# Data Science on a Chromebook

About nine months ago I announced that I was attempting a Chromebook experiment for the 2nd time. At first I thought it was going to be a short term experiment just to see if it was possible to function with only a Chromebook. But in an interesting twist I got used to it and have been working exclusively on a Chromebook for the last few months since the experiment started.

I set myself the following requirements:

1. I could only use Chrome OS - no installing/booting to Linux
2. I couldn’t use another computer for any task
3. I had to be “fully cloudy” in the sense that I didn’t run any additional hardware

One of the reasons I did this was I wanted to see if it was possible to be a functioning/day to day data scientist without using an expensive laptop. This is part of a broader experiment I’m just beginning on how to democratize data science education.

I’m not going to go into extreme detail on how I set everything up here (more on that in a second) but I thought I’d describe my Chromebook set up that I’ve been using for the last couple of months.

I have been using two Samsung Chromebook Plus computers, one of which I keep at home and one which I keep at work. One of the best parts about the fully cloudy/Chrome OS requirement is this means that from the user perspective everything is always in sync. I log off the computer at home, come to work, log on and its like I’m on the same computer.

I thought I’d just go through at a high level the software I’m using to keep everything running.

• Google Slides for presentations - (Cost:free) For the most part this has been really easy and is a smooth transition from Powerpoint. One thing I’ve found really useful is the laser pointer mode of the Chromebook plus for highlighting things on screen when presenting. I have also found that since they are using USB-C adapters I can participate in dongle communism with Apple users. I had to figure out the display mirroring menus in Chrome OS but after that this was easy.
• Google Docs/Paperpile for writing - (Cost:free) This works great and has been my work flow as I describe in my book since before the Chromebook experiment started.
• DocHub for signing things - (Cost:\$4.99/month/billed yearly) Often I have to “sign” a document by adding my electronic signature. I used the note feature to create a jpeg of my signature. I can then upload the file to Docub • Overleaf for writing latex - (Cost:free or \$10/month/billed yearly) This is not necessary for all data scientists, but it has some nice features, including when I could live write a grant and people could watch.
• Gmail for email - (Cost:free) this one is pretty obvious.
• Google Sheets for data - (Cost:free) this is again a choice I had been making frequently before I moved to Chromebooks. The googlesheets R package lets you do all sorts of cool things with google sheets.
• Digital Ocean for Rstudio - _(Cost: \$20/mo)__ I set up an Rstudio server and run it remotely on Digital Ocean. I currently use the \$20/month option but sometimes scale it up or down as needed. One great thing about the dockerized version of the software is that I can pause the instance, scale up the compute infrastructre, restart and everything is just as I left it but with more computational horsepower. I can then use that for a few hours as needed and scale back down. I use the terminal in Rstudio for most of my management of code/etc. on Github.
• Google Hangouts for video conferencing - (Cost:free) this is the default but honestly I wish I had a better option. I often find it complicated and laggy to work with, but still mostly better than Skype. Would be open to suggestions on that front.
• Slack for communication (Cost: \$6.67/month) a variety of different teams here at JHU and around the country use Slack for group communication. I use it through the web browser, although the Chromebook Plus allows you to install Android apps. • Google Music for listening to music/podcasts (Cost:\$10/month) This is an unnecesary expense but I like having something to listen to while I work.
• Tweetdeck for twitter - (Cost:free) I have a couple of accounts I manage and I do this through the web browser. For the most part this works great.

So my total monthly cost comes to something like \\$35 a month for various cloud services. At first doing this was sort of like writing a Haiku. I could still write, but the constraints made me think hard about how I did things. But after a while I have gotten so used to the form that it feels natural and I don’t miss my (really expensive) Apple products anymore.

• httr and Rstudio on a server - when I need to authenticate for websites I have run into trouble, but if I set httr_oob_default==TRUE (documentation here) then the Oauth process generates a code I can paste into my server.