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A first look at Google Chrome OS

Much abuzz on the Web, the first betas of Google’s Chrome OS are out. What does this operating system give you at this point? IT pro Rick Vanover walks through a Chrome OS beta.

In July of this year, Google announced that Google Chrome OS is a new initiative that follows the successful Chrome Browser. Just what is Chrome OS? Well, at this point, it is not too much more than an operating system hosting the browser.

Last week, I came across a Gadget download of the Chrome OS beta. It is provided as a virtual machine, making it painless to try without dedicating equipment. The beta is provided two ways --  as a VMware virtual machine (VMDK disk format) or a Sun VirtualBox virtual machine (VDI format). After downloading the appropriate image from Gadget, it can be quite easy to get started. If you want to go through this download on your own, the free beta download is here, and there are plenty of discussions on how to fix common areas on the Gadget site as well.

In my situation, I am running the Chrome OS beta on a VMware ESXi host. While I am not aware of a direct install of Chrome OS, running it as a virtual machine is adequate for my needs to evaluate the platform. This is how I evaluate all new operating systems, so it is a good way to start.

Powering on the Chrome OS beta gives us an authentication screen, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Figure A

Click image to enlarge
This login is authoritative to a Gmail account. And if there is no direct route to the Internet, the Chrome OS beta will not let you pass the login screen. Once authenticated to a Gmail.com account, you are taken to the main page of a Chrome OS beta, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Figure B
Click image to enlarge
Once inside the beta, simply running the Chrome browser is a predictable experience. Among the points of interest is a task manager that allows you to see performance statistics and run processes on the browser OS, including a running tab of goats teleported, as shown in Figure C. Figure C

Figure C

Click image to enlarge

At this point in the game, it is clear that a browser-based OS is where Chrome is going. Is it enough? I’m not sure. I surely need file transfer outside of the Google cloud and not limited to e-mail, and I’d love to have administrator tools to work on my other operating systems.

It is clear, however, that the browser OS has a direction; what about the potential? Have you started using the Chrome OS beta? If so, share your comments below.

About

Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.

36 comments
paladin2
paladin2

An OS that only works if you're online? Get real, most people aren't in 'the cloud' nor will be any time soon, if ever. If you can't run your programs unless you're online them I don't think it even qualifies for the term 'operating system'. Gussied up browser is all it is. I would like to see a stripped down XP sized and looks OS for people who think an OS shouldn't be 11 friggin GBs huge. I have both XP and Windows 7 Ultimate and I like 7 but could fit 3 of my XP installs in the 7 install and no way is there three times more features, functionality or value. I'm hoping enough people stick with XP so they stick with what I hear is a 2012 release of Windows 8, design to be decided by how many hold outs there are by then. Maybe then they'll release a non bloated OS. And Linux will never go anywhere until and unless they offer something similar. Most people just want it to work, not a new hobby.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

only works where there is power available. Think of the internet becoming utility like and you will see where they are going with this.

.Martin.
.Martin.

Gmail was a beta for years, will this move away from a beta?

RTHJr
RTHJr

I am interested in Chrome OS for sake of making a sling box that logs into a web hosted application in full screen mode to run announcements out to electronic signage. The idea of starting up a computer appliance strictly for running a web browser fits the bill here where I should be able to script the login. I hope there is a full screen mode as I learned that Safari does not where IE and FireFox do.

Derteufel
Derteufel

for years.

JCitizen
JCitizen

about now. With them going open source now, I bet they need help!

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

It looks to me that they are going down the road to evil cloud corp. that will end with your computer not having a hard drive. Paying monthly for "storage space available anywhere in the world". Everything will be 100% net dependent and 100% out of your control. With computers having huge memory banks now (192GB potential?) it is a real possibility. There are computer games that run on a server now and your browser just displays the rendered frames (http://www.onlive.com). It's a terrible idea and I hate it. Software as a service is a dangerous arena because this is where it leads. Dare I call it a slippery slope? I want to stick with my hard drive and my CUDA technologies.

terryd64
terryd64

NOT!!! Or driving across country... NOT!!! Internet required to do anything?? DEFINITELY NOT!!!

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

but the millions of houses with wired connections looking for a cheap device (like a telephone) to keep in contact may think otherwise. Who knows?

sonicsteve
sonicsteve

I will never willingly install and use an OS that requires an Internet connection to allow logins. That is just so over the top controlling I don't know where to begin. Secondly an OS that is little more than a browser doesn't seem to offer the kind of power I want or expect from an OS. Thankfully it's open source so people will hack this into community edition and hopefully remove some of it's stupidity.

erwin15155
erwin15155

the sites is disabled by google.....

aloysiusjegan
aloysiusjegan

They may lose their market because of the Internet connection... Also I am feeling that, other than login screen, it is not look like a OS.

pamarths
pamarths

I personally like the idea of google in bringing thin client OS and making applications web based. It works grate in countries like US but countries running with low internet bandwidths will really suffer -- who knows, things might change by the time final version is out. We will be able to talk more when the final version is OUT :-) http://techibee.com/index.php/sysadmins/download-google-chrome-os

Photogenic Memory
Photogenic Memory

What if you were down or had a 56k connection? You can see the dilemma. It's really not worth the time as a single user. If you provided internet kiosks for people; then it might be a great alternative? But if your ISP is down; it'd be a business killer.

b4real
b4real

Granted, I find myself about always connected. By no means am I saying "THIS IS IT" -> But this may be something -> COmputer labs at universites, public computing terminals, etc.

s31064
s31064

Just one question: Why bother?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"This login is authoritative to a Gmail account. And if there is no direct route to the Internet, the Chrome OS beta will not let you pass the login screen." So if I don't have or want a Gmail account, or can't afford a cellular connection to the Internet at $100 a month and up, there's no point in considering a Chrome OS device. Oh, wait, I can't load any apps either. That's three; Chrome out. Next batter, please.

TNT
TNT

It seems to have the computing paradigm backwards; I use my PC to access the internet, I do not use the internet to gain access to my PC. Others have already pointed out the problems with requiring internet access to login, but my questions is why? Why not have a local account that works offline? Oh, right! Because all the apps are online you can't do anything without an internet connection anyway, so why even bother logging in? It appears that Google wants the Internet to become the corporate network, and g-mail to become the active/open directory service. How practical is this? I mean, for anyone, personally, small business, big business? I can't see this working for anyone except maybe Google employees.

Adam S
Adam S

Oh, your PC... I'm not sure ChromeOS is meant to be a a desktop OS. What if it was meant for something between a netbook and a smart phone? How would you feel about it then? Perhaps it isn't for you. Maybe that is why you "can't see this working for anyone". Just maybe it is for the traveler that wants more out of their smart phone, but doesn't need all of the flexibility of a netbook. (How much battery life can one get out of a netbook that runs only a browser?) Who says that Google can't load GoogleApps into their OS? What would it take? A web server and a database? I honestly don't know, but I do know that Google has had some fairly elegant solutions to problems in the past. Besides, ChromeOS is open source. Isn't that supposed to be the go ahead for "write your own apps"? Obviously, Google wants you to live in a Google world. Would getting a free Google account be too high a price to pay to easily access the Internet, check e-mail, work on documents, read a book, and video chat with family while you're away? Yes, this is a blatant push to the cloud. It will work for some. Time will tell if it is enough to make ChromeOS float. I don't think you can entirely dismiss it because of one look at an early release that isn't running in the environment in which it was intended.

Adam S
Adam S

Are you implying that since a stripped down netbook doesn't already exist, it is folly for Google to attempt to create a market? The cloud is growing. What is lacking is a dedicated gadget to leverage its power. I am aware that WiFi kills battery life. I will concede the point that simpler, or more focused, apps do not equal longer battery life. Perhaps you are not aware that Google provides their Apps free to non-profits, including K12's. In this case, there is no need for a campus directory and the organization can keep their domain name to boot. I'm not saying that I could use a ChromeOS device, but it isn't dead before it has started as you have been suggesting.

TNT
TNT

Unfortunately the release being evaluated is not a beta, or even an alpha release. But for what it is it appears there is no desktop in the traditional sense. All files, folders and apps exist in the cloud. If that ends up being the case, then the device you suggest (something between a cell phone and a netbook) would be the only device such a paradigm might work on. Emphasis on "might". BTW, battery life would necessarily be shortened. A devices battery isn't killed as much by running apps as it is running hardware, like screens and WiFi/Cell connections. Since you must be connected to the internet to sign in it necessitates that you keep the internet connection open all the time you plan to use an app, burning your battery life. No, the only place such a device makes sense is on an educational or corporate campus, and then only if the authentication can come from the campus directory service instead of g-mail.

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

I absolutely need an "off-line" mode. I have a few labs and testing areas where I deny all internet traffic.

hmmmmm!
hmmmmm!

I will tell chrome the same thing I told the utility and others the want to do "Automatic withdrawal for your monthly charges from your bank account" Folks, G and the others so anxious to help me out.. until you can PROVE 100% security and 200% VERY limited accesss to my data and bank accounts, there is no way I will allow you store or "automatically" withdraw and pay bills.. Sorry but until completely assured, together with some sort of very high reimbursement for data or dollars lost or "oops" that go down. NO WAY! I would guess that both the PUD's, banks and Google have a lot of fine print to cover them if a "oops" goes down.. and guess who is the fall guy for that one?

bbrewster
bbrewster

I don't imagine that Google will steer the Chrome OS in this direction, but I think it has the potential to breathe new life into old hardware. There are other minimalist Linuxes that can do this, and probably provide more functionality than the Chrome OS will. However, there aren't any that are nearly as familiar to mainstream users.

JCitizen
JCitizen

Good point! Too bad they didn't put the specs in this article; seems like that would be a prerequisite for a "first look"!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

How can any existing Linux distribution be less familiar than Chrome, an OS that hasn't been released for beta testing yet?

swillardson
swillardson

I just lost much respect for Google... Offer me an actual OS that resides on my hardware and will run my choice of software apps including IE. VMWare cloud, no THX! Have we all forgotten the "Thin Client" model...? Do people think this cloud OS is any different, this actually takes the thin client to an entire new level, my home environment, and would logically move everything off to Google's host servers.

bbarnes
bbarnes

Do you honestly expect to run IE on a Google O/S. Of course it's going to run the Chrome browser. MS doesn't make IE for Mac or Linux either. How about realistic expectations! There are other Linux O/S's out there like Ubuntu if you want locally installed apps but you'll have to learn to use FireFox.

kgunnIT
kgunnIT

got Chrome OS running on XP with VirtualBox (using a vmdk image). I like the idea and concept, interested to see how it unfolds. For a constantly connect OS to work, bandwidth and connectivity in the US and around the world must improve. Maybe a little ahead of its time, but maybe by the time Chrome OS is officially released we will be better off. Strategically, smart move by Google, get people to do more online so they have more places and chances to sell ads.

Adam S
Adam S

It is nice to be able to look and play around with the OS in a virtual machine... on a desktop, but this doesn't really test it nor does it show its potential. We need to be discussing this OS in terms of what devices it will run on. There is a lot of talk about how Google is directly challenging Microsoft with ChromeOS. I don't see it like that, because I don't think that Google is aiming itself at the desktop or laptop market. I think what we are seeing in the virtual machine is pretty much what we'll get and this will only serve mobile devices, like tablets or readers, in my opinion.

fallout330
fallout330

Hey Adam, I read recently that Netbooks may be a target of choice for Chrome OS. This might work out fairly well if you have wireless broadband or even Wi-Max eventually. I guess we'll see....I like the concept, very progressive.

JCitizen
JCitizen

just the connotation and wording. I think the hardware manufactures want to offer more capable hardware, that is slightly larger, more capable, and lighter than notebooks. So to end the confusion they want to end the term Net-book. How 'bout Web-book? Naa! It'll never take hold! Regardless, I will by the first net-book'esc device I see that is priced the same as a net-book and has Google Chrome OS on it. I plan on using it for banking and shopping only.

Techtoo
Techtoo

But I also read somewhere that netbooks are on the way out. Hopefully Google does not put all the chips on this platform.

b4real
b4real

I can't yet live exclusively in the browser anyways.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

does not look like a real beta release. I wll wait for a real version certified by Google. TR should know better than to trust a 3rd party beta for an OS.

amj2010
amj2010

Well, we were eager to install it in a VM environment, but when we filled our username and the password which we use for using Gmail, no connection were given only the error one....you all know now. what the hell is going on here?