Archive for April, 2015

Samsung profits drop in wake of iPhone 6 rollout

The company is banking on new tech and services to attract customers to new smartphones

Samsung Electronics registered its sixth straight quarterly decline in profits in the first three months of this year as competition bit into its key smartphone and display businesses.

The company said net profit during the January to March quarter fell 39 percent on the same period last year to 4.6 trillion won (US$4.3 billion). Revenue was 47 trillion won, down 12 percent, in line with guidance issued earlier in April.

Samsung is under fierce pressure in the smartphone sector, where low-cost Chinese rivals are eroding sales at the low-end while Apple is winning customers at the high end.

The company doesn’t disclose precise smartphone sales figures, but it said it sold 99 million phones of all types during the quarter. Of those, the share of smartphones was in the “mid 80s percent,” it said in a conference call with investors.

Revenue in its mobile division during the quarter was down by a fifth while operating profit in the division collapsed by 57 percent year-on-year to 2.7 trillion won.

The runaway success of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, detailed when Apple reported its earnings on Monday, has made it even more important that Samsung scores a hit with the Galaxy S6, it’s newest flagship handset that went on sale recently.

Apple is riding high on the success of the new phones, the first from the company to come close to matching the large screens found on Samsung’s flagship handsets, and winning customers in China where demand easily outstripped supply.

Looking ahead, Samsung said it expects earnings to improve thanks to increased high-end sales as the Galaxy S6 rolls out worldwide although low- and mid-end smartphone sales are expected to be largely unchanged.

Sales are expected to remain around the same as the first quarter, although the average selling price of each phone is expected to jump a little from the $200 recorded during the first quarter.

Samsung said it plans to focus on new technologies, such a wireless charging, and new services, such as Samsung Pay, to drive demand for its phones.

Its device business, which is a major manufacturer of flat-panel displays and memory chips, saw sales rise 10 percent on the year and operating profit surge 81 percent thanks to strong demand for chips for servers and large-size TV panels.


 

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VCP510 VMware Certified Professional 5 – Data Center Virtualization


QUESTION 1
Which VMware solution uses the security of a vSphere implementation and provides linked-clone
technology to virtual desktops?

A. VMware ACE
B. VMware View
C. VMware Workstation
D. VMware ThinApp

Answer: B

Explanation:
Reference:http://www.vmware.com/files/pdf/VMware-View-4-Composer-DS-EN.pdf(page 1, last
paragraph)


QUESTION 2
An administrator has recently upgraded their Update Manager infrastructure to vSphere 5.x.
Several hosts and virtual machines have not been upgraded yet.
Which vSphere component when upgraded will have the least impact to the existing environment?

A. Virtual Machine Hardware
B. ESX Hosts
C. VMFS datastores
D. VMware Tools

Answer: D

Explanation:
VMware Tools isn’t a single application but a set of drivers, services and user processes that’s
installed in a guest operating system. They add a wide assortment of functionality to VMware
infrastructures — everything from improving color depth and video resolution in the vSphere Client
to memory optimization.
Typically, an outdated version of VMware Tools doesn’t have an immediate impact. But with every
update to vSphere, you’ll likely have to update VMware Tools on every virtual machine.


QUESTION 3
An administrator is using Update Manager 5.x to update virtual appliances in a vSphere
environment. The environment is using the vCenter Server Virtual Appliance (vCSA).
What would cause the remediation to fail?

A. Updating of the appliance can only be done if the vCenter Server Virtual Appliance (vCSA) has
been put into Maintenance Mode.
B. Remediation must be configured on the Appliance Administration page before use.
C. Remediation of the vCenter Server Virtual Appliance (vCSA) with Update Manager is not
supported.
D. Remediation requires the hosts to be connected to vCenter using an IPv4 address.

Answer: D

Explanation:
Update Manager 5.0 does not support virtual machine patch baselines.If a host is connected to
vCenter Server by using an IPv6 address, you cannot scan and remediate virtual machines and
virtual appliances that run on the host.


QUESTION 4
An administrator is working to update the hosts and virtual machines in a vSphere 5.x deployment
using Update Manager Baselines.
Other than host patches, which three items require a separate procedure or process to update?
(Choose three.)

A. Operating system patches
B. Virtual Appliance updates
C. Virtual Machine Virtual Hardware upgrades
D. VMware Tools on machines without VMware Tools already installed
E. Application patches within the virtual machine

Answer: A,D,E

Explanation:
Operating system patches are related to operating system so they need a separate procedure
altogether. Same is the case with VMware tools and applications patches because applications
are stand alone pieces of code that need separate procedure to apply a patch.


QUESTION 5
A series of Auto Deploy ESXi 5.x hosts, which utilize vSphere Standard Switches, are unable to
boot. In prior testing, all of the hosts were able to boot successfully.
Which two conditions might cause this issue? (Choose two.)

A. The Hosts are unable to connect to the SAN.
B. The TFTP server is down.
C. The DNS server is down.
D. The DHCP server is down.

Answer: B,D

Explanation:
If the TFTP server is down, ESXi will not boot because it needs TFTP to get the information.
Similarly, when DHCP is down, it will not assign the IP addresses and ESXi needs IP address to
boot properly.


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Lessons from Altoona: What Facebook’s newest data center can teach us

How can Facebook’s data center design apply to your data center plans?
Over the past year, Facebook has thrown some interesting wrenches into the gears of the traditional networking industry. While mainstream thinking is to keep most details of your network operations under wraps, Facebook has been freely sharing its innovations. For a company whose business model is built on people sharing personal information, I suppose this makes perfect sense.

What makes even more sense is the return Facebook gets on their openness. Infrastructure VP Jason Taylor estimates that over the past three years Facebook has saved some $2 billion by letting the members of its Open Compute Project have a go at its design specifications.

But what really turned heads was last year’s announcement of Wedge, an open top-of-rack switch developed with the OCP community. Wedge was followed eight months later by 6-Pack, a modular version of Wedge purposed for the network core. Added to these bare-metal switches is FBOSS, an open Linux-based network operating system (well, not exactly an operating system – more on that in a later post), and OpenBNC for system management.

Why this openness matters to the rest of us is that all of this is not just a mad-science project within Facebook’s lair. You can soon buy Wedge through Taiwanese switch manufacturer Accton, bringing switches into your data center for a fraction of the cost of proprietary switches with integrated operating systems. And you’re not locked in to running FBOSS on the switch either. You can shop around, choosing the NOS that makes the most sense to you, such as Open Network Linux, Cumulus Linux, Big Switch Switch Light, and possibly others such as Pica8’s PicOS or even Juniper’s JUNOS. If you have an intrepid team of developers with time on their hands you can even build your own.

I’ll write more about open switches and open software in subsequent articles, but for now I want to focus on what Facebook has been sharing about their innovations in data center network design and what it means for you. Last November, between the announcements of Wedge and 6-Pack, Facebook opened its newest data center in Altoona, Iowa. And as it has done with its other network innovations, Facebook openly shared its new design.

It turns out that there are some valuable takeaways from the Altoona design that can be applied to data centers of any size.

Hyperscale Misconceptions
Say “hyperscale data center” to most anyone who keeps up with such things, and they’ll reflexively name Facebook, Google, and Amazon. And because of this association, people think of hyperscale as something that applies only to mammoth data centers supported by an army of developers.

In reality, hyperscale just means the ability to scale out very rapidly. A hyperscale data center network might be small, but it can grow exponentially larger without changing the fundamental components and structures of the network. You should be able to use the same switches and the same interconnect patterns as you grow – just more of them. You do not need to throw out one class of switches for another just to accommodate growth.

You can have a data center consisting of just a few racks, and if the network is designed right it is a hyperscale data center. Hyperscale is a capability, not a size.

Another misconception about hyperscale data centers is that they are optimized for one or a relatively few applications at massive scale across the entire data center. This stems particularly from the Facebook and Google associations. Hyperscale designs are in fact ideal for very heavy east-west workloads, but hyperscale design principles can apply to an average enterprise data center, supporting hundreds of business applications just as easily as it supports a single social media, big data, or search app.

Hyperscale also conjures up images of do-it-yourself networks built from the silicon up by a cadre of brilliant young architects commanding salaries far out of reach of the average network operator. That might be true of the innovators, but because Facebook has laid its work right out on the table, mere mortals like you and I can put their design principles to work in our own data centers.

To appreciate the significance of the Altoona network, let’s first have a look at the network architecture Facebook is using in its earlier data centers.

Good is not good enough: Facebook’s cluster design
Figure 1 shows Facebook’s pre-Altoona aggregated cluster design, which they call the “4-post” architecture. Up to 255 server cabinets are connected through ToR switches (RSW) to high-density cluster switches (CSW). The RSWs have up to 44 10G downlinks and four or eight 10G uplinks. Four CSWs and their connected RSWs comprise a cluster.
041415 figure 1

Four “FatCat” (FC) aggregation switches interconnect the clusters. Each CSW has a 40G connection to each of the four FCs. An 80G protection ring connects the CSWs within each cluster, and the FCs are connected to a 160G protection ring.

This is a good design in several ways. Redundancy is good; oversubscription is good (generally 10:1 between RSWs and CSWs, 4:1 between CSWs and FCs); the topology is reasonably flat with no routers interconnecting clusters; and growth is managed simply, at least up to the 40G port capacity of the FCs, by adding new clusters.

But Facebook found that good is not good enough.
Most of the problems with this architecture stem from the necessity of very large switches for the CSWs and FCs:

With just four boxes handling all intra-cluster traffic and four boxes handling all inter-cluster traffic, a switch failure has a serious impact. One CSW failure reduces intra-cluster capacity by 25%, and one FC failure reduces inter-cluster capacity by 25%.
Very large switches restrict vendor choice – there are only a few “big iron” manufacturers. And because these few vendors sell relatively fewer big boxes, the per-port CapEx and OpEx is disproportionately high when compared to smaller switches offered by a larger number of vendors.
The proprietary internals of these big switches prevent customization, complicate management, and extend waits for bug fixes to months or even years.
Large switches tend to have oversubscribed switching fabrics, so all ports cannot be used simultaneously.
The cluster switches’ port densities limit the scale and bandwidth of these topologies, and make transitions to next-generation port speeds too slow.
Facebook’s distributed application creates machine-to-machine traffic that is difficult to manage within an aggregated network design.

The individual pods are connected via 40G uplinks to four spine planes, as shown in Figure 3. Each spine plane can have up to 48 switches. Key to this topology is that the fabric switches each have an equal number of 40G downlinks and uplinks – maxing out at 48 down an 48 up – so the fabric is non-blocking and there is no oversubscription between pods. Bisectional bandwidth, running to multi petabits, is consistent throughput the data center.

The diagram in Figure 3 shows the color-coded connections between fabric switches and their corresponding spine planes, but doesn’t do justice to how it all ties together. And something that surely strikes you is that there are a lot of links between fabric switches and spine switches. Optics and cables can become expensive, so it’s important to manage the distances between pods and spine planes. (If you’re interested in learning more about Facebook’s architectures, here are the source documents I used for cluster architecture (PDF) and the Altoona architecture.)

If you rotate the pods and line them up, the way the 48 racks of each pod would be arranged into rows in the data center, and then do the same with the spine planes – but lining them up perpendicular to the pods – you get the three-dimensional diagram shown in Figure 4, with the fabric switches becoming part of the spine planes. Distance between fabric switches and spine switches are reduced. Note that there are also edge pods, which provide external connectivity to the fabric.

Facebook network engineer Alexey Andreyev describes the fabric this way: “This highly modular design allows us to quickly scale capacity in any dimension, within a simple and uniform framework. When we need more compute capacity, we add server pods. When we need more intra-fabric network capacity, we add spine switches on all planes. When we need more extra-fabric connectivity, we add edge pods or scale uplinks on the existing edge switches.”

If you want to hear Andreyev describe the Altoona architecture himself, here’s an excellent video:

Altoona Takeaways

You might be wondering by now what any of this has to do with you and your data center. After all, Facebook is supporting more or less a single distributed application generating machine-to-machine traffic spanning its entire data center. You probably don’t. And while a 48-rack pod is a scale-down from their earlier clusters, most enterprise data centers in their entirety are smaller than 48 server racks.

So why should you care? Because it’s not the scale. It’s the scalability.
The fundamental takeaways from the Altoona design are the advantages of building your data center network using small open switches, in an architecture that enables you to scale to any size without changing the basic building blocks. First look at the switches. You don’t have to wait for Wedge or 6-Pack to go on the market (Accton will be selling Wedge soon). You can pick up bare-metal switches from Accton, Quanta, Celestica, Dell, and others for a fraction of the cost a big-name vendor will charge. For example, a Quanta switch with 32 40G ports lists for $7,495. A Juniper QFX5100 with 24 40G ports lists for a little under $30,000. Is that a fair comparison? That JUNOS premium gives you a pretty awesome operating system, but the bare-metal switch gives you a bunch of options for loading an OS of your choice.

As for the pod and core design, that can be adjusted to your own needs. The pod can be whatever size you want; while the “unit of network” is a wonderful concept, it’s not a rule. You can create a number of pod designs to fit specific workflow needs, or just to start a migration away from older architectures. Pods can also be application specific. As your data center network grows, or you adopt newer technologies, you can non-disruptively “plug in” new pods.

The same goes for the core part. You can build it at layer 2, or at layer 3. It all depends on the workflows you’re supporting. Using a simple pod and core design you can manageably grow your data center network at whatever rate makes sense to you, from a new pod every few years to an explosive growth of new pods every few months.


 

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What’s behind Microsoft’s not-so-crazy startup spending spree

CEO Nadella’s influence, platform-agnostic approach cited

Microsoft so far this year has been the most acquisitive company in enterprise IT, snapping up at least four firms on top of four others that it bought in the last two months of 2014. And while the buyouts might at first glance appear scattershot – we’re talking text analysis, calendaring and digital pen startups among others — there does seem to be a grand plan here.

Our regularly updated Enterprise Networking & IT Acquisition Tracker shows through the first calendar quarter that Microsoft has announced more than twice as many buyouts as any other company (not that all acquisitions are immediately made public and taking into account that our tracker is focused on enterprise-related acquisitions — Google has bought at least four consumer-oriented companies).

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is starting its 40th year on a real buyout tear, fleshing out its mobile, cloud and big data/analytics offerings through acquisitions as it moves forward on big initiatives such as Windows 10 and its new Spartan browser. According to the company’s own Acquisition History chart — see a condensed and sortable version at the very end of this article — Microsoft has not gobbled up five companies in a quarter since 2008 when it bought 9 firms, not many of which most people would recall. Caligari or Credentica anyone?

Of the hundreds of TED talks available online, many are geared toward helping people view life in a new
Microsoft finished 2008 with 16 announced buyouts, the most of any year included in its Acquisition History tracker, which goes back to 1994. Wikipedia keeps a list that dates back to 1987, but few purchases were made between then and ’94. Other than for its largest deals, Microsoft is cryptic about how much it pays for companies, requiring those interested to ferret through its SEC filings for clues.

So, Microsoft is on a record-breaking M&A pace for calendar year 2015 — its fiscal year starts in July and ends in June — and all of the deals so far have possible enterprise IT implications. The rundown: LiveLoop is involved in PowerPoint collaboration; Equivio makes text analytics/e-discovery software that could bolster Office 365; and open source company Revolution Analytics promises to bring R programming to more IT shops. It has also been widely reported that Microsoft is buying Israel’s N-trig, which sells digital pens for devices like the Surface Pro 3 tablet (If the N-trig deal is in fact true, three of Microsoft’s last nine deals would have involved Israeli firms). One other deal, Microsoft’s acquisition of iOS/Android calendaring app maker Sunrise, is a consumer-focused pact on the surface but an investor says Sunrise had business use cases in mind.

Microsoft is also rumored to be a front-runner to buy social news reader Prismatic, which would not appear to be an enterprise-related buy.

As Fortune wrote recently, “Microsoft is buying startups people love…”
We reached out to Microsoft a week ago to discuss the spending spree with their M&A personnel and we will either update this article or create a new one if they do get back to us. In the meantime, we got feedback from industry watchers and investors, all of whom credit CEO Satya Nadella and his “new” Microsoft for heading aggressively down the acquisition path.

“Right now is a great time for Microsoft to be buying startups,” says Forrester VP and Principal Analyst J.P. Gownder (@JGownder). “Companies in some of these fields, like machine learning (Equivio), are solving really specific problems in computational intelligence, and would require Microsoft to staff up big teams to catch up. In other cases, the company purchased is already a key partner [such as heavily reported but unconfirmed N-trig buyout]. And in yet other cases, they are receiving IP that applies to their cross-platform strategy to deliver iOS and Android apps (as with Sunrise). These are all well-considered, smart acquisitions.”

CEO Nadella has indeed been a force behind Microsoft’s approach, Gownder says.
“Satya Nadella is driving a new Microsoft forward: One that is more agile, more attuned to customer needs, and less entrenched in the platform wars. He wants to deliver an experience for Windows that customers will ‘love’ (not tolerate), in his words, while also empowering Microsoft to deliver software and services on non-Windows platforms. To accomplish these goals, he needs the traditionally contemplative, slow Microsoft organization to move more quickly. So these acquisitions flow naturally from the new mindset, and bode well for Microsoft’s future (even if a lot of work remains to be done).”

Rob Go (@RobGo), co-founder and partner at Sunrise investor NextView Ventures, concurs.
“Microsoft has had a history of growing its product and talent base for many years. But under Satya Nadella, what we are seeing is a company moving with renewed strategic focus and conviction. One major theme that ties together many of these

acquisitions is a newfound respect for the ecosystem that surrounds the company’s software and hardware products. From an ethos that was much more protective and silo-ed, Microsoft is making major moves in extending their software onto other companies’ platforms (leading productivity apps on IOS and Android like Sunrise and Acompli, a platform-agnostic file viewing service like LiveLoop, third-party integrations with Dropbox, etc).”
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Six TED Talks that can change your career
Jack Gold (@jckgld), principal analyst and founder of J. Gold Associates, describes Microsoft’s moves as both offensive and defensive, and a good use of a cash hoard that hovers around $90 billion even if the company is just scooping up qualified professional staff additions.

“Nadella has refocused Microsoft on becoming innovative again, after a significant number of years where it mainly coasted,” he says. “The acquisitions signal a willingness to go outside for tech it doesn’t have, but thinks it needs to be competitive long term with Google, Apple, IBM, Samsung, etc. Further, it signals that it’s full blown into going to the cloud, after its lukewarm thrusts under the previous management. That’s the offensive side.”

Defensively, look for Microsoft to consume valuable startups and other companies going forward before Google, Apple and others do, Gold says. “As for what this means for enterprise, I see Microsoft’s newfound willingness to go after tech outside its four walls as a refresh of its earlier years where it was an innovator” with Office, Exchange and Windows, he says.

While none of Microsoft’s latest deals would be characterized as blockbusters – unlike billion-dollar-plus transactions in recent years for Nokia’s phone business, Skype and even Minecraft maker Mojang – the startups being stockpiled could pay big dividends for the company and its customers.


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Acer Chromebook 15 review: Massive display, with mixed results overall

I used the Acer Chromebook 15, which boasts the largest screen of any Chromebook, and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it yet.

Over the past few months I’ve had the opportunity to review two laptops. Both of them being… rather beefy: the Chromebook Pixel and the Dell M3800. These two machines are powerhouses – sporting extremely high-resolution screens and high-end processors – with price tags to match. But then, this past week, the delivery man dropped off an entirely different category of laptop: the Acer Chromebook 15.

The model I have here is the CB5-571-C09S, sporting a 15.6-inch display (with a 1080p resolution), an Intel Celeron CPU (at 1.6GHz), 4GB of RAM, and a 32GB SSD. All of which costs $350 retail.

I’m going to come right out and say it – I’ve had a difficult time figuring out exactly how I feel about this laptop.

On the one hand, it has a huge display, the biggest of any Chromebook ever made. It may not come even close to the resolution of Google’s Pixel, which rocks 2560×1700, but the Acer’s 15.6-inch screen makes the Pixel’s sub-13-inch screen look tiny by comparison. This is a big freaking laptop screen.
See also: A Linux user tries out Windows 10

The screen quality, it should be noted, is pretty nice. The viewing angles aren’t quite as good as the Pixel (or the Dell M3800’s 4K display), but it’s not bad either. And, considering the massive price difference between the Acer and those other laptops ($350 for the Acer vs. over $2,000 for the Dell and over $1,000 for the Pixel), that reduction in quality is actually not as dramatic as you might expect.

The guts of the machine (CPU, RAM, and hard drive) are all excellent… for a $350 machine. If you sit down and compare the specs of this relatively gargantuan-sized Chromebook against a Pixel, you will be disappointed. But when you remember that you can buy three of these Acer laptops for the cost of a single Pixel, things start to look (a lot) more interesting.

Is the Acer Chromebook 15 a speed demon? No. It isn’t exactly decked out with the latest and greatest i7 processor. But it’s no slouch, either. In fact, I very rarely experienced any sluggishness with this machine. Even with a large number of tabs open and Google Play Music streaming some tunes in the background, the entire system was peppy and responsive.
See also: Dell’s Ubuntu-powered M3800 Mobile Workstation is a desktop destroyer

And, let’s be honest, in a Chromebook that’s really what you care about: lots of Chrome tabs, background audio, and playing either a YouTube or Netflix HD video clip. This little Acer (did I just call this mega-sized laptop “little”?) can handle all of that without slowing down in the slightest.

The battery life is pretty solid as well. Acer claims around nine hours of battery life. I drained the battery (from completely charged down to nothing) in around eight hours. But that was fairly heavy usage with music playing in the background the majority of the time (one does want to rock out while reviewing hardware, after all). Eight hours of battery life on a gigantic 15.6-inch screen seems really solid to me.

So, what’s the problem? It sounds like I’ve just described a pretty doggone great laptop at a super low price. If I stopped right there, purchasing this Chromebook is a no-brainer.

But, instead of stopping there, let’s talk about the build quality for a minute.

When I first unpacked the box, and pulled out this large white laptop, I was struck by something… profound.

This machine is… profoundly plastic.

The model I have here is white. Solid white. With a subtle crisscross embossing patterning covering the entire outside.

The plastic isn’t the fancy kind of plastic, either. It’s the kind of plastic that many of my toys from the 1980’s were made with. The kind where, when you tap on it with your fingernail, it makes that distinct “just tapped on a plastic toy” sound. In other words: it feels cheap.

When you open the lid and look at the keyboard, the initial impression is a positive one. The keyboard is certainly full laptop-sized. Typing on the keys feels good… for the most part. Typing aggressively on the keyboard – which I tend to do – results in a sound not unlike banging on a small plastic drum. Or, if you had an original Nintendo Entertainment System, the sound when you knocked on the top of it. That “hollow plastic shell” sound. That’s the sound that banging on this keyboard makes. It’s not loud, and it’s not obnoxious, by any means. But it sounds cheap.

That’s a weird thing to say in a laptop review, I know. “It sounds cheap when you tap on it.” But it’s true. And it’s noteworthy. And it begins to make me realize why this laptop is available at such a cheap price.

Also… the screen bends. A significant amount. And rather easily. If you open the laptop (lift the screen up) and put just a small amount of pressure on the bottom of the bezel around the screen, it bends noticeably. This issue seems to pertain mostly to the display half. The keyboard half feels far sturdier and doesn’t seem to suffer from any bending or rigidity issues.

Interestingly, there are two things that do not feel quite as “cheap.” The trackpad (which has a good feel and a distinctive “click” to it when pressed) and the speakers (which are large, with visible plastic grating covering them, that produce quite decent sound for this price range of a laptop). Two components that, often, even expensive laptops don’t do well. So big high-five to the Acer crew there.

So, to sum up: on the one hand, this laptop sports the largest screen on any Chromebook and packs enough muscle to stand toe-to-toe with most other Chromebooks. But, on the other hand, the build quality reminds you that you only paid a fraction of the price that you would for a “premium laptop.”

Would I recommend this laptop to someone? You know what… yes. Yes, I would.

If you want a Linux-powered Chromebook with a big freaking screen… this is the Chromebook for you. I can literally put a Chromebook Pixel in front of the Acer’s screen and it doesn’t even come close to blocking the view.

It’s also an incredibly good deal. For $350, I could lug this laptop around with me and not worry too much about banging it up. I could break one and buy an identical replacement, and still have save several hundred dollars over buying a Pixel.

So, yes. The Acer Chromebook 15 is a good machine with an interesting place in the market. I’m glad Acer is making it and I can think of some people who would truly enjoy using it for the price.

But what would really interest me is if Acer were to come out with a premium version of this Chromebook. Made with metal instead of plastic. With a beefier processor and more storage. But still, of course, keeping a huge (for a laptop) 15.6-inch screen, I could see that machine really turning some heads (including mine). Even if it cost two to three times as much.


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