Monday, February 01, 2016

Still Puzzling Out the Chromebox vs. Macbook Pro Conundrum


The situation:

I've been thinking about (and occasionally mentioning) abandoning the Googleverse since last March. A recent mention of the steps I've taken toward doing so brought about a "Thanks For Asking!" question last week and a bit of an answer on last night's podcast.

A situation report and a request for opinions:

On the one hand, I think there are various good reasons for abandoning ChromeOS, the Chrome browser, Gmail, Blogger, etc. Apart from the snit linked in the first sentence, it mostly comes down to the fact that Google packages the user as product and that doing so entails various losses of privacy, of both the outright (Google scans everything I do when logged in to their services so that they can sell me as a viewer to advertisers) and incidental (to really use a Chromebox/Chromebook very effectively I have to be logged in to Google's services -- it's possible to not be, but a pain in the keister) varieties.

On the other hand, switching to the Macbook Pro I got "for Christmas" also entails certain sacrifices.

My Chromebox uses a lot less power than the Mac, and the differential seems to have been reflected in a January electric bill that I thought was pretty ugly. Oddly, one of the reasons I fell back in love with Mac a few years ago was that it seemed to save me electricity versus previous Windoze and Linux machines. But that was because I was going from "tower" style machines to a Mac Mini. The Chromebox is even easier on the kilowatt hours than the Mini. The Macbook doesn't match the Mini on that front.

The Chromebox also powers two little flat screen monitors direct from its built-in ports, where to get that functionality from the Macbook will require an expenditure in the $75-$100 range for an "MST hub." In fact, to really get the setup I'd like for the Mac (MST hub plus cradle or "docking station"), I'm guessing more in the $200-$250 range. Right now I am using the laptop screen and one external monitor and ergonomically it's just unsatisfying (no matter how I arrange things, I have to do some physical leaning to read the Mac screen).

Then there's CPU temperature. I keep the bottom of the Mac nicely open to minimize overheating, but my little extension that starts a sound effect when the CPU approaches 100 degrees celsius goes off frequently when I have even a few browser tabs open, saying "cut back a little if you don't want to fry this machine."

And for all that, frankly I can't tell that the Macbook, even with a faster CPU and four times the RAM, really performs any better than the Chromebox. Sure, I can do things on it that I can't do on the Chromebox, but those things aren't really important when it comes to work. They boil down to being able to play Starcraft II (if I can stand listening to the "CPU is hot" noise, which goes off about every five seconds) and Java games at Pogo. Both of which tend to make me get less, not more, work done.

When it comes to services, I'm down with abandoning Gmail and am slowly moving my comms over to Unseen. Other Google services -- especially Blogger, where KN@PPSTER has lived for nearly 12 years, I'm less inclined to give up.

So anyway, after a month of this experiment, I'm strongly considering putting the Mac away and treating it as a backup machine (maybe as a travel machine, too, although I do have a Chromebook) in favor of my beloved little Asus Chromebox.

What do you guys think?

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