keekerdc.com

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My Cr-48

in notepad

Well, I think I just tapped out my luck for the rest of this year and well into the next. Either that, or I had a massive karma surplus that I just cashed in on. Either way, I’m proof positive that Google is indeed sending out Cr-48s to average citizens that submitted their information through their web form.

In filling out the form, I found that I use Google services for a scary amount of routine tasks, but I think it helped me quite a bit in getting one of these sent to me. I use Gmail as an interface to all my mail (save for work); I don’t run Office on any of my own machines and don’t particularly like OpenOffice, I typically use Google Docs; and my phone is an original Moto Droid.

I specifically said that, if sent one, I’d be using it primary to maintain my blog, so I’m going to hold myself to that for at least as long as Google’s testing period is in session (and longer if it works well for me :) – so far I’m pretty bullish). My main rig is a Lenovo Y550 laptop; couldn’t be happier really since I use it both for gaming at home and as my main development rig at work, and I got it for under $1000. While the Lenovo is a great rig as far as the specs (a comparable Mac would have been at least $1700), it’s not something that particularly lends itself for use ‘on the go.’ It’s physical construction simply isn’t up to snuff. Most of the body is a really weak plastic and it bends at just about every point you can think to apply pressure to it. I recently had to send it out to be repaired; a loose screen hinge got progressively worse to the point where little bits of plastic were being sheared off in a place I wasn’t even able to see…I’d just get a little bit in my bag or on my desk every day.

Anyway, I had mentioned specifically that I wasn’t particularly into being tied to my desk when I had the itch to write here. I’d love to be able to bounce off to my Starbucks and crank out a few posts while downing a few eggnog lattes (shut up, they’re good), but dragging the Y550P would just be too much of a pain in the ass. At the same time, I hadn’t yet found a netbook that seemed worth its cost…so desk bound I’d stay, unless of course I got some help from Google.

Apparently that was persuasive enough. Just so you don’t think I’m bluffing, here’s a photo of the Cr-48 on my desk with this post in a very infant state:

cr-48

While I’m a web developer by day, I don’t really intend to try and stretch this thing to the maximum extent possible like some of the other recipients have. I haven’t read an account to this point which has been able to convince me that trying to setup a complete development workflow on the Cr-48 is in any way worth the time. It’s more likely that I’ll approach messing with the device from the standpoint of someone who practically lives on the web, but doesn’t intend to do anything more heavily productive than writing this blog on it.

As such, I’ll be sparing you the customary ‘first look’ bullshit in this post, such as photos from every angle, screencasts from inside the console, or a full spec readout. (You can get that last part here, by the way.) Instead, I’m just going to share some general observations from using it here and there over the last 24 hours, as well as some general observations about the ridiculous comparisons that the tech blogosphere has been making with this prototype.

Keyboard

Much has been made about the lack of a Caps key. What a crock. The only uses I know for that key are for a push-to-talk in VOIP applications and to POST ANNOYING COMMENTS ON YOUTUBE. I simply hold a shift when needed to type in caps for a bit, or an acronym…am I the weird one here? I donno, I’m totally behind this decision to ditch the caps lock. Right now I still habitually mouse up to the little [+] button to pop open a new tab, but dedicating the artist formerly known as the caps lock to the task just makes a lot of sense to me.

The keyboard physically feels good. I like the sound of it too. The action is pretty much identical in feel to the Apple aluminium keyboards, which is about the only Apple product I’m an actual fan of.

Its a full sized keyboard, so typing on it is natural, and I always type faster on the flatter keyboards anyway. This is a big win for me in general, and is made even bigger considering the prime function this will be filling is a platform for blogging.

Trackpad

Ok, it could use a bit of work. It’s a little less responsive than you’d like. The problems become worse when you’re trying to browse awful websites like Techcrunch that run far too much layout scripting and flash; the single core Atom processor in this thing can only keep up with so much. In the epic battle between a two finger scroll and trying to parse through a bunch of useless javascript…the javascript is going to win. Apparently that means that the trackpad is a piece of crap, but I think I’d rather read gadget reviews from someone that didn’t just finish tossing off on the trackpad on their Macbook.

A more balanced view would hold that while there’s some optimizations to be made…it’s not completely dysfunctional. Those that know what they’re talking about would also realize that any erratic scrolling behavior could more than likely be chalked up to processor overload due to awful websites than faulty components. I am able to scroll properly constructed sites with two fingers just fine, and I can execute a two-fingered click to bring up context menus reliably as well.

Screen

Besides one pixel where the red is stuck on, I’m pretty happy with it. To be fair, I haven’t owned any really high-end displays to date, but it’s really readable thanks to a decent resolution and way better font rendering than Windows. The performance in terms of response time is noticeably not mindblowing, but that’s also not the point of it either.

General Aesthetic

The lid and the keyboard areas are covered in a fine-grained grippy rubber coating. It has the same reflective properties as the paneling of a stealth bomber. It’s pretty reminiscent of the old black Macbooks, and I’m hardly the first to notice. I wish that the battery had a a fit that was a bit more snug; when I snapped it in to complete the initial assembly, I actually wasn’t quite sure if it was in properly or not. The body itself seems solidly constructed; if it got bumped around a bit I wouldn’t be too concerned. As a side note…I kinda dig the lack of branding on this thing…

Ports

Yes Virginia, there’s a VGA port. Honestly, with a single core integrated graphics…I’m not sure what else would actually be reasonable to expect; but my knowledge about such things is limited. There’s a headphone port and a USB port positioned appropriately for a mouse on the right side. A microphone port might have been nice too, as I’m sure that a Chrome app for Skype is probably (hopefully) inevitable, and the built-in mic that sits next to the webcam probably isn’t that stellar.

Battery

Holy moly, this thing has better ‘in use’ battery time than my cell phone. Seriously. I’m pretty sure I got a good 8.5 hrs worth of use out of it today before I really had to think about plugging it in. This thing is going to be wonderful for writing ‘in the wild,’ I can already tell.

Wordpress

WP runs pretty great. Since I haven’t loaded up my admin environment or my theme with a bunch of useless garbage, front end and back ends both run really well on this thing, while simultaneously doing other stuff like streaming music from Rdio, uploading a 600 MB file to YouTube, and running the Tweetdeck Chrome app.

Twitter

Speaking of the Tweetdeck app, it’s not really that great. The desktop version is definitely my go-to, but I haven’t been impressed with their offerings on other platforms. On the Cr-48, Seesmic web runs like a champ and is decidedly my favorite.

Conclusion

Writers like the complete retards linked above, comparing the Cr-48 prototype to a retail Macbook Air, are not approaching this thing with a proper frame of reference. What do you expect something comparable to the Cr-48 to cost? Yea…the Air is going to trounce a Chrome netbook in performance because its supposed to, and it’s also probably going to end up being at least four times as expensive to own an Air than it would be to own a retail Chrome book.

The difference is price point, obviously. You’re not going to be mixing music, editing movies, or playing high end games on these things. Derp. You’re also only going to be paying about $200 for one of these things. I think it’s just as likely that you could pick one up for nothing from your cellular provider on contract, just like a smartphone.

See, I don’t compare this to my fully featured notebook computer. I compare it to my smartphone; they’re similarly powered and I assume they’ll be similarly priced. Besides that I can’t fit in it my pocket or comfortably make phone calls on it, the Cr-48 is superior on just about every angle when it comes to web browsing and blog authoring. To me, that’s what counts. For anything else heavier, I’ll use my heavier machine, and not begrudge the Cr-48 for not being able to do something it’s not designed for, when it’s pretty darn good for everything it is actually designed for.

While a cloud-based computing reality is probably a few years off still, with many critical functions of desktop computing still without comprehensive and robust cloud-based equivalents, it’s my opinion that this device provides a much larger glimpse into the future of casual computing than the iPad has.