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Shiny Chrome

I like to wait until a product or service is released and I’ve had a chance to bang on it. But the announcement of Google’s Chrome OS (Operating System) is causing me to bend my rules. It’s the concept behind Chrome OS that has me intrigued.

Google contends that we spend most of our computer time on-line. Just about all the tasks we do are on the web. Using an Operating System that is designed for programs loaded on the computer itself can be complicated and most of all slow to get started. I can really appreciate that. My ancient laptop — 3 years old — is cranky and seems underpowered for today’s Internet. Maybe not. my laptop is clogged with more than 60 programs, thousands of files, email that goes back decades and three different web browsers.

Then I look at the Netbook devices and realize that Chrome OS is perfect for them. I wasn’t a big fan of the Netbook. I gave so-so reviews to several of them. My reasons were valid, but I need to ‘fess up and admit that my fat fingers and failing eyesight had a lot to do with it. The small screens just didn’t work for me. My friend Bettina Edelstein, co-host of The New York Times’ podcast Tech Talk, said the small screens work perfectly for “The Gameboy Generation.” She contends that people of our generation — let me make it clear that she is considerably younger that I am — grew up watching movies on the big screen and even TV’s and computer monitors have significant size on a two-inch Gameboy. So a Netbook with a 10-inch screen is a step up from a PSP.

Accepting that small computers are a great idea for many people, the OS is still an issue. While Linux is a good OS for a less powerful machine it doesn’t have the mainstream acceptance of Windows XP. Microsoft has been trying to kill of XP for quite awhile. No matter how you slice the market share, Windows based computers sill dominate and will for quite a while. And Microsoft still wants to sell mega-million copies of Microsoft Office. Installing that hard drive eating hog defeats the purpose of a nimble Netbook.

Google, on the other hand, has staked its future on putting services on the Web and most of it for free. The list of stuff that Google offers boggles the mind. But if it offered nothing more than its search engine, Gmail and Google Docs tat would give you the majority of the things you need a computer for. Adding an OS tailored to optimize, let’s face it, Google’s products sucks us even further into Google Dependence.

I’m as hooked on Google as the next person. I have three Gmail accounts, iGoogle is my homepage, I use Calendar, News and Blog alerts and I can’t remember how I used to check facts before Google’s search engine. There are two things that still concern me about “Cloud Computing.” My stuff is stored some place that is not under my constant control. I’ve been burned enough times that I’m paranoid about losing data. I have not one but two background backup programs running which go to different external drives. Every couple of weeks I get reminded to do a mirror image of my laptop. Just because you paranoid doesn’t mean that they are not after you. Andy Marken is one of the industry insiders that I pay attention to backed me up.

As for the other options you may say, “heck, I don’t need more places to store my stuff because I’ll just use the cloud.”

First, all that does is shift your carbon footprint…whooppee do!!!

Second, all of that cloud stuff – social media, mobile access, computer download, business transactions, entertainment – is one huge bullseye for cybercriminals.

These folks are skipping right over individual systems (oh sure, they’ll hack you for pocket change) because they can tap into the big clouds and cloudettes and grab hundreds, thousands, millions of valuable bits of data without using a gun or pushing drugs on a street corner.

If you have half a brain or a little bit of paranoia, you’ll be buying up personal/home storage thingies. You know, portable hard drives, home NAS (network attached storage), flash media and yes…optical.

My major concern is access. Too much of the internet requires broadband speeds. I do technology consultancy in developing countries. Outside of major metropolitan areas, it is not always easy to find low bandwidth access, let alone HD quality speeds. The biggest problem for me and other frequent travelers is not being able to connect during long flights. As much as I grouse about Microsoft, I can get a lot of writing done on planes. I can compose lots of email without being deluged with incoming email that someone else thinks is urgent. I conduct seminars in how to verify information using the Web. Imagine how frustrating it is when I can’t check some fact or gather data 35,000 feet over the Atlantic.

The bright side is that in all the years I’ve been covering technology, someone is working to solve my current pet peeve. Universal broadband. Please speed up the process.

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