My son has been asking me for a Chromebook for school, as apparently they run a lot of Google-related products in the classroom. I have some old laptops in the house and didn’t know if he could do anything with them instead. What do you think?
I consider myself pretty thrifty too. I have a long list of yard-sale conquests to support that comment. My parents once told me I decorated my house in the style of “early American yard sale.” On that thrifty note, I am constantly trying to help people figure out how to use old technology to save money if it’s at all possible. A while back I stumbled across something that might be a perfect fit for you and/or anyone looking for the least expensive way to have a Chromebook alternative, using computer equipment you may have kicking around the house.
With Google having such a strong foothold in the school systems, Chromebooks, which are laptops (there is a desktop version too, called a Chromebox) that primarily run Chrome, Google’s Internet browser. The host of applications that are most popular are the Word Processor (Docs), Spreadsheets (Sheets), Slideshows (Presentations), Classroom (kind of a virtual classroom for assigning and distributing papers and other assignments), and the ever-popular Calendar application. The school world has fast become virtualized with regards to its workload. I hate to be “that guy,” but I am a geek and this is a tech article, so here it is — most kids fifth grade and up (if not earlier) need a computer for schoolwork. They don’t need a flashy thousand-dollar gaming setup, or the newest high-powered laptop, necessarily. They want tablets and phones, maybe these computers as well, but in my house those are clearly wants, not needs.
The need can be filled most simplistically by using an older laptop and a free product from a company called Neverware called “Cloudready.”
Cloudready is a version of the Chrome operating system that can be installed on a computer, potentially even that old one you have in your basement that you were too nervous to throw out, thinking your identity would be stolen from someone finding that computer. If you don’t want to go through installing a new operating system on a computer, Neverware has a program that automatically creates a bootable flash drive that runs Cloudready. Wait — what’s a bootable flash drive, anyway? It’s a flash drive (some call it a thumb drive) that can run its own operating system on your computer. You might have to tell the computer to boot from that drive instead of its own hard drive, but just look for something that says “boot menu” in the lower right part of the screen when you start your computer and select the flash drive.
I went through the process of making the bootable flash drive and had it created in about 20 minutes (most of it was automatic, and all I had to do was click OK a few times). I started the computer, had it load Cloudready, and was duly impressed at how it had turned this old junker of a laptop into a functional Chromebook alternative.
There are Education and Enterprise edition versions of Cloudready, available for a fee ($15 to $50 per year) but your email to me made the perfect case for their Home edition, which is free.
Hopefully this information helps save you some money, which over the next five weeks I would recommend spending on a Derby registration, some new line for the old fishing rod, and a couple of lures. Sorry, I am unable to write this time of year without mentioning the Derby at least once!
Hope this information about Cloudready comes in handy. At the very least you can likely test it out without having to buy anything new by utilizing some tech hardware you already have at home.
Thanks again for writing in, Thrifty, hope I can help again in the near future.
Adam Darack is the IT administrator for the town of Edgartown. He writes regularly about the technological issues facing Island business owners. Got a question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Dear Geek.”