Sometime around last November Google announced its Cr-48 pilot program. The Cr-48 is a laptop that runs a minimal Linux operating system. The only application it has, for Normal People, is the Chrome web browser. It boots in 10 seconds. It awakes to usefulness from being suspended in the amount of time that it takes to re-connect to a wireless network. It is virtually impossible to infect with a virus. (Geek note: Even if you run it in developer mode, and become superuser, the OS file system is read-only and cannot be re-mounted read-write. If you want to add other apps like less, or rsync, or emacs, you have to compile the OS from scratch yourself.) If what you want is to do stuff on the web, this is a great way to do it. If you could buy one, I’d recommend it to most people, especially those who do not have access to a help desk.
I filled out a form asking for one of the free laptops and pretty much forgot about it. A week or two later, when I was out of town, a friend who was watching my house sent me a photograph of a box. He was geeky enough to recognize the box. Google had sent me a free laptop. I’ve been using the laptop almost exclusively since December, and I really like it. For most of what I do, it’s perfect. For just a few things, however, it’s either really bad, or just plain can’t do what I need it to do. For example, one thing I’ve been working on is creating a logo for business cards, bumper stickers and a whole array of other products. I can’t do this on the Cr-48.
One thing that people like, apparently, is photographs. I’ve tried to take some (and most have been surprisingly horrible), but managing them with the Cr-48 is cumbersome, at best. I’ve tried a couple of web-based photo managers, I even paid for Picnik, but they are still cumbersome. The result is that I’m going to have to carry some other computer that has a real OS (Ubuntu). And that makes me think that maybe I want a big monitor.
More annoyingly a the moment is that if I want to tweak some business cards so that I can go print them at Kinko’s, I’ll have to get out of bed.