Pixelbook "Go-ing" Cloud Native

Switching to a 2019 Pixelbook Go from a 2013 Macbook Pro.

March 21, 2020


Motivation

I’m now a firm believer in a web-application-based future, but I wasn’t always. This is my story of embracing the web.

Sometime in 2018, I made the jump from Sketch to Figma. For me, this was the moment I bought into the vision, with software streaming to our fingertips on-demand. How could a web-based drawing tool outperform its native, incumbent counterpart (looking at you, Sketch)? And the velocity with which they were shipping features was astounding.

After that, I started using Notion.so, another well-built web application. When started to cut down on social media usage, I deleted the Instagram and Twitter apps off my phone and resorted to only using the web versions.

Along the way, my late-2013 era Macbook Pro started experiencing critical failures. I started thinking, maybe, my next computer could be a Chromebook. When a deal came up on the base model Pixelbook Go, I thought “Why not?” and ordered it.

Preparation

I started preparing for my Apple ecosystem exodus before my Pixelbook arrived. I was already using Google Drive for backup, so that part would be easy. Web browsing, honestly, would be much harder—I was loath to give up Safari. However, I was committed to move to the cloud, and prepared to pay the price.

I moved all my bookmarks over and made sure the latest Google applications were installed on my phone. I also configured Chrome to use DuckDuckGo as my main search engine, and set up an alternate password manager. I also installed an extension that would redirect my new tab page to a custom Notion dashboard I created for tracking my daily checklist.

Keyboard

Device Setup

Setting up ChromeOS itself was effortless. Configuring Linux support and Android apps was more involved. The Pixelbook Go (m3) boots up instantly and after I signed in, I had access to all my files. Even Apple’s web-based services worked well enough (including the web Apple Music interface).

Here’s what I configured afterwards to get it to my liking:

  • Australian (natural) style scrolling to match macOS
  • Display settings
    • The 13” 1080p screen is definitely a step down from the 15” Retina Display I’m used to, I bumped up the resolution a bit.
  • Linux for Chromebook
    • Atom
    • GitHub Desktop
    • zsh as the default shell
    • My dotfiles repository

Here’s what I love about this machine so far:

  1. The keyboard is wonderfully soft. It is, by far, better than the butterfly keyboards. It’s honestly better than my older school scissor keyboard too.
  2. The touchscreen! It’s a great secondary way to navigate.
  3. Google Assistant is quick & accurate.

Here’s what I’m already missing:

  1. Three-finger drag (my absolute favorite)
  2. iMessage :(
  3. Expose gestures and hot-corners.
  4. AirPlay

Later, I installed a few more apps including Slack & Soundcloud. Last night, the web version of Soundcloud had some issues with smooth playback as I was multitasking. The app runs better. I also discovered that even when an Android app is closed, its process can still be running in the background.

Desktop

Conclusion

Despite being a well-polished machine overall, the Pixelbook Go is no Macintosh. ChromeOS lacks the polish of Mac OS X in its hey-day, and the fragmentation of web interfaces leaves much to be desired. Weeks later, I’m still relying heavily on the built in Android and Linux support to meet all my needs.

Going forward, I’m going to continue to push the boundaries of the web—I’d like to try using AWS Cloud 9 or AWS WorkSpaces to enable desktop-level computation when needed. I could also use a higher quality screen to be more productive on Figma. I’ll definitely be keeping this computer for a while, and I’m excited to see how ChromeOS evolves. I’d also love to start exploring WebAssembly and WebGL in some of my projects.

In the meantime, I’m already looking at you, Alexa, for boosting my productivity with voice-interface enhanced workflows 😃


Misc Notes

  • Linux container is reachable at penguin.linux.test:PORT
  • Access the Task Manager by pressing Search + Esc
  • Access all keyboard shortcuts by pressing Ctrl + Alt + / (forward slash).
  • Take a screenshot with Alt + F5 (window-switcher)

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