Over the years, I’ve found myself increasingly dependent upon Google. For example, I built this blog’s credit card database in Google Sheets. Without that, we’d barely have a blog. That database drives our Best Offers page, Best Category Bonuses, Best Rewards for Everyday Spend, Best Big Spend Bonuses, and so much more.
Of course, I use Google email (Gmail) and Google calendar to rule both my business and personal life. Even more, Google Maps is my everything. It tells me not just how to get from point A to point B, but also shows reviews, let’s me store locations that I want to visit, lets me search for things nearby, tells me how busy a place is, etc. What would I do without all of that? Beyond Google Maps, Google Flights has become my go-to site for travel. And I use Google Photos to store all of my digital photos. It’s an excellent free service which stores all of your pics in the cloud and allows you to search them for people or even key words.
Cutting the cord on Comcast and AT&T
More recently, for better or worse, my ties to Google have grown stronger. I switched my cell phone service from AT&T to Google Fi because Fi gives me high speed data internationally at no extra cost. And I partially cut the cord on Comcast. I switched to Comcast’s internet only service, and now use Google’s YouTube TV to provide the same TV channels that I had before.
Cutting the Microsoft cord
Now I’m in the process of cutting the cord on Microsoft Windows. I’m writing this post on a Chromebook laptop. Chromebook is Google’s lightweight operating system where basically everything runs in the Chrome browser. For the 40K to Far Away Challenge, I wanted something super light and with good battery life since I plan to carry everything in a backpack for the whole trip, and I won’t always have access to a power outlet. My primary Windows-based HP laptop is already very light: about 3 pounds with the charger, but its battery life is terrible. With a Chromebook, I found an inexpensive laptop that weights only 2 pounds with the charger: the ASUS Chromebook Flip C101PA (this is an affiliate link to the product, by the way). I really would prefer (and may buy in the future) Google’s latest Pixelbook, but I wanted to try a cheap Chromebook first to see if I could really get all of my work done without Microsoft Windows. If this post is any indication, then the answer is yes, I can. The ASUS Chromebook is far from perfect: the screen is tiny and a bit washed out, but I’ve otherwise been happy with it. The keyboard is surprisingly easy to work with (at least with my tiny hands) and I haven’t had too much trouble adjusting to the browser based operating system. Plus, it’s small size means that it works pretty well as a tablet simply by swiveling the screen around. The biggest issue I’ve had so far is that Delta’s in-flight entertainment refused to play on the laptop. That was annoying but not a deal breaker.
One big test of my cutting the Microsoft cord comes this weekend. For the first time that I can remember, I plan to use something other than Microsoft Powerpoint for a presentation. I’ll use Google Slides instead.
I’m still not totally sold on the Chromebook approach, but it seems to work well enough. And it may not sound like much, but the difference in weight between a 2 pounder and a 3 pounder will be significant after I spend days with my backpack always on my back.
For those wondering about some of the Googley things I listed above, here are my high level impressions:
- Google Fi cell phone service: Absolutely awesome for international use. Free data-only sims are a fantastic feature too (my wife uses a second phone as a hotspot when we travel out of the country). Fi has been a bit of a pain to use domestically, though, at least with an iPhone as I use it. Within the US, while my wife’s phone on AT&T is happily connected almost everywhere, I find that I frequently have no signal, or no internet even when the phone thinks it has a signal. Despite this, I’ve been travelling enough internationally to make it worth the headache.
- Chromebook Laptop: I was surprised at how easy it was to adapt to an entirely different operating system. I guess I already do most of my work within browsers, so it wasn’t too much of a leap. The main things I think I’ll miss are tools for editing photos and video. These things do exist in forms compatible with Chromebooks (I think), but I haven’t yet found good ones (nor have I spent much time looking).
- YouTube TV: I tried several live TV streaming services and found that I liked YouTube TV the best by a wide margin. All similar services include some kind of DVR capability, but I like YouTube TV’s the best. One of its best features is the way it handles rewind and fast forward. It doesn’t actually change your place on the show until you’ve picked a still photo showing the scene you want to hop to. That might not be easy to imagine… Just trust me, it works and works well. YouTube TV was also one of the few streaming services where AMC is included in the base package. That’s critical for a Walking Dead fan :). There are two things I seriously dislike about YouTube TV: 1) It doesn’t work outside of the US! What?! One of the best things about cutting the chord should be that you can watch anywhere in the world. Unfortunately that’s not the case here. 2) When watching certain new shows, it won’t let you fast forward past the commercials. I’m not sure how to know ahead of time when this will happen. It’s annoying, but not a deal breaker for me.
For better or worse
I never intentionally set out to tie the knot so strongly with Google. It just happened bit by bit over time. And, yes, it makes me a little nervous. If they were to suddenly decide to kill Google Sheets, the blog, as a business, would be dead in the water. And I can’t say how upset I’d be if they suddenly shut down Google Photos. Fortunately, I don’t think either is at all likely.