Thursday, January 15, 2015

Chromebooks, the answer?

Please note: I have edited this post as some felt I was biased against Windows. I have decided to remove the word "Windows" from this post (except for that one <===).

I live in South Africa. South Africa is not America. We don't have the latest tech and the tech we have here it is not cheap. So I understand that schools are looking for inexpensive laptops for students, as low cost Celeron machines are usually slow. From my experience, a school network is a dangerous place to plug in a flash drive - because of all the autorun viruses. Lots of schools have ageing computers (think Celeron due to budget cuts) running dated software. 

My netbook performs better running Peppermint than is does with the software that it was supposedly designed for (if the sticker on the bottom left corner of my netbook is to be believed). My system runs faster and my battery life is remarkably better. 

Enter the Google Chromebook, a low cost laptop that lives in the cloud. The Chromebook is not widely available here, and there are questions relating to compatibility with peripherals. I am not against Chromebooks here, I am simply asking a question. 

My question: Why not use a low cost laptop running Linux instead?

Surely there are Linux distros with paid support, surely there are other cloud and hybrid (think Peppermint Linux) options that would or could work well? 

I have asked a few questions regarding this on the Peppermint OS forum and will post community feedback soon. I know that Peppermint does not have a large support team, so providing support on that level is probably not currently possible. But I do feel that Peppermint Linux is as good a choice as Google Chrome OS. You can load it onto almost any laptop and Peppermint has ICE for web apps.

With cloud software you are looking for a platform that is lightweight, stable and easy to use. Peppermint Linux is all of these things.

I am adding a poll, and I would like you to vote and then leave a comment.

EDIT: I have added reasons for why I feel the way I do. 

Mac is a wonderful platform (I haven't been called out for insulting them yet), with the cheapest Macbook (Air 11" R12 999) costing more than 3 times the amount (R3999) of an entry level HP / Dell / Acer laptop, you can be sure that a lot of people buying a Mac is simply not an option. The minimum wage here is less than R4000 per month - and with almost 25% of people being unemployed and with almost 1 in 3 South Africans receiving social grants - you can know that Mac cannot become mainstream while selling at the prices they do, with the level of poverty that SA is currently experiencing. 

My biggest question for using Chromebooks is what support will you have for a Chromebook? If importing them through a service like Orange is possible, at least Chromebooks are available in my country. The after sales support means a lot to me though, whichever way schools and government decide to go, support is the most important factor. What will happen if Google decides tomorrow )or three years from now when every child has one) that the Chromebooks are not a good idea and decide to shelf them (think Google TV, Reader, Wave, etc.) maybe I am being paranoid, but Google already has an end of life page that lists when current Chromebooks will no longer be supported. What does that mean? Well you won't get updates indefinitely if you buy a Chromebook, and at some point Google might decide to can the idea. 

There are times when I can't use Linux, such as when I need to use Corel Draw. Dual booting is necessary. I don't believe that Linux is perfect, but I do feel that it is an option. M$ has created an industry, people spend big $$$ on having viruses removed, reinstalling their OS among other things. They have been good and bad as a company for computing as a whole and it will be very interesting to see what they come up with next.