I didn't set out to write three consecutive blogs about Chromebooks, but since they are a great fit for Defensive Computing, here we are. The last blog highlighted Chromebooks as a safe environment for running Adobe's forever-buggy Flash player. Prior to that, I tried to make a security case for traveling with a Chromebook.
Despite their robust security, the greatest strength that a Chromebook offers may well involve owning one.
By and large, Chromebook ownership is effortless.
The end user is not tasked with any maintenance chores. Grandma can not screw up the system. Neither can a six year old child. I'd go so far as to call this revolutionary.
If there were a "Chromebooks for Dummies" book it would be pretty thin.
Techies, who write many of the articles about Chromebooks, are prone to overlooking ownership issues. For them (or should I say for "us" since this is Computerworld), taking care of a Windows, OS X or Linux system is second nature. Caring for these systems is taken for granted. Like breathing.
One such techie is Larry Seltzer who argued that "... there's nothing you can do with a Chromebook that you can't do with a Windows laptop running Chrome ... So what's the point of buying a Chromebook?"
Yes, Chromebooks are less functional than other laptop computers. But every coin has two sides and the flip side of this coin is the security and ease of ownership that Chromebooks offer.
Plus, many people are well served with a Chromebook supplementing other computing devices. In this role, the Chromebook does not need to do everything the other computer does.
One person using a Chromebook alongside other computers is ZDNet blogger David Gewirtz.
He bought his first Chromebook as a cheap laptop for traveling and described how "Getting set up and running on my new Chromebook took five minutes." As to ownership, he wrote "I manage a lot of gear, and it's nice once in a while to have a machine that doesn't automatically spawn to-do items."
After ordering a third Chromebook he wrote that they "had some unexpected side benefits" including that they are "astonishingly easy to set up", "very convenient to use" and "drop-dead-simple." Interestingly, he said nothing about security. How his family went from one to three Chromebooks is an interesting story, especially their use of the powerwash feature. In the end, he is " recommending Chromebooks instead of Windows laptops for civilians."
Another ZDNet blogger, James Kendrick gets right to the heart of the matter saying that "Chromebooks require no maintenance". In discussing Chromebook use by students, he writes that they can "Just buy the Chromebook and use it. This is appealing to the busy student who usually has no free time to worry about the equipment they use."
The list of things Chromebook owners don't need to concern themselves with could fill a blog post.
For example, local file encryption is transparent. Same with verified boot, a feature that insures the operating system was not corrupted. Software updates are also effortless, the system doesn't ask or tell the user anything about them. As long as the Chromebook is restarted every now and then, all the installed software will be up to date.
Antivirus software? Fuggedaboutit. Defrags? Not an issue. Driver updates? Nope. Registry errors? Can't happen. Deleting temp files? Not necessary. Defending against Java, the security scourge of all computing? No need, Java can't run on a Chromebook. Need to view PDF files? The Chrome browser handles that automatically. Need to run Flash? Go ahead.
When a person with an Indian accent calls from the "service department of Windows," as happened to me yesterday, even a gullible Chromebook owner, can't fall for the scam.
Fellow Computerworld blogger JR Raphael made his own list of legacy care and feeding tasks:
Chrome OS systems make a lot of things about traditional computing environments feel outdated: the cumbersome setup and installation procedures; the annoying and time-consuming OS upgrades; the need to manually update applications over time; the need to use antivirus software (and the accompanying likelihood and potential consequences of infection); the reliance on complicated drivers; and the inevitable bogged-down, slowed-down effect that always seems to happen to PCs after you've had 'em for a few months. Chrome OS doesn't have any of those hassles ... And let me tell you: As someone who uses computers all day, that is a huge breath of fresh air.
What I found most interesting about the article, was the care and feeding Langa employed on his Windows computers. I had no argument with anything that he did (which included five antivirus programs and three registry cleaners), but the required time and effort is huge. Not only is it a stark contrast to the maintenance-free Chromebook, but even after all that work, a Chromebook is still more secure for online activities.
Is Word really worth it?
Update. March 8, 2014: After spending a month using nothing but a Chromebook ZDNet Contributing Author Ken Hess writes "... enjoyment comes in the form of no reboots due to constantly arriving patches, annoying freezes, or other anomalies. It comes in the form of a responsive and out-of-the-way user interface. There are just no hassles with a Chromebook ...The Chromebook is easy to use. "