So, the Chromebox arrived at the beginning of November, and I began the process of moving my work (and other computer-based activities) almost entirely into the cloud. Probably time for a think about how that's gone.
In my opinion, it's gone great. Really. The only issue I've run into is the one that loomed large in the first place. But I'm going to make you read a bunch of other crap before I get to that issue. After the jump.
I had to find Chrome apps/extensions to do things that I used to do from my hard drive.
For text editing, I went from my Mac's hard-drive-based program, TextWrangler, to two cloud apps, Writebox and SourceKit. I use both because, well, I got used to the former before I discovered the latter, and the former doesn't support multiple documents in tabs. So when I only need one doc open, I use Writebox, when I need to have two or more open at the same time I use SourceKit. They both interact well with my Dropbox for storage. Life is good.
For more robust "word processing," I use Google Docs. But I really work mostly in plain text, most of the time, and always have. And for that matter, most of the text work I do is done on sites with their own input forms and visual or HTML editors. So I guess it shouldn't really be surprising that this was an easy switchover.
To make the horrid graphics that I occasionally have to make -- I'm no artist, I never will be an artist, and I see no point in spending hundreds of dollars on software to let me pretend I'm an artist -- I went from this or that piece of "download and install freeware" to Pixlr, an online image editor. It does everything I need it to do.
Games? Well, I miss a few of them (Starcraft, Bejeweled). But I'm not a big huge gamer. I have some cloud-based games -- solitaire, reversi, and so forth -- installed, but I only use them when I have to be sitting at my machine waiting on someone or something and have nothing else to do.
Media? For the most part, OK. I don't really miss iTunes and such. There are online players that meet my music needs. I can watch YouTube videos. I can catch movies on Netflix, shows on Hulu, etc. Some of the video formats that are popular on free pr0n sites (e.g. WMV), I've had problems with. So if your computer needs run to fapfapfapfapfap, Chrome OS may not be for you just yet.
Printing is problematic -- I need to get a printer set up on Google Cloud Print and haven't yet -- but it's also no big deal. Even when I had a regular desktop computer with a printer attached to it, I probably didn't use it three times a year. And I have workarounds (other people with computers and printers who will run off a page on request) available.
I'm happy with the Chromebox. I'm happy working almost entirely in the cloud. But that looming initial issue still stands: Do I TRUST the cloud?
The answer is ... "yes, pretty much."
I don't worry about surveillance, because I always assume I'm under surveillance and that having stuff on my hard drive wouldn't protect it from that surveillance. Yes, there is information I still store locally instead of online, but that's more force of habit than conviction that if the NSA wants to know something they'll have a problem reaching it.
I don't worry too much about data loss, because that has always come with the territory. I don't see that Google Drive is any more likely to go dead on me than an old 720k 5.25" floppy was, or than a 150Gb hard drive is.
It's true that I can only work if the Internet is working. But if the Internet isn't working, I really don't have any work to do, do I? At least not that kind of work.
I understand and empathize with the concerns of people who prefer to avoid the cloud. I don't begrudge them that preference. But for me, the cloud works just fine and I anticipate it continuing to do so. So, six months on, I am still very pleased with Chromebox and Chrome OS.