Black Beauty Appears - #Google CR-48 Arrives!

http://fineartamerica.com/images-medium/black-beauty-charles-vaughn.jpg

Like a man on a desert island awaking from the shipwreck of modern technologies vying for attention, the Google CR-48 Notebook woke me from my stupor, nuzzling me in the face. The black beauty that is the Google CR-48 Notebook runs Chrome OS only. You may recall I'd experimented running Chrome in a virtualbox previously, but seeing it on a friendly netbook like this one is a completely different experience. I'm grateful to the Google Education team for sending these out and allowing me to review one!

Google CR-48
It has that instant on, silky feel to its exterior, making it relatively light. In fact, if it reminds me of anything, it's a lighter version of the black Macbook I carried around for a few years (picture below):

Source: http://krapp.org/rupert/blog-uploads/macbook.jpg

While some may see it as unfair to compare the devices, cloud computing gives me a lot of the power that the black Macbook provided at a significant reduction in weight (ugh, my shoulder still aches). Is it enough to do the job, though? I'm not sure yet. It will take a week of playing around. Some of the basic apps I need to have include screen capture, URL shortening, Skype, and more.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
My 17 year old--who's worked on Mac, Windows XP, 7, UbuntuLinux and Peppermint ICE--played with the Google CR-48 for about an hour, but upon discovering it lacked a desktop of any kind and that it was always "online" connected to the Internet, she labelled it "Creepy Chrome." I was perplexed at this attitude, considering that many of the tools we use are online (she uses GoogleDocs). Her response, "I disconnect to do my homework...less distractions." This doesn't jive with my experience...I can't do my job or consulting unless I am online.

"Hmm...you're not part of the NOW generation, always plugged in, huh?"
(could that explain her high grades?).

My 11-year old described it in this way: "Really cool, soft, good lighting, bright on the screen. The video is good, too. I like the sound quality." Have to work on elaboration, but he was more taken with it than the 17 year old. In fact, I'm watching him watch a video on it.


Some of the aspects I liked:
  1. Search key instead of a caps lock key. 
  2. Smooth finish to the machine overall
  3. Battery that doesn't burn too hot; sat on my lap for over an hour as i put it through its paces and didn't burn through my jeans' pants leg.
  4. Easy Internet connection from the get-go
  5. Instant on so no wait time if you're logged in already
  6. Keyboard and touchpad are unobtrusive...some pieces, it feels like they're "in the way" or pushing into the typing zone (whatever that is) but this keyboard just feels different and avoids that common mistake (like the IBM Thinkpad). it's like the keyboard is embedded a little lower than usual, which gives it a really awesome feel.
  7. HTML 5 video worked fine (www.html5video.org)
  8. MP4 videos played fine (I tried the tutorials I made with JingPro for http://bit.ly/podcastpizzazz workshop)
  9. Videos embedded in a Moodle played without problem! (http://intouch.saisd.net/plc) so yay! The HTML editor also worked fine (you have to have Moodle 1.9.11 version installed, though).
  10. Listened to a few podcasts at www.podcastalley.com...their player worked fine.
  11. Blip.tv worked when I went to their site, but not in one site where Blip.tv content was embedded. Could have been a fluke.
  12. Vimeo worked fine.
Zombies Attack - The Skull-Crunching Chrome Pilot Notebook
Some things that I didn't like about the CR-48:
  • M4A video files didn't work, which is a bummer since this is the format I show everyone to convert their videos from PhotoStory or Moviemaker (WMV) to. MP4, I say, is the most compatible format. Ah well.
  • MP4 videos played but without sound. Sigh.
  • Flash videos on YouTube just didn't work.
  • HTML5 video on YouTube worked just fine
    (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siOHh0uzcuY)
  • It doesn't appear that Java is installed. I need to explore this more.
  • I tried running Aviary.com's Myna Audio Editor (you may recall, I just facilitated a podcast workshop) but while everything seemed to work, what didn't was the RecordMyna was unable to find a working microphone. Hmm...there is a web cam, so I'm guessing there's a mic but where and how to activate it? And, since Aviary.com is easily included in GoogleApps for Education, it's important to ask, "How can I get this netbook to take advantage of web podcasting app like Myna if I can't record?"
    Aviary.com Myna Audio Editor on CR-48 where Recording not working because
    Adobe Flash can't find mic or webcam!
  • Adobe Flash could not find the webcam.
  • Netflix video didn't work, but to be honest, I didn't really expect it to. No surprise.
  • One USB port. This is driving me crazy. I plug in an external mouse, and that's it. No external USB drives. I haven't tested the speed on that port, but I'd love to see how fast it is if I connect a USB hub to it.
Source: http://technabob.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/09/kikkerland_usb_hub_guy.jpg

I'm working with a colleague as she prepares for a preso on Moodle at the upcoming Texas Distance Learning Association, and I decided to make my updates using the CR-48. It's working just fine. 

Critiques aside, I still found myself enjoying the feel, especially after I turned on the "Tap to Click" (it was driving me crazy clicking on the touchpad...everytime I clicked, the mouse moved." 

Having worked with Peppermint ICE, I knew exactly what apps to search for in the Web Store...here are a few that I immediately installed:
  • Pixlr Image Editor
  • Seesmic Web
  • Goo.gl URL Shortener
  • Blogger
  • Armor Games (Sierra 7 is fun shoot 'em up)
In short, this machine is working quite well! I'm going to try carrying it around for a week and report what I find out. 

And, after that, I'm curious what would happen if I do the following:
But there is more flexibility and possible usefulness in using it on the Cr-48 if you’re interested specifically in having your way with it as opposed to just browsing the web.
...Added into the Chromium OS builds are better trackpad support, Java and additional command line tools. You can see a list of the most recent builds here. All you need is a PC that is able to image external drives, very much like one does when using Hexxeh’s Flow Chrome OS build. You can then load Chromium just like you would if you were using Google’s recovery USB method that is outlined right here.
Apparently, others have done quite a bit to the Google CR-48. I'm grateful for the opportunity to consider this machine and explore its use in a K-12 learning environment! At the end of the week, I'll ask myself, Is this a machine that should find itself in K-12 education environment or tossed into a corner as a still-born technology?


CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE VIDEO STORY
In the meantime, have you seen this interactive zombie video via the CR-48? Plays great and is funny....


Sigh...how did we go from the Google CR-48 to zombies? 

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Comments

pshircliff said…
So is it k-12 ready? Have you heard a price point?
What have you been able to create on it/with it?
Miguel Guhlin said…
@pshircliff - i just powered it up yesterday, so I'm still exploring it. I have access to GoogleDocs (that works fine), and I haven't explored all the apps that I can use to make stuff. Do you have suggestions for creativity apps available in the GoogleApp store?

In the meantime, I will need to keep exploring...that's why I'm giving myself a week to get it done.

Best wishes,
Miguel

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