I finally made a decision about replacing my defunct Dell Mini computer, the one which saved my back from sitting too long at the supposedly ergonomic computer chair, as I could cart it around with me and balance it on top of the dog, who usually got to my lap first, on the sofa, and which saved Tom and me from computer-generated marital disharmony. Tablets simply didn't appeal, except I suppose the real i-McCoy, an opinion largely founded on the remarkable creative things Plutarch seems to be able to get up to on his, and hisquiet putting of the case for it in the face of its detractors. But the price was simply more than I was prepared to cough up, and I'm a bit refractory about buying into the whole Cult of Apple anyway.
Which is somewhat ironic really (why is it ironic, exactly, why do we say that? I try not to as I think it's a misuse of the term, it is neither, as far as I can see dramatic or any of the various forms of situational irony, but then I say it anyway...) because I got a Chromebook, thereby putting all my eggs into the basket of another world-eating behemoth instead.
The fact is I've been well hooked into Google - Chrome as a browser, Picasa for photo editing and Gmail - for ages now and I rather liked the idea of doing without Windows altogether. I didn't want to pay a lot, and at under 200 quid this wasn't a lot. Also I do need to have an English language OS, and even more important, a qwerty keyboard, Francophone azerty ones make me feel as if I've had a stroke, and even from specialist computer places here that seems to be impossible. So I have to order from the UK, which is also problematic, as many suppliers just won't, or if they do when you check it turns out they charge about another 50 quid (I exaggerate not) for carriage, which I think is scandalous, so I resorted to that other entity bent on world domination beginning with A and named after a South American river or a tribe of woman warriors from Ancient Thrace, who sent it to me immaculately, beautifully and securely packed in a scant three working days for just over a fiver, which I thought was brilliant.
So, what do I think of it? I like it, but of course it has its limitations. I kind of quite like limitations, like the woman I remember saying that one of the reasons she bought organic food as a policy was because she got so fed up with endless, time-consuming, bewildering consumer choice and liked having to work within the limits of its availability. I'm quite happy that I'm more or less told, this is cheap, it is solid and will work but you'll only get this this and this with it, don't expect that, that and that as well.
It's also very quick, and the battery life is good. It's sleek and light and pretty with a good screen and an interesting, spacious keyboard with these odd sort of low relief keys; which I'm getting used to. Then there's the touch-pad. Unlike most people who seem to prefer them, I am completely useless and cack-handed with a mouse, have only ever used a standard two-button touch-pad (never used a Mac of any kind either). This one has no buttons, so one press with one finger equals a left-click, two fingers a right, one finger held down and the other drawn for drag-and-drop etc (but you have to remember to do it in two separate movements or it thinks you mean right-click), and a really smooth scroll by drawing two fingers up or down simultaneously, which I think most touch-pads do but not always as well as this one.
So much for the hardware, when it comes to the software, really, everything you can do with it has to be done on-line, within the Chrome browser, there's a reasonable amount of internal storage but it's all for downloads. Documents can be created on-line as Google Documents, which I used to do quite a bit, when I wrote more. You can plug in an SD card or external drive and work directly on it, but you can't transfer the stuff onto the computer. All is up there in The Cloud, looked after by rainbows and unicorns.
What's more, there's no Picasa. Well, Picasa web albums of course, but no Picasa editing programme, and you can't download it. There's a very, very basic editing tool which you can use on pictures you've either downloaded or which are on an SD card, but since Picasa has always been, for me, one of Google's great achievements, it seems a bit odd that there's no way you can use it here. There are plenty of on-line editing programmes, some of which seem pretty good, but they require you to upload first of course, and without the means to shrink and export, that's slow and, to me, carries an unacceptable level of redundancy, (even with the oodles of free on-line storage that come with the machine, so I shall never be required to start this blog over again because I've used up my picture allowance). I think I'll probably end up editing photos on the main computer, uploading them to Blogger, or Picasa web albums, or elsewhere, and working with them from there, which was mostly what I used to do with the old Mini, because of its limited storage and small screen. (The batch of photos here I edited on the card, then uploaded directly from there to Picasa, then posted here by URL, which is OK for small numbers but not ideal.)
But then there are apps. I didn't really know what an app was until the other day. Not sure I do now really but I've started using them anyway. And there are extensions, and I don't really know what they are either but I've got a dinky little toolbar full of them already. As well as WOT and Adblock, which I've had for a long time, I've got a thing to turn anything into print-friendly format, a thing to send any web-page in Kindle-friendly format to my Kindle, a little icon of a radio which opens up any of the main BBC radio stations and plays them, with a link to the BBC i-player too, a little leaf which gives me a new fascinating factoid everyday, today's is:
The pieces of a ball that has been taken apart can be used to build two balls identical to the original one - at least in set theoretic geometry. This peculiar trait is known as the Banach-Tarski paradox
and another which gives me a new obscure word every day (rather disappointing, so far none have been very obscure or unknown to me). There's a word and character count tool, a thing to conjugate French verbs, and another very neat device called 'Accents plus' which takes the place of the character map in Windows only using keyboard shortcuts. There's a blocker for those intensely irritating Faecesbook thumbs-up 'Like' buttons and all their evil kind, which is cherishably called 'StopSocial', I love that one. There's a little thing which will make printable teaching flashcards to your own design using any picture on the web, and another button you can press when you buy anything on-line which will plant a tree or trees at no extra cost. Best of all, though, or it will be when I have the required equipment, there's a widget to turn any photo into 3D. Now all I need are the glasses.
Of course I could have got them all on any computer using Chrome, but I never saw much point before, now browsing the webstore has become somewhat addictive, and they're easier to get at, and free. Except for the small matter of selling my soul, of course, but you don't get owt for nowt I suppose.
I haven't put any links in for any of these, since I think I'm giving them enough of a plug as it is. Apologies if required for such lengthy meta-meanderings, I'm always rather taken with a novelty. At least I suppose I'm not blasé (hey, it works, e+control!).
I was going to go on about other things that have come my way, but I think that will do for now. It's really a bit much how I don't blog for nearly a fortnight then can't seem to stop; I shall put the rest in a post tomorrow, you see if I don't!