Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Chromium OS - First Hand Experience

Ive been using the Chromium OS for quite some time now since Google released the second major version in the chromium project.It has been a different experience while compared to the conventional Operating systems we have these days.With its usage centered around the connectivity to the cloud any first time user will feel like using the chrome browser!

As with the chrome browser,the chromium OS incorporates three major elements.Its Simple,Sleek and Speedy.I was not sure if this image would ever run on the systems I have.So first I started with the Virtual Disk images from hexxeh. Unfortunately even with Hardware assisted Virtualization enabled ,the OS did not even boot in the VM.I took the conventional way of downloading the image file and writing it to a thumb drive

The second process should not be a big deal to people who are used to using Linux from their Thumb drives.All you need is a image writing utility like Image writer .I also had to think on what kind of system this build would work on.I tried it on my 3000H desktop and an Ideapad Y560 the boot screen would just freeze.Then I popped in the thumb drive into a Thinkpad X200 tablet PC, and it worked!

Since the chromium OS is an opensource project unlike the Google Chrome OS,there are many nightly builds available online. I choose the one which was compiled by hexxeh.I could have tried to compile my own but it would probably take loads of time!.This build is called "flow" and its working pretty well on the thinkpad I have.There is no guarantee that the image would work on your system,perhaps luck should play in as well :).
The boot time is almost under a minute and if in case your are using an SSD it might be even faster.It would also depend n how fast the thumdrive can process the data. Just under ten seconds you are presented with the login screen.

The UI experience was somewhat similar to the MeeGo OS which I used on a S10-2 netbook some time back.Since most of us are used to using the Chrome browser it would make no difference in using the OS.Except that there is nothing more other than tabbed browsing here.For Linux geeks there is the terminal of course who would want to delve into the command line and start tinkering with the system itself!

For what is worth is the security system that Google is touting on,Sandbox mechanisms and Code verification during boot time (The second one is already present in Windows Vista and its successor.There might be more but expect them to be present only on Google's version of the OS and not chromium.Some more screenshots which give us an idea about its UI :

One thing which I found interesting was window overview shortcut.Press F12 and you will get a linear stack of browser windows opened side by side.Particularly helpful if you are running multiple instances of the browser in a same session

There are a number of shortcuts which will invoke useful information about memory usage and the running processes.70% of the shortcut keys designed for the CR-48 machine worked on the Thinkpad X200.In my case even the Wifi got detected an Icing on the cake for sure!The easiest function though is to shut down the system,just hold the power button for 2 or 3 seconds and close the Lid it gets the job done. Some more functions like sleep and power saving mode also worked perfectly on the Thinkpad. And also since Google is a staunch supporter of Net Neutrality your data might be quite safe (Depending on the country you live in ;) who knows Big brother might be watching everything!:D)

Jokes apart,We are entering an age where customers will no longer expect hourly installation procedures and lengthy device driver configuration mechanisms. What they would look for is an instant setup which can be used right out of the box and which provides connectivity between the devices and the Cloud

After using this build my interest has increased and naturally Ive applied for testing the CR-48 machine from Google.So I am Keeping my fingers crossed!