A week ago I was one of the lucky recipients of a Google CR 48 notebook. The detail of the CR 48’s hardware failures have been well documented, as any Google search for CR 48 will reveal (lack of Home, End, Delete, Caps Lock keys; faulty touchpad; etc) so I won’t both reviewing these aspects. Instead I shall focus on a topic more near and dear to this blog: the application of the CR 48 in an education setting.
I received my CR 48 in a fit of excitement, but immediately upon turning it on, I had my first encounter with it’s fatal flaw: network incompatibility. As the OS entirely relies upon wireless internet access for the setup, it is subject to all of the typical annoyances associated with WiFi. As I love and work on the UC, Irvine campus, I am subject to their security protocols for my internet access, a situation familiar to many academics and students. Upon turning on my computer, I was unable to authenticate my Google account until floundering into Guest mode and being redirected to our university’s network authentication page. After 1 blissful, naive hour online I turned off my computer…little did I know how dear that hour was.
Upon next turning on my computer, I found that I was no longer able to access the internet, nor could I find or access the network authentication page. My new notebook was effectively bricked. Thankfully Google has amazing tech support in the form of Chrome Ninjas (who sadly it seems only work Monday through Friday). After 3 days of tech support involving entering the elusive command prompt (open using ctrl + alt + t), resetting the computer (using the hidden developers switch), and very pleasant conversations with a knowledgeable ninja, we resolved the problem. My own network, UCI Resnet, had assigned me an IP address that had previously been blocked.
Moral of the story:
Chrome OS relies upon the most fragile, ill-supported segment of our technology structure: the WiFi network. This is often where valuable websites are blocked, legacy settings & code wreck havok, and hardware fails. My husband, a teacher, refuses to test the CR 48 on his school’s network since they already block Google products such as Gmail, Google Calendar, and Gtalk. He complains often that though they use Google Apps, they block the generic versions of Google for his students and himself. Even on an open network, a small error bricked the entire notebook.
Beyond this, the CR 48 shows promise for schools. Since the OS is entirely cloud supported, users can switch between computers with ease. At parties, I don’t mind passing my computer around to others because even strangers can sign into their own accounts without my worrying for my files and settings. The OS starts up in seconds, not minutes. The memory is solid state so more durable. Applications, extensions, and themes belong to the user, not the computer, and install quickly upon the initial sign in. The number of applications is growing, though Chrome still does not support Silverlight, Java, or most media players.
Overall, I feel that Chrome OS shows promise and could be considered for schools that have “Gone Google” in another couple of years.