OTGG: Semi disposable laptops

New idea, being kind of a geek and a nerd, why not review gadgets in a travel mindset I ask myself ? (This and I need a reason to stay at this coffee shop to enjoy the AC).

On the go gadgets

This time, what about light travel, backpacking, day packs and technology. What can you do to lighten your tech load and still retain your connectivity options ?

Sure I could recommend purchasing every new Macbook Air Apple dishes out at crazy prices or those 11.1 inch laptops that would make most desktop machines blush in terms of specs. But we aren’t here for the best performance or the technical mumbo jumbo, we are here for practical and simple.

I do photography, I like my little comfort, and I do not like the idea of not having my own computer on the go. Ergo, I carry a laptop on the go. I am also very concerned about theft and privacy theses days. After examining the different options on the market and what could be done on a deadbeat backpacker budget I came to the conclusion that netbooks were the best idea.

Most Netbooks are small enough to carry all day, have a SD card slot for you DSLR carriers and have a great battery life, letting you breathe between power outlets. The big problem with Netbooks is getting something powerful enough and cheap at the same time. That rules out every single small screen pc that came out with Windows XP a few years back with 1gb of ram at 200$ or the new ones at 400$ with Windows 7 starter which basically are trouble strapped to a screen with a wifi card.

The solution ? Well one of the above mentioned but bought used making it dirt cheap (so worth the bit of extra trouble) and slapping Linux Ubuntu Netbook remix on them. A painless process, super easy to use, very fast.
Downside is that well, you need to get out of your ”I do not know anything about computers box” and get down with learning a new operating system. No worries, it has a word processor for your .doc, a pdf reader for those powerpoints grandpa or uncle sends and has a music program that works with every device and firefox for browsing.

The other solution, easier, more secure, and even cheaper is to buy a Chromebook. Google spent years developing a whole operating system to compete with Microsoft’s Windows or Apple’s OS.

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The good points are that

  • It is crazy light, so runs quickly on anything.
  • Based on it’s open source counterpart Chromium.
  • Syncs with everything Google-ish or android like a breeze.
  • Is mostly cloud based, retaining everything online if your computer dies.
  • Is dirt cheap brand new and people don’t make the effort of spending a few minutes learning how it works so you can get one used for 150$ on kijiji, craigslist and the likes.

In the end, 150$ for something that uses the browser I use anyway on my other machines, that synchronizes my favourites, history, applications and hard drive on the cloud, can be configured to use a VPN service for privacy (think proxy, I use Privateinternet as a provider) is a great deal. Consider it like disposable at 150$, you can get it stolen without shedding a tear, everything is backed up and your drive is encrypted automatically. You can break it and buy a new one 6 times before reaching the price of a new Macbook Air which you will only use for Facebook and Google as well.

The future of dirty hippy computing is here. Sure my cellphone has better hardware, more ram and hard drive space, but for around 200$ used sometimes 250$ brand new, it is hard to counter argue this browsing machine. So far, it is also possible to do anything you could do on a regular pc with it providing you have internet somewhere to connect to. I even edit pictures with it. It doesn’t have Photoshop but http://www.pixlr.com lets me edit my photos. http://www.hotmail.com for my email http://www.office.com for word, excel, powerpoint, http://www.grooveshark.com for my music, netflix for my movies etc.

So far, after extensive research the only three issues I have had with Chrome OS.

  1. The lack of mkv support. If you do not know what that means, lets move on to the two next points (Google promised to include mkv codecs in the future updates).
  2. The lack of a Skype app on Chrome OS (Google promised to work with Skype to make this work but Skype has no Java or HTML 5 versions, so it requires them to re-engineer the whole program, and meanwhile you can use Google hangouts which is awesome).
  3. The lack of a torrent support or magnet link support (which is easily fixed by spending 3$ on a nifty Java application available in the chrome store,JS Torrent, which will then work on every computer you connect your Gmail account to, allowing you to effectively torrent without any torrent program, just using the chrome browser. Magnet links do not work, but JS Torrent allows you to just paste a torrent URL. So you can just right click any magnet link and copy the link in your app -wow that was the longest parenthesis ever)

So yeah, in the end, pretty hard to argue with a 150-200$ wifi capable, ssd powered,with a decent screen, keyboard, camera, microphone, usb equipped laptop.

More info on Chromebooks here
Pixlr photo editor here
Edit online Office documents here
Grooveshark music streaming here
Private Internet VPN provider here
Netflix here
JS Torrent here

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