Chromebook the fourth

Two years ago, I bought my mother her third Chromebook. The 2012 and 2014 ones were good choices. The 2019 was when I learned about the secret Chromebook end of life policy and inadvertently bought a Chromebook that expired in only two years. So here we are again.

I went the Best Buy like the last three times. This time I chose to use Best Buy online so I could easily return it if it didn’t work. However, i did not go to the store to buy it. Instead, I started by looking at the expiration dates.

Selecting a model

I started by making a list of all the Chromebooks that expire in 2028 or 2029. Then I looked at screensize, CPU, hard drive and connectors. I also confirmed there was a security slot for my mother’s existing Kensington lock.

Comparing the stats from 2 years ago

Last time I got my mother a laptop with good speakers for music. This time, the speakers aren’t as good so I got her external speakers. This laptop cost twice as much as last time. However, I didn’t know I was getting such a good deal last time because the machine was due to expire.

Acer (2019)Acer (2021)
Screen size15.6″14″
CPUIntel 1.6 GHzIntel 2.6 GHz
Hard Drive16GB54GB
USB2 USB 3.02 USB 3.0 + 2 USB C
HDMIYesNo. Bought USB C to display port adapter
Weight4.41 lbs3.42 lbs
Headphone jackYesYes
Battery life12 hours10 hours

Setting up the Chromebook

  • I got started and connected to my home wiki.
  • Signed in as both my mother and myself. Also uploaded a profile photo for me that she likes better than my gmail one.
  • Confirmed the wallpaper was solid light blue
  • Made a recovery disk. I installed the ChromeBoook recovery utility on my Chrome browser on Mac to do so.
  • Accepted Google Play/Google Drive since I want to use an app. I did not enable location services.
  • Tested the all four USB ports headphones and that a Kensington security lock works
  • On settings
    • disabled Bluetooth
    • disabled sync for passwords/addresses/google pay
    • changed time zone to Pacific
    • turned off check if have payment methods saved
    • on site settings, set microphone and camera to ask before recommended
  • Installed Keep Awake browser extension
  • Covered camera
  • Finally, I deleted a bunch of apps. This time I did it from the Chrome OS settings so I didn’t need to right click. I left amazon music, chrome, files, gmail, play store and web store. I also plan to install Zoom but waiting to do that together so my mother can learn how to install an app

the secret chromebook end of life policy

My mother is a happy Chromebook user. I’m a less than a happy Chromebook purchaser at the moment. Why you ask? Here’s my history

  • 2012 – first laptop. This was a second generation model (the first ever Chromebooks were in 2011. I waited a year to see if they would have legs. It end of life’d for security updates earlier this year (or 2018; I forget). Not bad.
  • 2014 – The first Chromebooks with built in 4G were released. I thought this would be good as she’d have 4G. It was. At first. Then we realized you have to be on wifi to get updates so I gave her an AT&T wifi hotspot instead. This computer hit end of life for updates this year. Luckily, it happened after the computer was in my possession and not hers. She wanted to replace it because computers age. No problem. Five years is a good amount of time for an inexpensive device.
  • 2019 – I picked the Acer Chromebook 15 (CB3-532). It end of life’s in August 2021. That means we only have two years before that machine can no longer get updates.
  • 2021 – I get to involuntary bug a new Chromebook.

I learned today that Google has an automatic end of life policy. It says you can’t get updates after 6.5 years from when the hardware is first released. So I only get two years of updates because the model of computer has existed for four years. I didn’t know this when I bought the machine. If I did, I would have sat there looking up the end of life dates for every model at Best Buy.

Granted the computer only costs $240. But there is a cost to setting up a new computer when you don’t live near it. One that I’d like to minimize.

Oh and the reason I was looking at the in the first place? Amazon Music is no longer working properly. I can’t tell yet if it is the war Amazon and Google are having or something more mundane.

creating a chromebook recovery disk

In the past, I have used the Chromebook utility to create a recovery image USB. This time, it hung at 0% on writing to disk. I tried with two different USBs. Then I started searching for a workaround

A reddit post led me in the right direction. This URL downloads a conf file with the direct URLs to download the image for each Chromebook. I searched the file for my model (Acer Chromebook 15 (CB3-531)) and downloaded the zip file. It was about the size of a CD (655MB)

Then I chose the gear and the local image option. I picked the file. It still wouldn’t load. I wound up just copying the zip (and the unzipped cpgz) to the USB. (still under 3GB). That way I have it in case it is needed. My mother would have to bring the ChromeBook to best buy anyway so they can make the recovery disk if needed. We’ve never needed it so I don’t expect to!

I’m now wondering why it needs a 8GB disk when the image is far smaller. i also note that in 2012, it said you needed an 8GB disk and i used a 4GB one. So inflation?