“Using Cloudready and the new Chromium OS, you can turn your old, slow Windows computer into a blazing fast new shiny Chromebook!” I was told as a shitty old laptop that dies the second you unplug it from the power supply was dumped in front of me. “Go on, I know you can do it!” A short father-daughter activity later left us waiting for Chrome to load itself. It was used once by my father then forgotten.
Then my laptop died, and here I am, typing articles on a Chromebook. The relationship… isn’t great.
This laptop though, back in its day, was genuinely very good. It has an nVidia graphics card and an Intel duo core. It also has a good 100ish GB of hard drive space and FOUR USB ports. Most modern laptops only have three to save up space. But it’s old and the battery is essentially dead in this poor old thing. It also had a Binding of Isaac sticker on the back, before the sticker migrated to the other spare laptop, which uses Windows XP but at least actually works when unplugged. My problem though isn’t the fact that this laptop is old, it’s the operating system. This laptop switched from Windows XP to Chromium.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m open to change. I’ve tried iOS, Ubuntu, Windows 95 through 10 and all sorts. But it’s the little things that bother me about Chromium.
The first is the most annoying. Everything is tied to a Google account. If you use more than one Google account, things are so annoying, constantly switching back and forth. Everything is on the cloud, apparently, which seems to make simple things like saving images on my external had drive rather tedious. The file browser is slow and ugly (compared to everything else) and there’s no back or up buttons in the file browser, making browsing needlessly hard. There are only two views – needlessly large thumbnail view and details view. Copy and paste are tedious and the whole system is very slow when it comes to reading external devices or folders with a lot of stuff in them. Search just about does its job, but when you start Chromium for the first time, many folders are ordered not alphabetically, but by their Date Modified. Seriously? My BIGGEST issue is saving attachments from emails. Half the time it doesn’t work, and I have to hit the Save button so many times because it just doesn’t seem to do anything! I also don’t need a damn notification that takes up 1/8 of the screen telling me what I’ve downloaded, dammit.
Apart from that, there’s very little else on a newly made Chromebook. You only get a handful of starting apps – Google’s version of Microsoft Office, files, Chrome and the webstore. All your apps come from the webstore.
I hate the Webstore. It’s really not great here on Chromium. First problem is that half the time, I’m not told whether the app or extension I am about to download is even compatible. Most of the time it isn’t. There are also so many fake or dubious-looking apps available – I wanted something to open ODT files (the file format my stories are saved in) and nothing worked. Being a somewhat new OS, there’s a fair number of apps available but as I said before, many of them look dubious and often want my email address. Took me three attempts to find a decent music player, because Chromium by default just has a basic sound player. But most of the time though, even though these things say they’re apps, they open up in your browser, Chrome. It’s really weird.
Also, a major annoyance is that I click on the search button for all my apps, it only ever shows my recent apps. Every single time, I have to click All Apps to, well, see all my apps.
There are very little settings available to look at or really change. It’s incredibly basic. You don’t need an antivirus, because Chromium doesn’t even have executable files, everything is some sort of HTML5 extension of some sort. The problem with Chromium is that everything is designed to run from Chrome, and everything has been made as simple as possible, so users can’t ever break anything. It’s like iOS, designed with the idiot in mind, but sometimes a little too much for idiots. Although sometimes that’s okay, because at least Chromium doesn’t lose much when your computer suddenly dies or you get randomly logged out.
It’s not all bad though. If you’re the sort of person who spends their entire life in Chrome, on Facebook, Twitter, GMail, whatever, then a Chromebook, or even just Chromium on a shitty old laptop, will do. It’s mostly foolproof unless you lose your GMail password, and most apps just don’t work so the worst that will happen is that your homepage will be set to some advert-filled alternative to Google. That’s easily fixed just by removing the app anyway.
But for someone who actually does stuff? For someone who is working? There aren’t quite enough apps yet for that to properly work, for example, I NEED a program that can open and edit PSD and AI files and Codeanywhere is okay as a code editor (horrible colour scheme though) but I don’t want to give everything my email address. Being tied to the cloud all the time can be annoying, especially with a fluctuating connection.
In the end, if you are in no way computer savy, Chromium is good, and cheaper, simpler, faster and better than any Apple operating system. If you are and you like making things your own, or want to play a decent game, or are a gamer, stick to Windows or Linux. There are no decent games here on Chromium.