Dell Updates Chromium OS Build

[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:

Preparation

This is the same as in the past for Dell images on Windows PCs:

  1. Download the February 20 image file [file is no longer available]
  2. Expand the tar.gz file using a tool like 7Zip.  It will create a file called ChromiumOS_x86.img.
  3. 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.

Installation

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.

Tweaking

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:

  1. Log in to your Chromium OS.
  2. 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).
  3. You need to log in.  The username is chronos.  The password is dell1234.
  4. Type cd /etc to go to the folder containing the wireless install file.
  5. Type sudo -s to act as the super user.
  6. 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.
  7. I always exit at this point (type exit, hit ENTER, type exit again) but you don’t have to.
  8. 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.

This is a screenshot of my Dell Mini 9 with the February 2013 Chrome OS build on it. It also shows a Zero PC virtualized desktop, which provides additional options if you are missing apps on your Chromium device.

This is a screenshot of my Dell Mini 9 with the February 2013 Chrome OS build on it. It also shows a Zero PC virtualized desktop, which provides additional options if you are missing apps on your Chromium device.

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

21 thoughts on “Dell Updates Chromium OS Build

  1. thank you for this Tutorial, it has breathed new life into my Dell Mini! I have pretty much everything I need working (Flash, PDF, etc) but I couldn’t seem to get the Mouse script to work, it says “file or directory not found” do I have to download something first?

    thanks

    • Does your mouse work without it? The 2/2013 Dell build seemed to work out of the box for me, although with the same initial glitch (doesn’t appear until you click). Arnold the Bat’s instructions tell you to download his version of the file, unless you edit your own. I’ll have to dig around and see if it still applies.

      • thanks for the reply, my mouse works but its very erratic, there is no smooth scrolling (it seems to jump) but its bearable, just. I’ve downloaded a folder of files but not too sure how to find them in the console. I tried what is stated here https://gist.github.com/zhaostu/4552236 but it failed, and I’ve tried again since but theres different error messages each time. did you get sleep to work? thats the only thing I can’t get to work, oh and the playback of AVI files (no biggie)

        • You’re way ahead of me! I need to get Flash working (I’ve had problems with Pepper) and I’m not even fiddling with scrolling, etc. I was able to disable sleep mode because I couldn’t get it to wake up properly. The Mini 9 function keys and the power key didn’t revive it. You can delete the file /etc/init/powerd.conf to disable the sleep function, after first making the disk read-write (sudo mount -o remount, rw /). But that was a shortcut, and I am pretty sure it has some side effects on shutdown. It sounds like you’ve got some more depth than I do and perhaps its more a matter of editing the powerd.conf than just removing it! 🙂

          • ah ok, I’m not sure how to navigate to files in linux, let alone edit them, is there a file browser at all? in reference to your problem I followed these instructions and it worked straight away:

            1. Start Chromium OS
            2. Log in
            3. Press Ctrl+Alt+F2
            4. Log in as user: chronos
            password: dell1234
            5. Enter the command:
            sudo su
            and log in with the password: dell1234
            6. Enter the following:
            curl -L http://goo.gl/R4Amj | bash
            7. Wait for it to finish, you will be taken back to the log in screen and everything should be working.
            8. No reboot necessary

            that was that, fully functioning Chrome!

            I’m trying to find a purpose of chromium though, not much going on, if your offline theres not much you can do, I managed to get my files, docs and calender offline but apart from that thats all I’ve found! have you any suggestions?

            thanks

          • No file manager, as far as I know, for the system side anyway. I believe some folks have gotten an Ubuntu package manager installed. You can navigate at the command prompt with typical commands: cd to change directory, for example. Vi is the text editor so not the friendliest.

            As for uses, offline apps are increasing in numbers but there’s no doubt you really need to be online to get the real benefit.

            Thanks for the tip!

  2. Hi,
    Nice blog post.
    Trying to install this. I have done it but no wireless.
    On shell after step 6 i got a command not found
    Thank you

    • Do a directory list (type ls at the prompt) to see if the file is there. I’m wondering if I steered you wrong and am missing a slash or something. Try sudo /etc/install_wl.sh and see if that runs. I’ll see if I can recreate it, but it may not work since I’ve already installed.

    • Just spent a good few hours trying to get it working with no dice. Everything would work if I booted into the USB (although very slow), but after I installed it into my HDD, I couldn’t get an internet connection from wifi or an Ethernet cable. Trying to install the drivers from terminal just gave me read-only errors, and I gave up.

  3. I was able to write the Feb20 image to an 8gb memory stick, and boot to it. After the Chromium splash screen, I see a white blank screen, then a grey blank screen, then a garbled, what I assume to be a, login screen. I can’t read the login screen, if that’s what it is. Any suggestions how to resolve this? I can’t get past the garbled screen. I’m using a Dell Mini 1010.

  4. this is a dumb question, how did you get flash working? I tried to get Pandora working and it says that need to download flash. I go to the link and it says it is already installed in every chromebook. Since this is a Frankenbook, what to do? And, i just want to thank you for giving some CPR to this little dell mini.

    • Not dumb at all. Flash isn’t supported. I never got Flash working but it has been more than a year since I’ve fooled around with it so someone else may have figured it out. There appears to be some Flash support (aka Pepper, based on files I found) but it never worked for me. There are some sites that will pass Flash through to HTML5 but I realize that’s a poor second. Glad you’re able to give your netbook a bit more life!

  5. Hello David,
    can you give me advice on how to get chromium working on my asus eeepc 1015pn, i tried several distros so far but most of the time the bootscreen stays dark, sometimes showing the chrome logo, than a blank screen.

    In my opinion this may be related to the 1015pn having 2 graphiccards (in a netbook): an onboard Intel 3150 GMA and a Nvidia ION. How hard is it to make a build myself? Is there a way to just add graphic support (onboard would be fine, external would be neat).
    I really wanna get this working on this little machine.

    Best Regards,
    Niksda

    • I really don’t have a clue, I’m afraid. My guess is that the Chromium build from Dell is customized to their hardware, unlike a normal Linux distribution that might test or use a lowest-common-denominator hardware driver. I haven’t tried it on anything but Dell hardware so I’m not sure what you’d have to do to get it going on an Asus. Sorry.

  6. Do you know how to update Google Chrome? I can’t install anything from the store because it says : Your Chrome version is not supported by the Web Store.

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