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Details on the non-browser OS features
, October 29, 2012
This review is from: Samsung Chromebook (Wi-Fi, 11.6-Inch) 2012 Model (Personal Computers)
Others have commented about the new Chromebook hardware, and the browser is well-known already (it operates identically on the Chromebook), so I'll comment about the OS features outside of the browser, about which very little information is available. Bear in mind that Google updates the OS frequently, so anything I say is subject to change at any time.
There's a new app called Files that's a file manager, analogous to Windows Explorer or the Finder. It always shows two drives: Downloads, on the local file system, and Google Drive. You can copy between them, make folders, rename files, etc.
If you mount an SD card or USB drive, you can perform the same operations with those drives, too. I was able to mount a Mac-formatted (HFS) drive, but not write to it. When I tried, I got an error message AND the OS got into a state where it would refuse to copy anything, even if the HFS drive wasn't involved. Rebooting cleared this up.
You can't access networked drives (shares) at all.
If you have a Google Docs file on a local drive, including the built-in drive, you can open it with Google Docs to work on it, but it seems that there's no way to create such a file from the app. You have to get it there by copying it from Google Drive. This use of a local file is completely different from the new offline capability that the Google Docs apps have. That gives them access to a local cache of the online files, unrelated to the files you see with the Files app. My advice is that if you want to work with those apps offline, do it the official way.
My bluetooth mouse, which I prefer to the touchpad, worked perfectly.
The Chromebook looks very much like my Macbook Air. Same size, same weight, similar appearance. The Air is more refined, and it also costs more than four time as much.
I got the Chromebook because when I'm not on my main computers (an iMac or a Windows box) I spend all my time in Chrome. The Chromebook is perfect for this, as others have noted. I was using an Air for this purpose, which it's great at, of course, but so is the Chromebook.
When I take photos, I shoot raw. You can copy raw files from a card to another device with the Chromebook, for in-the-field backup, but you can't view the raw files (that is, you can't view the JPEG preview that's inside them). You can on Windows, MacOS, or an iPad. In this respect, an iPad is a more complete field computer for a photographer who wants backup and a little viewing, but, unlike the Chromebook, you can't attach an external drive, and an iPad only has so much internal memory. It works for me while I'm on vacation, but it wouldn't work for a pro. Not enough space.
You can certainly upload a raw to Picasa Web and view it there, but this is impractical for the bulk of the images you'll shoot in the field.
The above viewing issue applies only to raws. JPEGs work fine.
As an experiment, I wrote a text editor as a packaged app, which means it loads locally in Chrome and has full access to local files. It worked fine on the Chromebook, as I would expect. However, it seems that it is tossed out on a reboot, so you have to load it from an external disk each time you boot. As packaged apps are very new and still experimental, this is obviously a temporary issue. I noticed that there's a way to pin the app icon to the launchbar, which is nice. Pinning doesn't keep it from being tossed out.
The Chromebook needs work, but I give it five stars anyway. The Google people are smart and hard-working, so I expect things will get better rapidly, especially as the new Chromebook seems to be a smash hit.
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