Three weeks working with a Chromebook

Published on at techie , 3 mins.

When I bought the Chromebook, as I wrote in early August, I was aiming it for casual usage. You know, maybe some weekend writing or browsing from the sofa, bringing it to conferences, maybe for note-taking while on meetings, casual gaming even, that kind of stuff. What I was not expecting was to spend on it 8 hours per day on my new job for a full month.

I finally received my work computer, so now I’m done with this pal for regular work (I still plan to use it while traveling). Let me share some comments on how these weeks have been. What can an engineer do with a medium-high range Chromebook these days? Well, I’m glad to say that quite a few things.

At Elastic, as a fully distributed and modern company, you can expect much of the communication tools to be working on the cloud; you need a browser to chat, email, manage your calendar, internal documentation, and so on. The only exception in this case, in particular, is the usage of Zoom for videoconferencing, but I was covered since there’s a dedicated application.

What about coding? Source code is all in Github, as you may have guessed, and everything we do can run on a Linux Operating System. Chrome OS supports Linux application; I could install git and the rest of the tooling necessary for some of the work at this stage in my first weeks. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do everything, since this computer is just 4GB of RAM, a heavy software like Kibana is just too much. However, for other simple stuff that involves text editing, command-line data manipulation, scripting, etc. I’ve just been doing pretty well.

Another task I’ve been doing these weeks as part of my onboarding process is learning. Elastic training uses a full cloud solution to attend instructor-led sessions, even including a cloud laboratory environment ready to exercise with several servers. Therefore I didn’t need anything special on my computer to do all those sessions. By the way, I was quite impressed by the quality of the Elastic training program! The Education team does a great job, and I plan to continue improving my knowledge of the different products.

Finally, lately, I’ve been tasked with something that needed me to work with several Linux servers using something called Docker containers. However, my computer is light, and already running a container, meaning I couldn’t do this locally. I had to create a server instance in the Google Cloud Platform, and guess what, the Operating System that Google recommends to run containers is based on Chrome OS! For performance and security reasons, they adapted the same OS to servers leaving it to the minimum footprint so that you can install and run your containers on them. In that scenario, this computer is just perfect. Like thin clients of the ’90s, this laptop can start shells, and log into remote servers, but still, you have also a full browser and very much anything else you may need.

Of course, I couldn’t wait to have my laptop with me; it felt like working at 75% of capacity. However, on the other hand, I also agree this set-up can suit many jobs, as long as you work mostly with a browser, or logged to remote servers for the heavy lifting. Still, if I could buy it again, I think I would go for an 8GB RAM option :-)