About a month ago, my very expensive and much-loved MacBook Air died a sudden and painful death. The screen fractured, initially displaying some thin vertical lines that I could ignore, and then becoming completely useless.
The “geniuses” at the Apple Store “Genius Bar” told me that it was all my fault and couldn’t possibly be an issue with how the thing is manufactured, and as a result, it wasn’t covered by the warranty and a repair would cost around £380 (US$636).
For that price, I thought, I could pick up a couple of brand new Chromebooks.
So I bought one (an Acer C720) and have been using it for 28 days.
(Meanwhile, the corpse of my brand-new MacBook Air sits on a shelf as I try to decide what to do with it. Any suggestions welcome.)
There are basically four kinds of laptops you can own these days. Most people buy Windows laptops. Those with a bit more money buy Macs. (A word of warning to them: don’t let your screen fracture.) The more ambitious configure their laptops to run a variant of GNU Linux. I’ve done all three over the years.
The fourth kind of laptop is what is properly known as a “thin client”, meaning a laptop with little or no actual software or memory. It’s essentially a web browser, with screen and keyboard.
Like everyone else, I thought the problem here is what could I do with a thin client — don’t I need a “proper” laptop?
Short answer — no, I don’t.
Now this is not for everyone, but everything I did on the MacBook Air (and on my desktop, which is a Mac Mini) I can do on the Chromebook.
This includes the following:
- Email: I’ve been using a web-based email system anyway, no need for a local client. (They all work well here.)
- Web: Goes without saying. Limited to Chrome, but I don’t mind.
- Social networks: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn all work fine.
- Photo editing: I’ve only used Pixlr anyway 90% of the time (to crop or shrink images), and never owned Photoshop.
- File editing and file transfer: I use ShiftEdit — works pretty much as well as using a more conventional text editor and dedicated FTP client. Certainly useful for when I’m away from the office.
- Music: I’ve been a Spotify fan for some time now, and don’t keep music on a hard drive anyway.
- Word processing and spreadsheets: Google Docs is a reasonable substitute for OpenOffice and LibreOffice; I haven’t used Microsoft Office for many years.
- Evernote: The Chrome app works like a charm.
So what’s missing? It’s not possible that I can do absolutely everything with a ChromeBook, right? I mean, it costs one fourth the price of a MacBook Air.
There is one thing: Skype. It doesn’t work. But I don’t care — I never use Skype on a laptop anyway. I use it on my iPod touch, or a phone when I had one.
So what do I miss about my Mac Book Air?
The money I wasted buying it.