Richard Bucker

Google Pixel Slate - day 1 review

Posted at — Dec 16, 2018

It’s still not a great day for my Google Pixel Slate. The starting point should be a better understanding about the hardware and the compatibility of the hardware but Google is not good at that as they have already demonstrated. But now one full day into this machine I have some impressions and ideas as to how useful it’s going to be.The First BootThis was fine. You have to respond to all the usual ChromeOS questions. Nothing out of the ordinary here. However, I have noticed that after I shutdown the machine that pressing the power button does not cause the machine to wake or respond immediately. There is a 4-plus second delay and there is no feedback to know whether or not you have kicked the power. So I have found myself click click clicking the power button until I just give up.KeyboardThe keyboard has a great feel. The rounded keys have caused some reviewers to complain but that’s silly. The extra space between keys just means that you need a little more precision but that’s the same as those smaller 3/4 keyboards. Only now it’s basically full sized and cruft is not going to get stuck between the keys.  The back lighting is adequate and seems to be triggered by some photo sensor. I have not found myself wanting to override the levels, however, it might be nice to have without getting extra points. One place it fails is that unless the desktop is flat the keyboard will bounce as your palms put pressure on the rest. The stand is nice and adjustable however I have popped the table from the case on more than one occasion. Editing code or a document on your lap is nearly impossible. The tablet mode is hard because it’s so heavy.Screen resolutionThe default screen resolution is kinda big. It make the Slate feel like a big phone and not a tablet or laptop.  The size was easily changed in the settings.External display port hubOne of the use-cases I’m interested in is using my Slate as a developer’s code edit station. The Slate’s screen is ok for simple DEVOPS functions and even some real code editing but having documentation or references, monitors, or multiple code portals… requires an external monitor. Unfortunately there are some limitations here. Lucky for me I recently purchased two. The one from Lenovo failed and the off brand worked. I might end up using a bluetooth mouse and keyboard so I can use it like a traditional laptop but I’m not there yet.Pen a wasteI’ll start off by saying I’m not a fan. First of all I really do not have a need for a pen. It’s really just a fine pointer but I have the trackpad and a finger… Touch monitors are great, fragile, and I never use them… so I do not need a pen. Also, there is a button on the pen and the instructions say that it’s a trigger for search. Well that’s just dumb.sudo required but sillyIf you have some unix experience then you probably know what ‘sudo’ is. For those who do not… it’s a tool for elevating a user’s permissions from the current user to the root or administrator. It seems to me that the linux user is a single user. Therefore anything and everything is reflected by the user therefore the user-jail is not necessary. What is not clear is the multi tenant capability when more than one user has access to a ChromeOS machine…linux okIt seems to have some features… someone said they had docker running but it’s not clear how much ram or disk was permitted. The entire linux install is very vague. I see that I can install code and editors, share the display through some XWindows tunneling, clone some repos, edit, compile and so on. On the bad side I’ve had some crashes which seems to require reboot. Daemons seem sticky. And I do not see anyway to baseline the linux container.Flutter/android devEven though Flutter has been released 1.0 it’s not ready. The documentation is limited to Windows, Mac, and Linux. While this machine has a linux environment it’s not clear how to make those linux commands work. Not all of the dependencies exist and the flow of installation goes all over the place. One document makes reference to crosh commands that do not exist. and another to packages that do not exist… furthermore there is nothing that addresses Slate and Android development. The are whispers but nothing concrete.HeadphonesThis is yet another Fail. Since the machine has two USB-C ports and included in the box is a dongle for USB-C to micro jack…  I have become accustomed to Bluetooth keyboards, however, the Jabra I have keeps getting dumped by my desktop ChromeOS device. It seems to work fine on my laptop. Just a few minutes ago I had a Slate crash that was stuck some place in the Bluetooth and Android house. It took a reboot which did not immediately fix it. I had to follow up with re-pairing the headphones to get the music to play,ConclusionThe reason my boss sent this machine to me was because we are considering Flutter… and since I am a strong proponent for ChromeOS because it protects assets and keeps me productive… we were on the verge of having to deploy other systems. We have a mix of all 3 platforms. But sadly this machine cannot build and test Flutter code securely. The worst is that in order to install/test Android code you have to move to developer mode and that is reported to decrypt the harddrive.  That’s evil.This machine is not a replacement for my Asus Chromebox desktop. There I said it. I really wanted it to be a good development environment but my existing Chromebooks and Chromebox work just fine. The only skew is that the day may come when Google repairs the holes so I stand ready.