Early Cr-48 Impressions

I’ve had the Chrome laptop for six whole hours now. What do I think of it so far? Well:

* The black, matte “no distinguishing marks” look of the computer really appeals to my baser nerderati impulses, i.e., “oh, you have a Mac Air, do you? How nice for you. Excuse me while I pull out my Cr-48, whose very blackness will consume your pathetic hipster soul.”

* That said, in low light the keys are hard to read; more difficult to read than the keys on my Acer One, which are the same color. I guess the matte black really does suck in all available light to it; either that or the screen is really bright, which means there are contrast issues for my feeble 41-year-old eyes.

* The keyboard is of the chiclet type which I have generally not liked on other computers but which seems to be working fine for me here. This may be an effect of the “you just got a free computer, don’t complain” phenomenon.

* But allow me to complain anyway about the trackpad, which is twitchy and also requires you to use two fingers to right click, which I apparently do wrong all the time. I will have to practice more and/or look through the settings to see if I can change it and/or say “screw it” and use a mouse.

* The CAPS LOCK button being replaced with a search button? Awesome. I never used the Caps Lock button, ever, so now the button is assigned to something that’s functional. In real world terms the search button opens up a new tab, from which you may do a search; the search aspect of that is fine but in fact it’s the “opening a new tab” function which is useful for me. All the function buttons are gone, replaced with buttons that address specific computer functions. Oh, look, here’s the “lower brightness” button. Aaaand now I can see my keyboard better. Excellent.

* Speaking of the screen, it’s fine. Nice and bright, except when I use that button to make it less bright. On another note entirely, it’s amazing how much more comfortable a 12-inch screen is than a 10-inch screen, which is what my Acer has. I think I’ve found my laptop sweet spot in terms of screen size.

*Other small build notes: The screen doesn’t go back quite as far as I’d like it to, hinge-wise, but that’s not a dealbreaker. The battery is not quite flush with the bottom of the computer, but again, like I care. The slightly rubberized plastic of the Cr-48, which makes it feel like my Droid X has been experimenting with growth hormones? Excellent. Fan is mostly quiet.

* I know the Cr-48 is not going to be a computer that’s going to sell on the general market, so in some sense all the above is just neepery. But you know what? I would buy a laptop like this. I like the form factor and design a lot. And I love not having branding on it. Love it love it love it.

* On the software side, the thing boots up as quickly as advertised. From off to totally up and running definitely in less than half a minute (I didn’t have a stopwatch on it). Additionally the initial setup took almost no time at all; I turned it on, signed into my Google account, and whoomp, there it was. Close-to-instant power on is a good thing.

* And other than that? Well, someone said to me that if you want to experience what the Chrome OS is like without having to use the Chrome OS, all you have to do is open the Chrome browser and run it full screen. This is in fact a pretty accurate assessment. Basically, the experiencing of using Chrome OS is like having the browser up all the time. The good news here is that I already use the Chrome browser on a frequent basis, so there’s not too much of a learning curve. The bad news is all the annoying things about the Chrome browser are here too. I’ll have to go through and fiddle with the settings until they are to my liking.

* I used the Cr-48 to update the blog and also to write a movie column via Google Docs. Verdict? Again, like updating the blog and writing a column via Google Docs on the other computer. Mostly. I did have to do a couple of workflow workarounds, including using a slightly alternate means to get pictures onto the blog. We’ll see in the future how much this has to do with me, and how much it has to do with the Chrome OS dictating a different workflow.

So in all, not a bad first six hours with the new toy.

I’m a British Fantasy Award Nominee

For this very blog, in the non-fiction category. Very cool!

Here’s the entire list of nominees, via SF Signal. Congrats to all of them.

Update: Whoops, this information is from June. This is what I get for not paying attention. Never mind; as you were.

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Nerdmas

Hey, guess what showed up on my doorstep today:

Yup, it’s one of those Cr-48s, from Google. Apparently they saw me kvetch enough about wanting one and sent one along. I did also sign up to be a beta tester, of course. But I think it was the kvetching that did it. So now I have one. Go me.

And you say, Hey, Scalzi, didn’t you just do a post on some of the philosophical problems with cloud computers? Why, yes, I did. And my response to you is:

1. What, you’re expecting consistency from me when I have a new toy?

2. And I also said I wouldn’t mind trying one anyway, SO THERE.

3. But more relevantly and to the point here, I’ve noted my philosophical issues with cloud computing, so now it will be interesting to work with a cloud computer and learn how my philosophical issues mesh with the practical aspects of playing with what is essentially a souped-up version of a “thin client.” I really do want to see how well it works for everything I do with a computer on a day-to-day basis. I am as noted more than a little skeptical we’re at the point where something like the Cr-48 is a true replacement for a computer with native applications. That’s my baseline; now let’s see whether I’m wrong or not.

4. Also, did I mention I have a new toy?

Now that I have it, what will I do with it? Well, when I applied for the beta I said that if they gave me one I’d try writing a novel on it. So, what the heck. I’ll try writing a novel on it. Or a novella, at least. I want to do one of each in 2011. So let’s try that and see how that goes.

Candy Candy Candy

Many of you know that before I had novels published, I was a frequent contributor to the Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader series of books — those books filled with informative, fun trivia articles just long enough to take care of one’s business, as it were. What you may not know is that I still write for the series on occasion. I do it because it’s interesting work, it fits easily in to my writing schedule, the UJ folks pay well, and because it conforms with my writing business philosophy of having multiple revenue streams, so that when one goes under — say, oh, the TV series you’ve been working on gets canceled — you still have income from other places.

Yea, even now, when I am bestselling novelist who lies upon pillows filled with caviar and fluffy ocelot kittens, I am not so proud that I won’t write an article meant to be read while people poop. Mayhaps this will be an instructional moment to you aspiring writers. Mayhaps this will indicate to you what novelists really make. Mayhaps I sleep on regular pillows, unfilled with ocelots and caviar, which would be smelly and claw-y in any event. Mayhaps I should stop using the word “mayhaps.”

Anyway, if you’re curious as to what sort of material I write for an Uncle John’s book, well, Neatorama has an article up today about the origin stories of various candies, taken from the recent UJ’s “History’s Lists” title. That’s right! Origin stories are not just for superheroes! And while Uncle John’s doesn’t typically break out which of their contributors contributed what, I can say that if I were to have written a piece for them recently, it would be not unlike this one. Not unlike it at all.

Mmmm… candy.