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Hands-on with Chrome OS

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Day before yesterday I finally got down to some testing business with the Chromium operating system and here’s my report on how it went with the prototype operating system which can well and truly be the future of computing.

Tempted, eh? Just in case if you’re late to catch the news on Chrome OS, read my first thoughts and then you can go through my quick tutorial on how to try the operating system right now.

To be clear, this ain’t the Cr-48s that Google is giving away. Neither is this “the” actual Chrome OS. But Chrome is built on open source Chromium engine and all builds are one and the same except the developing team. Used here was the stable release of Hexxeh’s Chromium OS on the the following hardware…

A Lenovo ThinkPad powered with Intel Centrino processor clocked at 1.80GHz, a gigabyte of RAM and a 120 gigabytes of hard disk storage. As far as Chromium goes, it barely requires high end hardware. Why? Well, the operating system is just a browser afterall and so, just wonder how much resources a browser would eat up? Well not much anyway.

However, the Chrome OS notebooks, the Cr-48s manufactured by Google do boast specific hardware – a specially designed notebook powered with an Intel Atom processor clocked at 1.66GHz alongside two gigs of RAM. A unusable (for now) 16GB SSD (solid-state drive) and also a memory card slot (again, not usable).

The apps

Speaking of my experience with the Chromium, lets start with the upsides first.

THE UPSIDES

  1. The boot time was fantastic. Cr-48s as suggested by various users takes around 20 secs to load. This Hexxeh build took like 30secs to take me to the Log in screen and then 5 secs from there to the browser. The compactness of the browser makes it power efficient too.
  2. The concept of cloud is in itself very niche. The fact that you never loose your work – your documents is pretty much “the dream”.

Regardless of those facts, there are downsides too. And there are a million ones. I, despite that fact, am gonna mention a few important ones.

THE DOWNSIDES

  1. Trackpad: Just as Techcrunch’s MG Siegler mentioned, the trackpad software with Chromium engines really needs a boost up. Its just too slow to be called as a trackpad. For one it takes a million years to reach to other end of the window from any other end. Now this same trackpad works like a *charm* on Windows 7 installed on the machine. Which explains there ain’t any hardware error but a software one and its just tad too disappointing. (In case if you wondered, yes I did tweak the possible mouse settings, did set the sensitivity to a maximum but nothing actually helped.)
  2. Performing sub-basic tasks: Sub-basic tasks like taking a screenshot (I somehow figured it out later on though you can only take one screenshot at a time – if you want more, you have to rename the file name, which again is a horrendous taks cos accessing files on Chromium isn’t as simple as you think, and then you can take another screenshot. For the third screenshot, you gotta repeat the entire process) and playing media were more hard than

    The files download alright though there's no way to run them

    learning a lesson of Quantum Physics. I used digicam finally to get the screenshots, and used my native dell machine to do the music servings. Another sub-basic tasks include mounting removable drives (as mentioned, no way you can use external drives), taking quick notes (Notepad on Windows) etc etc.

  3. The speed: Even if this OS is a bloody browser, I wonder why it acts so erratically. Tabs take more time than on any other machine, very frequent hangs are more than enough for you to get all annoyed. Heavier websites and worse and let alone speakint about flash based websites.

“Restrictions” is the major problem here. The fact that you just have a browser and nothing ahead of it makes the OS kinda lame. Just as I mentioned, its a PITA to play media files. Its a pain to take quick notes, and its a PITA to access documents from some alien media (flash and optical).

As I’ve already mentioned, the idea of cloud computing is good enough but is the idea of present Cr-48 good enough? No it’s not. Not even if Cr-48’s are available for a meager $300. Why not buy an iPad instead, eh? You can browse the web and well, that is pretty much everything possible on a Chromium machines. The idea that you couldn’t do if you have no internet is very poor. How about power failures? Downtime? That is why the native Cr-48 come with a 100MB free Verizon data. But what if your country has no Verizon? Arey what if your country has no proper Wifi infrastructure?

The cloud computing model is awesome, sadly the Cr-48 model is no good. It’s very good as a research prototype but is just not commercially viable. Not even at $200. Not at least this version.

It is expected that Google will go commercial somewhere early in 2011, which explains the early testing they’ve undertaken. The expectations were high but you see everything’s all shattered. Let’s hope that the unused 16GB SSD and memory ports are used to a good cause in the next update of Chrome notebook.

A whole lotta photos of Chrome OS to come up soon, in some next post. Wait for it…

P.S.: With the help of @Mistcrafter, I somehow managed to install the Linux filemanager Nautilus on Chrome OS. Right now, I’m trying to take some print outs from this bastard. And yeah, you can’t take out prints from this unless its via cloud prints and well these cloud printers then again are dependent on normal machines – the easy ones boasting “real” operating systems. So cloud printing also sounds lame, at least right now.

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Written by rahulbhagchandani

December 21, 2010 at 12:51 am

One Response

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  1. Thanks for the mention! I’ve been reading up on configuring devices on ubuntu, need a larger flash drive to try it out with the chrome

    Douglas Vaz

    December 22, 2010 at 4:14 pm


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