Follow Us

 

     Follow Us on Facebook  Follow Us on Twitter  Circle Us on Google+  Subscribe to RSS Feed  Get Updates Via Email

Google Chrome OS Preview on USB Flash Drive

Google Chrome OS | Cloud-based Netbook Operating System | Chromium Projects As a not-so-closet techie (or tech-geek, if you will), I find myself instantly attracted to all things new and shiny — even when the polish is not altogether there yet. This is why, on this US Thanksgiving evening, I find myself writing a post about Google Chrome OS from within a recently released build of Google Chrome OS (and I’m writing the post in Google Wave, no less). I’m positively giddy! I know, I know, so much hype is surrounding Chrome OS — and pretty much anything that Google does these days — but I don’t care. I want to play! I like to play!! And so here is my take on the current state and usability of the Google Chrome Operating System and how to check it out for yourself…

What is Google Chrome OS?

First things first: for those who don’t know, or haven’t read our previous post on Google Chrome OS (or Chromium OS, as it is also called) is an operating system that is designed mostly for netbooks and is meant to be extremely lightweight and fast. It is also "cloud" based, which means that, outside its architecture, it does pretty much everything it needs to do via online applications. In fact, it is basically the Google Chrome web browser on steroids. Why would anyone want this? Well, the world as we know it appears to be heading quickly toward the cloud as more and more applications are meant to be accessed online and are, more often than not, just glorified web pages themselves. There’s even a (relatively) new acronym for these applications: RIA’s (rich internet applications). These are the Facebooks, Twitters, Mint.coms, Remember the Milks, ReQalls, Tweetdecks, and countless others; and are the basis of technologies like Adobe AIR and 90% of the iPhone applications already out there or being created right at this moment. Google is not the first to target this space (Jolicloud is heading there too, and could be argued that it is prettier and more traditionally functional than the minimalist Chrome OS) — but they are doing a pretty decent job of it so far.

 

What Can You Do With It?

Well, you can browse and interact with the internet, in all of its glory, and you can do it at the speed of light — or some relative comparison. The OS loads up in mere seconds, you sign in with your Google account, and bam, you are online and looking at your Gmail page. If you just wanted to turn your computer on so you could check your email or do some other sort of browsing, then this is totally the way to go! Especially for lower powered systems like netbooks, which is what Chrome OS is meant for. Even heavier load websites like Google Wave open much faster than they do on a regular OS, even in the Google Chrome browser. If you are looking to open up and edit a Microsoft Word document though, you are going to need something like Google Docs. The same goes for any other dedicated program, as you can’t install applications of that ilk in Chrome OS. Don’t get all glum, however — even Microsoft Office is planning to go online in 2010 (already in beta), and you can play Zynga’s Farmville on Facebook all day long to keep you busy, with only their servers to slow you down.

 

What Works and What Doesn’t

Hardware

Depending on the computer you use Chrome OS on, you will get varying hardware results. Some machines can’t get the audio working and some, like mine, have audio, but no control over the volume of said sound. It should be noted that I’m not using a netbook, either, but a full sized Toshiba A300 laptop. The video scaled extremely well on my laptop: it is full screen and absolutely crystal clear. It actually looks better than the screen does in Windows Vista or Windows 7. In fact, I feel like I am looking at a high definition monitor — even zooming in keeps things fairly crisp and clear. I would love to show you exactly what I mean — really I would! — but there doesn’t appear to be any sort of storage or file access yet. I can download files, but can’t view them. I’m not even sure where they go, as I can’t open the folder — not even an in-browser version of the folder. So, if I was even able to take a screenshot, I wouldn’t be able to show it to you, because I can’t access it. This will likely (I should think!) be fixed by the time the OS is in production though, even if it is via extensions to send items to web storage and online viewers and the like. In the meantime, here is the (rather rough) video from an Engadget article on this release of Chrome OS (I actually had slightly better luck than them in that I have audio).

Functionality

Pinning tabs, as well as dragging them and opening new windows works just fine. The sliding animation that happens as you jump to a new window is very slick looking as well. All of the other major features you would expect from Chrome (and most modern browsers) are also there and functional, such as Incognito (private browsing) mode, theming, under the hood tweaks for performance and preferences, bookmarking, "bookmarklets", history, etc., etc., etc. — even built in developer tools. The problem is, there are also items that you would find in the browser that do not work, such as turning a website into an application. One would think that this, of any feature, would be supported in Chrome OS, and perhaps it will be at some point, but no such luck at the moment. There is also support coming for Extensions, but as that is not available fully for the regular Chrome browser, it may be a bit longer before we see integration into Chrome OS.

Google Chrome OS | Applications in action | Chromium Projects

 

Chrome OS has a "Start Button" of sorts, in the top left corner, that allows you to log in to an applications screen. Currently, there are a few applications in there that are actually applications such as the Google Calendar Panel, the Google Contacts app (which is actually Google Talk), the Calculator (gave a blank screen, unfortunately), and the Tasks app. The Tasks app was the one thing that caused Chrome OS to crash on me. Everything else in the apps pane is actually just a pretty shortcut to a web page. The apps pane is visually appealing and easy to navigate, but there is currently no way to add additional applications or shortcuts. The "Get more" button is there, but greyed out and unusable, and as mentioned before, Create Application Shortcuts doesn’t work (one would assume that this is where such shortcuts would go).

Google Chrome OS | Applications Pane | Chromium Projects

 

There are a few Operating System-type items that are non-functioning at the moment (aside from the lack of storage access). WiFi, doesn’t work, for example. At least not on my rig. I can get online by plugging in a network cable though, which is good, because without that it would have been a teensy bit hard to check out Chrome OS… The battery meter doesn’t work either — there is no indication at all when my computer is unplugged. I imagine that it would take some time before my battery actually died, as Chrome OS is pretty light on its feet, but I would never actually know it was about to die beforehand, as far as I can tell. I have gone to many webpages with heavy javascript and video content and found that Chrome OS handles them all with relative grace and poise. The overall experience, despite the limitations, has actually been quite pleasing! I don’t own a netbook, but I can see Chrome OS heading toward mobile platforms in the near future as well, and that has me pretty excited! A dual-boot with my regular system would be good too, considering that I often just want to "jump online" and do what I need to do without having to deal with slow start times and ram-hogging background programs.

 

How You Get It

The first thing you need to do is go to this website: http://carbon.hexxeh.net/chromiumos/

The next thing you need to do is download the build and prepare (format) a 4GB USB stick. 4 gigs may seem a bit steep, but I hear that future builds should be better compressed. Follow the instructions for your operating system. I am using Windows and found the instructions to be extremely straightforward.

Once you have extracted the downloaded image and used the program/method recommended in your OS’s instructions to put the bootable image on the USB stick, restart your computer and watch for the prompt that allows you to either select what you want to boot from or enter your bios so you can change the boot order. You want the one that says something about USB or flash drive.

Then you wait the few seconds it takes to load, log in with your Google account and commence playing! If it takes more than a minute, then you are likely having hardware compatibility issues. In fact, if it even takes a minute you might be having hardware compatibility issues.

Remember to be plugged in to your internet or you won’t get very far. Oh — and I wouldn’t recommend trying the USB stick on multiple computers. It didn’t go too well for me and I had to make sure I was disconnected from the internet when I logged in so I could get my resolution settings to work properly again on the original computer. *grins sheepishly*

 

What do you think of Chrome OS in general? Have you tried the build? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments.

 

Related Posts

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email Clip to Evernote

About Bobby Travis

Bobby isn't 40-something, but is a strong supporter of the Grown-up Geek kind. He's a loving husband and father first, but is also a freelance writer, productivity nut, operatically trained singer, and (not-so) closet geek. Check out his random thoughts, wackiness, and Instagram pics on Tumblr, Twitter, or Google+-- or just head over to bobby-travis.com.

19 Responses to Google Chrome OS Preview on USB Flash Drive

  1. I have checked Chrome Os yesterday.. it is working fine but I think the app list is very less..
    .-= Rajesh Kanuri´s last blog ..New Colors Added In Orkut Design =-.

    • I agree — I can’t wait till there are more working apps and the ability to add some of my choosing. Then again… I can’t wait for them to port it to mobile either! :D

  2. can we use our normal applications with this OS… i’ve also heard there’s high dependency on the web for this OS to run…. thats leaves an eery feeling

    Cheers
    Sandeep

    • Hello Sandeep! Unfortunately you can’t use regular apps in Chrome OS. It is specifically internet based. I am hoping that they will at least incorporate the Adobe AIR framework or create something like it themselves to facilitate the OS. As far as the internet dependency, it is definitely something that is a bit outside of what we are used to, but Google has an eye on the future when wifi points will be practically everywhere and cellular broadband will be everywhere else (and hopefully cheaper). Either way, I believe they will have to extend the capabilities of Gears to bring more reliable offline access to the OS, as well.

      Thanks for the reply!

  3. Well, I’ve had an interesting experience. I was away from home, with only wifi access on my netbook (Toshiba NB-205-N311/W). I booted and got as far as the login screen, but as you noted it appears you need a wired connection, so I couldn’t go any further. I’m now home with a wired connectin, and I don’t even get that far- my netbook is stuck on the “chromium os” splash screen. I’m going to try to boot without the ethernet cable plugged in, and then plug it in after I get to the login screen, and see if that works.

    • I think that the OS attempts to remember previous settings so that might help. That’s what fixed my error before. You might want to try reloading the image on your USB key and seeing if it wo9rks from a fresh install while wired. If that doesn’t work, try a few more times and see if it fixes itself — believe it or not, that worked for me when I ran into an error after my one crash.

      If that doesn’t work… could be hardware. Try your regular laptop and see if it makes a difference. At least then you can rule out a bad image flash…

      • Great minds think alike. I just popped back over here while rebooting after reloading the image, and I’m glancing back at my netbook to see the login screen.

        *hops back to the netbook to try logging on*

        I’m on! Interestingly, it works with Google apps accounts. I tried logging on with my email address from my personal domain, which uses Google apps, and that worked. I’ll let you know what I think after I play with it a bit.

      • Awesome! I wasn’t sure if it would work with Google Apps or not. Not a big surprise though, as they would be thinking ahead to power/money-making users/uses… I’m curious as to your thoughts.

  4. till now havent see……..or use………….

    • Well, give it a try! Let us know what you think. :D

      I would actually use Chrome OS in a dual-boot scenario if it were just a bit further along. It would be much better for my general internet use (which is the majority of my time on the laptop) than using sleepmode/standby all the time — better for my computer as well.

  5. I fired it up and used it briefly this weekend. My reaction is that Chrome OS is ahead of its time, and won’t really be useful until internet access is everywhere. Even then, it will have severe limitations unless/until all apps move to the cloud. I think it will be suited for netbooks, but not much else. That of course could and probably will change at some point in the future, but I think we’re a ways off from that. It really strikes me as something that turns a machine into a web browser appliance, at this point in time. I could see using it as a secondary OS, but I wouldn’t sacrifice my other apps for it (again, at this point in time).

    • I agree, but am planning to keep an eye on both Chrome OS and useful web apps that could replace many of the desktop apps I use effectively, since I do most of my work online. I am also really curious how it will compare to Jolicloud, which allows both online and direct install apps and has a pretty slick looking interface. I’m also intrigued by an article I read on Venturebeat by a former Google employee postulating Google’s real motivations behind developing the OS: http://bit.ly/6UCHcV

  6. Hey!
    I built a 0-day version of Chrome OS for USB drives today. It seems to support a wider range of wireless network controllers. Download it here: http://chromeos-blog.com/download-chrome-os-usb-drive/
    Erk

  7. I am very pleased with all the content articles on your site. I recieve lots of ideas which helped me to.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. What to Expect from Google Chrome - November 30, 2009

    [...] Editor’s note: our friends at 40tech.com recently discussed their own experience with Google Chrome OS. [...]

  2. A USB-Stick with Chrome OS Has (Almost) Replaced Windows for Me | 40Tech - February 26, 2011

    [...] December 7th. Many people have been testing Chrome OS for some time, however using methods such as booting from a USB-stick into a custom Chrome OS (or Chromium OS) build put together by friendly genius Hexxeh. The builds, [...]

Leave a Reply