25 November, 2013

"[CafeScribe], F*** You! [*flips off the camera*]"... for not supporting offline use on Chrome OS

Being a student with a Chromebook should be a very straightforward process. At least in theory. Google Docs/Drive is definitely all that's needed for an English class, even for full-fledged MLA-formatted essay papers. For a math class, computers aren't even allowed at all. Science? History? Answering questions in those subjects shouldn't be that hard either, because again, there's the power of Google's web-based -- and free -- productivity suite, baked right into Google Drive itself. And, most importantly, software development, especially web development, classes, thanks to the plethora of online (and even offline) code editing tools for Chrome and Chrome OS users abroad, should also be a straightforward process. And it is, at least if your e-reader that's needed to access textbooks isn't down for maintenance.

However, there's a clear impediment if you need to access digital e-textbooks offline: Adobe AIR. I got an email from the CafeScribe team telling me that the textbook I need for my JavaScript class would be inaccessible on November 29-30 if not downloaded for offline use due to scheduled server maintenance during those days. Well, the site is Flash-based, so I knew something was fishy when it comes to offline use, that I might need some additional plugin or something. Well, yes, I tried, and Adobe AIR was the first thing that it attempted -- and failed, since Chrome OS doesn't have libhal installed, and the root partition is read-only which requires apps to be installed on a separate stateful partition -- to install on my Chromebook (a two-year-old Acer AC700-1099, of course with an up-to-date Chrome OS, at that).

It's a nightmare, alright. I'm glad my professor is able to provide alternative reading material from online sources other than the textbook as the material for the assignments in question, because that does indeed relieve my burden considerably. On top of the offline problems, scrolling is also severely underperformed -- the CafeScribe reader has its own built-in scroll bars instead of embracing the system ones, and I need to often times move two fingers on the touchpad 100 times just to scroll an inch, not to mention that in full-page mode, the text is so small and pixelated that I need to put my face within inches of the screen to be able to read anything at all.

I'm actually glad they're going to be down for maintenance. Why? Because that may (hopefully) mean that they'll FINALLY be embracing HTML5 for a change when it goes back online December 1. I for one certainly am not giving up on my beloved Chromebook -- after all, everything that's needed to do schoolwork and code is readily available for me to use -- it's just these random, stuck-in-the-past offenders who depend on proprietary browser plugins to get work done that get me every time. In the meantime, I'm done here. I'll be reading all the alternative reading material I can get my hands on (including some other books on HTML5 and JavaScript that I own and actually have laying around my room, not to mention iBooks on these that I also have on my iPhone 4S, which of course CafeScribe doesn't have an offline mode in its app for) until CafeScribe can get its act together.