Cheap Chromebooks. Here’s how they should’ve been marketed to consumers.

The modern ~$300 Chromebook with just 4GB RAM can be more productive than “real” laptops.

When Chromebooks were first announced, I have to admit that I thought they were kind of stupid — so you have a computer where all you can run is Chrome? Even if it’s cheap, what’s the point of that? Today, Chromebooks can do more than run Chrome.

When the marketing isn’t that great, people get the wrong first impressions. Here’s how I’d market cheap Chromebooks. Assuming that you are in the market for a decent web browsing/video watching device, I am going to sell you on getting a Chromebook. (Even if you’re not, just play along.)

Full disclosure: I will link to the recommended Chromebook using my Amazon affiliate link where I get a very small commission from Amazon, with no markups in the price. The product I recommend here, I have purchased myself.

First, 3 Chromebook features which solve first world problems

Built for Speed

0 seconds to load from sleep  — 10 seconds to boot up from ‘turned off’ — no forced restarts. It is designed to load websites quickly.

Run Android Apps

Run THREE phone apps side by side. Social media. Notes. Firefox. Whatever.

Hell yeah! 3 Android apps side x side x side

There is even a button on the keyboard to toggle between full-screen & phone screen size. **side note: the majority of productivity/music/video apps work, but some (e.g. the Alexa app) can’t be installed on Chromebooks.

Built with standard f***in’ ports!

Charges via USB-C + standard HDMI port + standard USB port so you have the option to hook it up to a real keyboard and monitor if needed without the use of f***in’ dongles. You don’t even need an adapter.

(Note: the ports varies from Chromebook to Chromebook, Google should have requirements to standardize this. But that’s just my opinion.)

… then, I’d set expectations

Before you ask yourself if you should get one, ask yourself what you’re going to use it for. 

I see this primarily as a consumption device (watching lectures / movies / listening to music) and secondly, a non-video-content creation device (i.e. blog posts/book editing). This is done with the use of web application or Android versions of photo/text editors.

It may not be that great for Android games or doing software development, though.

… and handle some common questions

Does it have MS Office? Yes*. And I’m not talking about the web version. Microsoft Office has Android apps that can be installed from the Play Store — it is like a lite weight desktop version, *but it requires an Office 365 subscription to edit/create documents. Even without an office 365 subscription, you can still use the web version which doesn’t work offline. There will not be any strange formatting errors when you switch between the full version and the lite versions of the Office applications.

Can it run Roblox? Yes it can. At least on the Chromebook I bought. Keep on reading, or open this in another tab to see what it is.

Features I would not talk about

If the page lists and explains too many features, the potential customer will get tired of reading. Here are things (though important) that should be left as footnotes because they are expected:

  • Synced documents/everything in the cloud  — In this day and age, consumers expect this already.
  • Battery life — Again, this is expected as all small laptops used for consuming content have a long battery life.
  • Security — Consumers expect security from Google, so this is not even on their minds. They want shit to work and expect it to be secure.

Which Chromebook should I get?

Marketing for Chromebooks is tricky as they have several different tiers, but this is not stated explicitly. This makes it confusing
for consumers when they are choosing what to get.

There are Chromebooks that are cheap as $100 (but are old, and may not have all the new features you need), they have Chromebooks that cost as much as a real computer. What can the expensive ones do that the cheap ones can’t? I don’t know… perhaps run Linux?

Soon, some Chromebooks will have official support to run Linux without putting it into developer mode, but most Chromebooks will not have this capability. When Chromebooks are advertised online, it is not clear which ones will have this capability.

The point is that even if you are thinking of getting a Chromebook, the researching will drive you nuts.

I’ve done my research and highly recommend the Lenovo Chromebook C330
(Amazon affiliate link) and it is the best bang for your buck.

(I managed to snag it for under $200 after taxes, but it is usually $250+tax (32 GB storage) and $300 (64 GB storage) at the time of writing.)

It has full HDMI and USB ports, it charges via USB-C, the trackpad is nice, it rarely requires “restart-to-update”, it loads webpages as fast as on my desktop, it boots up fast… it even runs Roblox!

Conclusion

  • Google is targeting the education market — and are quite successful. They are going for enterprise customers, and soon developers (Chromebooks with Linux support).
  • The average consumer is confused by the number of Chromebook devices that have such a huge price range. 
  • The Lenovo Chromebook C330 (released in late 2018) is the best bang for your buck. See if you can catch a good deal on Black Friday.

[appendix] Other Technical Details

This section is more for those who want to make the Chromebook do more than what it’s advertised for.

Re: sideloading applications, you’ll have to put your Chromebook into developer mode if you want to do this. This compromises security features built into the OS and it will perform a factory reset before it goes into developer mode. You’ll also have to press Ctrl+D to skip a warning message on boot up and may take extra time to boot up.

Re: linux — official support for Linux (without dual booting or going into developer mode to install Crouton) is coming to newer Chromebooks — search online for “Crostini supported devices”. With this, you could run VS Code as well as other Linux apps. The Lenovo C330 I’ve recommended might be supported. In the meantime, you can install Termux for a basic Linux shell.

Re: benchmarks — if you’re demoing a device at a store, head to browserbench.org and choose “Speedometer” to run the browser test. Here are some numbers for comparison.

Lenovo Chromebook C330 is the best bang for your buck.

 

Making Decisions Part 2 – How do I stay on track?

By the end of this post, you’ll have a way of staying on track of what you decided to do.

Tl;dr; – Listen to whatever motivational triggers you need when you are on your commute (For me, that would be listening to “Fearless motivation“– it’s free for Amazon Prime members – free trial link). Use Trello to track tasks and a recurring timer to keep yourself in check.

So you’ve decided to do something, the next step is to define a solid reason (your why), track your tasks and make sure you’re working on the right things.

For example, say you’ve made the decision to start a blog/vlog or book. We’ll explore some ways to track your tasks and making sure you’re still working on the right things.

Figure out why you’re doing this – this will be your core priority. Are you doing this to make money? To help others? Having this clearly defined will allow you to better decide on what tasks you need to do.

1) Tips for defining a reason

Try to find a reason where you’re not just doing it for yourself, but for people you care about.

Also note that internal motivation is a better driver than external (physical rewards-based) motivation.

Finally, use this project as a redirection for your bad habits – when you find yourself about to get distracted (emails/Facebook/explicit videos/video games), use that energy to make progress on this project– this is a tough one, but it brings a huge confidence boost when you are able to control yourself at moments where you are weakest.

You can get your own copy of Motivational Speeches at Amazon.

If you’re having difficulty defining a purpose, I guarantee that these speeches will help you to find one.

You can also join Amazon Prime to stream thes motivational speeches [here’s my referral link for a 30 day trial].

(full disclosure: I get a small commission from these referral links at no cost to you)

Moving on to the details

Now that you have the internal drive, I’m going to get a bit into the details and name one solution that works well for tracking your tasks– Trello – I’ve tried a lot of task management solutions already and this is the best. If you already have your own tool, then use that.

2) Task tracking

When you set off to do your own project, there are so many ideas you will have. To make things less overwhelming, you need to write them out.

  • If you like to keep your notes digital, use Trello – you can group tasks into buckets (or ‘cards’) – great for jotting down all ideas, then sorting through them later.
  • If you need something tangible, there’s always post it notes. You can do something similar by jotting down all ideas, then categorizing them on a whiteboard.
  • Tip: Write out tasks that will take 1-2 hours to accomplish. Anything shorter is probably just paperwork stuff.
  • Pick the task depending on your energy level (i.e. for the tasks that require more thinking, do those earlier in the day)
  • Pick the tasks that you feel will have the most impact – if there are several of these, just pick one and do it. Save your “decision energy” for more important things.

One thing at a time…

At this point you probably have ideas for multiple projects – try your best to do one project at a time (1 completed project is way better than 2 half-finished projects)

Each day, pick two of these 1-2 hour tasks to complete (they are probably going to take you longer than you expected).

3) Are you still working on the right things?

As you make progress on your project, you may start wandering off… That article looks interesting, I just remembered I needed to respond to…, maybe I’ll watch TV instead.

To combat the distractions, you can do the following:

  • Set a recurring hourly timer – when you hear that beep, ask yourself “Am I doing the right thing?” This keeps you in check in case you start going off on a tangent on something that isn’t as important (like tweaking the way your blog looks).
    • Ideally, this will not be an alarm where you’ll be pulling out your phone to turn it off.
  • Set a time limit for your breaks so you don’t start bingeing.

I use Blip Blip for Android. It beeps every hour at the times that I specify. It sounds like my old Casio digital watches.

Conclusion

I hope this has helped you to stay focused on your tasks.

Define the purpose, redirect bad habits to your project, and expose yourself to triggers that will get you in a high confidence / high energy mode.

Here is the soundtrack I’ve been listening to lately:

(please use my affiliate links as a way of showing support – Amazon gives me a small commission at no cost to you)

Keep on hacking efficiently!

Tech Stuff That You’ll Use

Tech items that I actually own and has made me more productive

With the holidays coming up, you may be in the market for some tech gear.  But wait, how much of this stuff would you actually use?

I buy lots of tech gear (which irritates my wife), but here are the ones that I actually use daily…

Bluetooth (One-ear) Earbuds 

These are perfect for just listening to podcasts or audiobooks — they are also very discreet as well. I bought two so I always have one that’s charged. They run just under $20 each.

These are the ones I got, and it fit pretty well in my ear without falling that easily.

If you don’t already have an Audible subscription, you can use this link to get 2 free audiobooks— one thing you probably didn’t know is that if you try to cancel during your free trial, they give you free credit to NOT cancel 🙂 Not sure if this still works though…

Echo Dot

Most people are confused as to whether they need an actual Echo to use the Echo Dot — the answer is no. The Echo Dot works fine by itself — it may not have the best microphone, but it is only $50 bucks and probably cheaper during Amazon flash sales. There is also the Google Home Mini that was released to compete with this, but I haven’t used it myself.

It can do lots of things, but I just use it to play music for my kids (yes, you can connect it to Bluetooth speakers). 

Shameless plug: Make sure you check out the Orator Skill — which lets you play tracks from articles converted from your bookmarked links.

If you already have an Echo Dot, you may want to consider getting a battery base (it lasts for 10 hours on standby), but it’s great if you want to move your Echo dot around the house without having to restart it. Another first world problem solved!


Bluetooth Mouse

Speaking of first world problems, if you've got multiple devices (computer, laptop, tablet) and want to use the same mouse without moving a stupid dongle around, get the Logitech MX Master 2S - there is a switch underneath the mouse to pair it to 3 different devices.

There is also horizontal scroll as well.  Furthermore, it charges with a Micro USB cable - you can use the mouse and charge at the same time.

Android Smart Watch

If you’re in the market for an Android smart watch, check out the TicWatch E by Mobvoi for $160. It’s got all the bells and whistles for a relatively cheap price. I just received mine, so I can’t really review it yet, but I have tried the Google Keep app and it seems to work well for viewing/deleting/creating notes.

Though you may not have heard of the brand, the company has made watches that received some pretty good reviews.

Cheap Cell Phone That Actually Works Well

Personally, I use a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, but I probably would not get any more curve screened phones because the screen protectors don't fit and I end up not using one.  (then my screen cracks)

But what I was more excited about (strangely) was a cheap phone that runs a relatively new version of Android.  So I got the BLU R1 (2 GB RAM, 16 GB storage), which is the best bang for the buck at $100, however it will remain at Android 6.0 with no updates.  There is now a successor BLU R2 which runs Android 7.0, it costs just $10 more.

It's a great back up phone when you don't want to go downstairs to grab the phone you left on the couch.  Another first world problem solved!

Laptop to replace Desktop

I have an HP Omen 15t which I've purchased at the end of April 2017 - the specs are the best for the money at the time.  

Specs:

  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050Ti 4GB GDDR5
  • i7-7700HQ Quad Core Processor
  • 32 GB RAM
  • 256GB m.2 NVME Solid State Drive
  • 1 TB 7200RPM Hard Drive
  • I got it at $1,254.56

The bad news is that I can no longer find it at this price point, however there is another (cheaper) gaming laptop that is the best bang for the buck - that would be the Acer Predator Helios 300. You get a better graphics card (which is VR ready) 

  • 256 GB SSD, no regular hard drive
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 with 6 GB of dedicated GDDR5 VRAM
  • 16GB DDR4 Memory
  • 6 lbs
  • @ $1050

Laptop that's Portable

If you're looking for something light weight, check out the Surface Pro 4 (which is one model behind the newest one - during Black Friday, you'll see better discounts on the SP 4) - Full Disclosure: I work at Microsoft (but I don't have ties with anyone in the hardware team) - I've used my Surface 3 occasionally and find it very portable.

What about you?

Are there any productivity related tech items that you use on a daily basis?

http://www.hotmail.com

Radhika

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