the whole world all too sudden.

Buying a Tablet or Laptop isn’t an easy choice. You need to be clear about your requirement in order to decide between them; except you have money to buy both which, from the Nigerian perspective, doesn’t seem to be a likely option in most cases. Surely there are extreme advantages of having both (I use both actually so I can tell) but nevertheless, it does make one wonder about the real decisions to make before you go ahead with either of the two. This post is aimed at helping even you to understand the main differences to consider as clearly as possible.

touchscreen-tablet-computer

Keyboard and input

The most obvious difference between a tablet and a laptop is the lack of a keyboard. Tablets rely solely on a touch interface on the screen for all input. This is fine when it involves mainly pointing, dragging or tapping to navigate around a program. It can also pass off to be a very savvy way of getting things done. Tablets give you full control of the screen, features and applications. By using your finger or a stylus, you can directly touch the screen to make gaming more interactive, and the hands-on approach provides a more tactile experience than a mouse for drawing and illustrating. The problems come in when you have to input text into a program when such as an email or document. Since they have no keyboard, users are required to type on virtual “touch” keyboards that have varying layouts and designs. Most people cannot type as quickly or as accurately on a virtual keyboard and this could pose as a really annoying experience. Users do have the option of adding an external Bluetooth keyboard to most tablets to make this more like a laptop but it adds costs and peripherals that must be taken with the tablet.

144045-dell-laptops-black-friday-sale

Design and battery

The design of all the laptops is almost the same, that is, they have a “clamshell” design. There may be various colors, back panels and textures that are available, but… the basic design remains the same; very much unlike tablets. Aside from some hefty price tags, you must take special precautions in the care of your tablet; not like this does not apply to the laptop itself but as a tablet may have a durable body, the touchscreen display is exposed. If the touchscreen is damaged, your device could become useless. You can buy a case to protect the screen, but these are not included with the product and require a separate purchase. Compared to laptop computers, tablets are small and smart. Most tablets offer anywhere from a 7-inch to a 10-inch display screen and weigh less than 1 pound. You can store all your music, capture photos or videos, video chat and even read books on their built-in eReaders. Truly ideal for the on the go, take around personality.

Tablets are designed for efficiency because of the low power requirements of their hardware components. In fact, the majority of the interior of a tablet is taken up by the battery. In comparison, laptops use more powerful hardware. The battery component of the laptop is a far smaller percentage of the laptops internal components. Thus, even with the higher capacity battery of laptops, they do not run as long as a tablet. Many of the tablets right now can run up to ten hours of web usage before require a charge. The average laptop would only run for roughly three to four hours with a few systems able to stretch it out to eight hours but that still less than a tablet. This means that tablets can achieve all day usage which few laptops can achieve.

Storage

In order to keep their size and costs down, tablets have had to rely on the new and pretty much more reliable solid state storage memory as a means to store programs and data. While these have the potential for faster access and low power usage, they have one major disadvantage in the amount of files they can store at the moment. Most tablets come with configurations that allow between 16 and 64 gigabytes of storage. By comparison, most laptops still use traditional but more fragile hard drives that hold far much more data. Extremely affordable netbooks still have 160 gigabytes of storage which allows for ten times the amount of data as the most affordable tablets. This won’t always be the case though as some laptops have moved to solid state drives as well and may have as little as 64GB of space. However, we can predict that solid state drives will be the future of storage computing which, if you ask me, could wipe off the ever exasperating hard disk problem laptops today face.

Power

Since most tablets are based on extremely low powered processors, they will generally fall behind a laptop when it comes to computing tasks. Of course, a lot of this will depend on how the tablet or laptop is being used. For tasks like email, web browsing, playing video or audio, both platforms will typically work just as well as neither requires much performance. Things get more complicated once you start doing more demanding tasks. For the most part, multitasking or graphics performance is typically better suited with a laptop but not in all cases.

Even though it is possible for a tablet version of a certain software to have similar functions as its desktop version, it is expected that the desktop version would have more capabilities. But again, while traveling, if you are having some sort of work to be done, then tablets are a decent choice as most tablets have sync properties that help us to access our files from anywhere across the world.

The software that runs on a laptop or tablet can be vastly different in terms of capabilities. Assume that a tablet is running Windows 7 for example.  It can theoretically run the same software as a laptop but will likely be slower or have less features of a sort of the other.  Major tablet platforms available right now are Android, iOS, Blackberry and the new Microsoft Windows 8 RT which require applications specific to their operating systems. There are tons of programs available for each of these and many will do most of the basic tasks that a laptop can do. The problem however, is the lack of the input devices and hardware performance limitations mean that some more advanced features supplied by corresponding laptop class programs may have to be dropped in order to fit into the tablet environment.

Lock background

Data Security

Concerning malware and other security threats, tablets are claimed to be safer when compared to laptops. This statement is very arguable. Most security threats are as a result of Windows operating System and not the form factor. Laptops that are loaded with Linux or Mac, are considerably secure and claimed to be free from malware attacks. On the other side, tablets are not so free from security threats as many assume. Currently, malware apps are uploaded on the Apple store and even Google Play Store. An example was the debated “Find & Call” app which was supposed to offer the service of  aggregating and simplifying contacts but simply harvested data from users’ address books and uploaded information to the developer’s server which was used to spam users with SMS messages. The number of security breaches for tablets have become a concern that are as horrid as that for desktop/laptop based operating systems; especially with the concept of “jailbreaking” devices which allow third party applications to be installed on tablets.

Surface-RT-storage-options

External Devices

Tablets these days, are coming with USB ports or OTG (On-The-Go) cables which means they are steadily rising to be on par with laptops as regards external storage devices. Many tablets even now have Bluetooth enabled joypads and accessories which allow a laptop like experience with your tablet. But the question is if you are willing to spend even more money for that after spending so much already acquiring the tablet.

If you’re trying to decide between a laptop and a tablet, it all depends upon you and your needs. If you are planning to carry your computer for extended periods of time, especially to do light based tasks such as watching movies, picture slides and listening to music, the lighter tablet may be ideal for you. Writing out what features you must have in your device is a very good approach to making the right investment. Compare and contrast different products to see which ones have the specifications you are looking for. Only by figuring out your needs will you discover which type of computing device you prefer.