Chrome OS and Chrome-OS like Options
Chromebooks have been around a few years prior the writing of this web
page, so you may well already know a lot about them. However, having just gone
shopping for one at a couple of local computer stores, I was rather appalled at
the limited knowledge possessed by the sales people I encountered. One salesman
saw me looking at a model, and when I said I was interested in it, he said "You
do know that it's just a browser, right?" I assured him that I knew what I was
getting. That kind of response is what explains why I decided to put this
information page together.
However, if you are knowledgeable and/or possibly in a bit in a hurry,
let's cut to the chase. You can find several Chromebooks here.
Or, if you want to explore the Chromebook experience first, you can download a
Chrome OS-like setup based upon the Ubuntu Linux OS at Chromixium. And, you can download and get
much of the Chromebook experience with this Precise Puppy derived Chromepup
and a slightly different Chrome OS-like experience with a Slacko Puppy derived
Note that I can't guarantee that any of these Chrome OS-like distros will
work for you or accept any responsibility for things that might go wrong. But
I've installed and used them all successfully on my computers, except for one
computer that hangs up with the Ubuntu derived versions.
So you can act now, or read the rest of the page for more useful
information, then return to the top of the page and act later.
So to begin:
What are Chromebooks?
Chromebooks are laptop looking devices that run Chrome OS. They're cheaper,
much lighter than conventional laptops, boot much faster (much faster), and run
much longer on a battery charge -- like 8 hours or more for some models. To
learn far more about Chrombooks and Cloud computing, consider a book on
Chromebooks and Cloud Computing.
Chromebooks get that magic by dispensing with a hard disk altogether, and
have, similar to Android
Tablets, typically 1 or 2 GB of internal sdram, and an additional 16GB to
34GB as an SSD (solid-state drive) that replaces the need for a hard disc.
They generally offer additional storage by way of providing a USB port and SD
card reader slot. HDMI is a common included interface. Chrome users are
generally expected to take full advantage of cloud storage to supplement
their storage needs, and Chromebook vendors often offer 100GB of cloud storage
free for a couple of years. Incidentally, there's much more than just storage
available in the Google cloud arsenal.
Chromebooks are quite secure, in that security is primarily keep up to date
by cloud providers. Updates to the Chromebook happen automatically and quickly.
Safe, convenient and easy to use, easy to maintain -- that's the idea.
Chrome OS is a minimalistic operating system based on a modified Linux
kernel that is designed to be small and fast. It's just big enough to manage a
few resources (keyboard, screen, memory, and a couple of data interfaces), and
run the Google Chrome browser. That's about it.
How can that be useful, you may ask? After all, Chrome is just a browser.
To me, it all starts with Java. Not that Java has anything directly to do
with the Chrome browser or the Chrome OS, but some of the ideas that drove the
development of Java seem to have been adopted by Google (and others), though in
The major Java concept that I refer to is the idea of portable code.
The intended promise of Java is to be able to generate a fast running compiled
form of code, make it available on a network, and be able to run such code on
any architecture on which exists a Java Virtual Machine. Code created in Java
isn't compiled to machine code like traditional compilers, but compiled down to
an intermediate form called byte code, which can be loaded and executed
by any Java Virtual Machine. Byte code runs quite fast, much faster than
interpretive code. Java Virtual Machines have been created for all commonly
used operating systems. Java is still used, but I don't think it's taken over
as much as was expected.
In the meantime web software developers have produced a number of tools to
create languages that can be either executed on client computers by browsers
are other such languages as well. These efforts continue to increase the power
and usability of web browsers and an improved web experience.
Google grasped the idea that a well designed web browser could basically
become the new manifestation of a computer virtual machine that could execute
portable, network available code.
What Is Chrome OS?
The people at Google created the Chrome browser, moved it in the direction
of a virtual machine as well as web interface, then created a Chrome Web Store
where Chrome extensions and web apps runnable by Chrome can accumulate and be
available in portable form that will run on any Chrome browser -- on any Chrome
supported platform. Then, of course, the rest of the equation is to create
versions of this browser/virtual machine for all commonly used operating
systems, an on going process.
Since the Chrome browser became a code executing virtual machine as well as
a web user interface, all that was needed was laptop like hardware with enough
resources to support the Chrome browser, everything else could be web
available by way of the browser.
With the Google concept, all supplemental software is either grabbed from
the Chrome Web Store (some free, some not), or accessed on the cloud, like
Google Doc and its family of products. Applications in the cloud and in the Web
Store now abound, so real work can be done on a Chromebook even though the it
runs only the Chrome browser. Applications that require modest resources
generally run in Chrome on the client computer. Larger apps run on servers, and
use Chrome on the client for user interface.
The Chromebook is just a browser?
Do You Need A Chromebook For A Chrome OS-like Experience
The answer is no ... and ... yes.
No in the sense that running a recent enough version of the Chrome browser
on your respective computer and operating system will give you access to the
Chrome Web Store and the Google cloud products and all the things Google Chrome
can do. In fact, any modern browser will likely give you access to the cloud
tools like Google Docs, but not the web app store.
But yes, in the sense that the more physical and convenient aspects of the
Chromebook experience, such as super fast booting, very light weight, very long
battery life, and effortless maintenance and security, are somewhat unique to
Chromebooks. Tablets with keyboards give the most similar hardware
To address the non-Chrome OS aspects of running the Chrome browser on a
general purpose and bloated operating system, some clever software experts put
together Chromixium, a Chrome OS-like
operating system built upon a trimmed down Ubuntu. It's light weight, for an
Ubuntu system, and boots into a desktop interface that is designed to emphasize
the simple and easy Chromebook look and feel. Cloud utilities and Web Store
apps are all accessible in Chromixium.
I've used Chromixium, and have mostly positive things to say about it. It's
a bit big to download (about 800MB), but installs easy, boots moderately fast,
and indeed presents a very easy to use interface. It looks and feels like
Chrome OS -- simple and effective, and provides user support through cloud
applications and Web Store apps. Chromixium defaults to the Chromium browser, which does most things the
Chrome browser can do, but not all. Particularly I found I couldn't stream
Netflix videos in Chromium. But the Cromixium OS allows you to change from the
Chromium browser to the Chrome browser by following these Chromium to Chrome
directions. Then even Netflix streaming is at your disposal, assuming that you
have a Netflix account.
The Chromixium look-alike setup is sitting on a fully functional and
compatible Ubuntu operating system, so the very extensive Ubuntu package
library is just a few keystrokes away. This gives the user not only the same
on-line cloud and app capabilities as Chrome OS, but the full off-line
and on-line capabilities of Ubuntu.
If you want to explore the Chrome OS look and feel before you spring for a
Chromebook, Chromixium is a good choice. It's also a good choice if you want
the full power of Ubuntu Linux, but the simple and easy to use Chrome
interface. The Google cloud storage and utilities are useful even if you don't
have or intend to get a Chromebook.
Once you burn a DVD with the Chromixium iso file, you'll find that
Chromixium runs sluggishly from DVD, so to get anything like the real Chrome
OS-like experience, you'll need to install Chromixium to a hard disk. The only
downsides to Chromixium I've found are:
1) It takes awhile to download, being some 800MB in size
2) It must be installed on its own disk partition.
3) It may not work on all architectures. I've read that the mouse and/or
keyboard can freeze up on some laptops, and in fact that happens on my Emachine
I appreciate the way Chromixium introduced me to the Chrome OS concept. It
works well on 2 of my 3 computers, and offers full Ubuntu Linux in support of
the Chrome OS-like interface. But I wanted something smaller, simpler to
install, and that booted and ran faster. It seemed like Puppy Linux was a good
place to look for a solution.
Most Puppy Linux versions are small, typically weighing in at about 200MB or
even less. Puppy Linux installs easily. If you use one of the Puppy Linux iso
files to make a DVD, you can boot that and use the install option to put Puppy
on your hard disk. Puppy installs in a directory on the selected partition. The
partition need not be otherwise empty, Puppy can coexist with whatever's on the
Once the Puppy distro is installed, you should then run (from the Puppy
menu) the GRUB4DOS utility, and it will find all your current OS's, as
well as the Puppy directory installation. GRUB4DOS will create a new grub boot
manager for you. This method of install Puppy Linux is called a Frugal Install.
You can quite simply just boot from your Puppy Linux DVD and run with that.
It will run fine that way, as the entire OS loads into RAM and runs from there.
Files that you create or additional Puppy software that you install will be
saved on a special file by Puppy on your hard disk (you select where), so that
the next boot from DVD will have all of your additions. And finally, Puppy
Linux has a utility to install the iso onto a USB disk, which will also make a
fine running distro.
With Puppy, It's All About The Chrome
As I got into my Chrome OS-like project with Puppy, I found that the version
of Puppy that I was using (Slacko 5.7) didn't have a new enough Chrome browser
in the package manager. A browser that isn't new enough can access the Google
cloud utilities (like Google doc), but not the Chrome Web Store. What to
After some intense web searching, I found a new enough version of Google
Chrome at Chrome for
Puppy that was created by an enterprising Puppy Linux user. I was able to
easily get that installed into Slacko.
Walla! A Chrome browser with cloud and Web Store app capabilities.
Everything was perfect.
It turns out that I couldn't stream Netflix videos with that setup. Try as I
might, I couldn't find what I needed to get Slacko to stream
Netflix videos. But -- everything else worked.
Not satisfied, I installed Precise Puppy onto my computer. Since Frugal
Puppy installations just exist in separate directories, it's easy to have
multiple versions of Puppy Linux all existing on the same partition. So I
didn't have to switch to Precise Puppy by wiping out my Slacko Puppy,
just add Precise Puppy as a boot option.
With a bit of hunting, I was able to find and install the additional Puppy
Linux files that turned the Precise Puppy version of Chrome into a full
Chromebook experience -- including the ability to stream Netflix videos. I
added one other modification to my Precise Puppy -- an auto loading of the
Chrome browser on boot up. The remastered Puppy available as the Chromepup iso
has all the ingredients in it to give a properly running Chromebook experience,
minus the small differences between the Chromebook Desktop and the Puppy Linux
Small, exceedingly easy to install, runs quite well even from DVD or USB
stick, gives a near full Chrome experience. and allows full Puppy Linux
function as well. What's not to like?
For most users, there's probably nothing not to like. But, Precise
Puppy is derived from Ubuntu, and I found that like Chromixium (also based on
Ubuntu), my Emachine keyboard and mouse would often lock up. So the Ubuntu
derived Chrome OS-like setups (Chromixium and Chromepup) both apparently can
lock up on some architectures.
Bummer -- if you have one of those architectures.
Yet ... there is hope for you to still get the Chrome OS experience before
you decide if you can make use of a Chromebook, even if your computer and
Ubuntu don't get along.
While I couldn't get my Slacko Puppy version (which was the newest at the
time) to stream Netflix videos, someone else created a new derivative of Puppy
from Slacko, called Simplicity
Incidentally, it's not that hard to make derivatives of Puppy Linux -- a
Remaster option is included in the Puppy menu system, though Simplicity
is significantly enhanced and not a simple remaster.
It turns out that Simplicity Puppy has a recent Chrome browser already
installed, and it does all the things you'd expect Chrome browser to do --
including the ability to stream Netflix videos. In fact, there are a few
variations of the Simplicity Puppy OS, and one comes with a Netbook look. I
used this one, added only the auto running of Chrome after booting, and made
Chromepup Simplicity. It even runs well on my Emachine with no mouse
freezes. It is, however, a bit bigger than the Precise Puppy version, coming at
a bit over 300MB. Consider trying out this version if Chromixium doesn't get
along with your hardware
Chrome OS-likes Summary
Chromixium gives the nearest to Chromebook experience, in that in addition
to a fully capable Chrome browser, it gives a desktop and task panel that works
just like a Chromebook. The Puppy Linux versions I created have fully
functional versions of the Chrome browser that give all the Google cloud
functions and Chrome Web store access, but I didn't endeavor to change the easy
to use Puppy Linux desktops. I just added the auto-load of Chrome browser to
them, and Chrome is essentially the user interface in the default Desktop
panel. With Puppy Linux, you can switch to a different Desktop panel and do
Puppy Linux things.
You might be wondering which Chrome OS-like distro to try. Here's a brief
recap that might help.
1) Chromixium, which is based on Ubuntu. It's about an 800MB download, and
must install in on it's own partition for good performance. It provides the most
Chrome OS-like desktop look. It gives access to the entire Ubuntu package
archive for Linux OS expansion.
Chromepup Precise, which uses a version of Puppy that's based on Ubuntu. It
is only about 200MB is size. It runs perfectly from DVD or USB stick, installs
to hard disk with Frugal method which need not use an entire partition.
Gives access to much of the Ubuntu package archive. Boots much faster then
Chromixium (20 seconds vs 35 seconds on my HP laptop).
Chromepup Simplicity, which is based on Slacko Puppy, a Slackware
derivative. It is only a little over 300MB is size, and runs well from DVD or
USB stick. It gives access to much of the Slackware archive. Is seems to have
less issues with at least some hardware that Ubuntu derivatives don't like.
Note that since Puppy versions install in just directories on a
partition, both Chromepup versions can easily exist on the same partition,
letting you try both out. They can even exist as directories of the root
partition of your Chromixium install, and all would be boot-able. In such a
case, install Chromixium first, then copy the respective iso files of the Puppy
versions into respective directors on the Chromixium partition, boot one of the
Puppy Linux DVDs and run GRUB4DOS. It should find Chromixium, both Puppy
installs, and any other OS's on your drive.
So make a decision already. Get a Chromebook, or try a Chrome OS-like setup
of your choice. Or (as I'm doing) do both. I have Chromixium on two computers,
a Chromepup on all three of my computers, and I bought a Acer Chromebook, 11.6-Inch, CB3-111-C670 (Intel Celeron , 2GB, 16GB SSD, White).
I've learned that functionally, the Chrome in the described Chrome OS-like Linux
derivatives works pretty much like that in the Chromebook. The only functional
difference I've noticed is that the Chromebook makes a more seamless coupling
with Google drive, in that whenever a file selection pup-up is initiated by an
app, the Google drive is always a selection option.
But when running Chrome on a desktop or laptop install of a Linux/Chrome
install, the seamless integration of Google drive isn't there. On such systems,
one can certainly upload and download to and from the Google drive, and run
cloud programs and apps that work with files on the Google drive. But if a file
selection pop-up is initiated, the Google drive isn't one of the options.
Life is good in the cloud.