Privacy Blog

"Friends don’t let friends get spied on.' – Richard Stallman, President of the Free Software Foundation and longtime advocate of privacy in technology.

A Chromebook’s Superb Security Is Another Good Reason To Leave Windows 10’s Update Failures Behind

I have written several times about the excellent security and privacy offered by Chromebooks. You can find my past articles about Chromebook security by starting at http://bit.ly/2UyLIqi.

Now Kevin Murnane obvious agrees, based on his recent article in the Forbes web site. Murnane’s article focuses on the advantages of Chromebooks versus the many recent problems with Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system. For that comparison, I’ll refer you to Kevin Murnane’s article at: http://bit.ly/2GEY77t.

Acer_Chromebook

Acer Chromebook

Probably the ultimate security available today in standard PC hardware is to use Tails (The Amnesiac Incognito Live System) Linux or Whonix Linux or Qubes OS or some other high-security version of Linux. Please keep in mind that not all versions of Linux offer top security. For top security, you should use one of the versions of Linux designed for the ultimate in computer security. The problem is that these same high-security versions of Linux can be a bit complex to install and use daily, thereby discouraging their use by non-experts.

To be sure, there are easy-to-use versions of Linux that are much simpler to use than the high-security versions of Linux. Linux Mint pops to mind as one example but it certainly is not the only Linux implementation that offers ease of use. The problem with the easy-to-use versions of Linux is that they typically do not offer the best security.

For the non-expert computer users, the Chrome operating system may be a better choice. The Chrome operating system, as used on Chromebooks, Chromeboxes, and ChromeBit (often called Chrome “Sticks”) systems was developed by Google and offers the best of both worlds: both ease of use and excellent security.

Asus Chromebox

In fact, the Chrome operating system is based on the Linux kernel although it has been heavily modified. The original Linux software developers might not even recognize today’s Chrome operating system. However, most of the security benefits of Linux have been maintained in the Chrome operating system but with a much easier-to-use user interface built around the high security kernel. You can learn more about the Chrome operating system’s security strengths by reading my earlier articles (by starting at http://bit.ly/2UyLIqi) and from documents in the Google Help Center at https://support.google.com/chromebook/answer/3438631?hl=en and at https://www.google.com/chrome/security/.

A Chromebook, Chromebox, or ChromeBit computer is not designed for everyone. Instead, these systems are designed for individuals who want ease of use, low prices, and bullet-proof protection from viruses and other malware (malevolent software). For instance, I have a Chromebook and use it frequently. HOWEVER, I realize the Chromebooks were never designed for technically-competent people, except perhaps as a low-cost second computer. The Chromebook/Chromebox/Chromestick target audience includes students, truck drivers, housewives, retirees, adolescents, and lots of other non-techies. While I do consider myself to be a techie with a lot of experience in Linux, UNIX, Windows, and Macintosh computers, I still reach for the Chromebook most of the time simply because it is so easy to use. I don’t need complexity when all I want to do is to write an article for this blog or to read and write email messages or to surf the web.

A ChromeBit computer

Don’t compare the Chromebook to other laptops with all sorts of elegant features. If you do, you will miss the point. Hand a Chromebook to your non-computer-literate grandmother and ask her to use it. That will give you a far better picture of how well the Chrome operating system works.

Chromebook computers are available from a number of manufacturers at prices ranging from $180 or so up to top-of-the-line Chromebooks that sell for more than $1,500. I believe that most of the Chromebooks purchased by consumers are in the $180 to $400 range. Chromebits are a bit cheaper, often for less than $100. Chromeboxes vary from about $100 to $250. Of course, with both Chromebits and Chromeboxes, you still need to supply your own monitor, keyboard, and mouse.

Best of all, even the cheapest $180 Chromebook or even  an $80 Chromebit enjoys the same privacy and anti-virus protection as the $1,500+ model. There are no options for privacy and virus protection: all versions of the Chrome operating system have the exactly same level of protection.

You can find the more popular Chromebooks by starting at https://www.google.com/chromebook/find-yours/.

For a comparison of Chromebooks to Windows 10’s multiple problems, look at Kevin Murnane’s article at: http://bit.ly/2GEY77t.

Categories: Hardware, Online Privacy & Security, Software

5 replies

  1. First, you’ve really snazzed up your site! It looks great.

    We have a smart TV, but we’re dumb. We only recently discovered we are (theoretically) able to get on the internet with it. (The tv guy threw away the users’ manual.)

    However, it’s an agony to try to crawl around using the remote so we gave up quickly on that. We have a dedicated Netflix button on the remote so we can get there. And then crawl about painfully using the remote to navigate the site’s miserable interface.

    My question: If we got a Chromebit could we plug it into the back of our telly, add a USB keyboard (assuming there’s a place to plug it in on the tv) and then use the keyboard-Chromebit to get to the Netflix site and Channel 4 (a UK site we can watch here in Ireland for free)?

    I notice there’s a Win 10 stick. It only has 1GB RAM. I don’t know how much RAM a Chromebit has, but if it’s similar, what effect does that have on being able to simply watch a film on Netflix or a show on Channel 4? I’m thinking maybe none. We have good broadband speed and I think that’s what counts for video.

    Thank you for whatever light you can shed. Any your site really does look terrific.

    Like

    • —-> My question: If we got a Chromebit could we plug it into the back of our telly, add a USB keyboard (assuming there’s a place to plug it in on the tv) and then use the keyboard-Chromebit to get to the Netflix site and Channel 4 (a UK site we can watch here in Ireland for free)? I notice there’s a Win 10 stick. It only has 1GB RAM.

      That’s several questions but all are good ones. Yes, all that certainly is possible. In fact, you just described the television set and Chromebit that I have in my living room. I wrote about that last year at: https://privacyblog.com/2018/12/20/the-simple-method-of-adding-a-huge-monitor-to-your-computer/

      —-> add a USB keyboard (assuming there’s a place to plug it in on the tv)

      You need to “plug it in” to the Chromebit, not to the television set. I don’t like the idea of a long cord draped across the living room floor connecting the keyboard to a television set across the living room so I use a wireless (Bluetooth) keyboard that also has a built in trackpad that serves as a mouse.

      —> I notice there’s a Win 10 stick. It only has 1GB RAM. I don’t know how much RAM a Chromebit has

      It varies. Different manufacturers place different amounts of RAM memory in their devices. However, it really doesn’t make much difference. Even a Chromebit with the smallest amount of memory can display television and streaming videos.

      In most computers, adding more memory is a good idea if you want to run multiple programs at once, such as writing a word processing document while watching a video in the background and simultaneously keeping an eye on your incoming email. However, I doubt if many people do that on a Chromebit. In short, if all you want to do is to watch one video you don’t need much RAM memory in the computer.

      If you really want to run multiple applications at once, a Chromebit probably isn’t powerful enough for your needs anyway. For that, you need a more powerful Chromebook or iPad Pro or even a Windows, Macintosh, or Linux computer.

      Like

      • Thank you so much for your very helpful response, Dick. I really appreciate it, will read your linked article carefully. We’re moving to a new house so it’s a good time to rearrange our tv set up.

        We only want to watch one thing at a time so it’s good to know RAM isn’t an issue. (We will not talk about the many, many tabs I have open on my laptop as I type this.)

        Best wishes.

        Like

  2. Dick, speaking of privacy and security, what exactly is this FreedomBox I have been reading about lately?

    Like

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