Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Almost reaching the fortnight mark with our CR-48

By now, you will have read all about the early days of my rocky romance with our now-fortnight-old CR-48. Perhaps you have even shed a tear or two at my travails, although I suspect that most of you have been wracking yourselves with loud guffaws and howls of schadenfreude.

Be that as it may, make no mistake about it: I love using Chrome, the browser, and have been using it for a L-O-N-G time in my PCs, even going beyond the stable channels to the pre-release beta and dev channels (although I have stayed away from the Canary build). Therefore, as you can understand, the transition to the ChromeOS on CR-48 was not a problem at all. It was very smooth, in fact. The browser is always on; closing the lid puts the machine to sleep, and the re-opening process is under five seconds, including the reconnection to the wireless signal. And with the 10 hr battery, it is a web-surfers' dream.

As a result, CR-48 has become my main 'play' computer (web-surfing, news reading, email checking, Facebook, Twitter and so forth). The only two reasons I couldn't make it my work computer also are: (1) I use very specific softwares - for specific purposes - with no web-app equivalents, and (2) frankly, the Cloud offerings from Google that parallel the Microsoft Office suite (my single most often-used application) ain't that great.

But all good things must come to an end; I was kinda hoping that it wouldn't be so soon. After a recent update - which didn't really seem to be that big a deal - CR-48 performance has suffered greatly. In particular, the browser performance has become so slow, that if I open a link in a new background tab (what I am used to doing from my Firefox days, and I find tabs extremely useful), the cursor in the foreground - which changes to the 'hand' (for clicking the link) - doesn't change back to the regular arrowhead (for selecting, page up-downs etc.) UNTIL the page in the background tab has finished loading.

Weird, huh? This certainly doesn't happen in the Chrome browser of my PCs - that, despite the fact that for each tab and each extension that is loaded (and I use quite a few of them) in the browser, there is a separate process eating up a part of the RAM.

Now, I don't honestly know if this is because of (1) the weak 1.66GHz Atom N455 processor - which, at a single core, is no great workhorse (although a high performance was promised, especially because of the included SSD), (2) lack of GPU-acceleration (about which a discussion is going on at a relevant Google Groups thread), or (3) my overwhelming the browser by opening too many tabs at once (which, of course, doesn't seem to be a problem in my PCs). But I haven't a clue. A search of the CR-48 help pages with the keywords 'slow browser performance' did not return any results.

You already know (yes, go ahead, let it out!) about my 'issues' with CR-48, most irritating of which is the combined trackpad-and-jumping-cursor issue. I don't have any resolution to any of those yet; in fact, I don't even know if Google is aware of most of these problems. However, because of the nature of my use of CR-48, the performance slowdown is proving very challenging. There are even times when I am tempted - Gasp!! - to pick up my older, regular laptop for doing regular things!

I don't much care for those who say, "it's free and therefore one should not complain...", and yes, there are quite a few of them in the Google group threads. As I have said before, I expect a certain amount of high standards from Google (yes, I am a fan!), and merely because an item is free doesn't mean that it must suck. I sincerely hope that Google will eventually pay attention to these issues, if it hopes to entice consumers to use the CR-48 as their main note-/net-book.

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