Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Working Photography with Chrome OS - Part 1

This will be a very short series of articles about Chrome OS, and the new trend in Fly-weight Computing in general.  I'm developing an enthusiasm for something which was introduced over five years ago - "thin client cloud network computing", and am beginning to explore how well it can be made to work with photography. I haven't yet sorted out just who is the market champion in Cloud Computing. I suddenly got interested in it when Kathy picked up an Acer Chrome-book, and left me the "chore" of getting it set up for her. As it turns out, there doesn't have to be a whole lot of setting up to be done. Everyone should know this by now, but all you need to make Chrome OS function is a Google account. She already had one, because a Google account can consist of G-mail, Blogger (which I'm using right now to write this), YouTube, Google+ and Picasa. A single username and password can be your key to all these service, and much more - or, if you wish, each service can have a different un-pw. Because she had used YouTube once several years ago, she has a Google Account. All I had to do to get her little Chrome-book up and running was to enter this un-pw at start-up.

This tiny gem of a laptop was ready to use within about 8 seconds - it's phenomenally fast, because all it really has to do is get it's low-power but specialized hardware up and ready to run the now well known Chrome Internet Browser. If I recall correctly, Google had created this browser, along with the Linux based Chrome OS at about the same time, back in 2010. It was touted as the Ultra-light  champion in both the Browser and OS category at the time, and I quickly installed both the Linux and Windows-7 versions of the Browser on my dual-boot Desktop computer. As for the OS, I never gave it any more thought - until recently, when on the very same Acer Netbook, I created another account with my own log-on.

When the Browser first came out, Kathy owned a similarly sized, but even lower spec Acer "Net-book", which really struggled to run Windows-7. Needless to say, we soon got rid of that. I had even tried Lubuntu on it, which is the most light-weight version of Ubuntu available, and it offered only a marginal improvement in performance. Chrome OS was just starting to come along back then, and I didn't have the interest, or the time, in trying to make it work on "the little lap-top that couldn't". Had I taken the time then, I would know a lot more about it now, but it's never too late, and five years on, Chrome OS is now a mature product, with hundreds of Apps available to run with it - and all of the Apps are designed specially to run in the Chrome Browser. Nothing "heavy" is being done within the device itself; rather, everything is handled on the Google Chrome OS network.

Naturally, this means something very powerful, which I'm only picking up on now, because I'm rather slow on the uptake, so to speak. What this means is that you can use your Google Account in combination with the Chrome Browser to build your Chrome OS system on any computer, at any time, anywhere, simply by "adding" (as opposed to "installing") the Applications you want to the Browser, which all simply open up and function in a new Browser Tab. Secondly, you can upload any and all files you would wish, to the Cloud, which in Google's case, is simply called "Drive", and is sized according to a very small monthly payment - the first 50 G-bytes are free, to get you started. And then finally, you can customize various look and feel type things for the Browser itself, and each App individually to suit your taste, again using any computing device with a Chrome Browser - it doesn't have to be the Chrome OS net-book. But when you log -on to the Chromebook / netbook, all the magic you've created elsewhere is right there waiting to be used.

Does this mean you should create your personalized Google OS environment on a bigger, more capable machine? No, certainly not - everything you need is available from the tiny Chromebook. It might have occurred to you by now that the higher your Internet speed, the better everything will work, especially your first Chrome Browser set-up, so this might justify using a bigger machine "at home" on a fast connection, but otherwise, a Chromebook is all you need to get started.

If you're already set up with a real computer because you need lots of horsepower to deal with programs like Photoshop or DxO Optics Pro, then a Chromebook will only work for your other less intensive computing needs. But starting with Part-2, I'll be looking at the many Photo Apps, especially the ones that handle raw files, that are available in the "Chrome Store".

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