After my initial attempts of working only with a Chromebook Pixel back in 2014 and selling the device again after a few months, I bought another Chromebook Pixel. It’s still the old one from 2013, but it was brandnew and it cost just 300€.
Why would I do that? Well, I’ve grown accustomed to only working on remote systems via SSH and I’ve completely moved almost all of my data to Google, so I’m neither dependent on local storage nor do I require any specific native apps. Sure, I like MoneyMoney for OS X and using Twitter from the browser is still shitty, but that’s not a show-stopper.
Working in vim via SSH/mosh with the Mosh Chrome App is as good as working on a local shell, even if my internet is unreliable. Of course, having a local shell, just in case, would be awesome too.
Now that Chrome OS will also be able to run all Android apps, all these worries will be less and less relevant. My 2013 Pixel won’t be able to run Android apps, but there are rumors of a 3rd generation Chromebook Pixel, so I’m holding my breath for that. I’ll also be able to run a local Linux environment like Termux if I’ll be without an Internet connection for a longer time.
I’ve had a few issues with Chrome OS that lead me to part ways with it in 2014, but most of these are no longer relevant, either because Chrome OS and its app ecosystem improved (or will in a few weeks) or because my requirements have changed:
While I’ve grown quite fond of the basic idea of Chrome OS, it still feels mostly crippled, due to the lack of proper, offline-capable Chrome-applications.
Native support for Android apps makes this almost irrelevant. But as long as I can’t use any of them, I’ll have to stick with Chrome Apps and I have to say that they’ve really improved. Working in Google Docs without an internet connection feels the same as if you’d be online. My only gripe is the lack of offline-caching of the Google Play Music webapp.
A fully cloud-enabled device is also still mostly useless as long as I can exhaust my monthly LTE-bandwidth within a few minutes.
This isn’t as much of a problem anymore. Sure, the telco companies still suck, but I’ve been using my smartphone as if it had unlimited data for months and my 5GB are holding up quite well. More recently, 10GB/month contracts have become quite cheap in Germany. It’s of course still far from perfect, but I don’t see this as much of a concern anymore. I’m currently on vacation in the Netherlands and I have yet to find a spot where there isn’t some WiFi hotspot that I can use.
Chrome OS also lacked advanced tiling window manager-features that I’ve grown accustomed to on OS X and its handling of SSH-connections wasn’t to my liking either.
I’m now using tmux, so this also isn’t that much of an issue anymore. Secure Shell still isn’t perfect, but I’m just connecting to my server using mosh and I’m considering that my Linux environment from where I can connect to whatever system I need to. However, multiple workspaces and/or tiling window manegement is more necessary than ever on Chrome OS, because as soon as those Android apps land in the Stable channel, being tied to just one workspace will be a very terrible experience. Come on Google, even Windows 10 supports multiple desktops now. If you’re also into Chrome OS, put a star on this issue right now!
Another issue I had was the US keyboard. But because I’m no longer just the typical systems administrator, I’ve adapted to the US keyboard layout and I’ve been using the US International variation of it for german Umlauts like öüäß for a few months now.
I hope that Chromebooks with the Pixel’s build-quality will be the default for devices in the 300EUR-pricerange.
We’re not at that price point yet, but 499€ for a decently specced Aluminum laptop isn’t that terrible.
So far, I haven’t found a thing that I missed or something that my Macbook Pro could have done better. I’ve also come to terms with the fact that Apple is now focusing more and more on integrating their own services into macOS while I’ve been ditching all of Apple’s apps for webapps, so there’s nothing I’ll really miss. I had expected to miss apps such as Pixelmator, but to be honest, I can’t remember when I last used it. Google Photos does most of what I need with regards to editing photos.
If you’re curious and have questions, ping me on Twitter.