Jeff Epler's blog

15 May 2014, 16:28 UTC

Samsung ARM Chromebook: the portable I've always wanted


As you might remember, I got a chromebook back in January. A few months later, I just want to say: this is the portable I've always wanted.

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24 January 2014, 17:06 UTC

Got A Chromebook


I have been wanting a travel computer lighter than my 15" laptop but more capable than my Nexus 7 combined with a bluetooth keyboard. And, frankly, I had just had gadget envy for the Samsung ARM Chromebook since it was announced.

When I'm on the go, my needs are basically:

  • Modern web browser with adblock and greasemonkey
  • A ssh (or, better yet, mosh) client
  • A comfortable keyboard
  • Fairly light
In particular, some things I didn't need are
  • Hundreds of GB of local storage
  • Four or eight cores of computing power
  • Full compatibility with desktop Linux or x86
I felt it would be nice to have
  • Long battery life
  • Ability to install Linux or customized ChromiumOS if I decided I needed it
  • Inexpensive enough to buy without being 100% sure it'll meet my needs

From my experience with Chromium-browser on Debian, I know that Chrome is an adequate web browser with Adblock, Ghostery, and TamperMonkey (though it's not 100% identical in function to Firefox), and I was aware of ssh apps for it. I also tried out the Samsung's keyboard at a local Best Buy and found it adequate. So when Amazon had them for $230 last week, I decided to treat myself.

I've now had the device for a few days, and it's been a positive adventure.

I immediately placed the device in developer mode and installed debian wheezy via crouton, but I'm not presently using anything in my debian chroot. For a short time, I used Secure Shell to ssh to the wheezy chroot and run mosh there.

I found that after a few customizations, mosh-chrome is a pefectly adequate mosh client. After I resolved a problem building it, I customized the colors to match my rxvt, added the ability to send a remote command, and hardcoded my default connection settings. However, on at least two occasions, mosh-chrome has failed to resume its session after suspending and changing wireless networks, so I'm not sure it's as reliable as desktop mosh.

Other thoughts:

  • I had to rewrite one of my private GreaseMonkey scripts to work in TamperMonkey.
  • Adblock and ghostery both seem to work adequately on the ChromeBook.
  • I do miss having a compose key.
  • I wish there was a SIP client I could use with callcentric, but I haven't found one yet.
  • I haven't had a chance to assess the battery lifetime yet.
  • Emacs users rejoice, you can map the "search" key (in the position of "caps lock" on a standard PC keyboard) to Control.

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