Chromebooks, why they’re great

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Chromebooks, why they're great

I've had a battered second-hand Chrome-book for about two years now. I originally meant to get Windows 10 on it but never succeeded for a number of reasons; however it does turn out to be situationally useful. What really amazes me is how incredibly low maintenance the Chrome-book is, I can leave it in a closet for 6 months, when I fire it up it's always snappier and more responsive than my quad-core desktop, if there are any updates, I'm prompted to install them with a tiny taskbar icon, and not a screen filling dialog that pops up while I'm typing with the "Reboot Now" button highlighted by default. This isn't bad for a machine that I bought for $200.

So it wasn't a surprise to hear that Google was discontinuing their Chrome-book range. They looked awesome and I'm sure they were great machines, but a Chromebook isn't a 'real' computer. With office-live you can do almost all your work on it (but, crucially, even office live is not feature equivalent with the desktop applications), but not quite all the things you would want to do on a real machine. So it's a problem when you're trying to sell Chrome-books for the same price as a decent full laptop. To put it another way, my 2GB, probably single cored Chrome-book is probably more responsive than my 8GB quad-cored laptop, but if they were both for the same price, of course I would choose the laptop, and an 8GB Chrome-book would just be pointless (at least for the moment).

So why the sudden love for Chromebooks? We spent quite a bit of time yesterday trying to diagnose a remote client issue. To the point where I had to log in to their machine to try and see why they were having issues. Not only was their personal laptop vastly underpowered but they were still running the various "helper" applications that came with an off-the-shelf machine. Those tend to be wasteful and poorly coded, so it's standard procedure to strip them out if you must get a laptop from Harvey Norman or Office Works. In addition they were also running two virus scanning tools on a machine without an SSD (you should scan at the entry point to your network if you don't have SSDs on your machines, it will be a significant slowdown otherwise). At the time their main issue was that our systems were running too slowly it was very tempting to simply mail them a $200 machine to access our systems with.

If we retained a client for a number of years because of it, we would still have come out ahead even if we never charged them anything for the free laptop.

Of course your clients might object to getting second hand machines, but brand new ones are also $200, though I see that prices are fairly variable across HP's different stores. However I did manage to find a 4GB Chrome-book here for only $200. If you need to demonstrate that a problem is with the client side systems, it may be worth keeping a stockpile on hand that you can mail out for a few weeks until the client is convinced and returns them.