Chrome OS: First Impressions...  

Posted by Anirudh Acharya in ,


To satisfy my itching hands I finally pulled Chrome OS sources and compiled them, made a VMWare disk and installed it. I must say I'm not at all impressed by it. The first thing I said was: "WTH! It lacks a Shutdown/Reboot button!" Agreed, it's a developer build, but no shutdown/reboot?? Come on... you must be kidding! Not everybody can drop to the terminal to reboot or shutdown. Yes, to get to the terminal (a geek's haven!) you need to press the key combo: Ctrl + Alt + T. Once there, you find Chrome OS familiar :)

As of now, there aren't many options to fiddle with and many features are incomplete. You can close all the tabs in Chrome and lock yourself out. It's as though everything got sucked by the black-hole and now you are there staring at your monitor, looking helpless! You cannot change the system-wide volume. To log on to the system, you need to be connected to the internet - True cloud computing! You login using your Google/Gmail ID and password. There aren't many web app shortcuts as of now. Google Wave is hell slow. Flash plugin crashes every now and then. The task manager says everything is sandboxed.

When the terminal is up, the everyday Linux user smiles :) and feels at home. Its Ubuntu under the hood with many optimizations. The most evident is the elimination of many processes and daemons which boost the startup speed. The system boots in about 13 secs, even on a VMWare-emulated SCSI disk. Phew! Thats fast. Good job, Google! 'top' shows that almost no user-level processes run in background. The /proc fs is the door to all stats-gobbling enthusiasts. The root partition (/) is read only, hence the 'lock' in /var/cache/sources can't be modified. This ensures that no 3rd party software can be installed.

Private browsing is enabled and one can switch between the private browsing and normal Chrome window with Alt + Tab. The System tray displays the Network and Battery status. The OS has a simple task manager that has a weird column: Goats Teleported. Wait a minute... "Goats Teleported"??!! WTF is that??!! Another task manager opens directly in the browser, called Task manager for Geeks. The widget toolkit used is GTK+ (Yay! Mac4Lin FTW! :D).

Overall, it's still a very half-baked product. And IMHO, even after its ready I wouldn't like this very much. I think Google has taken up a very good initiative to make the OS very simple and easy to use without giving the users many confusing options. But running this on overpowered Netbooks just doesn't cut the cake, it cannot be justified considering the power they have under the hood. Netbooks are already quite powerful. By the time Chrome OS comes out, they'll be as powerful as full-blown computers were an year ago. I agree it's still to early to comment on all the features. But the best thing Google has done to it is that it's Open Source. So let's wait and watch!

Update: Turns out that the "Goats teleported" is just a dummy column as explained here. This is what the source code says according to that source:

// An id for the most important column, made sufficiently large so as not to
// collide with anything else.
static const int64 kNuthMagicNumber = 1737350766;
static const int kBitMask = 0x7FFFFFFF;
static const int kGoatsTeleportedColumn =(94024 * kNuthMagicNumber) & kBitMask;

....

case kGoatsTeleportedColumn: // Goats Teleported.
goats_teleported_ += rand();
return FormatNumber(goats_teleported_);

.....

// See design doc at http://go/at-teleporter for more information.
static int goats_teleported_;


http://go/at-teleporter is an invalid link. Must be Google's intranet. The goats_teleported_ += rand(); statement makes the number go like crazy and overflow. Looks like this is just an internal Google joke! :D

Update 2: There are prebuilt versions of Chrome OS. You don't have to take the pains of compiling it from source. Head to this page for instructions and download.

Some screenshots:

1) Chrome OS:

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2) Google Wave: Slow as hell!

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3) This is what happens when you close all of the tabs! No way to get them back unless you fall back to the terminal:

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4) The options menu. Same as Chrome:

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5) The network config menu:

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6) The battery menu:

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7) Funny hostname!

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8 ) Under the hood! Its Ubuntu all the way...

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9) Private Browsing:

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10) Task manager. What's "Goats teleported"??!! LOL...

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11) Taskman for Geeks (thats how it's link is presented as in the Simple Task manager). Will it support IE, Safari through WINE? or is the message satirical??!!

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This entry was posted on 11/20/2009 at Friday, November 20, 2009 and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

3 comments

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