Google (or should I now call it “Alphabet’s Google”?) as a service and as a family of products have essentially taken over the Internet in terms of how many people use it. We’re constantly told to diversify ourselves and never put all our eggs in one basket in every facet of our lives; pensions, banking, news, information etc. Yet when it comes to online presence we’re more than happy to lay ourselves entirely at the doorstep of Mountain View, CA.

For years we’ve said ‘Google it’ instead of ‘Look online for it’. Nobody says that a product is part of ‘The Alphabet Inc. Family’, but a part of ‘The Google Family’, despite the former being truth because of the name recognition alone, and the mindset the brand name evokes. We’re a long way past the days of ‘Don’t be Evil’, and given the recent firing of Jason Damore over his emotionally bland (but factually correct) memo that was circulated internally and then leaked (as an aside, how much is on the table for the person responsible never being fired over this?) alongside the outright, thankfully temporary, Google-wide ban of Jordan B. Peterson, it gives the wary pause for thought.

But it shouldn’t be just the wary that are taken aback by the brashness and blatant leanings that the web’s largest company has, both politically and ideologically; it should be everyone. The poster declaring that ‘You’ve had a bit too much to think!’ is becoming chillingly accurate. Every person that has all of their online eggs in the Google basket should be concerned about the G-Man potentially knocking on your door with the G-Ban.

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Simple Simon met a PiMan.

I’ve always been a fan of the Raspberry Pi. Ever since it came to the public marketplace in 2012, makers and tinkerers alike were crazy over it, as was I. After all, who couldn’t be at least slightly interested in the idea of a computer the size of a credit card, running Linux with standardised inputs and outputs. The mind boggled at what could be done.

I got my Pi (Model B+) in 2014, and immediately I was fooling around with it. My first goal was a webserver, before I realised how limited the Pi actually was. While those limitations have mostly been remedied by better specs, initially they were a gauge of what could be done with the machine. I tried a media center with XBMC before finally settling on using Volumio on it to turn it into a music player, affectionately called Pi-Fi on my network. I always toyed with the idea of buying the latest version and turning it into an emulation machine (RetroPie now works up to the PSx), but never really went forward with it.

But buying a Chromebook lead to another limitation that I hadn’t thought of before: Chromebooks do not print in the typical way. You can’t just hook a USB printer in and hit CTRL+P on them. They use Google Cloud Print, and while I could just set that up on my main machine, not having it on is the point of having a Chromebook in the first place.

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So… I bought a Chromebook.

I’ve been wanting to get a laptop again for a while. With neighbour issues seeming to want to escalate I’ve wanted to be able to make a lot of what I do online as portable as possible. If I want to go into the bedroom and talk to people, or post on forums and such I should be able to, if only to get away from the problem temporarily. As much as I love having my Bluetooth keyboard and a tablet available, it’s not the same as having a laptop. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a laptop that has too much, but I was also painfully aware, thanks to tablets with keyboard attachments, that not spending enough and not doing enough research was going to hurt my purchasing in the long run.

I had been eyeing up a Chromebook for a while, purely because I spend almost all of the time I am not gaming, or video editing (i.e. things that I wouldn’t attempt on a laptop anyway) in Chrome in some way or another. Even when I’m in Discord it’s a version of Chrome with a few things attached. After doing research, it turned out that the cheapest Chromebook I could find was perfect for my needs; an Acer Chromebook 11 (2016).

I’ve not had a new laptop since mid-2010 when I bought from the first iterations of Dell’s Inspiron 1545, and the low-end version at that. That was six or seven years ago, and frankly I expected similar specs. I know that Linux and by extension ChromeOS would run on a lot of hardware (it was just about usable on my 2007 EeePC 901 with spinning HDD) and as such I expected the specs to be low to match. What I had missed was that with SSDs becoming cheaper to produce and more in demand thanks to the speed differences inherent in the design they remove a significant bottleneck in cheap notebooks at a decent price point. SSDs are no longer a gimmick in laptops; they are the norm.

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Time For an Upgrade!

I usually don’t spend more than £500 on a new computer. More often than not I’m an incremental upgrader; adding a bit here or a little there, but each time I invest in a new system it’s almost a quantum leap. With this last machine I couldn’t really do that because the motherboard was end-of-life on the socket for the CPU, I already had an SSD in it and the bottlenecks on the motherboard made it so getting a new graphics card wasn’t worth it. It’s gone on for five or so years (though the graphics card is older) and I decided that it was finally time for an upgrade. I’d been saving up for another plan that hadn’t panned out, so I figured I would spend a decent amount, though not only has the game changed in terms of what’s available, but also in terms of the price.

I spent £1520 on a machine that will blow my socks off, and it has just been assembled and is awaiting quality check before being shipped to me. It’s got a 4.4Ghz quad-core i7, 16GB RAM, a 240GB SSD with a 2TB SATA to back it up, with a GTX 1070 from MSI. I’ve never invested this kind of money in a system before, nor have I been this close to the bleeding edge of tech. I always lag behind a couple of generations as best I can to make sure that I get a good deal.

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