Monday, May 27, 2013

Trouble with Chrome

When I started this blog, I bought a Samsung Chromebook and have done a lot of my writing in coffee shops and hotel rooms using it. The hardware is very nice (except for the missing DELETE key) but the software has been somewhat disappointing.

I've been doing most of my writing in Google Drive and then copy-pasting into Blogger to post it. This has been less than ideal because I can't find a way to get diagrams and equations to go over. I've tried embedding with HTML, but that hasn't worked out well either.

In any case, I've been making-do because this Chromebook is so nice that I was willing to put up with problems, but then one day a couple of weeks ago I spent five hours writing a post in Google Drive off-line because the coffee shop I was in didn't have a reliable internet. When I went on-line and opened the document, I got a blank page and a message --something to the effect that "your update could not be saved and you should copy-and-past to save it".

What this obscure error message seems to actually mean is "your document is just gone and you are screwed". I looked at revision history and it showed two revisions --both blank. I tried clicking on the page and using undo --nothing. It looks like Google drive just got confused and lost my 5 hours of work.

To add insult to injury, I reported the problem and Google never got back to me. When a company that wants to be your on-line data storage solution can't even send you an email when you report a bug in their software that lost some of your data, it's kind of scary. I don't know if my bug just fell through the cracks or if Google corporate policy just doesn't place a high priority on the integrity of user data, but I suspect it's the latter.

Well, it's not like I paid them for the service and I can't really complain too much that I got what I paid for, but this has left me unwilling to trust Google Drive with my future work. Five hours may not sound like all that much, but that was five hours of my free time when I could have been saving the world from the Zerg or doing something else productive and, frankly, it discouraged me from more writing.

 So I've been researching for an alternative way to use my Chromebook rather than going through Google Drive. I haven't found anything very promising and at this point, I'm thinking of abandoning the Chromebook for another platform that gives me more reliable data storage.

One thing I should clarify is that this was probably a bug in the off-line feature of Google Drive so if I didn't have to work off-line it wouldn't be an issue. But what else is the point of a cheap, small, lightweight computer? Being small and light makes it easy to transport, and being cheap makes it less of a problem if you lose or damage it while traveling. The purpose of these computers is to use them in hotels, coffee shops and other places where internet service is often unreliable or missing.

That's the point of these computers, so I don't understand why Google seems to view off-line mode as an unimportant side feature. Off-line mode and fast, reliable synchronization to the internet over slow, unreliable connections should be one of the primary features of the Chrome infrastructure.

Oh, well. I guess I've just found my next project --an editor that runs on Chromebooks and does sync right.


  1. Did you try hooking a flash drive to the USB port and see if you can save to it in offline mode?

  2. Unfortunately, the Google Drive word processor doesn't let have a "Save" menu item and I don't think there is any way to save the docs locally other than by using their offline mode.