Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Thoughts on my Google Chromebook Pixel 2013

I jumped in joy when Google released the Chrome browser. It is a piece of software that changed the computing world rapidly. It had maximized screen viewing area, it set new standards in HTML, it set limits for browsing speeds, brought new video codecs to usage and finally became a trojan horse in the Microsoft Empire. Believe it or not, people live more time in the Chrome world than in the actual operating system world. Soon, the browser became OS agnostic, and lots of people migrated into the MAC OS world. Chrome terminated the dominance of IE in a short time. It is so popular and successful like its original project leader who is now the CEO of Google.

When it was released I had a major gripe that it was not released for Linux operating systems. It was the heyday of netbooks and Chrome was needed in them. Sensing the obvious, Google released a netbook with just Chrome in it and called it Chromebook. I had even applied for the Chromebook testing program in which Google gave away a Samsung Chromebook to initial users. I wasn’t the lucky few who got one. Later, in 2013 Google released a Chromebook with the highest imaginable specs, that it can hardly be called a netbook. Chromebook Pixel was born in Menlo Park which would soon become a toy of rich geeks. Even Linus loved it. Even now, I think, its screen in unrivalled in terms of pixel density and colour reproduction. I simply fell in love with this machine and waited till I could afford one. And 3 years after its release I could lay my hands on a 2013 (Ist gen. model). The screen needs just one word to describe it: Gorgeous

The concept of the Chromebook is brilliant, a lightweight computer which just the minimalistic body of computing while the soul lives somewhere in the cloud. The “Chrome” is this link between this body and soul. It's beautiful in that the body is never important, and guardian angel “Chrome” updates itself in Google’s command, keeping the system safe and snappy. I love the concept of having a computer in which you never have to really install programs in the classical sense, no .exes, no Photoshop, no MS Word. The moment you switch on, a secure browser is ready to serve you web services and your soul comes alive with your documents, photos, music and videos. Google has created a new paradigm in computing rather than competing with MS for market share.

Now to my experiences as a loyal Google fanboy. Chromebook Pixel was great, I loved seeing it, touching it, and not so much using it. Like many bloggers and tech enthusiasts have already put it, it's really hard to find a 100% usage of your Chromebook (Pixel in my case). Its biggest advantage is also its disadvantage, there are no programs that live in the computer for simple tasks. For simple tasks like editing an MP3 tag, there was no tool, I had to upload all my music to Google Play Music, rename and then download. For a minor photo edit, I had to upload the photo to a cloud photo editor and then download it. Remote desktops worked fine and I could connect my laptop running Elementary OS with ease. Google docs and Google productivity suite was the main reason for me buying this laptop. Google docs was impressive in the Chromebook Pixel as it should be. I could create offline documents, work on documents offline and sync once connected. The audio quality was simply gorgeous as its screen(this is the first gen. Chromebook Pixel), rich in bass, clear and loud. The screen had nothing else to compare. The touchscreen which is obviously a fingerprint magnet is still a pleasure to use especially for scrolling. The screen form factor of 2:3 is the most sensible choice for using the web for reading and being productive.

I had very little hate over the abundant love I had for my Chromebook Pixel. I tried every possible use for my Chromebook and the experience was positively very different. Finally, I had to give up my Chromebook Pixel not because of my hate but because of a hardware failure in the gorgeous screen. The most beautiful part the Chromebook Pixel had some horizontal lines, a rare manufacturing defect. Since I had bought it in Hong Kong where this piece of hardware is not sold legally, I could not get it fixed by Google. I could have tried third party services to replace my the panel, but I decided to let it go, to avoid many hassles.

Given my first experience with the Chromebook Pixel, I still would like to go for the newer versions. The Pixel C is an evolution in this lineage where the Chrome meets Android. I would love to try this beauty sooner or later. I believe in the marvellous innovation in technology by Google despite it not being "not evil” anymore. I have to admit, I am a simple stupid Google fanboy.

Monday, January 16, 2017

No Times New Roman in Google Docs

A self confessed Google fan boy, I own a Pixel Chromebook 2013. I planned to use it for all my office work,  to replace Microsoft Office products. I am amazed by the vision of Google to have everything tied to the cloud. It makes good sense to move your work to something independent of any OS or even a physical storage. It feels really cool that you you don't have to install any program but still get all your work done with your browser. 

It was quite a revelation to me when I read two write-ups (the other one) today of how Google fooled people in thinking that what they use as Times New Roman (in Google Docs) as Times New Roman. When you use Times New Roman to type something in Google Docs, it actually displays "Tinos" a font which Google says is metric compatible with Times New Roman and released under Apache license. To the untrained eye, it is hard to believe. So I set to test it with comparison with Times New Roman, as produced by Microsoft Word.  To me Tinos looks much closer to Liberation Serif which is mostly used in Libreoffice. I also compared Tinos with Liberation Serif. 

Times New Roman vs. Tinos

Times New Roman vs. Liberation Serif

Liberation Serif vs. Tinos

Comparing all three in Lorem ispum dolor sit amet

Google has remedied the situation somehow probably by a font licence agreement with Microsoft such that if you download a PDF, it comes out to be Times New Roman.  It makes sense because when you want to print from Google Docs, it automatically downloads the document as PDF. But what you see while typing with Google Docs is actually Tinos and Google doesn't tell you that. If you download the document in docx, and forward it to your supervisor or colleague, they wouldn't get Times New Roman as how this student had to get less grades because he could not use Times New Roman as per his school rules. Google is to be blamed than anyone else in this case. Another case of loosing grades here. Mighty Google are you willing to help students using Chromebooks?

In my opinion, Tinos which is a part of Croscore fonts  (Chrome OS core) is very much similar to Liberation Serif fonts (see comparison above). So people working with Liberatoin Serif under Libreoffice under Linux systems get similar looking fonts as Tinos in Google Docs.

I goes without saying that what you see you as "Arial" in Google Docs is nothing but "Arimo". I will do a comparison between Arial and Arimo in the next article. However, I am guessing the difference would be hard to detect because they are 'Sans serif' fonts. 

Here is a PDF version for printing of the fonts.