Incompatible Chromebooks laptops leave schools counting losses
Shepherd Chimururi-Youth Interactive Correspondent
The influx of Chromebook laptops on the Zimbabwean market which are being disposed of from developed countries as the waste is leaving schools counting their losses.
The pre-owned tech gadgets are finding a ready market inspired by the government’s pro e-learning policy which look cheap on the surface yet they are very expensive to make them work in the Zimbabwean technological environment where it is unsustainable to work online full time due to exorbitant prices of data.
Standard Chromebook laptops are being manufactured by leading IT players like Dell, HP, Acer, Samsung, Lenovo and more.
They have a Chrome operating system with a 14-inch display that has a resolution of 1366×768 pixels. They are powered by a Celeron Dual Core processor and come with 4GB of RAM.
Their 16GB of SSD storage is far less than that of standard phones.
The local price which ranges between US$80 and US$120 is very attractive. What makes Chromebooks incompatible with local situations is what local schools want to use them for.
The surge in popularity of Chromebooks was inspired by the need to avail affordable computers for online learning and work during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Complications of Chromebooks come in the form of limited space of a miserable 16GB.
Having limited storage which is far less than the storage of a standard phone is the biggest drawback of the Chromebook.
It is not possible to upgrade the hard drive. Surely what can a pupldo with 16GBof space? In fact, to say its 16GB is a technical lie.
After installation Windows occupies 12GB while drivers of other utilities take up 2GB and leave just 2GB free space before you install even musical software let alone Microsoft Word.
The million dollar question is so how does one save the documents on the Chromebook?
The answer is they use cloud storage which means they need online connectivity. Chromebook gives users 100GB of Google Drive storage free for two years with all new devices. This is a considerable amount of space.
But the reality on the ground is very few schools and students know about let alone utilise cloud storage.
The other major complication about Chromebooks is the issue of compatibility.
Naturally the most commonly used Windows applications used in Zimbabwe can not run on Chromebook. There is no doubt that Windows is the most widely used operating system in existence today not only in Zimbabwe but the whole world.
How to remove the Chrome OS and install the commonly used Windows OS is proving a Herculean task.
The few technicians who have mastered the art of overriding Chrome OS charge between $40 and $60.
The task is made harder as it goes beyond software. It requires the technicians to adjust some PINs on the motherboard which were set to make it write protect. In short you can not easily change the Bios or boot from flash or LAN.
What makes it more complicated is that the sellers are not being honest. When buying the sellers switch it on for you and you see it working and obviously get you impressed by the life span of the battery which ranges from 6 to 10 hours.
This is making schools believe that they are getting a bargain due to the unpredictable load shedding. Come the day when you want to install the standard software that runs on windows you realise that it is a non-starter.
Installing Windows OS is virtually impossible because of the write protection on the hard drive. That is where the expensive tech guys come in.
When you are done with the installation of Windows operating system and when you are beginning to think that good times have arrived, you realise that there is no space even to install Microsoft Word.
When you think of upgrading the hard drive you realise it does not have a facility for that except buying an external hard drive or inserting an SD memory card. Another expense again!
In short, Chromebooks are meant to be used for online learning using Google Meet, email, Facebook, and general internet surfing. Chromebooks are useless without an internet connection.
The parting shot is to think twice before purchasing Chromebooks as the disadvantages outweigh the advantages.