We have heard much about Google’s Chrome OS but have not yet been able to experience what a cloud based OS feels like. Google’s flagship Chromebook is not yet available in the country but due to the open source nature of the base OS called Chromium, we can take a look at what the it feels and works like. Chromium OS is the base upon which Chrome OS is built. Google adds branding and other features to make Chrome OS, which is a similar approach they have taken towards their standalone browser, Google Chrome. Let’s dive in.
Chromium operating system’s official website describes the initiative as “Chromium OS is an open-source project that aims to build an operating system that provides a fast, simple, and more secure computing experience for people who spend most of their time on the web”.
The description cannot be more spot-on. The project started in 2009 and since then, with contributions from the open-source community, already high on Linux’s continuous development, this operating system has evolved into what can only be described as one of the fastest computing experiences you will ever have in your life yet due to its extreme user friendliness and incredible simplicity.
The operating system is Linux based and developed for people who spend most of their time on the web. In this article we explore various features of the operating system and how it might be the harbinger of the revolution called cloud computing. Before we begin, one thing that is to be made abundantly clear is that this is not a comparison of various operating software; and the compliments or shortcomings cited are not in any way relative to what other operating systems demonstrate.
Test Machine: Acer Aspire 5750 – i5 2410M. A Wi-Fi hotspot created via an Android device served as the initial registration Wi-Fi network.
Mode of installation: Hexxeh’s lime build written on an HP USB hard drive to make a bootable flash drive.
The OS boots seamlessly and the first page that greets is a clear white screen with the chrome insignia and chromium logo. Shortly thereafter the machine asks for a Wi-Fi connection and displays a list of connections that it detected. You can also browse as a guest if you do not have a working Wi-Fi connection and explore the workspace. The home screen comes on. The first glance gives a glimpse of the underlying simplicity.
The chrome icon and the app icon at the bottom left are self-explanatory. The app icon launches the screen that displays all the apps installed on the system. The very first use will pop this screen up.
Blue is the scheme and it suits the overall silent, efficient performance of the OS. The bottom right icon is the system manager try that displays various options as shown
The system settings are controlled from here. The system settings are embedded in an application that quintessentially resembles the chrome browser options screen. The GUI never deviates from the chrome motif and when I say never, I mean even the file manager, which is analogous to windows’ explorer, opens up in a fashion that resembles a new tab in chrome browser. That is what makes chromium a very simple and easy to use OS. That is where it scores the most.
Moving on from the GUI, the file handling and navigation (tab to tab and dialogue box to dialogue box), while maintaining that simplicity stated above in design, takes a minor hit in content display. In other words, every window opened has a very minor lag in displaying the files and folders enlisted in that particular directory/subdirectory. Selection and operation however is fast and easy. Multimedia playback again, is in the browser tab (the codecs weren’t available for the formats so the videos aren’t playing, this is just a demonstration of the playback of the video and picture)
The audio playback is one feature that I really liked. A small window opens at the bottom right corner that controls the playback options. The playlist option is embedded right in the player. One of the most visually appealing audio players out there.
The OS follows the conventional two pane display. Directories on the left, and sub-directories and files on the right. This maintains the user-friendliness.
There are many aspects which I have left untouched in this review. The internet connectivity is a big aspect of this operating system and the whole experience is designed around Google’s cloud computing capabilities. Chromium lets you log on directly to the internet and access your work there. There is no pre-installed office software suite, neither does the open-source community has plans to introduce one soon.
One good feature worth noting is that chromium opens zipped files like any other folder and you can drag and drop them to the left pane to display as a directory. The regular laptop slot pad seems to have a problem in configuration but it would just be an aberration with the build or the test machine. Chrome books are perfectly fine in this respect. An optical mouse, however, works fine. The shut-down procedure is one of the smoothest ever and it takes a record 3 seconds to shut down.
Flexibility in design is an important thing when a company having a reputation as big as Google, puts into conception an OS which is a potential competition for cloud-computing platforms of Microsoft and other computing giants. It evidently has taken care of that philosophy while imbibing them into its ‘minimalist design approach’. I am speaking for both the chromium OS and the chrome book that Google manufactures in collaborations with certain manufacturing partners. This will be a boon to the people who prefer to stay connected for a major part of their waking lives.
The chrome book doesn’t ship to India currently. I would prefer to look at this collaborative effort as something of beauty and significance which could play an important role in creating awareness about cloud capabilities of system among everyday computer user. Will it give the PC a competition? It might, It might not, but it certainly will create a dent in the whole computing scenario, if it hasn’t already.
This video should help the younglings in the world of cloud.
Overall, Chrome OS is a really good idea and I like how simple and easy it is. However, there are imperfections which show that it is not ready for mainstream use yet. Also, doesn’t it make sense for Google to develop Android for Netbooks/laptops rather than focus on two different OSs? There are no ready answers but the Chromium OS is really fast and if they get everything working right, it will definitely be a game changer as far as stress free personal computing is concerned.
Have you used Chrome/Chromium OS yet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.