I just got myself a new laptop- an Acer C720 Chromebook. This is a small (11.6″ screen) machine, built to run Google’s Chrome OS, that goes for just under $200. The Chrome OS basically does everything on the “cloud” using Googles Chrome Browser and lots of cloud apps like Google Docs, Maps and Calendar etc. This video explains it a bit-

As my main laptop is now pretty much permanently tethered to my desk monitor for photo editing and is running Windows so I can use Lightroom (why did I wait so long?) I had resurrected my old Z61 to use for web browsing etc. when sitting in front of the TV etc., but unfortunately it just couldn’t handle it and I was getting more and more frustrated waiting for it to load web pages and watching stuttery videos.

The Chromebook seemed built to fit the bill (although I was a little nervous as it only sports 2gb of RAM) and so it has proved 🙂 I can’t believe how zippy this thing is- with even 20 or so tabs open it doesn’t seem to bog down at all and scrolling is smooth as are videos.

BUT- and this is the good part- it runs a full distro of Linux beautifully too! And you don’t even need to dual boot (which is when you run one OS and then shut down to boot into another), as Chrome OS is based on Linux one of the Google developers has written a script that you can run to download one of many variations of Ubuntu and just switch between the 2 with a simple key combination.

The script is called Crouton, and I followed the instructions on these websites (here, here and here) to load the latest Ubuntu release (Saucy Salamander) with my favourite KDE GUI. And it is absolutely startling how well it runs even intensive programs like GIMP and LibreOffice! I think the newish “Haswell” architecture of the Intel CPU in this thing handles memory in a different way, but it’s almost unbelievable how well it runs on only 2gb of RAM (for a brief while there was a 4gb version for sale, but they are impossible to get) which is good as the RAM is soldered to the motherboard and is not upgradeable. I did get the cheapest version with the 16gb SSD drive (Chrome is supposed to store everything in the cloud) rather than paying the $50 more for the 32gb one, but that was because I suspected that if it did run Linux as well as people said it did I would want to upgrade it anyway and a 128gb compatible SSD is available for not much more if you’re prepared to void the warranty by cracking open the case to put it in 😉 We’ll see, but I probably will end up doing that soon enough.

So, all in all I am a very happy camper 🙂 I will probably use it in Chrome 90% of the time, but it’s very cool that I can simply slip right into a full KDE Ubuntu environment with just a couple of clicks if I want to do anything more complicated than Chrome can handle!

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