“The first 90% of a project takes 90% of the time, the last 10% takes the other 90% of the time.” — Tom Cargill
I never win anything, but for some reason when it’s free to do so I always enter contests anyway. So when I found out recently that Google plans to give away tens of thousands of laptops, I signed up. There’s a big catch, though. The point of the giveaway isn’t that they’ve realized they have more cash than the Vatican and are trying to come up with fun ways to get rid of it. The point is that they want to find people who are willing to beta test Chrome OS, their weird new web browser-only operating system:
The deal is that the winners agree to use this laptop as their primary computer for a while, so that Google can get feedback on Chrome OS before it gets installed on laptops for which people have to pay actual money. Now, I’ve been on Linux for a few years and I’m perfectly happy with it. And not everything I do is “on the cloud” (a silly way of saying that everything is stored on the Internet rather than on one’s own computer. But I’m interested to see how well Chrome OS handles people like me, who do mostly everything online, but not quite everything. For example:
- I use OpenOffice.org for word processing and spreadsheets. I’m familiar with Google Docs and have used them in certain circumstances, but how would it be to use web apps exclusively for this sort of thing? And how well would Chrome OS handle moving documents onto and off of the cloud? Sometimes I just want to move a document onto a portable drive and hand it to someone else — what happens then?
- How does it handle periods of inevitable disconnection from the Internet? I have Verizon DSL, which means things stop working from time to time. And when I’m, say, traveling on an airplane there’s no connectivity. Does a computer with Chrome OS become a useless brick at that point, or does it have some capacity to let people be productive under those circumstance?
- Earlier today I cropped an image file and uploaded it to my web server. (Okay, it’s my friend Randall’s server, but you get the point.) I didn’t do that through a web interface, I did it through the file manager on my computer, which has built in FTP capability. Would that be possible to do with Chrome OS? If so, would it be as easy?
- App stores seem to be all the rage these days. Apple has one for its iDevices, there’s one for Android, and sure enough there’s one now for Chrome. But will there be free apps, or is that just another way to get me to pay for things that are free on Linux? When Adella needed a song on mp3, I was able to find and download free apps that let me download a video from YouTube, and then convert the audio portion of that file and convert it to mp3. Any chance Chrome OS will support that sort of thing?
So I’m willing to give Chrome OS a try to learn more about it, and I’m even willing to use it as my primary computer for a while to do that. But while I’m pretty sure that doing things through a web browser would be fine for 90% of what I do, the question is whether the things it can’t handle feel more like ten percent, or like the other 90%. Here’s hoping that Google gives me the chance to find out!