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Next computer platform after Chromebook

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Posted by jaslar
Jul 2, 2020 at 06:11 PM


I think I mentioned before that three years ago I bought a nice looking but small Chromebook. It turns out it was two years old, and though new, it is reaching end of support at the end of this month. My question is: what do I buy next?

Most of us are no strangers to platform shifts. I went from the Apple IIe to a CP/M based Kaypro, to an MD-DOS Kaypro, to a Mac laptop (pre-OSX), then to various Linux devices. I still keep an old Mac around. And I have another Mac running elementary OS, where the Outliner program (https://github.com/phase1geo/Outliner) is developing rapidly into a really powerful tool. But the Chromebook was ideal for what I wanted: so light, quick, almost transparent that it was ideal for a trip to the coffee shop or somewhere on plane. (Not that either of those has been common lately). I tried various tricks to install Linux on this machine (using crouton and an attempt to do USB booting), but my machine is pretty old in Chromebook terms, and the results were unsatisfying. The machine is optimized for ChromeOS, not Linux.

But end of life means unsupported, and too much of my life is online to permit the use of an unpatched browser or OS.

My use case is pretty simple: I use outliners mostly for browsing, correspondence, writing, and personal information management. My favorite tools are Dynalist (where the platform really doesn’t matter, so long as I have wifi), Freeplane (or Mindmup 2), emacs org-mode/markdown-mode, Outliner, and the Google Suite. SimpleNote. Only Outliner really locks me into anything.

So what’s next? My options as I see them:

- powerwash a few times, then recycle the Chromebook. With two other computers around (the aforementioned Mojave MacBook Pro, and another MacBook Pro running elementary), not to mention a Kindle Fire and a phone, that should be enough! Think of the savings on cords, bags, power supplies…

- a new Chromebook. The prices are still awesome, the builds are good, and the performance surprising. 5 years is probably long enough to use a computer. The other cool thing: current Chromebooks allow the installation of some Linux apps, Android app, and easier virtualization. So I can add a couple extra tools (emacs and Halna, maybe), and expect them to be pretty well integrated.

- a used PC. One of our local shops does a brisk business in reconditioned Windows laptops. For about $300, I can get a Windows 10 Dell machine with 8 gigs of RAM and a SSD hard drive. It might not last 5 years, but it might. That gives me the ability to dual boot Linux, and keep Windows 10 for the odd online meeting program that seems to need it. Windows 10’s linux subsystem is better these days, too.

- a new, full-featured laptop. All of the comments about Apple hit home: hardware issues, software changes. Not the best time to buy a Mac. Microsoft’s infernally over-engineered software and approach to privacy means I won’t go all in on Windows. But something like System76 produces quality laptops with Pop!_OS installed. The price shoots up to closer to $1,000. (Although Best Buy has some deals from time to time that are closer to the $500 mark.) But it will definitely last a while.

Bottom line: I really don’t need a high end machine. I’m not doing video or photo editing, I don’t have big libraries of music or movies. The sad truth is that every document I’ve ever produced or want to save would fit on a flash drive.

I find myself inclining toward the Chromebook. But I’m curious about this crowd. When your computers flake out, what are you folks leaning toward these days?


Posted by Ken
Jul 3, 2020 at 12:33 AM


If you do want to stick with a CB and size is not an issue, I would recommend HP’s 14” i3/8GB/64GB model that is sometimes referred to as the x360.  Best Buy often has this machine on sale at $399.  It is a decent keyboard and the machine is highly responsive.  I bought one to replace an older, unsupported 11” Acer CB and have been quite happy.  I use it a lot to read an online “print replica” of a local newspaper and it is as responsive, if not more so, than an iPad Pro using the paper’s print replica app.  And it is quite a bit more responsive than either of my Surface Pro or 8th Generation i5 Yoga with Win10.  The battery life is over ten hours and I would not say that is a stretch.  It is big and somewhat heavy, and the screen and audio are just average, but the keyboard is reasonably good.  Something to consider.

Good luck,



Posted by jaslar
Jul 3, 2020 at 01:45 PM


Thanks, Ken, I’ll check it out. And sorry for typo above. I use a COMPUTER for browsing, correspondence (email), then outliners for most everything else.


Posted by satis
Jul 3, 2020 at 05:18 PM


jaslar wrote:
>When your computers flake out, what are you folks leaning
>toward these days?

iPhone/iPad. Incredibly powerful devices that work with Bluetooth (or attached) keyboards, and a vibrant app ecosystem. On iOS I own and use Cloud Outliner Pro and OmniOutliner for outlining.


Posted by Listerene
Jul 3, 2020 at 07:42 PM


If you’re happy with a chromebook, why change? It doesn’t matter what works for others.

Personally, though, had I your use-case, I’d be looking on eBay for a used ThinkPad T or X series between 3rd and 5th generations in the screen size of your choice (12”-15”). Not only do they (like all ThinkPads) have the best keyboards available, they’re cheap (around $200+ for an FHD display, 8-16GB and an SSD), famously durable with inexpensive replacement parts (nothing costs more than $50 to replace) if anything goes wrong and they all have compatible parts with MacOS so you (basically) have your choice between Win 10, Linux & (hackintoshed) MacOS. Any cpu of that era should meet your needs, just fine. Check out the ThinkPad Reddit forum here: https://www.reddit.com/r/Thinkpad


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