Saturday, March 5, 2011

My Review of Google's CR-48

I received the laptop about 4 weeks ago and have had it long enough to start writing my review.  Since the device is in beta and not a finished product I don't feel that my review can be finished.  In fact, just 2 days ago  I received the first, and as far as I know only update for the device.

Quick positive impressions:

  • Non-technical users seem to like the device better. Although I can appreciate it and use it happily as an additional device not my main workstations.
  • My 8-year-old daughter just loves this device. I've set her up with her own Gmail account and she likes the video chat from gtalk.
  • This device is being used way more than our Windows XP Netbook.   
  • The Verizon 100MB contract is perfect. I don't understand why Verizon or AT&T are not paying to install a cellular chip on every laptop device capable of it. I really like Google's negotiated contract for this device.  If I need data I like knowing that it is a straight fee for 1 day or 30 days, no negotiating, no sales talk, and most of all no up-sale.  100MB is just enough data to wet my appetite
  • The battery life and lid closing is fantastic. As well as the power button functions are very gratifying.
  • CR-48 Gtalk app is fantastic and I wish it could be brought over to Chrome
  • The security of someone being able to log into a device without first creating an account is brilliant. It takes no time for someone else to borrow your device.  In fact, I used the hotel's shared computer and wished for some of the same security considerations. ChromeOS would make a fantastic kiosk OS for hotels or other shared devices. I don't have to worry about what information is stored on the device if it were to be stolen or lost.


I've found that among the people I've shown proudly the Google laptop, I'm the most critical.  Maybe it has something to do with getting a nice free device that I couldn't have expected and in many ways deserved.  Everyone who I show this device that is non-technical and surprised to hear that Google even makes laptops, really seem to like/ love the simplicity and design of the device.

As for myself, I love the device but feel hampered by all of the missing features.  (Although, I also see great developer opportunities creating solutions to these issues)  I am struggling to use some form of remote desktop solution.  I have successfully used guacamole on a system at work to connect to my Ubuntu workstation, however I still need to find a secure vpn type solution.  Our Clientless SSL VPN with Cisco's ASA 5500 has not been very kind when forwarding dynamic HTML5 type scripting.

At home, I'm trying out ThinVNC with very little luck.  I seem to have problems with getting VNC to work through the Windows 7 firewall.

<sarcasm rant> By-the-by, who's brilliant idea was it to eliminate creating a firewall based on ports and protocols and give permissions based on executable.  I haven't researched this, but I am guessing that Windows 7 firewall doesn't create any sort of checksum when the permission is created for an executable. This reminds me of Linux's xinetd which is effective but never has been called a firewall. </sarcasm rant>

I brought this device with me to New York and was slightly frustrated that there was no solitaire-like game that could be played locally when I was on the airplane.  When I reached my hotel, the device worked better than I would have thought.  That is probably the place where I truly fell in love with the device. My wife brought our XP netbook which failed in comparison.  We decided to not bring any fully functioning laptop because our use would be only for entertainment and some communication. Normally, I would have just lived by my Android cell phone but the CR-48 really shined.  By the end of the trip my wife was a Google CR-48 believer.

Here are some areas that I find missing and a couple pieces of advice:

  • I tried to upload some pictures/video from a Samsung video camera that saves everything on SD card.  I was able to enable advanced file system but apparently SD cards with more than 2GB was not compatible on the first version.
  • Don't hesitate to activate options under about:flags  
    • Here are my favorites right now:
      • Advanced File System
      • GPU Accelerated Compositing
      • GPU Accelerated Canvas 2D
  • My device arrived not capable of working. I ended up finding out about holding the reset button (on the back with a paper clip) and the power button for 10 seconds.
  • The developer dip switch was covered by a piece of black sticker. I hesitated enabling the developer mode for quite some time until after I fell in love with the device and wanted to see if I could develop Android apps under Ubuntu.  So far, I've found out that I need more than 5GB partition to make that work with the default Ubuntu desktop install.  I'm planning on uninstalling a bunch of software to see if I can just work with eclipse and X windows.
  • I kinda sorta wish that there was some form of Java plugin installed. I can understand the problem and resources necessary for such a big tool. The Cicso ASA 5500 would allow me to remote RDP and a couple of other options if Java were available.
  • I don't like having HTML5 and Flash apps mixed together in the webstore