Saturday, November 21, 2009

Play with My Version of Google Chrome OS

[This post is dedicated to MP on his birthday today, one of the coolest hackers I have known :)]

As some of you might know, Google released Chrome OS on Thursday (I saw the video on my ride to work on Friday morning, thanks to Rachid). Khanna (and Gmail RSS Feeds) pointed me to this techcrunch post on how to use it with VirtualBox, but they also had this nasty warning (bold emphasis mine).

First, a few caveats: we didn’t create the Chrome OS build ourselves — it was downloaded from BitTorrent. In theory it could possibly have been tweaked by some malicious hacker to steal your Google account information (this is unlikely, but who knows). There’s an easy fix if you’re worried though: just go make a throwaway Gmail account, and use that to play around with the OS. Also note that because this is running in a virtual machine, you’re probably not going to be seeing great performance (like that 7 second boot time). But it’s more than good enough to get a feel for the OS for yourself.

So, I set out to build my own copy of the image, since I do have a AMD 64-bit PC with Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic and 4GB of RAM :). All that was needed was to follow the instructions at the get and build page at Google's Chromium project, and it will all be done :).

Needless to say, there were some hiccups :). [read the Tech Notes below this post if you are interested]

How YOU can start playing with it

Anyways, if you are in a hurry, point your favorite bittorrent software to download this torrent file [certified legal and malice-free by me, Animesh :) ]. A detailed description of the torrent is at this page.
[don't know how to use bittorrent? Post a comment or email me for a direct link for this 800MB file]

After that, follow the instructions to use VirtualBox from this Techcrunch post.

Here are some Screenshots from my run (you should see something similar):

Initial Login Screen

Using Facebook

The Program Pane (or whatever they call it)

The detailed demo video from Google is reproduced below, in case you want to see the experience.

My Impressions

Here are some initial thoughts:

  • The goals are pretty lofty - provide an uber-secure OS for the netbook, which starts in under 7 seconds, and resumes from hibernation in 3. On top of that, make it so secure that anti-virus software is not needed.

  • As another requirement, they need to provide "richer" features to the users who are used to desktop apps [local storage, audio/video capabilities come to mind].

  • Using it on the VirtualBox will not be able to demonstrate the speed part, but one should be able to test the offline-storage and a/v aspects, and to a lesser extent. the security.

  • I like what I see so far, and maybe my happiness is amplified by the fact that I was able to build it myself from source. Who here can say the same about Apple Snow Leopard or Windows 7? :)

  • I did not test out all the features yet, but it was a bit slow, and froze sometimes. Will post more after I have done some experiments :)

  • This was also my first experience of creating and posting a torrent. I am seeding it, so please feel free to take it for a spin. Also, please try to seed (leave it running) once you finish downloading. Thanks.

So, what do you guys/gals think?

Tech Notes

  1. The backup user is and the shared pwd is googlechrome.

  2. If you try to build it yourself, and choose to NOT download the source for the Chrome browser part, you will note that the path to the zip file that you should download in lieu of the source of the browser is broken. The one that worked for me was

  3. If you try to build it yourself, after running , the image will give errors if you try the steps under "Check the contents of the image". Don't worry. Just proceed to build the vmware image and use it. That's what I did.


  1. so u finally built your own OS :)

    i found it a bit dry sorts.. ell the links on its program pane are pointing to some o the other website. Is not chrome browser startup page with 8 of my fav webpages doing the same thing?

    leaving aside 7 sec start n 3 sec hibernation, did you find any more interesting aspects? i mean leave aside netbook users who wont have memory n processor, but why should I (a xp or ubuntu user) should shift completely to chrome?

  2. Not bad...this is your best post till date...I wish I could also test out this but I have windows laptops which cant take this :(((

  3. Anonymous7:25 AM

    dont get too excited about Chrome OS read this:

  4. @Khanna: You would not. :). Your question is like asking, "I tried the Windows Mobile emulator on my desktop, but if I don't have a cellphone/PDA, why would I switch to Windows Mobile?"

    It is indeed _nothing more_ (from a user experience perspective) than Chrome running a set of websites. And for now, Google has said that this is NOT for your primary device (PC/Laptop), but your secondary one (netbook).

    The challenge, in my opinion, is how application designers will enable things like offline email checking/composition. For a PC, you can get away with not doing it, but for a system like chrome OS running on a netbook, there is no choice. Thankfully, HTML 5 increases the list of things a website can do.

    @Anshul: Thanks. But why can't your windows laptop take this? Just install virtualBox for Windows, and run the image. Koi problem?

    @Anon: Interesting points, though some of the later ones look like a hit-job from competitors. In any case, will be an interesting thing to watch how this OS evolves.

  5. i dont remember but i heard that there was something called google gears, which enables offline viewing of google reader?

    google has everything you can ask for..phew

  6. I hope it's better than their browser. At first it was great, then suddenly, I started having problems. When I contacted them about the problem I was ignored. Not sure I would take the chance with an OS. On the other hand, it is open source, so I suppose there is help out there somewhere.

  7. Khanna: Yes, Google gears is what they use today, as a plugin for current browsers to enable offline storage, among other features (you can also take gmail and google docs offline). HTML 5 is not yet supported by all browsers, although the new versions of Firefox and Chrome beta are starting to support it.

    Starman: Agreed. Please let me know what problem you faced with Chrome. Maybe I can help :)

  8. My problem with Chrome is that I cannot leave comments on some Blogger blogs. Not all, just some. I have no problem with Firefox or even IE8.

  9. @Starman: Weird. Email me the link to one such post, or if you don't remember, just copy-paste the link the next time you encounter it :).


  10. Here is one such blog, which I just tried to see if it was still true: They are almost most all Blogger blogs, but not all Blogger blogs do it, some work just fine.

  11. @Starman: Thanks, but this is the link for the comment page of the blog, and is a generic blogger link. Please let me know the link of the homepage of the blog of interest.


  12. Oops, sorry about that. Try this: