My next notebook computer is most likely going to run ChromeOS, and some people may wonder why? To many ChromeOS is either just a web browser or it is associated with low end, low priced computers. Truth is that ChromeOS is one of the newest operating systems on the market and I think Google is doing some interesting things to make it very versatile while maintaining its simplicity and security.
In fact, ChromeOS’ security is due in large part to its simplicity in handling updates. Updates are pushed to a Chromebook by Google and are installed in a simple and fast reboot. If you use Windows or MacOS you know that updates take time to download and install. Because ChromeOS is designed to store files in the cloud, your data is always backed up and completely wiping and restoring a Chromebook can be done in a matter of seconds. In environments like schools that share Chromebooks it can be common procedure to wipe each Chromebook at the end of each session.
Early versions of ChromeOS did look pretty much and function like a Chrome web browser running on hardware, however it has always been a Linux-based operating system with a browser-based user interface. Many people don’t think of the web browser as being container for applications, but that is in fact pretty much the case. Gmail and Outlook.com are full feature applications that run in any web browser.
Over time Google has evolved the ChromeOS user interface so that is appears to be similar to the familiar Windows and MacOS desktop UIs we are accustomed to using. With the added ability to run Android apps, Google has enabled ChromeOS to also have a tablet-based UI similar to the grid of icons you see with iOS.
What many don’t know yet is that ChromeOS may be the only operating system available that runs applications written for three different operating systems. First, you have the Progressive Web Applications, or browser based applications, that are “native” to ChromeOS. Next Google added the ability to run Android apps, which you can install because the Google Play store is included in ChromeOS. Finally, Google added the ability to run Linux applications within containers that provide support for the Linux UI elements apps expect to be available.
Geeks know that one of the main reasons why Android and Linux apps can run on ChromeOS is that ChromeOS itself has a Linux kernel, so technically all of these apps are written for the same operating system, but ChromeOS, Android, and Linux have very different user interfaces and it is the ability to support each UI that is the secret sauce behind this new functionality.
What Android Apps Will I Use?
Today the first apps one learns how to use are the apps they can run on their smartphone. As good as web applications are, they are still not as polished or as feature filled as many smartphone applications. Access to a catalog of thousands of applications is important and most users now expect to get apps from a store like Google Play.
I plan to use the Android Evernote and OneNote applications to access information and notes that I store in these two apps that I use with all my computers. I will try the Android Gmail and Maps applications to see if they are more useful than their web counterparts. I expect I will also install the home automation apps that I use on my smartphone, the Hue app for my Hue Lights, the SmartThings app for my Samsung SmartThings sensors and I expect these apps will load quicker than their web counterparts.
Several entertainment apps like Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, YouTube, and MLB At Bat will be useful while traveling with the Chromebook, particularly if it has a larger screen, and so I expect to install them too.
What Linux Apps Will I Use?
Most of the desktop apps that I personally use run on Linux, but there aren’t many. I am using Github to store content such as the source for this blog, and I use Git to synchronize that content between my desktop computer and Github to provide a in-home backup of the content. I create the content using markdown and use Typora to write and edit the content when at a desk.
I have several cloud-based Linux servers that I connect to using an SSH terminal app called PuTTy, so that will definitely get installed. Another app that I am using more and more is Standard Notes, which is an alternative to Evernote that locally encrypts content before it is synchronized to the apps Internet servers.
I occasionally participate in a podcast that is recorded using Skype. You can run Skype on Android and Linux but I suspect the Linux version to run better and more likely support my Plantronics USB headset.
Finally, I like to dabble in programming and use Atom and Nodejs so I look forward to installing and trying these out too.