Gadgets and Distractions

When I started this blog, I set out with the intention of building a space to reflect on issues that are important to me, the community I live in, and the students I work with. My hope was also that this might eventually become a jumping-off point for discussions on these and other issues with folks who choose to drop in and bear with me as I develop my thoughts. To that end, I also wish to use this as a space for sharing about topics, trends, or events that I'm excited about or interested in. This time, I want to highlight a few things I'm excited about in the realm of technology. 

Chromebooks

A few weeks ago, just before I started this website and blog, I ordered a replacement for the MacBook that I had been using since 2007. It had served me well through my time at Michigan State and Florida State, but no longer had any battery life to speak of, ran extremely hot, and struggled with multi-tasking in Chrome (i.e., keeping 10-12 tabs open while streaming video on YouTube, which is pretty standard for me). 

After reading and watching more reviews than I care to recall, I settled on the Acer C720-3404. It didn't have the greatest screen reviews, nor did it have a touch screen (that doesn't matter that much for Chromebooks - yet), but it did have one of the best processors and 4GB of RAM out there in Chromebook Land and was thus highly rated for the sort of multi-tasking I'm prone to. 

This also meant that I've been pretty well set up for running Linux (Gnome Ubuntu) - an operating system that I had first set up and run on my MacBook. On my Mac, that meant dual-booting; deciding when I turned my computer on if I was going to be running Mac OSX or Linux. Because Chromebooks run on the Chrome Operating System, which was developed using a version of Linux, this is no longer necessary. Instead, I can run Linux - the full desktop version that I was running on my MacBook - within a Chrome browser window. This requires a few tweaks and steps, starting with booting in Developer mode, but there are a million and one tutorials out there that take you through it step by step. 

Cloud Magic

When I got my Chromebook in the mail, one of the first things I wanted to do was to make sure as many apps as possible were set up to work offline. You can set many Google apps, like Drive and Gmail, to work offline, but I simply didn't like the aesthetics of Gmail Offline. Instead, I started using an app called Cloud Magic. With Cloud Magic, I still have the option of working offline, but I can do so with all of my email accounts more easily. You can of course link email accounts with Gmail and keep inboxes separate (I have with college email accounts for as long as I've had them), but Cloud Magic just looks better while doing it. I've since started running the app on my phone as well, where email access is similarly streamlined and easy to use.

 

 

As you can see in this screenshot, everything is nicely color-coordinated and clean. For me, definitely an upgrade from Gmail's app. 

Code Academy 

Lastly, I wanted to plug a website that was recommended by a web developer friend for learning more about coding and web/app design. So far, I've been using it to learn about HTML and CSS. Next up is PHP, then JavaScript or Python. 

The tutorials are really straightforward and provide a lot of opportunities to test the skills you're working on. As you can see in the screenshot, you get your instructions, work space, and a real-time preview of the results all on the same screen as you're working through each lesson. 

I've certainly got enough to keep me occupied when the summer begins.