I’ve consistently been an Android user since have to bid a sad farewell to my Blackberry Bold after tearing my hair out when the trackball needed cleaning yet again (if it wasn’t for the trackball issues, the Bold was a great phone at the time with an almost perfect keyboard for a mobile device). Indeed, at the time, iPhones, not to mention Blackberry’s own Storm, with their on screen keyboards seemed like they were fighting a losing battle. A few years on and we all tap happily away on screen and a physical keyboard on a phone seems like a bizarre historical artefact.
The switch to phones running Android with its inherent customisation options was a breath of fresh air and soon made me a dedicated convert who happily signed into the Google ecosystem. In my dim and distant past, I was a big fan of the Amiga, rejecting the cumbersome IBM PC compatible computers of the day and, most of all, Windows. I far preferred the flexibility offered by the Amiga OS but I could easily have gone down the Apple route too. I just wasn’t a PC person! I’m so glad that I didn’t follow the Apple route back in the day, though it was very tempting. Mac OS still seems pretty awesome and iPhones are undeniably amazing at what they do. However, the proprietary nature of much of their hardware and the locked-down nature of the iPhone’s OS would frustrate me no end.
Ultimately, this is a long winded way of explaining why, for example, I was one of the first to my a Google Pixel C when it launched. At £500 and a further £120 for the optional (pointless) without keyboard, this was an expensive way to replace my existing Motorola Xoom Android tablet. It was also a fairly big gamble given Google’s so-so approach to supporting Android in tablet form. Having said that, the Pixel C has proved to be a faithful companion over the past few years and has allowed me to do most of what I need to do whilst travelling, for example. And why, since it was released, I’ve had an itch to by the device I’m tying this on, the Google Pixelbook.
I’ve always been aware of Chrome OS but the idea of an extremely limited OS, albeit one that could run on very limited hardware, has never really appealed. It seemed to me that I could do everything that it could do just as easily on my Lenovo Ideapad Z500 (yes, I do have a Window’s machine:-D) and I had my Pixel C for portable duties. Of course, this began to change slightly when I saw the Pixelbook…it’s a gorgeous looking machine and a relatively powerful one too. However, the concerns about the limitations of Chrome OS remained and I looked away, mostly.
I’ll admit that I kept tabs on the Pixelbook, though. Actually this isn’t entirely true. In honesty, I spent a lot of time reading reviews of the device and even the frequent and very reasonable proclamations of “why would anyone spend £1000 on a Chromebook?” didn’t entirely put me off. Through this I learned that the Android apps were now available. Interesting, thought I, that would certainly aid productivity. And then I heard whispers of being able to run Linux apps on it. That pricked my ears up. As I continued to monitor, I heard that Linux support had moved to Beta and was available in the stable, non-developer issues of Chrome OS. That massively peaked my interest. Add in that I’m currently lugging around my laptop for R duties and then John Lewis doing a special offer of £300 pounds for the base model and it was inevitable that I’d cave. (a lot of retailers have lowered the price but John Lewis offer a 2 year warranty, which isn’t to be sniffed at)
And so it is that I’ve spent most of today getting familiar with Chrome OS, setting up the Linus VM and installing R-base and RStudio. Time will tell how effective it will be but all seems to be running ok at the moment. Only slight issue is the resolution; RStudio opens with tiny, tiny text and when you zoom in, the cursor for typing (can’t remember its name) overlays the existing text, so it’s hard to insert or edit commands.
As for the normal stuff, all seems good. Everything is very snappy, no lag at all, even when opening Linux apps. I’ve used it for several hours today and still have 41%/5hrs left – can’t complain about that.
Physically, it’s rather wonderful too. Everything is just as you’d want it to be: great chassis, great keyboard, great trackpad and great screen (I’m not bothered by the bezels that have irked so many).
I’ll update this soon, I’m sure but, for now, I’m happy for this to assume daily duties and I’ll see how I get on!