[THIS POST is pretty old. I’ve looked at a newer version of Chromium in November 2015 in case that is more useful.]
The world of Chromium OS has been in motion. Hexxeh is no longer making two versions, focusing solely on the Vanilla build. I’d loaded Dell’s build from December 2011 onto my Dell Mini 9 and was happy with how it ran. Not great, but acceptable and it was fun to play around with Chromium. I was delighted when Bob Deloyd posted a note that Dell had released a new version on February 20, 2013 . [this link is dead – try Dell’s open source Chromebook project and see if it works; I haven’t tried it]
I downloaded and installed it this evening and it looks much nicer than the December build. It is closer to a recent version of Vanilla that I’d tried and the interface feels more OS-like than the last one I tried. I’m having more fun using it than the last version.
Here’s a recap of getting started, based on a 2007 Dell Mini 9:
This is the same as in the past for Dell images on Windows PCs:
- Download the February 20 image file [file is no longer available]
- Expand the tar.gz file using a tool like 7Zip. It will create a file called ChromiumOS_x86.img.
- Use a tool like the free Windows Image Writer to place the .img file onto your USB drive. It will overwrite everything on the flash drive, so backup anything you need to keep.
Once you’ve completed those steps, you’re ready to boot up with the Chromium flash drive. This does not install Chromium on your computer. It’s like using an Ubuntu Live boot disk, where you can try it out before you commit.
The Chromium logo will sit on screen for awhile. I always get a bit impatient but eventually it will get to a screen that prompts for basic information: language, keyboard language, and network connection. At this point you may not have wireless on your system, so be sure to have a wired network connection to start. Log in using your Google account (the one you use for GMail, for example), and you can get to work.
Chromium is based on Linux and you install it at a command prompt. When you are in Chromium and are ready to install, you need to open a command prompt window in the Web browser. Press CTRL-ALT-T. This will open a new tab in your Web browser and display a command prompt crosh>. Type install. If it prompts you for a password, it is dell1234. This will wipe everything out on the computer on which you are installing it.
Doug@Dell, who created this image, has a very thorough README file that you can download at the same site (above, #1) as the image file. Read it. It explains all the possible damage you could do but also discusses most of this installation process.
When the installation file is finished, power down your laptop, pull out your USB flash drive that you used to boot up the computer, and restart. This build seems substantially faster than the previous ones for its initial start, although it’s a matter of seconds. You’ll select your language, etc., log in to your Google account, and you should be in business.
The README file is a must-read. It talks about how to activate your wireless connection, which works pretty much the same as it did on previous systems:
- Log in to your Chromium OS.
- Press CTRL-ALT-F2 to go to a Linux command prompt. In previous versions, you would have pressed CTRL-ALT-T, and at the crosh> prompt, typed SHELL. This doesn’t work on this version (see the README file).
- You need to log in. The username is chronos. The password is dell1234.
- Type cd /etc to go to the folder containing the wireless install file.
- Type sudo -s to act as the super user.
- Type .install_wl.sh and the wireless drivers will install. When you exit this command window, you should see your wireless access points listed with your wired Ethernet connection.
- I always exit at this point (type exit, hit ENTER, type exit again) but you don’t have to.
- Get back to Chromium by pressing CTRL-ALT-F1.
Arnold the Bat has a great post on how to get your Synaptics track pad working. As Doug@Dell’s README files explain, there’s a newer mouse driver built in to Chromium and it’s not the Synaptic. He’s added in the necessary files, but I just tried Arnold’s process last weekend, and it worked great.
Extensions & Apps
My apps and extensions didn’t immediately synchronize. My bookmarks and other history did, though, so I know the sync works. I ended up going into my Settings (just like on Chrome, or use the small pop-up menu on the task bar by your date/time) and clicking Extensions, I selected Update Extensions. It appears to be grabbing them all.
Once they are sychronized, they will appear at the bottom left corner of your task bar – just like on a tablet – under the button with 9 boxes in a grid. If you haven’t found the Chrome Web Store’s collection of Offline-enabled apps, this is a must-have for Chromium. Apps like Scratchpad and Pixlr Editor are great offline tools for note taking and image editing.
I think that’s about it. The mouse pointer issue remains – if it doesn’t appear, click once and your mouse pointer should appear – and the issue about a blank screen on reboot (because it’s trying to still boot from your USB drive, not your hard drive) is fixed. I’d be interested in what you like or dislike about the new