A few weeks ago I played with this machine and was quite impressed with it. Seems like a great ‘model’ for a Chromebook.
I have made two new Googly purchases recently. The HP Chromebook 11 and the Nexus 5.
Nexus 5 thoughts soon, but after a few weeks with this Chromebook, I have found that this has effectively replaced my tablet and a surprisingly, many things I do on my Macbook Pro Retina 15”. One of the reasons I wanted to try it out was that I found I often wanted to chat or write a quick email or do some basic keyboard-level content input with the tablet, but didn’t want to pull out a full-fledged computer. This got me interested in the announcements for the Chromebook and the new Microsoft Surface (or potentially a new Macbook Air 11”? That would be very tempting). So for me, while the Chromebook is more of a notebook than it is a tablet, I find that I use it more like a tablet: to quickly look up and input content.
Pros in my experience:
- Surprisingly, this is currently my most used device. My Macbook Pro Retina 15” is now used almost solely for larger, visually-intensive projects like creating a presentation or poster. And my tablets have become fancy remote controls lately.
- Super inexpensive
- Incredibly handy: can fit a tiny netbook/tablet bag
- Great for content input vs. a tablet
- Micro USB charging very handy: don’t have to carry two chargers
- Display is really good (this is what got me interested in the first place): very nice contrast and viewing angles (even when compared to the Macbook Air)
- Font size scaling in Chrome is nice: iPad + keyboard, for example, doesn’t scale fonts well, so it’s hard to use when placed at a distance: i.e. towards your lap or knee vs. held up near your face. Chrome on a Macbook Air can scale fonts, but that’ll run you about $1,000: and you’ll have a less appealing display at the moment.
- Very light: can easily hold it in one hand
- Nice to use for coding via SSH
- Can be laggy/frame-droppy at times: especially when compared to a Chromebook Pixel, Mac or Google/Apple tablet experience. For a similar price, I believe the Asus and Samsung models may be faster, but the displays aren’t as appealing.
- Native apps like Hangouts or Keep don’t appear to support font size adjustment. I just use the browser instead.
- If you were to use this for presentations, I’m not sure how you would give one.
- Low battery life.
For the price, those are the only cons I can think of after weeks of use. This Chromebook may not have been targeted to a geek like me who already has much more powerful, beautiful machines, but it certainly has won me over. Things I’d like to see in the next iteration of entry-level Chromebooks by Google:
- Smoother. Please make this a smoother, more responsive laptop! Maybe the Asus or Samsung models are smoother, but I really liked the display on this one. I think many would pay the premium for this. One of the things I like about Apple products is that no matter what ‘line’ you get from them, you typically don’t experience any major lag in performance for basic tasks, and I think this is a good standard for Google devices.
- Ramp up native Chrome apps to be more like a nice tablet experience. For example, make a native Youtube or Gmail App that immerses you in.
- Maybe a touchscreen like a lot of Windows models are going with (or the new Acer C720P!)?
I personally used their services about a year ago, mostly interested in ancestry. Honestly, I wasn’t too interested in their disease associations (though I believe this will become more and more useful as we sequence more individuals and develop better computational/statistical methods to analyze the data). In the scientific community, genetic associations with diseases are still, for good reason, met with skepticism (see, for example, this recent article). This skepticism has worked its way up to politicians, resulting in various efforts to regulate laboratory developed tests. I believe genetic testing and screening has a lot of potential and am excited that so many efforts exist to provide individuals with these kind of services, but as many scientists would probably agree, we are just beginning to understand how complex traits and diseases are associated with genetic variations across individuals.
23andMe recently received a letter from the FDA to “immediately discontinue marketing the PGS [Personal Genome Service] until such time as it receives FDA marketing authorization for the device”.
What surprised me when reading the letter was this statement:
Some of the uses for which PGS is intended are particularly concerning, such as assessments for BRCA-related genetic risk and drug responses (e.g., warfarin sensitivity, clopidogrel response, and 5-fluorouracil toxicity) because of the potential health consequences that could result from false positive or false negative assessments for high-risk indications such as these. For instance, if the BRCA-related risk assessment for breast or ovarian cancer reports a false positive, it could lead a patient to undergo prophylactic surgery, chemoprevention, intensive screening, or other morbidity-inducing actions, while a false negative could result in a failure to recognize an actual risk that may exist.
Perhaps because I have training in computational biology, I always assumed this information is meant to be more like a ‘hint’ or ‘suggestion’ that you might want to investigate a medical issue further with a physician who can conduct specialized follow-up tests and recommend further courses of action. For instance, I have a minor version of Beta-thalassemia that apparently doesn’t require medication or affect my daily activities. 23andMe correctly identified that I have this trait. This disorder can be discovered via blood testing by a physician, so if I didn’t already have these tests, my 23andMe report may have alerted me to investigate this further. I think this is useful information.
My 23andMe page also displays this disclaimer:
The genotyping services of 23andMe are performed in LabCorp’s CLIA-certified laboratory. The tests have not been cleared or approved by the FDA but have been analytically validated according to CLIA standards. The information on this page is intended for research and educational purposes only, and is not for diagnostic use.
I do think that it could be made more prominent perhaps with a clause that states that some of these associations are in a stage of ‘early research’, but I am writing this post more to pose a general question to anyone that has some insight into the legal aspects of this recently newsworthy topic: why isn’t the disclaimer above (or a better one) good enough for the FDA? Certainly, I understand that the general public doesn’t have the same knowledge I do about genetic tests, but given a disclaimer like this, why can’t 23andMe sell me their services and let me make follow-up decisions?
Some FDA links that are relevant:
In an earlier post, I mentioned that, to me, one of the main benefits of tech is to “to inspire users to create and share ideas and enhance the overall experience of learning and growing as human beings”. This is the first of hopefully a number of posts providing suggestions/examples of how we could do that (as opposed to play with the latest toys/features of software and hardware or browse social network streams until we drop).
One of the most essential needs for humans is the good company of family and friends. While we all also need isolation and time for reflection, the need for spending quality time with family and friends will never go away, and I have found that just being around this kind of company makes me happier and more productive.
Experiencing family and friends in person is great, but because of job opportunities or travel we are often forced to communicate remotely. What I have found is that this kind of communication is mostly ‘active’ with the exception of chat which is usually very passive. The problem with ‘active’ communication (e.g. phone or video chat) is that a constant stream of attention is required. I think this is what leads people to say “I’m not really a phone person”, for instance: the desire to avoid awkward pauses or moments when there’s not much content when the medium of communication sort of ‘demands’ a more active form of communication.
But when we are ‘hanging out’ with our family and friends in person, such an active form of communication is not expected of us. For example, when you are at home with the family it’s perfectly natural for different members of the family to be reading, doing homework, etc. with the occasional interruption to share a thought or to eat. I believe that it is exactly this more relaxed form of communication that creates an atmosphere of comfort and openness to share ideas and fun experiences.
There’s no reason that we can’t use phone and video chat to experience a more passive, potentially more inspiring form of communication. One of the best experiences I had shortly after graduating college was sharing a video chat while watching Arrested Development episodes with a friend remotely. We didn’t just watch the show. We spoke as if we were in the same room together and it was so fun that I still remember it fondly many years later.
It’s a little odd: you have to get all parties to agree to leave their video/audio chat open while you cook/share a meal for example. It’s not the norm, but I think doing more of this passive communication with family and friends would be a great use of tech that already exists: especially since we don’t have to pay by the minute anymore!
First, this blog has been revived! The last post before the Nexus 7 Experience was a long time ago. Since then, I have become a Ph.D candidate, transferred from University of Maryland to Carnegie Mellon, and made a web page summarizing some of the work at my recently re-acquired domain. At first I was thinking of moving my blog over to Weebly which is what I used to host the web page. (I decided not to hand-code my web page this time and it was so much faster to get the design I wanted.) I decided to stick with WordPress because I think they do a really good job of distributing posts to a larger audience and I have had a number of useful interactions on their platform.
To inaugurate this second coming, I wanted to mention something more philosophical that has been on my mind lately, and that’s the role of tech and gadgets in our lives. I occasionally post on various social media effusing my excitement on new gadgets or technologies. Are these just my toys? Short answer: YES! I enjoy playing with new tech toys. This being said, I believe it’s important to emphasize a “think first” approach to new technologies. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter are great: and new devices can make it that much easier to access all the new news feeds and information. But these feeds can also be thoughtless diversions from valuable human experiences: sharing a great conversation with someone, helping others out, and as someone I know pointed out recently on a private G+ conversation: even doing basic chores like vacuuming (this was in reference to an automatic iRobot cleaner)!
For me, the benefit of new technologies is to inspire users to create and share ideas and enhance the overall experience of learning and growing as human beings. Another benefit is to reduce needless suffering in the world (e.g. lack of shelter, hunger). I appreciate when big companies like Apple and Google focus on enhanced experiences as opposed to introducing just another new technology. For example, the recent Google Plus keynote hinted at this a little when Vic Gundotra gave the example of capturing a special moment with his children. I think we are just scraping the surface here. In the future, when I talk about my experiences with technologies and products, I will try to focus even more on the aspects I mentioned at the beginning of the paragraph.
This is an awesome tablet.
The Nexus 7 2012 was wildly popular. But I think this current Nexus 7 2013 model hits the sweet spot of size, performance, and cost.
I would recommend it to anyone interested in getting a tablet. This post also has a little hint of Nexus 7 2013 vs. Nexus 7 2012 vs. iPad vs. iPad Mini vs. phone :).
Some of my G+ posts related to the 7.
Smooth And Crisp
These are the two things that make the new generation worth it over the first. They may seem minor, but to me they enhance the experience enough to make a huge qualitative difference. The crispness obviously comes from the much-larger resolution (1920 x1200 vs. 1280×800). The smoothness may come from a variety of places: the difference in processing power, software improvements, or even the fact that there’s more RAM. Below is a short video (my first YouTube video!) that shows how the performance differs using the Google Earth application.
Form Factor Pros And Cons
Here’s a list of the mobile devices I have had over the past few years: iPhone (first generation), HTC One X (Cyanogenmod), iPad first-generation, iPad 4 and iPad mini (a few weeks of experimentation), Nexus 7 2012, and Nexus 7 2013. Obviously, the mobile device that you can take the most places will often get the most use. Phones are the easiest to carry around, so I always ended up using them more than my tablet. My iPad 1st gen was/is more of an entertainment/media consumption device than anything else.
Surprisingly, my N7 2013 is currently my most frequently used mobile device. I actually prefer to use my N7 over my phone due to the increased screen real estate. Emails, reading web pages, and watching videos in general is much more pleasant. I make phone calls with Groove IP or Talkatone. I even find myself occasionally using tethering on my phone to create a wireless access point for the N7 when in the passenger seat of a car. One of these times, I also had an iPad 4 with me, but the iPad was much more cumbersome to use in the cramped seating space. For example, I could easily hold the N7 in one hand and scroll with my thumb through web pages and books while holding a coffee in the other hand. When on vacation, I also found that the N7 was a nice device to have around: it can store travel guides and maps and is easy to carry around with other items without weighing your bag down. I liked that it often wasn’t the biggest or heaviest item in my bag. Fortunately, water was! The N7 is nice because the device is more of a complimentary accessory to your other items as opposed to be being a huge and important space-consuming gadget.
Even though the 7 inch screen size is sufficient in most cases, sometimes I find myself desiring the even larger screen real estate of the iPad or the Nexus 10. Although I do carry the N7 around a lot in my pocket. It’s not like a cell phone. You really feel the weight of it, and although it’s “pocketable”, it certainly doesn’t fit comfortably in my pocket. This being said, if I’m just walking around a short distance to get a coffee, it’s really nice to be able to put it in my pocket. This is something I couldn’t do really with the iPad mini. Finally, as a more minor point, I like the fit of the N7 2012 in my hand over that of the N7 2013. But the difference is negligible.
This section doesn’t necessarily apply just to the N7, but to a number of mobile devices.
First, although it seems minor, I really don’t like the micro USB jack. It’s asymmetric and I always find myself spending too much time connecting the device to charge. Apple really got this right. There’s more symmetry in how you can connect the charger. (And as a bonus, there’s even a nice sound that lets me know it’s charging without me having to look at it the screen. Although there may be apps to make this noise on an Android, I like that default behavior.)
One thing that has always bugged me about phones and tablets in general—and it is especially apparent with the new N7—is the fact that the power button, volume controls, and camera on the device inherently define a standard orientation to the device. However, I can flip it in any orientation I want on the software end of things. This causes the problem of me thinking I know where the power button or volume controls are but realizing that I’m actually turned 180 degrees from where I thought I was. One solution is to lock the screen, but then I can’t rotate it 90 degrees without unlocking it first. The solution I think here is to have the default behavior only allow two settings: portrait and landscape. They always keep the same orientation with respect to the physical buttons and cameras on the device, so the hardware-software mappings are always clear. I know it may seem odd and freedom-limiting, but I think it makes for a more consistent user experience.
The iPad mini takes the trophy here. The N7 back camera was something I was looking forward to a lot. The camera on my HTC One X is great, and I was hoping for a similar experience. The quality is decent, but I generally liked the iPad mini’s photo-taking experience much better. The pictures turned out much better and I’m not sure what combination of software and hardware this is due to. On the software end, I also think making the camera for a larger tablet behave the same as that of a phone is a little awkward. It might be more natural to use some of the screen real estate for controls and manipulation of the images after taking shots or videos. I say, if the device is that big, why not throw a really nice camera on it so the photo experience is actually upgraded, not trivially scaled-up.
Links To Nice Video Reviews
After hearing about it a lot, I have started using Scala recently and am finding it really fun and powerful to use. Scalala is a nice analog to numpy. The documentation needs to get better, but I think it’s coming along.
I just found a good introductory video by the creator of the language, and if you’re curious whether this is a language you’re interested in playing with, I think it is a good place to start: