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August 26, 2011

The Laptop, The SmartPhone and the Cloud: Where We Stand
Filed under: Computers in Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

You’re probably busy trying to make a living (and a life) in these exciting times. Don’t make the mistake of letting technology get too far ahead of you, don’t miss the efficiencies  that can improve your life and expand your options.

Let’s start with the SmartPhone. If you don’t have an Android or an iPhone, you’re missing opportunity. The Blackberry just hasn’t kept up. The apps aren’t being developed quickly enough and the platform just has too many phones and too many holes to work well. Androids and iPhones, on the other hand, provide unlimited useful apps, and the ability to access all your files, drawings and the internet where ever you have phone service.

Tethering your laptop to your SmartPhone to have internet access (either with a chord or a local WiFi hotspot) is a must to really be able to adequately access your files and drawings. Of course, you need to be backing up all the “My Documents” info on your harddrive onto the cloud by using either or I find that Dropbox offers a better user interface and makes a constant web back-up easy.  It’s wonderful to have all your files and drawings available to you at any time or location, as long as you have phone service.

So that coordinates your hard drive data and makes it accessible to you, but what about collaborating with others? You can’t beat Google Docs for online documents that a group can work on, improve and complete. One superb feature of Google Docs is their Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software. You can scan or import pdfs and the OCR software will turn them into searchable text documents for you.

So all of the above doesn’t take too much effort and really leverages your ability to resolve problems on the jobsite. Now what about the iPad and the new Google Chromebooks? Lex has been pushing me to buy a couple of these, though I just don’t see the value yet. I don’t get how they are an improvement from a tethered laptop to a SmartPhone. Especially when you can buy a great laptop for $225 and already have a SmartPhone.

Anyway, here’s Lex’s analysis, see what you think.

Boots in 8 seconds, resumes instantly
Connects to internet via Wifi or the mobile 3G networks that cover most of the nation
Can keep working on documents and emails even when not connected
If you lose your computer, all your settings and apps are saved in Google. Just need to log in to your account and everything is back.
Easy to share – people can log in with their own google accounts and never see any of your stuff

Only two manufacturers – the Samsung Series 5 line and the Acer AC700
PCWorld seems to favor the Samsung. It’s 80 bucks more but has bigger brighter screen, a VGA port for plugging in a monitor (amazing tool for efficiency if you haven’t tried it) and slightly longer battery life
Acer has HD audio support and an HDMI output (HD video)

comes in silver or white case
reviewers agree that it feels solid and well built
2 USB 2.0 ports
comes with 16GB SD card
SIM card slot for plugging in phone network card for 3G internet
VGA output for plugging in a monitor
small power charger
strong display
mouse trackpad – reviewers not too impressed, I recommend a logitech wireless mouse
keyboard – the F keys along the top replaced by function keys – backward, forward, and refresh buttons, along with ones for toggling between windows and entering / exiting full-screen mode. You’ll also volume, mute, and multimedia keys, as you would on most any other laptop.
1 megapixel camera for video skyping
nonremovable battery – 8.5 hrs – uses no juice when closed

netbook like processor – handled a dozen open tabs easily – only faltered once opening a bunch of Youtube videos
no harddrive/local storage – this means your only apps come from the web and the Chrome app store – still small but growing – contains the basics like image resizer, audio recorder, crude media player and file manager for downloads
doesn’t support Skype or Netflix yet…
can’t print yet – must printto computer on your network or use the HP ePrinter that supports google’s beta Cloud Print

an app called Citrix reciever still scheduled for near release – will allow any app sitting on the a computer on your network to be run – can run your accounting software, adobe photoshop, etc

$430 for Wifi only version – prolly good enough for a casaul user that has Wifi at their home – most apps still available when not on the internet and will sync later

$499 for 3G version – prolly needed for Dad & I – 3G handled by Verizon with 100 MB/month free for two years (but that’s a token amount)
even to get free amount, must provide name and credit card info to verizon

3G costs:
$50 for 5 GB
$35 for 3 GB
$20 for 1 GB
$10 for unlimited day pass

So, should I pull the trigger and buy one of these to see how it works? Or wait for a better sense of the value? You get to vote.

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