If we were having coffee . . .

. . . I’d tell you I had another hectic week. I’ve barely had time to tweet or comment on blogs at all, and I’ve missed it. Diana stayed with me most of the week and we had a fabulous visit. Even though we communicate by chat several times a day, we don’t get enough face time. It was also the first week of little-people school, so my grandson had to start first grade this week. In addition, I was very busy with a work project that had to be finished this week, and I got it done.

. . . I’d’ tell you that I managed, despite being so busy, to publish two guest posts at Comparative Geeks this week. They’re about Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. I’m especially proud of the second post, which discusses the role of Superman in the story. The art layout for that post is just about the best job I’ve ever done with images on a blog.

. . . I’d tell you I’ve upgraded my technology, so my productivity should skyrocket over the next month or two. This is good. Otherwise, I doubt I’d be able to keep up the blogging through the fall. I pickedgalaxy4 up this little gem a couple of weeks ago. It’s a Samsung Galaxy S4, and it replaces a prepaid analog phone I’ve been using for almost 10 years. It’s already indispensable. I have it set up to chirp like a bird when I get WordPress and Twitter notifications. The alert tone isn’t annoying at all. It’s actually a pleasant sound, so now, even when I’m occupied with work stuff and can’t look at my social media, I can tell how active my accounts are just from the notification alerts. I’ve also got it set up to synch to my computers, so I can plug in the USB cable and use the mouse and keyboard to operate the phone while it’s charging.

I’ve also picked up an extra laptop, thanks to Diana. For the last several months, the only computer I’ve had at home is a laptop that’s so badly damaged I can’t close the case, and I can only move it very carefully. Basically, it’s a desktop, and that means I’ve only been able to blog when I could find the time to close myself away in the home office.

This week Diana brought me a 5-year-old Dell Studio that she had custom built to gaming specs. The wireless card is dead, and the computer is so solid otherwise, it would be a shame to have someone crack it open. I picked up a USB wireless adapter for it and it works like a charm. It’s a little slow starting up, but once the first browser window is open, it’s as fast as my newer laptop and my work desktop. So now I have a computer I can take anywhere, and I can blog from my living room while I’m hanging with my family. This also means that when I’m working in the office and my grandson is around, he can have computer time without taking Vicki’s laptop.

Having a good second laptop allowed me to realign my office workspace. The external video port on my old laptop is so close to the crack in the case, I’ve been afraid to plug a monitor into it for fear that I would kill my only computer trying to get the plug in. Once I got the Dell set up, I pulled out a widescreen HD monitor that’s just been sitting since my last desktop died and risked plugging it in. Now my home office looks like this:workspace

And let me tell you, the dual monitors are useful. Once upon a time I had a technical writing job and was provided with a laptop and an external monitor. I’ve wanted a setup like that at home ever since, and now I finally have one. The combination of the dual monitors and ability to synch the smartphone is powerful. Now I can blog on one monitor and have Tweetdeck running on the other, so when I take a 15-minute writing break, I can favorite and retweet things. It took less than 15 minutes with the combination of the phone’s cloud backup and my external hard drive to copy everything from the office computer to the Dell. I’ve finally got identical bookmarks in both of the browsers I use, and have my data backed up in enough places that I’m not living in fear of losing everything because a single machine goes down.

And I’d tell you I hope to be around more this week than I have been lately.  🙂

Computer Woes: Is a Chromebook Worth Buying?

I’m having computer problems similar to the ones Diana had recently. I have a decently-powerful HP laptop with a hinge that’s so badly damaged, I can’t close it, and can’t take it out of the house. It has such a large crack in the bottom left side of the case, it’s only a matter of time before the dust gets to it and kills it. It’s also showing symptoms of the network card going bad. I live in fear of it dying and leaving me cut off from the blogs and the Twitter accounts.

I almost low-balled a computer last month, but decided not to do that. If I buy a really cheap PC, I’ll still need a new computer and I’ll be out several hundred dollars in the meantime. Since I don’t play video games any more, I don’t need a super-powerful computer. Here’s what I need my next computer to be capable of:

  1. Fast page-loading. This is essential because I do so much browsing and use social media so extensively. I load hundreds of pages per day. Slow page-loading could easily cost me an hour or more every day.
  2. Sufficient sound and video quality to evaluate photos and music videos. This is the main reason I didn’t just get a cheap laptop. I can’t do the sort of blogging I do with a monitor that gives me washed-out color or a sound card/speakers that are too poor to allow me to turn up the volume on videos.
  3. It must be portable, and that means a laptop. As soon as I get the laptop, though, I’m saving for a desktop.
  4. It must be able to handle the wide-screen HD monitor that I already own, so that when I’m working at home, I can plug in the external monitor and use it as a dual monitor setup. Having two monitors would save me a LOT of editing time. It would also allow me to have my Twitter feeds open where I could see them while I’m doing other things.
  5. It needs to be powerful enough for me to open Tweetdeck and monitor 10 or 12 Twitter feeds without a lot of lag.

If I had the money to invest, I’d go with a Mac. I looked at their latest laptops not long ago, and I like them a lot. But I don’t have that kind of money, which means another HP PC or a Chromebook.

I’m ok picking my own HP if I go that route, but I need help deciding whether a Chromebook is worth looking at, so I wonder if anyone’s used one enough to give me an opinion.

The attractions are that they’re light, about $100 less expensive than PCs with equivalent hardware, and don’t run Windows. Instead, their operating system is a Chrome-based interface that runs on a Linux platform. And I hate Windows 8.

The downside is that it doesn’t have a real hard drive. Instead, it has just enough storage to load apps, and Chromebooks come with 200GB of Google Drive storage for two years. I’m a little iffy about having all my data stored only in the cloud. But I have 1 Terabyte external hard drive that I paid about $60 for. It’s a little bigger than a cigarette pack. At the moment, I have the contents of 5 computers backed up on it, and it still has almost 300 GB of free memory.

So, I’m thinking about getting a Chromebook and using the external hard drive for storage, but not sure about the sound/video quality, nor about things like page-loading and handling a large number of fast-moving Twitter feeds. If anyone has an informed opinion about this, I’d appreciate your input.