There is a lot of change happening in the "desktop" computing area
currently, and various groups are trying to figure out how to best support
users in the future. One entity with a big stake in the outcome is Google,
which has responded with a couple of operating systems of its own: Android
for small platforms, and ChromeOS for netbook-like devices. ChromeOS is
not meant to be generally available until sometime around the end of 2010,
but a preview version was released in late November.
Having been through the challenge of rebuilding Android, your editor was
not in a great hurry to try to make a working version of ChromeOS.
Happily, that proved not to be necessary: the folks at Dell put together a
ChromeOS build for the 10v, one of which your editor recently acquired
to play with Moblin. It was just a small matter of downloading the 7.5GB
USB image - a task requiring only a few days with your editor's
less-than-impressive DSL connectivity. Of course, during that time, the
install image was replaced with another which weighs in at a mere 320MB.
Progress is always a wonderful thing to behold.
Booting the image is straightforward enough; after about 15 seconds,
ChromeOS comes up with a blue login screen. This being a Google product,
it should not be surprising that login names are Gmail account names; the
system will nicely add the @gmail.com should the user forget about
it. Of course, ChromeOS does not come up with a functioning network on the
10v, leading one to wonder just how the login credentials can be
validated. ChromeOS can remember login information, but only after a
successful login. Your editor was forced to resort to actually reading the
instructions, wherein he learned to use the
default firstname.lastname@example.org account that comes wired into the
As has been reported elsewhere, ChromeOS presents itself primarily as a web
browser. The instructions on the Dell site suggest that it should be
possible to get a terminal window, but your editor never succeeded in that
goal. It was all Chromium, all the time. As a web browser, it works well
enough, but your editor does not spend all of his time messing around on
the web, occasional appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.
A small icon in the upper left corner leads to the screen shown on the
right. This screen would seem to nicely characterize the ChromeOS
experience, at least in this stage of its development. It's all logos for
services - generally commercial services - available out on the net
it seems, is the ultimate consumer's system. It seems like the logical
evolution of the television set. Indeed, one could argue that, like a
television, the main reason for the existence of ChromeOS seems to be to show
Now, one should use great care in coming to conclusions about an operating
system that is nearly a year away from a real release. Things will
certainly evolve considerably over the coming months, and ChromeOS can only
acquire useful features which are not available in this preview. But the
emphasis of this system seems clear: ChromeOS is designed to be a thin
front-end, with the real computing happening elsewhere, preferably at
Your editor's review of
Moblin-based distributions on the same device had a mixed conclusion.
But it must be said: the Moblin approach looks quite a bit more interesting
(to your editor) than the ChromeOS approach on these small devices.
Moblin, too, has a strong focus on ensuring that the user can distribute
wisdom on Twitter and Facebook with as few obstacles as possible. But
Moblin is also a Linux system which is more than happy to let the user
under the hood and to install and run applications locally. A Moblin
system is still a Linux computer; a ChromeOS system - at least, in this
stage of its development - seems much more like a closed appliance.
to post comments)