A Review Of Chrome OS: My Chrome OS Inside VirtualBox Adventure

Taking the cues from my reading of ZDNet’s “How to install Google’s Chrome OS,” I used VirtualBox to test out Chrome OS which is a nightly build of someone else which can be found at chromeos.hexxeh.net/vanilla.php.  As ZDNet suggests, if you don’t really know how to program and compile source code, it’s best to use Chrome OS Vanilla version from Hexxeh.  So how does it feel to use Chrome OS?

Even though I used a virtual machine environment such as Virtualbox, yet Chrome OS was able to boot in a second or less.  I couldn’t really count the short duration it took to boot up since the whole boot process happened so fast; it felt as if I got a working operating system instantly on a fresh boot.  At the very first boot of Chrome OS, it asked me to connect to a network.  For some strange reasons, the default network setting I picked the first time around with VirtualBox was not recognized by Chrome OS, and so I could not go beyond the network setting screen.  Sighed, I shut off the virtual machine, got back out, and configured the network setting of VirtualBox.

What I did was I enabled at least four (i.e., if I remember this correctly) virtual network virtual adapters, and each one used a slightly different settings.  For an example, the first one used plain NAT with type of PCnet-FAST III (AM79C973).  The second, third, and fourth network virtual adapters were configured with different virtual hardware types and settings.  My case, it was one of the adapter with setting of eth0 and possibly either an Intel PRO/1000 MT Server(82545EM) or Paravirtualized Network (virtio-net) that did it for me.  Anyhow, Chrome OS inside VirtualBox environment was able to pick a compatible network adapter among the ones that I had enabled to move me forward in setting up Chrome OS.

I probably forgot how exactly it played out with the next step after the network setting, but I remembered that I had to create a new Google account so I could use Chrome OS.  Obviously, I could have sign in with my frequently used Google account, but as being a security paranoid freak, I decided it was better to create a new Google account for Chrome OS testing purpose.  After all, it was my first time to dance with whoever responsible for the compiling of Chrome OS into a vanilla solution so one could just attach it as an existing hard drive to VirtualBox machine, and so it was typical of me to play safe by using a brand new Google account.

Inside Chrome OS, it felt as if I’m using a Chrome browser, only!  The little tool icon that Chrome has always had on the top right was presented inside Chrome OS.  I clicked on that and went into Settings.  Lo and behold, I noticed there were couple extra features that only Chrome OS would have and Chrome browser could never have.  Actually, the Chrome browser has it as Preferences, and Chrome OS has it as Settings.  Inside Settings, I saw the option of System; which I clicked and saw you could configure date and time and touchpad and language and accessibility.  In the Internet option, I could configure Wi-Fi or Wire network setting.  Under the Hood option was basically the same thing as Chrome browser has always had.  In User option, I could add users and so on.

Somewhere on the Internet said that I could access terminal of Chrome OS by doing Ctrl + Alt + t combination of buttons, but I found out that it would pull up a non-functional terminal.  By that I meant the terminal would have a prompt said crash >, but whatever linux commands I’d typed at the prompt would not execute.  Actually, one command would execute was [exit].  I typed exit command at the prompt, and the terminal closed which allowed me to be at the normal screen of Chrome OS.

Without a terminal, and not knowing if any linux command would work with Chrome OS or not, I could not really install VirtualBox Guest Additions to enable Chrome OS to be boot with full screen.  Oh, you must think I was stupid for trying linux commands on Chrome OS!  Pardon me though, from what I heard and read and absorbed, Chrome OS is based on Ubuntu; Ubuntu is Linux; so my assumption was and is that Chrome OS is just a variant of Ubuntu and so it’s just another Linux operating system.  Unfortunately, with even that knowledge, I was unable to use Chrome OS’s terminal or to be sure of if Linux commands could actually work with Chrome OS or not.

Right click on Chrome OS’s very top portion (i.e., above everything else and on the empty space where tabs can spring into existence at anytime), a popup menu showed me various options such as allowing me to open up a task manager.  Shift + Esc combination of buttons can also bring up the task manager.  In task manger, I was able to monitor private memory, cpu, and so on.  The task manager was so simple, it made me feel as if I was using a kindergarten version of Linux’s top.  The link “Stats for nerds” which linked me to additional stats information was so alien to me, I just glimpsed at it once and could care less about it afterward.  Essentially, the additional stats at “Stats for nerds” screen showed the additional information on memory usage for each application, and that was about it.

In conclusion, I can see why Chrome OS is perfect for a machine with simple hardware architecture such as a low-end notebook, because Chrome OS isn’t utilizing a traditional method of storing data onto a local hard-drive.  Instead, it relies on the cloud where data are constantly streaming back and forth between a user’s machine and the servers that locate somewhere else in the world.  Although Chrome OS isn’t requiring powerful internal architecture since there isn’t a need of installing any application internally, it’s still a very powerful operating system.  Imagine one day some company will stream all types of powerful applications from the cloud for Chrome OS machines, and those powerful applications may run way faster (i.e., utilizing the power of the cloud) than many applications that meant to be ran internally (only a slow Internet connection can ruin everything).