Quiet Mutterings In Response to the First Week of Cheeto Prez

dsc_0124As the last week has come and gone, and I have had a little time to digest, many subjects for this next post floated by my mind. Most especially how distracting certain presidential actions can become, and how we as a nation (the US, but I could include many European nations as well) have become aflutter on social media and elsewhere, trying to get a grasp on what’s going on.

For those of you in this mental/emotional state, I can assure you, I have no advice. Neither am I above this kind of reaction. But I do think that I have learned to seek solid ground prior to letting my emotions get ahead of me. If I can take away anything from the recent social media maelstrom, it’s this – restore your faith with little things.

My daughter recently re-posted a message from Jenna Bush Hager on my Facebook feed. And the contents stopped me short. Not because I necessarily agree with the sentiments in George Bush’s post-9/11 address to the US, but because his daughter, who has insisted on being considered “independent” in politics, chose to resubmit this speech to the world.

I think the purpose of my daughter sharing this speech was to give heart to her liberal and left-leaning friends that even conservatives can see the good in Islam and that Muslims, as a group, are not terrorists or evil people.

I guess the problem that I have with this hopeful thinking is that this very same speech ushered in one of the most savagely anti-Muslim periods in our history. And I want to be very clear about that, because the subsequent “wars”, military actions and bombings of Muslim majority countries have continued for more than a decade with no real publicity. They have continued without stringent opposition from the US Congress, and have represented conflicts and vast amounts of human death and suffering in the name of “Regime Change.”

In point of fact, the “Yes we can” president expanded our drone bombing programs to seven countries that, coincidentally, The Cheeto in Chief seeks to further penalize I assume, for the simple fact of previously being bombed for several years. These are all countries that seek their own independence, on their terms, without foreign intervention – the literal definition of American Independence. They also happen to be Muslim majority. And that’s key.

Because George Bush’s speech was just faulted enough to create a solid neo-con and neo-lib opposition. Because, in point of fact, Islam is not a religion of peace. Neo-libs like Bill Maher love to point this out. But, as a Muslim revert in the US, what can I possibly mean with this inflammatory statement?

Well, it’s pretty simple. If you allow yourself a breath and take a moment to think, no religion is a “religion of peace.” No, folks, not even Buddhism. Buddhist monks are persecuting ethnic minority Muslims right now. Persecuting as in, “executing.” And these monks are not a splinter sect. They’ve just taken nationalism to it’s furthest extent. Much like the US is doing now.

Religion is about faith. Not politics. Even in Islam. Of course Bill Maher and others will push the Islamic exceptionalism argument your way, in trite comedic one-liners (a sort of 140 character-based message). But most Muslim majority governments prior to the 20th century were largely secular, possibly more so than the European “post-enlightenment” based governments were. But, I digress.

So Islam is not a religion of peace, any more or less so than any other religion I am aware of, except possibly Quakers. As you may have heard many times, “Islam” is an Arabic word derivative of “salaam” which means “peace.” More importantly, though, is that “Islam” specifically means “peaceful and willing submission to God.” How important is that distinction? It depends on how much understanding you really want to have.

What it has meant to me, for the majority of my life, is that there is no authority above God. That God’s word, as far as we can possibly understand it, as faulted, petty human beings, is the highest authority. How we deal with that understanding is our choice. Some of us (Muslims) try to force our understanding on others. This is what Daesh does. Some of us offer our understanding to others (not as evangelism or “Da’wah” / proselytizing) in the course of our daily actions. In other words, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” To me, that statement is fundamental to Islam, and one of my personally greatest faults – that being a Muslim is really just being a veritable example of the best in Islam to others. An example of Good in the world.

The point is, Islam is not the problem. Islam is foreign enough that I think most “westerners” and even western Muslims can’t really get a solid understanding of what Islam really means. It’s taken me nearly 30 years just to get this tiny modicum of understanding. But the basic message stays the same.

Protect your own, protect and support others in need. Give God his due and recognize the uniqueness of his messenger. Visit the birthplace of your beliefs at least once in your life. Islam literally boils down to “Respect yourself. Respect others equally. Respect the words of God.” There’s really not much foreign about that. But still, we bomb.

One of my friends recently said that there was more outrage against an immigration ban (sparking protests all over the US, Europe and elsewhere) than there has been about unconstitutional bombings of Muslim majority states for more than a decade. And I think this is true.

Don’t complain about refugees’ immigration status. Don’t get upset about refugee bans. No, don’t do either, unless you are willing to make a greater effort to stop creating refugees in the first place. That’s really what George Bush and the US has missed all along. I truly hope we will learn this lesson before Cheeto Prez and his sycophants destroy everything.

Welcome to Trump’s America (Be at Ease, It Was Always This Way)

I’m a liberal progressive with some conservative tendencies. If, in this new America, that offends or frightens you, you should move on. If you’re actually interested in dialog, then welcome.

To me this date – November 8th, 2016 – corresponds to the assassination of Kennedy as my mother described it to me. She even made a scrapbook that I can pull out one day, mouldering in some closet at her house.

In contrast to my mother, I did not lose a beloved President. What was assassinated today was my hope. My hope for my children and my grandchildren. In fact, I think I would actively advise my children not to have children of their own, at this point. Political contraceptive.

How bizarre, you think, “What’s this he’s going on about, then?”

You see, I’ve survived this America before. For years, children in the town where I grew up ganged up and beat me, calling me “nigger.” Does that offend you? The truth of it? How do you think it makes me feel? It felt like all of the children in my town were against me, but in truth it was only a few. Some even took me under their wings in a rather negligent way – “You’re not that kind of nigger”

And while they may not have been hard-core racists (I am here writing this, after all), they taught me all I needed to know about America. That for the most part, as a non-white man, at best I will only be tolerated by the vast majority of Americans. That no matter that I’ve served my country, educated myself and worked hard for nearly 40 years, I’m only just a nigger in America. Or a “damn Muslim.”

I’ve learned that most people will stand by as I am being abused, if they are not actively participating or egging the participants on. If they are particularly tolerant, they may just look on in fear or disgust.

Perhaps even less grace will be afforded my children. Will they have to hide their beliefs as Muslims? Will they disavow culture and upbringing in order to eke out survival as brown people in America? Or will they live a hidden, Anne Frank version of Islam – the kind that comes out from the crawlspace only when the coast is clear and candles are lit?

I watch as my liberal white friends shrug and say “Maybe next time.” Or “That was disappointing.” It’s ok, I’m used to it. Trump’s America is nothing new to me. It is only the horror I have been struggling against my entire life. I went into decades long debt to bankers to raise myself up, studied hard, did the right things. But here I stand today, solidly on square one.

Maybe I and my family will be registered as Muslims. He said that, you know. Yes, he did. And you supported him in it, because both Democrats and Republicans colluded to frighten you to death, so they could make more money and garner more individual power.

You want me to be outraged by Trey Goudy’s laughable and expensive crusade against Hillary? He’s only nearly every (white) man I ever knew for the first 15 years of my life. This is nothing new to me. I learned to laugh at the fear they tried to feed me. “Is that really the best you can do?”

The real problem is that I drank the juice. When Obama was elected president, I thought, “Well now, we’ve finally arrived.” Maybe the country really isn’t mostly racist after all. But now, you and I are faced with the plain truth. That bigoted aggression was only hiding, living and growing – festering under the skin, until Trump popped our collective boil.

And, in treating that festering boil with the worst kind of doctor, my hope has finally been lost. I don’t believe in you anymore, America. Harriet Tubman did. Frederick Douglass did. Susan B. Anthony did. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did. You may not believe it, but Malcolm X did too. How? He never left. He never gave up. He died fighting for what he believed in.

Not so much to believe in, really. Just the possibly – the hope – that there could be an America where lynchings, firebombings, extra-judicial killings, segregation and mass-shootings was not “a thing.” If you think about it, that’s really what America actually stands for – order and fairness for all its citizens, and beyond that, for all the world’s citizens. But hey, America, you can’t criticize other countries for being savage any more. You’re in the dirt with them, now.

Malcolm X is my hero. As is Gandhi. And Lincoln. All men who lost their lives fighting for basic human rights. But you know what? After three centuries of concerted effort, I’m pretty sure it’s ok to say, “Hey guys, this isn’t working.” I mean, my ancestors were slaves. But they were also the first Europeans to settle this land. I wonder which is worse?

So I can tell you, because I have been living this dichotomy for almost fifty years. There is the America we’d like to believe in. And there’s the America that actually exists.

So, what’s the point of all this navel-gazing? Well, America, you’ve forced my hand. Maybe, like Richard Wright, I could find solace in residence in another country. Or maybe I just give up.

I love watching the internets talk about how Trump will bring this country together when he has spent the last two years (and longer) tearing it apart. And he’s not completely to blame. The media never kept the candidates focused on hard questions. I still really have no idea of the specifics of either party’s platform for this election, except for the vigorous wagging of fingers. Literally the only candidates who offered solid policy solutions were hushed and pushed aside.

I can tell you that that I will not wait for my property to be seized, or my far distant family to be purified in nuclear fire, or to be encamped as the Jews and Japanese were (another Nazi Germany/America correlation).

So, all you pundits espousing “hope?” Yeah, not for me. I will not live to see my daughter imprisoned, or my son relegated to camp labor for the “good of America.” Hyperbole? No, it’s what Trump promised. He has the entire Congress and will probably have the Supreme Court as well. Newt Gingrich and Ted Cruz AND Michael Pence will have actual, almost completely unopposed power in this country.

Some of you really don’t see a problem. Here’s what I see. Women who die from septicemia trying to get illegal abortions (no more Roe v. Wade or Planned Parenthood). More police brutality and overreach (Trump promised nationwide stop-and-frisk – almost exclusively enforced on people of color). More black people being killed for no reason. The literal extinction of Native Americans (Trump and his cronies have got to make more money, after all), even more tens of thousands of Muslim lives destroyed all over the world in order to stop a few thousand extremists who pose no imminent danger to the US and nearly always only kill other Muslims.

But feel satisfied, America. You did good. You got what you wanted.

And to the inevitable liberal/progressive voices out there telling me to keep my chin up and keep protesting and being active in the government? I say, “Fuck you.” I’ve been doing that my entire life to laughs and derision. This was my reward.

Refugees and Conflicts Are Our Problem

Said as I wished to say it. I hope you’ll read, and like the original post.

If the US is truly going to stand for “truth” and “right” then we should stop supporting those who don’t.

True Boots

The last week’s news cycle has included crises of breathtaking magnitude: Congress has contended with the influx of tens of thousands of children from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, while the world has watched as Israel has pounded Gaza with missiles, killing Hamas militants, but also dozens of women, children, and other bystanders. Yet the responses I’ve seen in the mass media and on social media has been overwhelmingly about the “rightness” of Israel to destroy sites that have included a mosque, a center for the disabled, and a cafe where people were watching the World Cup; also, about the “illegality” of children fleeing the extreme violence and poverty of their home countries, and how expensive it is to feed, house, and otherwise help children in crisis–and so we talk about rapid deportations, not resolution or care. Hamas isn’t relenting, so people seem to feel that the murder of innocents is somehow justified…

View original post 1,081 more words

One Year In

2011_ca_dec31pandion-168widesmall

Time for some navel-gazing. In all honesty, I do a lot of it. Thankfully, I do not write a lot of it down.

I had a lot of big plans for this blog a year ago. Suddenly, a few weeks ago, I received the WordPress notification congratulating me on the first year. Had it really been that long? I guess so.

But I found time to write only nine times during the year. Most of those posts had come during the honeymoon period, where my excitement was high and I found time to write in almost any circumstance.

But life gets in the way. I determined not to start a daddy-blog (how tiresome), but fatherhood experiences overtook my day-to-day life and I rarely had more than fifteen minutes at a time to concentrate. Perhaps some people can write under those circumstances, but I cannot. As a result, many of my ideas were suspended.

I learned that reactionary writing was bad for me. There are many drafts sitting in the hopper, waiting patiently to be finished as I lost track of my points after my passion faded and I had time to think about what I was writing. Cathartic for me. Not much benefit to you.

I learned that I wrote best about the things I care about most. It is incredibly rewarding to know that my efforts are helping some of you. Really. And, if my post didn’t help, I hope I at least let you know that you are not the only one having these frustrations.

I am definitely looking forward to expanding my work in technology and have been negotiating a collaboration with an associate to start a new tech-only blog with a YouTube tie-in. As if there weren’t enough of those. But I am excited about it.

The tech blogs I have written have been far and away the most popular, in terms of viewership. But the other subjects have engendered the most discussion. It puts me in a strange position. I feel that I should isolate my technology writing, for ease of access to my readers. We’ll see how it goes

I learned that I should write when I have the ideas, and then let my writing sit for a while. Coming back to my posts after a year is eye-opening. I am capable of much better writing, and some of my posts almost made me cringe. They feel almost…sophomoric. The sentence structure, the editing, the typos. I am better than that, I can assure you. And I will be better from this point forward.

I will not be rushing my posts any more. But I will be posting more regularly.
I  want to thank all of you. For reading. For valuable input. For your patience with me. I look forward to our next year together.

Fixing Suspend in Xubuntu on the Acer C720 – A Simplified Guide

I am posting this guide as a point-in-time assist after the release of Ubuntu 14.04, to help those looking to fix suspend in Xubuntu on their C720s (and any Chromebook with Haswell architecture or similar hardware). I will do my utmost to keep this updated, but keep in mind that this post is not my first priority. Please remember that messing about with your system instructions can create horrible problems, for which you are responsible – no one is forcing you to make these changes. If they are very intimidating to you, do not take these steps and stick with crouton or ChrUbuntu! If you have anything to add, please let me know. I welcome help and criticism as it helps all of us with our knowledge.   Things to keep in mind:

  • I am not an experienced coder – I understand the instructions below because I have scripting/coding experience, but I am presenting this only to help those who have little to no experience.
  • I am only one person, so have a little patience – I am doing this only as a service to help you, and cannot do much in the way of troubleshooting. If you are having problems, make sure to present them on the G+ post.
  • As the Ubuntu kernel updates, (ie, 14.04.1) I will try to test if anything is broken – I may miss something, so let me know.

My article is derived from the following reddit post: http://www.reddit.com/r/chrubuntu/comments/1rsxkd/list_of_fixes_for_xubuntu_1310_on_the_acer_c720/ After you have followed the guide for installing Xubuntu, make sure to make corrections in order, as suggested in the reddit post. Specifically, you may have trouble with suspend (closing the lid will cause a lock-up requiring a cold start). Here is all the info you need: https://plus.google.com/113736371980021233804/posts/6CgQypQukMa However, after many responses and corrections, you may find the Google+ post by Pedro Larroy a bit confusing. Here’s a distilled version:

add the following to the kernel boot parameters in /etc/default/grub reload grub via update-grub

add_efi_memmap boot=local noresume noswap i915.modeset=1 tpm_tis.force=1 tpm_tis.interrupts=0 nmi_watchdog=panic,lapic

This fix was originally suggested for an earlier kernel – but it has been superseded/replaced by the following scripts, so you will have to make some fixes for Xubuntu 13.10 (stable) or Xubuntu 14.04 . Do not enter the lines above. Only use what I have posted in code below. After making the changes originally posted by Pedro, skip down to the Mike Lim response (I have added formatting to make it easier to read. Hopefully my formatting will work and terminal entries will appear properly):   1. Creating 05_Sound file under /etc/pm/sleep.d/

sudo gedit /etc/pm/sleep.d/05_sound
#####################
#!/bin/sh
# File: "/etc/pm/sleep.d/05_sound"
case "${1}" in
hibernate|suspend)
# Unbind ehci for preventing error
echo -n "0000:00:1d.0" | tee /sys/bus/pci/drivers/ehci-pci/unbind
# Unbind snd_hda_intel for sound
echo -n "0000:00:1b.0" | tee /sys/bus/pci/drivers/snd_hda_intel/unbind
echo -n "0000:00:03.0" | tee /sys/bus/pci/drivers/snd_hda_intel/unbind
sleep 1
;;
resume|thaw)
# Bind ehci for preventing error
echo -n "0000:00:1d.0" | tee /sys/bus/pci/drivers/ehci-pci/bind
# Bind snd_hda_intel for sound
echo -n "0000:00:1b.0" | tee /sys/bus/pci/drivers/snd_hda_intel/bind
echo -n "0000:00:03.0" | tee /sys/bus/pci/drivers/snd_hda_intel/bind
sleep 1
;;
esac
#################
sudo chmod +x /etc/pm/sleep.d/05_sound

2. rc.local editing

sudo gedit /etc/rc.local
#############################
echo EHCI > /proc/acpi/wakeup
echo HDEF > /proc/acpi/wakeup
echo XHCI > /proc/acpi/wakeup
echo LID0 > /proc/acpi/wakeup
echo TPAD > /proc/acpi/wakeup
echo TSCR > /proc/acpi/wakeup
echo 300 > /sys/class/backlight/intel_backlight/brightness
rfkill block bluetooth
/etc/init.d/bluetooth stop
##############################

IMPORTANT: make sure that your script ends with “exit 0” – no quotes. Do not remove this line!   3. grub editing

sudo gedit /etc/default/grub
######################################
GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash tpm_tis.force=1"
######################################

4. update grub

sudo update-grub
sudo update-grub2

IMPORTANT – for those with little to no programming/scripting experience: Hash marks (#) represent “commenting out” – anything following the hash mark on a line will be ignored. Be aware that the comment lines are not necessary, but should be included. Comments help you keep track of what changes you’ve made. This should work perfectly for 13.10, but if you find you have trouble, go back to the G+ post and read through some of the issues. For instance, I keep bluetooth shut off, and have never had the bluetooth issues described in the responses. For those of you using 14.04, the following response from Jimmy Capizzi should addresses additional issues found with suspend. Again, make sure to update grub after you are finished:   1. create sound suspend file in /systemd

sudo mkdir /usr/lib/systemd/system-sleep/
sudo gedit /usr/lib/systemd/system-sleep/cros-sound-suspend.sh
#####################################################
#/usr/lib/systemd/system-sleep/cros-sound-suspend.sh
#!/bin/bash
case $1/$2 in
pre/*)
# Unbind ehci for preventing error
echo -n "0000:00:1d.0" | tee /sys/bus/pci/drivers/ehci-pci/unbind
# Unbind snd_hda_intel for sound
echo -n "0000:00:1b.0" | tee /sys/bus/pci/drivers/snd_hda_intel/unbind
echo -n "0000:00:03.0" | tee /sys/bus/pci/drivers/snd_hda_intel/unbind
;;
post/*)
# unBind ehci for preventing error
echo -n "0000:00:1d.0" | tee /sys/bus/pci/drivers/ehci-pci/unbind
# bind snd_hda_intel for sound
echo -n "0000:00:1b.0" | tee /sys/bus/pci/drivers/snd_hda_intel/bind
echo -n "0000:00:03.0" | tee /sys/bus/pci/drivers/snd_hda_intel/bind
;;
esac
#####################################################

Save the gedit file, and you are done. Restart your Chromebook and test suspend. Hopefully, this is helpful to you. It’s a lot to take in and digest through various links, but my intent is only to help clarify for beginners. I welcome all feedback! I really hope this helps simplify your Xubuntu installation on your Chromebook. Good luck!

EDIT (2014-06-11) – I have made a few formatting corrections to the code. I did not realize that I was getting leading spaces on the lines until I copied and pasted code from this article to a new Kubuntu installation on the C720. Also added a line to the Mike Lim fix (last bit of scripting) to make the appropriate directory (see comments for this article). I can confirm that, as of the writing of this edit, suspend works properly using Kubuntu 14.04 and the now current kernel, if you follow these steps. The ChruBuntu installation will default to Kubuntu 12.04 LTS, but I “upgraded” to 14.04 to avoid compiling random kernels.

EDIT (2014-08-12) – I have added the “sleep 1” statements from the G+ post referenced in this article to the “05_sound” script as suggested in the comment made by Michael Conner. I was aware of this fix when I originally wrote this post, but did not see much positive feedback on G+ (and it appeared to be superseded by later fixes), so I left it out of the original script. I can confirm that there are no more wonky responses to sleep/suspend regarding sound after minimal testing. Thanks to Michael for checking in and testing on his own!

My first technology review – the Acer C720 Chromebook

The Acer C720, newly arrived at my domicile.
The Acer C720, newly arrived at my domicile.

First impressions.

Well packaged and clean – not overly packaged by any means – quick delivery from Amazon (3 days using Amazon Prime).

The box seemed much heavier than I expected it to be for just a Chromebook but, after opening the box, the additional weight was explained by the power brick.

Contents:

  • Acer C720 Chromebook (covered in microfiber sleeve)

  • power block and power cord

  • Quick start guide and guidebook

IMAG0613 - Acer C720 sm

Dead simple set-up. Power on, be astounded by start-up time and log in. Make sure you have the Chromebook plugged in to a wall outlet prior to starting. Even though the battery was at 100% on delivery, the C720 would not start without being plugged in.

First login was a minor test of patience, since the Chromebook was a bit slow to connect to my account and pick up my G+ account photo – have patience and wait for your photo to appear in the list of photos for your login.. Otherwise, extremely quick. My wife and I actually had comical faces of disbelief when we saw how quickly the C720 started from complete power-off.

The C720 has a clean and simple design. Nothing unfamiliar on cutting edge. There have been some complaints about the boring exterior but honestly, it’s a tool that doesn’t get in your way with a bunch of bells and whistles, and I appreciate that.

Bottom line? The C720 was so easy to set up, a 5 year-old could do it without trouble. Even Apple products are more complex to unbox and use for the very first time.

Build quality is good although the laptop seemed delicate to me, at first blush. I normally either carry iPads, Alienware laptops or Macbooks around, so I may be used to an extremely high build quality and a heavier overall design. However, there is very little flex when holding the C720 at angles and it feels lighter than our 4th gen iPad. Really, “featherlight” is not hyperbole for this notebook.

I have considered buying an LED light strip to attach to the Chromebook at night, since one of the primary reasons I got it was to use at night without disturbing my wife, but there is no backlight on the keyboard. For $250, I can search around for a janky solution that allows my wife to sleep and me to keep typing away.

The C720 did get hot enough for the fan to start running when I started using it on my lap. However, using it on a flat surface seems to have addressed the and it is cool to the touch, with just the ambient venting working to keep the intel chip cool. I would suggest keeping the vents on the underside of the C720 free from blockages. Use it on a lapdesk or hard surface, or be prepared for a bit of fan noise and heat.

Initially, I noticed some lag with a few tabs open and a flash game running in one tab. However, I have run a number of games since, with no noticeable lag. If you want to play games, probably a good idea to close all other tabs. Also, I believe that a number of background processes were taking over, since it was the first use of the Chromebook. After a month’s worth of use, I am nothing but impressed with the peppy performance of the C720.

Absolutely no operational noise, even while under load. When the fan kicked in, it was barely audible in a very quiet room. And from everything that I can see, you really have to put the processor under stress to get the fan to kick on or create any kind of noise.

Battery life is great, but not any more awesome than my wife’s Macbook Pro – it was definitely not 8 hours on the first use, and arrived fully charged. During my first session, I always had about 10 tabs open, a flash game running and Google Play Music running, and I was down to under 20% battery within about 5 hours. That’s actually very good in comparison to my 1 year old Alienware M14, whose battery would last roughly 3 hours under the same load.

When I was shopping for Chromebooks, I noticed that Plex was an app that was available for Chrome OS, but had no luck finding it in the Chrome Web Store prior to purchase. I was really pleased to see the Plex app was included under a special section of the Store, which only appears when you are using Chrome OS to navigate to the Chrome Store.

So you understand why I chose to get a Chromebook, and an Acer specifically, I will explain.

I have been seeking a better way to interact with the internet. I do almost all my news-gathering and reading via internet. I found that a touch interface was extremely frustrating for me to deal with if I wanted to type more than a few words. A tablet, even though the screen is larger than my phone, was even more uncomfortable to use for any kind of typing. So what did I think I needed? A light internet device with a reasonably small screen that was dead cheap. I don’t need to spend a bunch of $$ on yet another device. And I need a keyboard that is at least comfortable on which to type.

While the Microsoft Surface tablets have an add-on keyboard I have been disgusted by the Windows 8 interface, and the keyboards (unless you get an aftermarket full-size keyboard) are not much better than an on-screen keyboard. Ultrabooks? Too expensive and heavy. Macbook Air? Let’s not go there – I needed a tool, not a status symbol.

So I reviewed the Acer C720. If I was going to learn a new OS, why not one that was designed for the purposes I had in mind?

Much had been written about the “tinny” speakers included with this Chromebook, especially in comparison to the Chromebook 11 (HP). The speakers are really nothing to be amazed by, but output well for the music and movies I ran during my initial session with the C720. It is truly rare to find a laptop at any price point with really good speakers, and much less so with this price point. The speakers were certainly not bad and I felt no disappointment while using them.

Another key reviewer complaint was the “closed ecosystem.” Apple products basically boil down to the fact that everything I do MUST be Apple-oriented supported once I buy one of their devices. Breaking out of those restrictions is often extremely difficult or impossible. The reflexive argument may also be true with Google devices – with the C720 you may initially feel that you are restricted only to Google services, but it is a simple matter to have Ubuntu running in conjunction with the Chrome OS (which is a derivative of Linux anyway), switching between the two with just a few keystrokes. And Ubuntu opens me up to any regular desktop applications I may wish to use. I imagine that, as Chrome OS matures, there will be less need for even this type of simple work around, although I love messing with Ubuntu as a rule.

One thing you should be aware of is that the Chromebook’s simplicity can be an inconvenience as well. If you are like me, you rarely read manuals. I watched the few existing video reviews on the Acer C720, but none covered the actual use of the freebies that owning a Chromebook allows you. After a day a of use, I went into my Google Drive, only to find out that I had no increase in storage. Just logging into the C720 did not automatically give me access to the new services (Free GoGo, increased Google Drive storage, and two months of free Unlimited Google Play Music) My suggestion is to go straight to the “Get Started” app and review your options.

The entire contents of a delivered Acer C720
The entire contents of a delivered Acer C720

So let’s get down to the meat of the issue and address some of the pros and cons of this Chromebook.

Performance. From everything I can see the C720 is super-fast. Not new, out-of-the-box Windows 7 performance laptop fast. It’s actually faster than that. The C720 (as I have heard is true of all Chromebooks) starts up in less than 7 seconds. That is from the point you press the power button to the time you can login. And, in all honesty, I was stunned by how quickly the C720 starts up. The Haswell processor, 16 GB SSD and 4 GB of RAM work stunningly together with Chrome OS to give a truly flawless user experience. For those of you holding off on getting a Chromebook because you heard that early (or even existing models) were slow, you can rest easy. The C720 is always very fast – faster than my Alienware when browsing with Chrome.

Now, that is largely because there are practically no large background processes checking and rechecking the condition of the hardware and the OS prior to usability stage. This does not mean the a Chromebook is just a browser, or that you absolutely need the internet to work. Many apps, including browser-based apps can work fine by caching your information in the admittedly tiny hard drive and then syncing that work when you regain an internet connection. Be aware that Chrome OS does NOT support Java, so if you use Java a lot, you may not want to get a Chromebook.

Design. I love tech reporters that try to make something of nothing. When Lenovo continues to make severe black rectangles called laptops, they are praised for their adherence to traditional design. Acer? They get compared to a bubblegum Chromebook 11 by HP, which looks more like a child’s toy than a notebook. I like the svelte slate design of the C720. I equate HP’s attention-grabbing Chromebook 11 design to driving a jacked up, loud 4×4 or a cherry-red Ferrari. Someone’s compensating for something. I don’t need to make a fashion statement with the looks of my Chromebook. I just need to get my reading, writing and research done. And the C720 does that beautifully well.

Practicality. I have been using an Android smartphone for years now, and Google has slowly permeated my digital life. So, I store things on Google Drive instead of the C720 hard drive? No problem. Google + is my repository for photos? Ok. No way to use anything but Google services or web interfaces? That’ll take some getting used to. Chrome OS needs more apps and access to more games or streaming game services would go a long way. But, in all honesty, I am 90% satisfied with the current use cases the C720 does provide.

At home, I have a file/media server and it was strange to not have network share access directly through a network-dedicated interface. I actually had to use my server’s web interface to grab files from a shared folder. When every operating system I have used has some sort of file manager, using a web interface for file management felt a little strange. However, it was no less effective. Perhaps Google will improve this in some way, but I doubt it. Google’s play here is obviously to get you further tied into their internet services and I don’t think they could care less about your home designed cloud services.

The C720 has the best hardware in a bargain-basement Chromebook, hands-down. The Haswell processor, although a Celeron, has more than enough oomph for the tasks at hand. Flawless YouTube playback. Flawless Plex playback at 720p (1080 would be a waste on this screen), and tabs and apps snap open and closed, even after days of continuous use. As of the time of this writing, I have not yet shut down the C720 after two days of use and there is no lag or odd behavior. Try that with a new price-conscious Windows notebook or the lowest-end Macbook you can buy, and you won’t have the same experience.

The battery life is decent, but I would have to wait a few more weeks to really feel like I have a base understanding of how well it performs. I certainly think that battery life will not be a concern with the C720, but I am not sure I can really verify 7-8 hour operational times right now. Update – battery life is great until you start using browser windows with Flash or high refresh rates. If I avoided Flash, I would easily get more than 8 hours of use. Let’s just say that you will have no trouble using this notebook unplugged throughout an average day.

One interesting thing that has surprised me is the relative good build quality, considering the materials used. I can tell you that I have previously not had a good experience with Acer and consider them to be on par with the lowest levels of computer hardware retailers. I was somewhat nervous about getting the C720, and would not have bothered if other tech news outlets had not been universally positive regarding this model. It is as solid as you can expect a $250 notebook to be. And, as of this writing, I understand that the C720’s stiffest competition, the HP Chromebook 11, is actually being pulled from the shelves in Best Buy (just before the holiday shopping season) and being removed from Amazon’s listings due to issues with the charger.

The C720 is stiff and there is little to no flex when open or closed. The display is crisp and reasonably bright. It is no IPS display but, really, that would be overkill for a device like this until the technology is a little more commonplace (read, “cheaper”). The keyboard is surprisingly responsive and functional, and for someone like me who is a ham-handed typist, it is really comfortable. I have always been unhappy with chiclet keyboards, but this one works wonderfully. Although the USB 3.0 port has not yet been used, I appreciate having a fast i/o port in the case that I want to carry around a bunch of 1080p movies in my travels.

The bad. I think that, for many people, the C720 would be an ideal internet gateway. If all you really need to do is email, web surfing, light photo editing, light video composing and some light writing, this Chromebook is for you. However, if you want to get some work done via office suite, I think you will be very frustrated. Unlike Libre Office, Google Docs is really not ready for prime time. It literally took me a half an hour to learn how to convert an existing Libre Office spreadsheet file to Google Calc and then convert the resulting document to .xlxs format and .pdf. There is also a very limited library of apps/software available to use on Chrome OS, so you have to be prepared for that. It stuns me that Chrome OS has not really reached a true level of interoperability with other common office products in the time since its launch. There have been great improvements, no doubt. But these improvements seem to be going slowly. Especially considering Google is the driving force behind the OS.

Overall, the Acer C720 Chromebook is a fantastic little machine. It is light, functional, and has pretty comprehensive utility with a few caveats noted above. In the current field of players, I would suggest that unless you are a serious game player or need a supremely powerful PC/Mac for specific reasons, this is the device you should be getting for portability, dependability and ease of use. This would be a great gift for the holidays, to boot.

The Acer C720, up and running.
The Acer C720, up and running.
Processor:
Graphics:
Operating System:
Display:
Storage:
Memory:
Camera:
Sound:
Communications:
Ports:Battery:
Weight:
Dimensions:
Software Extras:

Price:

Intel Celeron 2955U (1.40GHz, dual core)
Intel HD (Haswell) graphics
Chrome OS
11.6 inches (1366×768), 16:9
16GB
4GB DDR3 RAM
Front-facing webcam
Stereo speakers
Dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0
Full-size HDMI
USB 3.0, USB 2.0
SD card slot
3.5mm headphone/mic jack
36Wh, est. 8.5 hours of use
2.76 lbs
0.75 inches thick
100GB Google Drive cloud storage
30-day free trial Google Play Music All Access
$249 currently on Amazon, $199 for 2GB of RAM