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Google’s Chromebook & New Job – First Impressions

I’ve been working for a week now as a Consultant for Educational Technology Integration at the Lorain County ESC, and so far I’m loving it! My colleagues, Dave, Paul, and Polly have been really welcoming, and this week alone I’ve had more opportunities than in a long time in the classroom. For example, I’m typing this post on a new Chromebook from Google. Had I remained in the classroom, I probably wouldn’t have seen one for a long time…

So, first impressions about work? Great! I get to work with great people, fantastic resources, and can’t wait to meet some teachers in the workshops we host. I’ll give an example of resources, something that has been unheard of in the last three years: I wanted to connect my MacBook Pro up to the bigger display I have for the desktop PC they gave me, and set it up as a second monitor. No problem, right. But, switching between the PC and the Mac posed a problem display wise, and I mentioned something about “it sure would be nice if I had one of those KVM switches…” The next morning Paul had one for me, and I got all set up. Outstanding! Thanks for making me feel welcome and valued!

Now, on to the other first impression – the one about the Chromebook.

First off, it’s light. And small. Nice and thin. And kind of plasticky, if that’s a word. It almost feels like a toy, but definitely something I’ll be carrying to meetings instead of my workhorse, a 15″ MacBook Pro. I’m testing it for work, evaluating its use within education, as a possible piece in a 1:1 program at a school.

It boots up fast – got to the first prompt, out of the box, in less that a few seconds, and asked me for network info. Then it ran a system update, and we were on our way. Easy. Chromebook allows you to operate on wireless alone, or wireless + 3G from Verizon (with purchase of data plan, of course, although you get 100 MB free / month included). I did not sign up for 3G since I’m merely testing it, and won’t get to keep it (I don’t think…) after all.

The keyboard reminds me of my MacBook, although the spacing of the keys is just a hair more, and so the cumulative effect is that I keep missing the ‘A’ key… They’ve also removed some keys, and added others, but for the better, I think. For example, who uses the ‘F’ keys anymore, anyways. They’ve been replaced with hardware options like screen brightness, volume, page navigation and refresh, and volume keys. There’s also a cool button for toggling full screen, which I like. I wish they had switched the position of the CTRL and the ALT key on the left hand side – I’m used to my Mac, and my thumb now has to hunt around for the CTRL when using shortcuts like adding tabs, closing tabs, etc in the browser. No big deal, just that going from one keyboard to the next gets tedious!

There’s nothing to ALT+TAB to, at least that I can figure out. It’s only the first hour of using the Chromebook, so maybe I’m missing something. The whole idea seems browser based, but quite frankly, who doesn’t live in the cloud nowadays? I certainly take it for granted that my files are “just fine” ’cause they’re safe in my Dropbox account. Well, safe may be a relative term, but you get the drift.

The trackpad could be better. It’s definitely not up to Apple standards, and using it seems a bit clunky. The interface starts off by showing you how to use the trackpad, like moving an icon, scroll, etc (all basic stuff if you’ve been on Mac trackpad for a while), but it just doesn’t work real smooth. I’m not gonna say ‘cheap’, but maybe I will later… It allows for both physical click, as well as tap responses, by the way.

Here’s what else it comes with:

  • Power cord assembly – standard, non finesse PC like power cord that plugs in, and doesn’t release magnetically (a feature that seems common sense, right?)
  • VGA dongle – some sort of proprietary video out to VGA adapter that I’ll test later next week. I’ll be interested to see 2nd monitor capability, etc.
  • Some manuals that I haven’t read yet.
  • SD card slot on the front.
  • 2 USB ports, one on each side.
  • Some other kind of port that I don’t know what it is – looks like a sim card port maybe, or another memory card port.
  • Specs: 16 GB HDD, 12.1″ screen retail, Intel Atom processor, 2 GB memory (all from the box label)
  • Wireless only – no CAT5 slot, etc.
  • No optical drive.
I’ll keep track of how it performs in the next weeks, and report back. Feel free to leave comments below, rants and raves about your own experience with the Chromebook. Thanks!

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