April, 2013

20 Years of Russ

Today is the 20th anniversary of Virgin Radio. It launched at 12.15pm on Friday 30th April 1993 with Richard Branson joining Russ and Jono at the Virgin Megastore in Manchester. But Richard Skinner was back in the studio and played in the first track – a specially recorded version of Born To Be Wild by INXS. For legal reasons we’re limited in what we can say about this on-air today, and in any case, we changed brands back in 2008, but there have been plenty of celebrations of Russ Williams’ twenty years at One Golden Square.
However this is my blog, so I can dig out some old photos from the early years of Russ – usually with Jono.

And I’ve uploaded the launch audio to Audioboo. (David Lloyd’s Audioboo channel is an absolute mine of superb radio, but I think this is cleaner audio since it wasn’t recorded off-air!).


Happy twentieth Russ!
For the avoidance of doubt, this is a personal blog, and these are personal views. The fact that I work at the same station is neither here nor there.

A Day at Somerset House

Up To A Point Lord Copper-4
Somerset House always has a lot going on, and I managed to tie in three things I wanted to see at the same time this week.
Pick Me Up is their annual graphic arts fair which I’ve been going to for a few years now. Each year the curators choose artists for their Selects series which highlights up and coming artists from around the world. It being part fair as well as part gallery, everything is for sale. The prints are often in limited editions can cost anything from £5 to several thousand.
In the Selects this year, I particularly liked Ugo Gattoni who’s book of Londoners cycling was came out last year and I’ve been meaning to pick up. I think that prints from this book formed some of the illustrations presented here.
Hattie Stewart’s doodlings on magazine covers also catches the eye. William Goldsmith’s peeks into a forthcoming graphic novel intrigue, and I did fall a little in love with some of Ping Zhu’s characters.
What you notice about Pick Me Up is that even if you go at a quiet time, it’s very busy. That’s because lots of students – by the looks of things, from A Level upwards – are on visits. The other thing you notice is that everybody has a camera or phone, and they’re documenting just about everything they see.
Ordinarily this would be frowned upon, but here it’s practically encouraged. A heard a couple of artists explaining that this was an incredibly useful showcase of their work. So when they saw “suits” taking photos they know that commissioned work might come from it.
In any case, even if you no intention of commissioning work, your camera acts as an aide memoire to let you look up artists and collectives that you’re interested in later.
I chose a particular day to go along because I knew that A Two Pipe Problem who produce letterpress prints would be there and making bespoke prints. I’ve always found typography fascinating and had something in mind to print. So despite being very quickly booked up, I managed to get a space to have something printed.
As well as a medium sized press, there were a selection of drawers, each containing one or more complete typefaces to choose from when putting together a print. Of course they also had some pre-printed posters available to buy. But nothing beats that personalised touch.
The process is relatively straightforward. The letters are chosen and then carefully spaced and arranged to ensure an even spread. Obviously laying out the words is something of a skill, and I was completely happy to go with professional suggestions.
Up To A Point Lord Copper-1
“Up to a point, Lord Copper” was the phrase I had printed. It’s the phrase uttered by the obsequious Mr Salter to Lord Copper, proprietor of the Daily Beast in Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop. Scoop – as I’ve mentioned before – is one of my favourite novels. Salter uses it when Lord Copper says something to which the answer is no. For example:
“Let me see, what’s the name of the place I mean? Capital of Japan? Yokohama, isn’t it?”
“Up to a point, Lord Copper.”

Anyway, it’s a phrase which actually means no. And given that Scoop is set in the world of newspapers, having it printed in hot metal (actually, i think it was wooden lettering) seems very appropriate.
And I got to pull the print myself!
Up To A Point Lord Copper-2
The only thing I feel marginally disappointed about is that previously there were inexpensive prints from the featured Select artists available to buy, but for the last couple of years these have been replaced with a pack of large postcards. While they’re nice, I preferred the prints.
Mind you, it’s not as though there aren’t lots of things to buy. I was very tempted by some of the offerings from groups and collectives on display upstairs. Handsome Frank had a very tempting cycling shirt print by David Sparshott and some lovely pictures from Malika Favre, who was also a featured artist downstairs (I preferred the Khemistry set to the Karma Sutra one).
Well worth visiting.
The other two things I wanted to see were two excellent photography exhibitions – one just about to finish and the other having just opened.
The Sony World Photography Awards had been announced the previous evening, and I was pleased that it wasn’t too busy wandering around the wide variety of photos on display.
The overall winner was a series by Andrea Gjestvang, a Norwegian photographer who’s shot a wonderful series of photographs of some of the survivors of the appalling massacre of the young on the island of Utoeya outside Oslo in July 2011. Some of those featured have suffered debilitating injuries, and there was a sense of resilience in the photos.
The photos are organised into a categories, and there really isn’t a duff selection in there. Indeed my only complaint was that we were sometimes only getting a very small selection of a larger collection that had been entered into the awards.
William Eggleston was the featured photographer for a lifetime’s work. A room of his photos of America from the sixties and seventies was wonderful. I love his photograph of a redhead sat at the counter of diner (disappointingly not in the catalogue).
A good selection of winning photos can be found at the In Focus section of The Atlantic website. But the pictures have featured widely in the press in recent days, including a good selection in middle of The Guardian (you need to see these pictures in a large scale).
At the end of the exhibition, Sony, the sponsor, presents a number of the pictures on a 4K TV that must have been about 60″ in size. Seeing photos that way really is rather stunning. I’m not saying I prefer a screen to properly printed piece of paper. But for some images, it can really impress.
Across the Somerset House courtyard, another exhibition was just coming to the end of its run. Landmark: the Fields of Photography is a rather spectacular collection of landscape photographs from a broad variety of photographers. Edward Burtynsky always attracts the eye with his industrial landscapes, or landscapes affected by industry.
Mathieu Bernard-Raymond’s Monuments are very clever and wondefully executed, putting physical stock price charts into landscapes, while Simon Roberts’ We The English series is witty and clever.
All the photos are available on The Positive View Foundation’s website.
At this point, I had planned on crossing the river to see the Norman Parkinson photos on display in the National Theatre. I can never get enough of his photo “The Art of Travel.” But I had seen too much visual art for one day, so I left!

Pinhole Photography

Stenoflex-2
Today is World Pinhole Photography Day, so I thought I’d have a play with a camera that I’ve had kicking around for a while. Unfortunately, I suspect that it’s because I’ve had it for over a year, and left it out a bit too close to a sunny window, that I got the results I did.
I took my Stenoflex camera out to a local country park to take photos. Now one thing it doesn’t mention anywhere in the packaging is how fiddly it is to change pieces of photographic paper. I knew this, and had bought a changing bag. That’s effectively a completely black bag with room for your hands to change things like film, in complete darkness. To be honest, if you want to take more that a single photo when you’re out and about, you need one of these.
Photos taken I went into the darkroom (aka my bathroom) to develop the prints. Unfortunately, of the ten shots, five were completely exposed, and the other five had – let’s say – an ethereal quality.
Actually, I quite like them in spite of that.
As I say, I think that even though my paper was properly kept in its dark packaging, at some point last summer it sat far too close to a sunny window, and that’s probably part of the difficulty I had with it.
Anyway, here are the results!
Stenoflex-5
Stenoflex-4
Stenoflex-3
Stenoflex-1

Radio Times 13 April 2013

Radio Times 13 April 2013
Because I’ve not done one of these for ages. And because it’s the battle of the reality shows starting tonight as The Voice and Britain’s Got Talent go head to head.
So here’s a new Radio Times scan to help you decide what to watch this evening.
As ever, best viewed large for snarky comments.

No News Here, Move Along

Friday Cover
On Monday, I was somewhat sympathetic towards Sarah Sands, editor of the London Evening Standard. One of the biggest stories of the year had broken in time to make that day’s final edition, but the headline was buried behind an ad.
Well tonight I have less sympathy, as a nonsense story is “developed” by the right wing press, and her paper came up with a headline possibly even more ludicrous than this morning’s Mail (see above).
Lots of people are furious that the BBC might have played a song because lots of people had bought it and pushed it into the charts. I can’t be bothered to even get into the asininity of the whole thing. You can read about it just about everywhere else.
In any case, I don’t particularly want to get involved in Margaret Thatcher. She was the first Prime Minister I recall, having been nine when she came into power. But the faux objectionableness being delivered by our free press who seem so keen that another outlet should participate in self-censorship is galling.
The thing is, the most objectionable Thatcher coverage I saw anywhere this week, was the cover of Tuesday’s Sun. Considering that Thatcher did so much for Rupert Murdoch in dismantling the power of the unions (listen to this week’s Radio 4 Media Show for more), then this was a fairly contemptible headline.
Whether the paper thought it was being funny, I don’t know. But Dominic Mohan’s cover completely misfired. It comes to something when even the Daily Star had a more measured front page.
I tend towards a “live and let live (or die)” attitude. She was an elderly lady who’d been in some decline for years. I didn’t agree with her politically, and I’ll leave it at that.
Incidentally, is it just me, or does it feel fairly straightforward to get a song into the charts? A couple of weeks ago, having performed their biggest hit for the first time in years on primetime ITV, Ant and Dec got a number one. And now we have this, albeit not yet at number one.

A Seaside Town Soundscape


I recorded this a couple of weeks ago over Easter in a seaside town. It’s all a bit experimental really, and there’s more wind noise than I’d have liked in places.
And it’s one of my occasional binaural recordings, again made with Roland CS-10EM binaural microphones/headphones paired with a Zoom H2 recorder. So you must play it back with headphones.
In order you hear:
– The sea shore by the promenade.
– A traditional amusement arcade with 2p machines
– A small local supermarket
– Street sounds
– A market
What you don’t really hear, which you should do but I failed to record, are seagulls, or market traders’ voices.

RadioCentre Roll of Honour

CR 40 years Gold RGB 620.jpg
In 1973, commercial radio launched with LBC, Capital Radio and Radio Clyde all launching within weeks of one another.
So this year is commerical radio’s 40th anniversary, and RadioCentre is celebrating with a Roll of Honour featuring forty names, which will be announced at this year’s Arqiva Awards in July.
Initial inductions were made last year, and nominations are now being sought for the remaining places. RadioCentre is looking for individuals who have made a significant contribution to commercial radio over the last forty years – both in front and behind the microphone.
A committee will determine the final list, but they’re looking for a wide range of names to whittle down.
“The Roll of Honour will be made up of individuals who reflect significant milestones in the industry’s development, taking in advertisers, artists, bands, moguls, power brokers and DJs. The emphasis will be on people whose contribution helps tell the story of commercial radio and the final list will not be ranked.”
I’m sure they’ll appreciate a wide and varied list from which to make their choices.
Make your nominations at http://www.radiocentre.org/facts/40th-anniversary. The closing date for submissions is 30th April 2013.

Sony Radio Academy Radio Award Nominations 2013

I wrote this piece for the Onegoldensquare blog, but I thought I might as well post it here for completeness!
This week, the 2013 award nominations were announced, and we’ve already mentioned in passing that we got a few. This year, there are a few new categories, and the disappearance of a few older ones.
While some of the bigger categories get lots of attention, I’m going to wander a little further beyond the impossible task of determining whether Chris Evans or Christian O’Connell somehow has a “better” breakfast show than John Humphrys.
A common complaint heard from some in commercial radio is that the awards are totally biased towards the BBC. I tend to believe that the rewards give recognition to really good radio, and any station, big or small can make good radio. But even in categories where the BBC would seem to have an innate advantage, there are some interesting nominations from the commercial world.
So in the Best Speech Programme category, ex-MP Iain Dale gets nominated for his LBC show. He’s recently been rewarded by being promoted to the teatime slot on the station and in a recent interview on the Media Guardian podcast, he expressed how much radio had changed him. He’s taken to it really quickly and has become an accomplished broadcaster.
One of Dale’s competitors in that category is the excellent Listening Project presented by Fi Glover on Radio 4. This is oral history at its very best, and is a partnership with the British Library. The premise is incredibly simple: two close friends or relatives simply have a conversation about something important to them, and it’s recorded. The scale is ambitious, with the BBC utilising its local radio network to broaden out a project that’s now been running for more than a year.
And LBC also contends the Best News & Current Affairs Programme where it is up against a set of BBC nominees. I wanted to highlight another nominee, Newshour from the BBC World Service. One of the best things about digital radio is that we all now have access to the World Service without having to listen to Radio 4 in the small hours or tune in via shortwave radios (Incidentally, with shortwave transmitters slowly being decommissioned, I wonder how much longer the actual Sony awards will continue to be modelled on the iconic Sony SWF 7600 shortwave radio?).
While we have 24 hour news channels like Sky News and BBC News, and Radio 4 and Five Live do excellent jobs with their news programming, it’s only when you listen to a programme like Newshour that you realise just how parochial much of the news we get really is.
Speech Radio Broadcaster of the Year is a an all-BBC shortlist, and while Victoria Derbyshire, 2012’s winner in the category, is nominated again and is up against fellow Five Liver presenter, and recent Hall of Fame inductee, Danny Baker, it’s Eddie Mair who’s the man of the moment. Following his spectacular interview with Boris Johnson on TV recently, and his deft handling of Newsnight reporting about itself, he’s suddenly popped up on everyone’s radar. But regular listeners to him on PM, and perhaps even more so on Saturday PM, will appreciate his ever-so-slightly wry and knowing presenting style.
The Best Comedy Category is another award that might be considered to be a BBC shoe-in. They certainly make an awful lot of comedy, and with people like Meera Syal, Isy Suttie and John Finnemore (not nominated for the brilliant Cabin Pressure, but for his Souvenir Programme), they aren’t short of nominees. But also in the mix is Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre podcast. There was some criticism when the Radio Academy dropped the podcast awards this year, so it’s good to see that a podcast has been nominated in a “mainstream” category.
Recorded live, these are long-form interviews with comedians, writers, performers and whoever he can get along. But they’re all big names: from Jonathan Ross to Armando Ianucci, and from David Mitchell to Russell Howard. I think of it as a Richard Herring chatshow where he doesn’t have to worry about having three other guests in the green room or on the sofa. Well worth a listen if you haven’t discovered it.
In the Best Use of Multiplatform, Absolute Radio’s InStream offering is nominated. But if you’ve not had a chance to explore it, what the BBC has done with its archive of Alistair Cooke’s Letters From America is awesome. There are over 900 episodes digitised and available to listen to, with more being found all the time.
So listen to Cooke in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of JFK, the US Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe vs Wade, or the Watergate scandal. It’s all a remarkable resource.
There’s lots of radio on that shortlist, and few of us can claim to have really heard much of it. But the great thing is that we have RadioPlayer, and so using the shortlist as a starting point, it’s an excellent opportunity to discover just what is going on in Newcastle that has led to the big two local stations- Metro and BBC Newcastle – being up against one another for Station of the Year (with Fun Kids!); that somebody is still doing speech on a predominantly music radio station (Newcastle again); or discover that radio does actually cover Rugby League!
Roll on 13th May when the winners are announced.

Editorial v Sales

Spare a thought for Sarah Sands. She’s the editor of the London Evening Standard.
The news of the death of ex-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher broke just before 1pm today, which meant that her paper could be first on the streets with coverage. I’m not sure what print deadlines are like at the Standard now it’s a free newspaper. But I know that the paper was re-written from an earlier lead detailing the tragic death of yet another cyclist who was in an accident with a lorry.
We can imagine that they had perhaps an hour to put together their Thatcher coverage before the final edition had to start rolling off the press.
So she will have been thrilled when she realised that today was a day the Standard’s sales team had sold a wraparound cover to Sky promoting their Now TV service!
Free papers have always featured wraparounds, although we’re seeing more of them on paid for titles. And this one was time specific as they were explicitly promoting the Manchester derby as being available for streaming on demand this evening.
So the paper wanted to run this cover.
Inside Cover
But had to go with this one instead.
Actual Cover
Not quite the dramatic impact they’d have liked. And the sales team bank the advertising revenue while the editorial team don’t get the dramatic cover they really wanted.

Samsung Chromebook

Samsung Chromebook Keyboard
For the last few months, I’ve found myself carrying a full-size laptop around less than I did in the past, and instead using my Nexus 7 more and more. In many respects it’s excellent, and I would (and have) happily recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a 7 inch tablet. Indeed I’m convinced that this smaller form-factor is much the better size.
The Nexus 7 lets you read email, feeds, browse the web, read Kindle books, watch video and listen to music very easily.
But what it – and indeed any touchscreen device – is woefully bad at is any type of productivity. “Content creation” to use the parlance. I prefer “writing.”
You’re not going to type even a medium sized email on your tablet – unless you’re a little mad. Nevermind longer blog posts, essays, work documents or whatever. My Nexus 7 is fine for assisting alongside a presentation, but not for creating that presentation in the first place.
While I do have an Asus 30A which is a fantastic device and something of a pre-cursor to today’s ultrabooks, it’s not machine you’re going to take absolutely everywhere if you want to travel light.
So I decided I’d give a Chromebook a go. The most recent machines are remarkably cheap, and of particular interest to me, they’re super-fast booting up. From completely off to useable is less than 10 seconds. But frankly, for most usage you just shut the lid, and the device sparks into life instantly.
There are a few Chromebooks out now, and more promised soon. I plumped for the Samsung Chromebook WiFi (as opposed to the more expensive Samsung Chromebook 550).
I considered whether it was worth paying extra for a 3G model, but in the end decided that as this was something of an experiment, spending extra cash on 3G was a bit unnecessary. This was a good choice for reasons I’ll come onto.
There is a cheaper Acer Chromebook which has a hard drive, but I didn’t go for that model because it has a longer boot up time. And while it has more space onboard, the Samsung model has a longer battery life too. Plus, for extra space there are both USB and SD card slots for offline videos or music.
It’s hard to entirely divorce the Chromebook operating system, and Google’s software products from the actual device itself. But I’ll do what I can.
Hardware
The Exynos 5 Dual Processor isn’t going to win any awards for speed, but frankly, that doesn’t really matter. As long as it copes with websites, video playback, and lets you use applications like Drive, then you’re fine with it.
The screen is a different question. While the resolution is absolutely fine – 1366 x 768 on an 11.6″ screen – it’s not going to win any awards for brightness. It’s decidedly average, which is to say, worse than average. Little to no money has been spent on it. It’s fit for purpose, but nothing more. And it certainly doesn’t compare with the vividness of something like the Nexus 7 screen.
This was particularly noticeable in the Google “store” bit of Currys/PC World where I bought my device. Sitting next to it was the a demonstration model of the Google Pixel. The screen on that is gorgeous, with an incredible pixel density as well. The build quality looks amazing. But it’s £1,049 for essentially the same functionality as a device I bought for £224.
More concerning is the build quality. To be frank, it’s not great. While the device is very thin, and the designer has clearly “seen” an Apple MacBook Air, the budget was never going to extend to a brushed aluminium case. Instead, we get a rather poor quality silver case.
It’s really not very good though.
Just one ten minute walk the Chromebook in my bag without a neoprene case meant marks that couldn’t be removed on the top. I ordered a personalised skin from DecalGirl to cover the marks up – and generally personalise my computer more. If you’re the sort of person who covers their laptop lids with stickers anyway, then this probably isn’t important.
Samsung Chromebook Shut
I’d note that DecalGirl aside, I didn’t find anyone else with Chromebook specifications available for personalised skins. I’d thoroughly recommend DecalGirl though. Their stickers include one for the keyboard rest, and have precise cutouts for the Chromebook logo. I left the Samsung decal on the lid, and it does show through the vinyl sticker a little.
The power supply cord is curiously thin, and it goes in around the back as do the USB sockets. I’m not sure that this is the best place – the sides would be more convenient. And Samsung does love to use a clover configuration power supply rather than the more common figure of eight version. The former includes earth of course, but so many power supplies make do without, it’s a bit annoying, particularly if you want to travel light and use the same power cable for more than one adaptor. I’ve actually bought an inexpensive adaptor to overcome precisely this issue, but it’s a small annoyance nonetheless. I wonder if a device like this mightn’t be chargeable with a micro USB cable in a future version?
So what about whether you need to get a 3G version? I said I made the right decision not getting one. But that’s because it’s trivial tethering the Chromebook to your phone, and because things like Google Docs works fine offline, you can quite happily edit documents when you’re disconnected anyway. I’ve used the Chromebook on a few train journeys now, and haven’t felt I’m missing too much not being connected.
In practice, the data overhead seems to have been minimised as much as possible by Google, so when you’re typing in a document, you’ll more often than not see that “All changes saved in Drive…” displays at the top of the screen rather than “Saving…” when you are tethered online.
WiFi reception is excellent, and I’ve not had any problems hooking up to various public and private WiFi networks anywhere. The device quickly finds them and hooks onto them.
The keyboard is perfectly fine, and this was perhaps the biggest concern I had over the cheap build. But you can type on it easily and I didn’t have any issues.
Similarly, while the trackpad might not be class leading, it’s fine, and I’ve been happy with it.
There are some foibles that come with Chrome’s OS. There’s no delete key on the keyboard – just a backspace. And in place of Caps Lock there’s a search button. This is in particular is no bad thing as Caps Locks keys are perhaps the most underutilised. What would traditionally be Function keys lose the F1-F10 and instead just do things like reload the browser page, turn the brightness or volume up and down etc.
Right-hand clicking takes some practice being more of a two finger tap than anything. The arrow keys are tiny, and the power button, being a keyboard key, feels strangely insubstantial.
A bigger issue is the screen rubbing against the keyboard when the device is closed. I’ve suffered this before, and it comes if the keyboard touches the screen when the clamshell is shut when the device is being moved around. These marks are in the form of a horizontal line on the screen. At first this was just an irritation meaning I had to keep polishing the screen. But there’s now a small permanent chip in the screen. It’s very tiny, but it’s there. I’ve ended up having to order a silicon keyboard protector. While awaiting that, I went back to the box it came in, and retrieved the very thin bit of foam that came with it originally. This does the trick. Don’t throw yours away.
The device has Bluetooth, but it’s not completely developed yet. I tried hooking it up to a Logitech adaptor I use to play music through speakers. But while both my HTC One X and Nexus 7 connect to it fine, the Chromebook won’t. I believe that it’s not a hardware shortcoming, but rather a question of the developers including it.
Battery life is broadly speaking as advertised. It’s only about six hours, but the device is slim and light as a consequence. I’ve not really had any issues with it.
Software
This is where it’s more about the operating system than the device.
The first thing to say is that while a Chromebook is nice to use out and about, or just for surfing on the sofa, it’s not a full replacement operating system in my view. At least it’s not unless you’re requirements are especially minimal.
I’ve read articles about people who’ve tried to use only a Chromebook day to day, and it’s all a bit pointless. The OS just isn’t ready for the bigtime yet. Similarly, I’ve heard of people suggesting that companies ditch Microsoft Office and use Google Docs. Well I’m not sure many of the actual power users in your business would thank you for doing that. Ask your accounts department for a starter – they’re probably using Excel far more than you realise.
My own usage of Spreadsheets has been primarily for my RAJAR analyses and accompanying charts. Even something as simple as that (and I’m not talking about motion charts) is pretty hit or miss. Trivial things like getting scales to display as you want are difficult to achieve. You end up duplicating data a lot to get multiple charts. It’s a start, but not ready yet.
And while the sharing aspects of Google Docs is excellent, the presentation software is still missing some fundamentals. Have you tried embedding audio into a presentation for example? Or getting a speaker view alongside a presentation view?
I’m sure that these will come, but just not yet.
Similarly, nobody in their right mind would try to attempt video editing or even photo editing on a Chromebook. Yes, you can use web services. And maybe one day Lightroom or Photoshop will exist entirely within a browser. But they don’t currently. So good enough for people for the less demanding, but not for serious use.
This all makes it sound very negative. And that’s a little unfair. I knew the shortcomings, and I work within them. In fact, I’m using Google Docs more than ever now since it’s so easy to start typing at a moment’s notice. If I need to do something more complex with fully featured software later, then I can do so.
Chrome itself works beautifully, and I’ve not had any problems with any extensions I’ve either already had installed, or have subsequently added. So things like Chrome to Phone, Send to Kindle, Evernote Web Clipper (Google Keep has now launched, but like many bitten by Google Reader, I’m keeping my eggs in another basket) and the rather excellent OneTab.
Once you’re signed in, favourites, bookmarks and passwords are passed over. And I’ve had no problems with any websites not working. I did see a warning that Shockwave had crashed on one exception though.
The machine has a paltry 2GB onboard memory, but this is a device built for the cloud. Really, that 2GB is only for offline access to files in Google Drive. Google gives you 100GB of free space for two years with your device, so you can access a decent array of files. What happens after your two years expire? I suspect you’ll have to get your credit card out. Or buy a replacement machine.
Invariably, some of the shortcomings of Chromebooks are more failings of Google’s ecosystem itself. Here’s an example. If someone emails you a JPG to your Gmail account, and you want to use the image somewhere else, you may want to save the image to your Google Drive. You certainly don’t want to be wasting local disc space with the image. But Google doesn’t let you do that. You have to save the image locally and then re-upload the image. Other attachments are a little better, although you still have to open each one to save it. There are workarounds, but they require you giving varying degrees of access to third parties – something I’m not happy with.
There are some things I can do on my Nexus 7 that you can’t do on a Chromebook. But as much as anything that’s because it has a more developed app community. Essentially you’re looking for people who want to develop Chrome extensions.
Overall
This could be construed as quite a negative review. A poor screen and plasticky build quality; a keyboard that marks the screen; software that’s not ready for serious use. I know I’m being hard on it.
In fact, it does what I wanted it do, and I’m very happy with it. I can get up and online or writing within second wherever I want. And that is it’s greatest and best quality.
Here are a few more things that I’d like to see in future iterations:


  • Improved build quality. Samsung has made this device to meet a price point, and I think for a bit more cash they could have toughened the case and not allowed the screen to touch the keyboard.

  • A bit more onboard memory – 2GB is ridiculously limiting and adding some more surely wouldn’t add to the cost too much. While I’ve yet to run up against any problems, and there are expansion slots, I know that this will be

  • Better Bluetooth support. In a Google cloud ecosystem, I should be able to stream music to Bluetooth speakers.

  • Google Now built in. It’s taken me a while, but I’m really beginning to appreciate the power of Google Now. It’d be really good if Google kept an up to date list of voice commands somewhere (there are lists that claim to be complete, but they’re not!). There are rumours that it is coming.


Other improvements will undoubtedly follow in due course with updates to the Operating System. In the short time I’ve owned my Chromebook, I’ve had three updates. Google seems to roll these out almost weekly.
So would I recommend the Chromebook? A qualified yes. You need to know what you can and can’t do with it. And your needs will differ from mine.
This is not a laptop replacement. I’d despair if it was my main computer. But as a second (or third) portable device for writing on? It’s excellent.
I really do like the machine, and if you think that your productivity has perhaps suffered because you’ve switched to tablet from a laptop, then this is something to consider. If even a Tweet or Facebook status update feel a bit painful on the touchscreen keyboard of your tablet, never mind writing longer emails or documents, then this could be for you.
I’d suggest that, if it was a bit more robust, it could be useful in an educational environment. For note-taking in a WiFi networked area, it’s excellent.
But in general, if you just want a small machine that you can whip open at a moment’s notice to write a bit more of that work document, add another chapter to your novel, or get another few hundred words of your dissertation written, then you’d do well to look at this.