Chromebook – a week on the road

19Jan13

I spent the past week as exec in residence for the London Fintech Innovation Lab, working with the 7 winning startups based in the shiny new Level 39 Technology Accelerator at Canary Wharf. It seemed like the perfect chance to try out my Chromebook in a more work oriented setting.

Battery life

I was brave, and decided not to take the power supply with me. I wouldn’t be using my Chromebook all the time, so I thought 6.5 hours would be enough to get me through each day. It was. I wasn’t even running for the power supply when I got home as there was always enough juice left for any sofa surfing that I wanted to do.

Google Docs Only

I encountered one hiccup where an old Word document I imported didn’t format correctly, and rather than spending ages reformatting it I waited until I was home to sort it out on my PC. At a push I could have used remote desktop, but it wasn’t that urgent.

I’ve pretty much switched over to Google Docs from MS Office anyway, so the Chromebook worked fine with all of my ongoing stuff.

OpenVPN

The launch of the iOS client for OpenVPN spurred me on to get it working with the Chromebook. It’s fine if I run it from the command line in a dev mode crosh shell e.g.:

sudo openvpn my_vps.ovpn

I have still utterly failed to get things working with the regular (non dev) approach using .onc files and importing private keys etc., but I’m not feeling too bad about that, as there’s a post in one of the support groups from a member of the OpenVPN team saying ‘the interface for OpenVPN in Chrome OS seems to be pretty much unusable for your average user‘. Basically Google need to provide a tool to parse .ovpn into .onc, and some better howto guides would be nice too.

Telephony

I’ve been using Google Voice for some time, and presently have things set up so that my mobile phone and Skype In get routed there (which would be easy if I was in the US, but takes a bit of SIP Sorcery from the UK). In the past I’ve not made much use of the gmail chat functionality for voice calls, but I gave it a try this week and it works well. I was almost tempted to buy some credit so that I can call none US numbers, and then I realised that I could use my US Skype ToGo number, which gives me free calling to the UK via a Skype subscription and Skype pay as you go rates for any other number I might call. Of course it would be great if there was a Skype app for ChromeOS, or if Google Voice was rolled out to the UK, but I won’t be holding my breath on either of those things.

ChrUbuntu

I haven’t needed it. ChromeOS has been sufficient.

Conclusion

Google Apps got me through the week pretty much fine from a software point of view, and the Chromebook stood up well from a hardware perspective. It was great to be liberated from a power cord AND have a decent keyboard. I didn’t feel like I was compromising using a cheap machine (and I’m pretty sure most of the people stopping by for a chat probably mistook it for an 11″ Macbook Air).



One Response to “Chromebook – a week on the road”

  1. I’m enjoying my Chromebook as well. I have Chrubuntu on my mine, but 80% of the time I’m on my Chromebook, I’m in ChromeOS. I agree with you, it’s great for (most) everything I want to do. I changed the search key to a ctrl key though. Otherwise like you said, the keyboard is surprisingly good.

    I primarily have Chrubuntu to run Emacs, which it does very nicely. There is also a lot of hackers and hobbyist tinkering around with Chrubuntu which is fun too.


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