Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Using my Chromebook

I have had my new Acer Chromebook 11 for about three weeks so far. Today was a banner day in using it. First, I used it at work to take attendance. I teach Jr. High music and we take attendance on a web based service. I use a USB ethernet connection to hook up to the internet at work (though there is WIFI, the attendance system can not be accessed through it). While online I checked my email. I had no problem checking all my accounts (all 3 of them). When I had breaks I did some internet surfing and I also did some writing using Google Docs. On my lunch break I finished up creating a web page for my web development class. I used the text editor Caret to create HTML and CSS code. When I was done I used an ftp extension in Chrome to upload my files to the college server. Everything worked flawlessly. At the end of my day I took my car in to get serviced at the local Toyota dealer. I spent about an hour listening to music on Rhapsody and I also did some reading for a class (my text is an ebook). Finally, I spent some time playing solitaire and tetris as the night wore on.

Now I did this all on my Chromebook and I did not have to charge the battery at any time. I am able to do all I do and still have plenty of battery left. The battery life on the Chromebook is awesome (6-8 hours). I am continually surprised at all I can do on my Chromebook Considering that I paid less than $200 and I did not pay for anything else I use, the Chromebook is a great machine!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Tax rant

I did my taxes this past weekend. Like usual, I had to pay extra even though I don't take very many deductions. That was expected. What I did not expect was it to be way more than I usually have to pay. My wife and I are both teachers and we make good livings here in California. Over the last 10 years we have consistently made a bit more every year (even during the cuts that happened after the last recession). But, all the increase has gone to pay for taxes and health insurance. Our take home pay has not increased at all in 10 years! This year we are on track to bring home less for the first time! This is so infuriating. The more we make, the more we pay. Now I don't mind paying for the things that make all our lives better (clean water, power, good roads and schools, fire and police, etc…), but at some point it has to be enough!

At this point it is very tempting to file for bankruptcy, have my wife stay home from work, and move to another state where there is no state income tax. I might not have that much less after I pay all my bills!!!!

What does that say about the state of our economy that when you make more money, and you end up with less? Why bother working harder? Why bother seeking to make things better? Why bother going to school to make yourself more valuable? There is no incentive to become more than you are.

Is anyone else in this situation? What are you doing about it?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Chromebook 11 v C720 update

I have now spent a couple of weeks using my new Acer Chromebook 11. So far I am well pleased. Battery life is as good (or better) than my Acer C720. The issue with build quality (it's not as nice as my C720) has not been an issue at all. In fact, it is nice to have a lighter laptop to carry around. My Chromebook 11 is all white and I thought it might get dirty quickly, but it has not. I have had no issues running all my favorite apps. I still think my Chromebook 11 is a tad bit faster, but it is imperceptible most of the times. I look back and see that I had my C720 for about a year and a half without any issues (in fact it still is working perfectly). I can see myself having my Chromebook 11 just as long (unless I have money to burn on a new one next year).

My recommendation? If you can get a good price on an Acer C720, pick one up. But, if you can get an Acer Chromebook 11 for less, it's a good deal.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Acer C720 vs. Acer Chromebook 11

I just went out and picked up an Acer Chromebook 11. I had some money from my birthday and I decided to get a new Chromebook. I have an Acer C720 which I used for over a year, and bought a new one not because I needed to (the C720 is still working perfectly), but only because I had some money and had nothing else I wanted to spend it on. I think that is what's great about Chromebooks. You can go a buy one with your birthday money (hey, my family is cheap, what can I say).

Here are my first impressions. I bought the Acer Chromebook 11 (CB-11) for about $20 less than I originally paid for the C720. Unfortunately, when I went to boot the new laptop up, it would not boot and I had to return it to the store and get another one, which is working well. Moving all my old files over from the C720 to the CB-11 took just a few minutes. Making sure all the apps I use where downloaded took a few more. Making an image of the OS took about 20 minutes and that was all I needed to do to have my new Chromebook up and running with everything I had on the older one.

The build quality of the CB-11 is not a good as the C720. The CB-11 is lighter, but the C720 is sturdier. The keyboard and trackpad also feel sturdier on the C720. When it come to performance though, the CB-11 feels slightly faster. Also, the quality of the screen seems better to me. So which one is better? If you want something sturdier, try and pick up a C720 (or stick with the one you own). If you want something lighter, just a bit faster, and with a better quality screen, then pick up the Chromebook 11.

So far I am disappointed that the Chromebook 11 does not have the same build quality, but then again, it is faster, lighter, and with a better screen quality. I also paid just a few dollars less for it, so I guess I can say that I am getting what I paid for. In the end, I enjoy using Chromebooks, and I am not disappointed with the Chromebook 11 in that regard.

Just a note, I would not recommend the Acer Chromebook 11 for school use. I doubt they would survive the abuse. Now the C720 probably could and I would recommend it as a possibility.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Technology - iPads out at LAUSD

The Los Angeles Unified School District has capitulated on giving iPads to every student. It was a poor decision to begin with. First, iPads are too expensive. Second, students will hack them, steal them, and find some way to keep them. Third, the software that was provided for them is way too expensive. Fourth, the on going cost of using iPads was not sustainable. The district should have opted for Chromebooks. First, the cost would have been half (or more) than using iPads. Second, there would be little or no theft, hacking, or student shenanigans because Chromebooks are not "cool". Third, the software is free. Finally, there little to no on going costs to using a Chromebook.

Chromebooks are not all that great, but they are cheap to buy, cheap to use, and cheap to replace if needed. Chromebooks provide everything a student would need to use the internet and all the resources that are available through it. The goal should be to introduce every student to the digital world with a starter model, not provide them with a high end luxury model and bankrupt the system.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Chromebook - Pay Once And You're Done

After using just about every kind of device on the market (Windows laptop, Apple Mac Mini, iPad, Asus Android tablet) I have settled back into using my Chromebook. Why? because of the speed of which it turns on (less than 10 seconds), the speed it navigates the internet (even faster than my i7 Mac Mini), and the battery life (better than even my iPhone). Yes I wish I could write music on it and also use Office, but I can do that on another device and will just do all the basic things I do on my Chromebook. It is the best $200 I have ever spent. Also, I have not had to spend another penny to do everything I want to do. Maybe the new slogan for Chromebook should be "Pay once and you're done". I like that. Maybe Google can pay me for it?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The News - Terror

News - Terror in France
There was a terror attack today in Paris. Several people were killed by heavily armed attackers as they stormed into a newspaper office. There is chilling video of a police officer being killed out on the street. This is the new reality we live in. I think the era of large terrorist attacks may be dying down, but we have a new era of lone or small group attacks just beginning. This attack in Paris is now one of several across the western world. We have the attack in Canada and the one in Australia. How do you protect against these seemingly random attacks? Do we need to have armed security at every office building and every retail location? Maybe we all need to look at ow Israel does security? Yes, they still have attacks in Israel, but they seem to have minimized them as much as possible. The reality is that we are at war across the globe and no western society is safe. Wait till there is an attack of this sort in a major U.S. city. It is not a matter of if, but of when.

On the other hand, how many people were murdered in the U.S. this past week? There are over 1000 homicides in the U.S. every month, so last week there were about 250 people killed in the U.S. (over 35 a day). But most murders are not so dramatic and caught on video. That does not change the fact that the world is in a religious war that will go on for many more years, if not indefinitely.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Economy - Stocks

Stocks were down considerably yesterday. So far stocks have been down for the first two trading days of 2015 (and are down thus far today). The big news though has been oil, which is still falling. Oil is now bellow $50 and still falling! Lower oil prices is good news for those of us who do a lot of driving (and anyone else who needs a break in gas prices), but the sudden collapse is not good for the rest of the economy. Just today US steel announced that it is idling two steel plants and might be laying off hundreds of workers all because of the fall in oil prices. Yes, oil was too high, but the high prices were driving a boom in everything related to the oil business (and many other sectors of our economy as well), which included a lot of great paying jobs. Now the layoffs and idling will begin, which will spread across the economy and cause a recession. The last thing we need right now is a recession. If the price of oil stays below $50 for any prolonged period of time (six or more months) things will get ugly. I think these down days on the stock markets will not be our last.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The economy - Oil!

The price of oil continues to fall. It is now under $55 a barrel. How low will it go? I believe it will go under $40 for sure (and quite possibly lower). The price of oil will continue to fall until production is reduced. That will only happen once the price of oil falls and remains below the cost of production, which in the U.S. is estimated at $70 a barrel. There already are stories of U.S. energy companies cutting costs and shedding jobs in an attempt to remain viable. If the fall in prices had been gradual and orderly, then the U.S. producers (and other western producers) could have adjusted, but the sudden collapse will mean that several of the oil production companies (and the related industries) will also collapse. Over the next few months there will be a bloodbath in the energy sector. Companies are going to shed jobs like mad and scale back in every conceivable way. The result will be a massive recession in the west and a new financial crises across the globe. The drop in oil prices is a precursor to economic calamity. Hey, at least we can enjoy lower gas prices for a while (till the dollar collapses and we can't even pay for a loaf of bread with a wheel barrel full of cash). This is not going to end well

Friday, December 12, 2014

In The News - Sony.

Sony studios are in disarray after being hacked by what a group that is probably affiliated with North Korea in retaliation for a movie Sony is releasing. Thousands of emails have been released, private information has been divulged, servers have been disrupted, and havoc has reigned. So much so that Sony has suspended all filming because it is unable to process payments. Will Sony survive? If not, this might be the first instance of a company being forced into bankruptcy because of hacking. How amazing would that be? We have become so dependent on computer systems that hacking and disrupting a system could cause such catastrophic problems that it could force a company into bankruptcy. Now it is true that Sony was on financial shaky ground to begin with, but the hacking might be the last straw. This is going to be interesting to see how this all unfolds.