June 11, 2016

Thoughts on HP Chromebook 13 G1

When I first heard about HP Chromebook 13 G1, I immediately wanted one. For three reasons: (i) 3200×1800 screen, (ii) USB type C charging, and (iii) the looks. As soon as it became available, I bought the 8GB RAM variant with the Core m5 processor. I have been using it for a few days now; this post is to record my thoughts on this laptop’s hardware.

Things I like
  • This is the first hardware device ever that made me like it for its build quality. I really like the metal build of the machine and its strong screen hinge.
  • USB type C charging. Of course! It’s one of the reasons I even bought this laptop.
  • Keyboard is really nice to type on. Has good tactile feedback. Way better than the 2015 Toshiba Chromebook 2 I was using before.
  • Touchpad is smooth. I can actually use this touchpad for an extended period of time without my fingertips asking me to stop.
  • Some reviewers are not fond of the B&O speakers that come with this laptop, but I like it. (But then, my reference points are Toshiba Chromebook 2 and ThinkPad P50. Coming from these laptops, I would like pretty much anything.) From what I see, this Chromebook 13’s speakers are on par with the speakers of Nexus 9.
  • There’s an LED that shows status when the laptop is sleeping, charging, etc.
    LED glows red when the laptop is charging
Things I neither like nor dislike
  • Although the screen is impressive on paper, it doesn’t live up to the expectations in reality. I believe it’s the same panel that was in Lenovo’s Yoga 2 Pro. I can see pixels on this screen just as I could on the Yoga 2’s screen. Yellow rendered by this screen is the same dull yellow like on the Yoga 2 Pro (expand the “spoiler” to see the colour difference). When I am not actively looking for pixels or colour accuracy, this screen is nice; I can live with this. 
Things I am not a big fan of
  • There’s exactly one USB Type A port. I need to always have a security key inserted into a USB Type A port, so I have zero usable Type A port. I don’t often plug things into my Chromebook but it’d still be nice to have a free port.
  • MicroSD card reader. The only place where I use an SD card is on my digital camera, and it’s a full-size SD card. So this MicroSD card reader is essentially useless to me.
Comparable devices
Anyone considering the m5 variant (with 8GB RAM) or a more expensive option should also look into the base model Chromebook Pixel 2. For less than $200 more, you get a better screen, more USB ports, Type C ports on both sides for easy charging, and more Google Drive storage quota. The HP has an edge over the Pixel in its fanless design and being lighter and thinner. It’s a choice you’ll have to make for yourself. (I am still torn, and I honestly can’t choose between the two.)

November 22, 2015

Travel jitters

In 2010, I visited Leh, Ladahk and saw the Himalayas for the first time1 in my life. Planning for the trip was a lot of work, but I was so excited it didn’t feel like work. After I had returned, a friend of mine commented that it takes courage to wish a wish and make it happen. Back then I thought no one needs courage for something trivial like travelling.

I have been travelling fairly frequently for over 8 years now. Even now, every trip is a bit daunting. I sometimes even consider cancelling the trip. But every single time, the trip ends up being a great experience, irrespective of whether we have already been to the place several times, or if it’s a totally new place.2

Next week we are off to Salt Lake City for Thanksgiving. As usual I feel a little uncomfortable about the trip. It’s going to be cold in Utah; it might even snow. For the first time we are taking a train which provides food; I am not sure how good the food will be. Like every trip ever, the cost seems to run a bit more than what I’d like. I am a little nervous although deep down I know the trip will be a fulfilling experience in the end.

Maybe that friend of mine was right all along. Even simple things like travel takes courage.

1 and the only time so far, although I want to go there again some day.
2 I am often inflexible when friends ask me to reschedule my trips so they can come along. My usual response is “I’ll go alone this time; let’s make a new plan for all of us together.” Often we don’t make a new plan because they often can’t find the right time to travel. It’s always easy to say No, but finding reasons to say Yes makes our days a bit brighter.

November 04, 2015

Apps lurking on a phone

I noticed that my Nexus 6P had Project Fi app was installed on my phone by default. It was disabled, but it was there. Once I put the Fi SIM card in, it automatically activated itself and prepared my phone to register with Fi’s network.

It’s sure better than asking users to install the app separately. But I am not sure how I feel about random apps lurking in the phone and auto-activating without my knowledge.

November 03, 2015

A few months ago, I dropped my 2014 Moto X and ended up with a shattered screen. While the phone was out for repair, I used a Galaxy Nexus for a few days. Typing on the smaller screen was so painful I realised I couldn’t go back to a smaller phone.

When I was in India a couple months ago, my brother bought a Moto X Play. The Play has a 5.5-inch screen. When I was in India, I used that phone once in a while, and the size didn’t seem all that unmanageable. Actually, it didn’t feel much larger than the 5.2-inch Moto X I was using.

In the context of both of these experiences, I decided getting a Nexus 6P will not be such a bad idea. And I received my 6P today.

Nexus 6P in box

My initial impressions after having the phone for about 5 hours:
  • I’m already missing Moto X’s Active Display feature. (It’s a shame new Moto X uses an LCD display. Active Display with the whole screen lighting up is much less nifty.)
  • I was thinking that the official case sold by Google would inhibit the use of NFC. But it looks like it really may not. I only wish they offered the case in more colours. Both the black and grey are boring colours.
  • As expected, the phone doesn’t feel too big on the hand. But the real test is when I put it in my pant pocket and ride a bicycle. I’ll know it in a few days. Good so far, though.
  • Setting up the phone was super-easy with the new ‘Set up nearby device’ option. It copied over all my apps and almost all settings. Installing all the apps took about an hour or so, but I didn’t have to hunt for apps, so it’s a win.
  • Moving WhatsApp messages to the new phone was a pain. I copied over WhatsApp’s entire folder and still WhatsApp only restored messages till last week. Messages from the past few days are just gone.
  • Fingerprint reader is nice, but I do find the placement a bit hard to use. Hopefully I’ll get used to it in a few days.

In short, nothing spectacular, and also nothing terrible. Let’s see how this goes!

July 20, 2015

My first fall off a bicycle in years

I take Stevens Creek Trail while cycling to work. Taking the trail is safer and easier than riding on the roads because motorcycles and cars are not allowed on the trail. But there’s one part where the trail is significantly less safe: when getting off of it near Google office. The trail is elevated and is about 10 feet above the ground around it. To get off the trail, I have to climb down this steep, irregular descent.
Usually this is fine; I am used to rough trails like this from my childhood. But today was different. I waited about 15 seconds at the top yielding to another cyclist on the ground. By this time, there was another cyclist behind me, waiting for me to move. I became nervous about blocking someone else’s way. As soon as the cyclist on the ground was out of my way, I hurried down the descent and ended up falling off.

This is my first fall in California. I’m a bit embarrassed because I know how to take this descent correctly. Should be more careful in the future. :)