Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New Year's Resolution (And why I don't like them)

It's a couple of days before Christmas. A full 10 days before New Year's Eve (Which I'm not working, thank God).

So I'm going to make a resolution. Which is bizarre, because I hate New Year's Resolutions. Not from others. I love self improvement, and if it takes a certain day of the year for people to adopt better habits, I'm all for it. No, I don't like them because I don't see a need to wait for a certain day to make improvements.

So I guess I'm not really making a New Year's Resolution, because I'm not waiting.

I'm going to try to keep up with this blog. That's it. Simple. Small. I should be able to do this.

I've got some incentive, and some reasons to keep writing. First, it's been a rough couple of months. Not just for me, I know, but I can really only write for myself. Money, friends, family, school, even work (and I love work).

But there is also some great good happening. Friends, family, school, even work (You see what I did there?).

So, we're going to start with the good. The pic above is my new family member, Ruffian (Ruff for short). Angel (My girlfriend, who is all sorts of good news) gave him to me for Christmas. Yeah, I know, you should never give pets for presents during Christmas. I'm going to amend that, and say you should never give pets as surprises for Christmas (Or Hanukkah, or any other big holiday). We've now been prepping for this puppy for two months (Well, I think Angel has been prepping for at least six months, maybe more than that).

I'm going to rant and rave about Ruff in another post. Maybe after I've had some sleep. He's been here for two nights, and has only given us a couple of hours (maybe 4-5 over the two nights) of sleep. We're trying to crate train him (he already goes into it voluntarily), but at night he just starts howling. Last night we scheduled potty breaks, but he still didn't sleep more than an hour or two. I finally went over and stroked him till he fell asleep. I know, probably not a good idea, but we're seriously bent right now from sleep deprivation. Tonight, Angel will get some sleep, as I'm up all night for my work cycle change.

Other great news: I'm working at an emergency room again (totally not saying which one, and I'd appreciate it if any commenters kept that information out). After Haiti, I realized how much I needed to continue working in medicine. I know I feel better, all around (lost 20lbs from running around over there).

Med school applications are in! I'm currently working on secondaries (and trying to afford the fees for it). I'm just applying to DO schools this year. I really just like their philosophy better. I'm going to keep writing about that experience.

I'd like to dedicate this post to one other thing, the enabler of this post, if you will.

Yesterday a surprise package came UPS. It's Christmas, so I wasn't sure what it was (I'm so sleep deprived that I wasn't sure it was something that I ordered). I opened the box, and inside was another box that screamed "Laptop".
I got a little nervous. I didn't order a laptop. No one would send me a laptop. I checked the box again. Angel needs a new laptop... Nope. My name.

I opened the box. Yep. It's a laptop! Very matte black finish, on the smallish side. Very thin. Light. And the first piece of paper that I see (one of three, single pieces of paper, one of which is a business card) has a chrome label and emblem on it.

Could it be....?

Yeah, it totally is.
For the less geeky of you (and I'm probably the geekiest guy you know), it's a Cr-48.
Google has created a pilot program showcasing their reference platform (the Cr-48), and their Chrome Operating system (Chrome OS). The whole concept behind the program is a web based OS. No downloading or installing tons of software onto your system. Google has everything hosted on their servers. In fact, go one step further. Store the majority of your personal files on their servers. That way, wherever you go, whichever computer you're using, you have access to your files. Even cooler: Sign on as a guest on someone else's Cr-48, and the computer will behave just like your computer.

So the laptop arrived on my door, unannounced. I have to admit, the effect was striking. I wandered around for a full ten minutes, just saying "Wow". Early Christmas, for a little kid... I already got a puppy this Christmas, so an unexpected, cutting edge laptop..... Wow.

Cutting edge... OK, I'm going to bet that this thing doesn't have an unlocked Core i7 in it's guts, or a multi-GPU setup to drive insane graphics. What it does have is an always on web link (I don't know what deal Google and Verizon worked out, but thank you Verizon for helping make this piece of tech happen. If you're not on WiFi, then a 3G modem kicks in, and you have 100MB of data transfer a month, free, from Verizon. OK, not exactly cutting edge, as other laptops have been doing that for years.
Turn the thing on, and it boots in seconds. Yes, truly, in seconds. Less than 10. From a cold start. That's cutting edge. My current laptop has a Seagate Momentus Hybrid Drive, and it's fast into Windows 7, but not that fast. I'm pretty sure that this thing is using a solid state drive (SSD), but I don't have the details.
No, what's cutting edge is the whole overall product. Everything is coming together in one package, in a novel beta-test (Free laptop! Really?!), in an incredible design.

Let me talk about the design. First, the battery is a Li-Ion pack that is removable. It takes up a full half of the bottom of the computer. Yeah, it's still removable. People, get with the program, and start doing this.... always. Its ridiculous that companies still make non-user changeable batteries.
The laptop itself is completely matte black, in a sexy, good feel rubberized plastic.
This chassis just feels really good in your hands. On the left is a VGA output port (Here, I wish for an HDMI port, just because that's a port that is going to be on every display technology for the foreseeable future). On the right, a power jack, USB port (USB 2? I think), an audio port (single) and an SD card slot. That's it. Simple. I'm sure people will argue that there are not enough USB ports. Maybe... I don't know. This laptop isn't about huge numbers of external devices. It's the internet, everywhere. Already it has an infinite increase in connectivity over an iPad.
The keyboard is great. This is important to me. My number one piece of advice for people looking at netbooks is to demo the keyboard first. In my experience, the keyboard is the make or break factor for netbooks (this thing feels like a really nice netbook). Chicklet style keys, with a great feel to them. Properly spaced, and easy to type with (Oh yeah, this whole post is written on this thing).
The keyboard has some changes. No, the shift keys are in the proper places, no bizarre punctuation keys. Google has made one significant change to the keyboard, that I'm hoping revolutionizes the keyboard as we know it: No CAPSLOCK. That's right. It's gone, been replaced with a "Search Key". I'm just glad that people who use this thing are going to, by default, have to use proper capitalization. Google, if you're listening, please don't ever change this feature. You hit this one out of the park.
Oh yeah, the function keys are gone, and have been replaced with internet keys (reload, forward, backward), screen keys (Brightness), and audio control (Volume, but no "Next Track" feature.... Can't really comment on it yet, I haven't tried audio yet). I can't see a "Screen Capture" key, but it may be in the shortcuts (Control-Alt-?).

So the keyboard kicks ass.

The mouse pad is huge. I mean really big. It's multi-touch enabled, so it allows for two fingered scrolling. It's a clickpad, which I'm not a huge fan of, but I can learn to enjoy. The "clickyness" feels good, I just keep moving my finger slightly when I use it.
However, there isn't a "Right-Click" button. In order to right-click, you have to press with two fingers. So far this has been a major hit-or-miss proposition for me (and my friend who has tried it out). This is a major change for me, and I'm having a fair amount of problems with the right-click interface. BUT, I'll get it.
In their defense, Google has provided all sorts of customization features for the controls. I just haven't had a chance to use them. I'll post on that at a later date.

As I've said, startup is fast. Really fast. When you first boot up, the system asks for your Gmail information (or allows you to create a new account). It takes a picture (I was so excited, I let the thing take my picture. I look like crap. It'll be interesting to see how many geeks, like me, are too excited to groom themselves for their pictures, upon receiving this thing). Then, you're onto the internet.

Security seems to be decent, though I'll admit I haven't delved into it. You have to sign into your Gmail account to gain access to the laptop. I typically have a different password on my computer than on my email accounts, so that hacking one doesn't give you access to the other, but this is how Google set it up.

The screen looks exactly like a Chrome browser window, with some very minor changes. No task bar at the bottom, a bug report button to the right of the "omni-bar", time, signal strength and battery indicator in the upper right. That's it.

Browsing around is easy, and just like Chrome (and pretty much just like every other browser). Open up a new window (Control-N for a new window or Control-T for a new tab) and you get access to your apps, including a small web store. The game "Entanglement" is pretty cool.

However, it's here, that I have a small problem with the whole system. There doesn't appear to be a way to split the screen. You can't consult notes on one side of the screen, while you are working on another screen. This is a great innovation of Windows that I love. Hell, I have a multi-monitor setup downstairs, and I use it continuously. Google, please find a way to do this. If you can set it up so I can split the screen, left/right and/or top/bottom, that would really upgrade my usability for this.

My only other gripe so far is the inability to code Python on this platform. I'm in the middle of a major project, so I need to be able to use a computer that lets me code (And test the code). For this reason, the Cr-48 is in use next to my other computers.

However, the Cr-48 is going to be by my side for the foreseeable future. I'll be posting up my further impressions, as I get them.

Thanks Google, I hope to give you the info you need!

No comments: