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|What’s a Chromebook?
Google now maintains a computer operating system, called Chrome, that
is used in netbooks sold by Acer and by Google itself, among others.
These netbooks are small, lightweight, notebook computers, called
Chromebooks. The screens are small, like 14 inches or less. There are
no hard drives inside; instead there’s a small amount of solid state
storage like the kind in USB memory sticks. The processors used in
these netbooks are a bit slow compared to those found in Windows
laptops, but work fine with Chrome OS, the operating system made for
them, and can boot up the system in about ten seconds and resume nearly
instantly from sleep. Because of the smallish screen, lack of a hard
drive and efficient processor, the batteries of Chromebooks can hold a
charge for around eight hours as compared with three to four hours as
with a Windows or Macintosh laptop. The lightweight, attractive Acer
Chromebook 13 with 16GB internal storage and a 13.3-inch display
currently sells for $219.99 on Amazon. It weighs only 3.3 pounds and
they say you can use it for 13 hours before you have to recharge the
Chrome OS and Chromium
It’s kind of a shame that Google chose to use the same name for their
browser AND their operating system, but earlier versions of the OS
booted directly into the browser as they thought there was no need for
a desktop. This proved unpopular and now there's a minimalist desktop
to start from. Chrome relies on the Internet for storage and other
functions and when you get your new Chromebook, you’re expected to also
set up a free Google gmail account (or register your existing one) and
use that to get things going. The account includes 5GB or so of storage
on Google's servers. This web-based business is usually referred to as
the "cloud," and Chrome is the first OS dedicated to computing this
way. It may all take a little getting used-to. Could it be for you?
Even new versions of Windows are prone to security problems, whereas
Chrome is not, for now anyway. Macintosh OS X is fairly secure but only
runs on those very expensive Macintosh laptops and desktops. You might
like to take Chrome for a test run.
Enter Chromium. Because Chrome is based on the free and open-source
Linux OS, and because Google has published the source code for its
Chrome OS, any aspiring programmer can legally publish versions of it.
In 2010, at the age of 17, Liam McLoughlin of Manchester, England,
under the pseudonym "Hexxeh," began releasing the very popular
"Chromium," along with instructions for putting the OS on a USB memory
stick of at least 4GB to use with a Windows, Macintosh or Linux
computer. His last one was released in April 2013, but for newer
versions, another Brit who calls himself Arnoldthebat is still
releasing updates on a weekly basis in case must-have-the-latest is
your thing. USB memory sticks have gotten very cheap and 8GB models by
SanDisk, a very reliable manufacturer, can be had from Amazon for as
little around six dollars plus tax & shipping: not very much to
spend to try computing in the cloud.
Though Hexxeh's ChromiumOS web page has instructions and links for
installing Chromium in a computer running any of the three major
operating systems, for simplicity, the following procedure assumes you
have a Windows laptop or desktop to use, and that you have a suitable
(4GB or greater) USB memory stick ready to hold Chromium. To begin:
1. Follow the link at the left to Hexxeh's web page.
2. Scroll down to his "Let's get started" section and click the Windows
icon (it's the first one; looks like a flag.)
3. For the moment, ignore the four numbered steps of his procedure and
scroll down to the "Nightly build links" section, and click the USB
icon to the right of where it says "Build 4028." You'll next see
Hexxeh's disclaimers, which you should read before you then...
4. Click the little box where it says, "I have read the above:"
5. Click the little [Download] button. The ChromiumOS image immediately
begins to download to your browser's default downloads folder. The
image file is 2.36GB, so it will take a few minutes.
6. Hit the Backspace key on your keyboard (or click the Back arrow at
the top of your browser window) to go back to Hexxeh's instructions and
links page, and then click the Windows icon again.
7. In Hexxeh's Step #1, he advises using WinRAR or 7zip to extract the
IMG file you just downloaded, but first try extracting it this simpler
way: Right-click the file (which is called
ChromeOS-Vanilla-4028.0.2013_04_20_1810-r706c4144 and appears as a
folder with a zipper on it), and then click Extract all...
8. When the Select a Destination and Extract Files window opens, use
the [Browse] button to browse to your desktop, and then click the
[Extract] button. It takes about a minute or so. When the extraction is
complete, a new folder with the same name will open on your desktop
with the Disk Image File in it. Close the folder for now to keep things
easier to manage.
9. In Hexxeh's Step #2, he advises using and also gives a link for a
utility called Windows Image Writer (also known as Win32DiskImager.)
Click the link. You'll see a web page in launchpad.net.
10. Click the Sourceforge project link there. You'll see the new home
of this utility in sourceforge.net. Scroll down and read the User
Reviews before downloading. Some fails are listed along with the
successes. Not to worry.
11. Scroll back up and click the green [Download] button. It's a small
file and only takes a few seconds to download.
12. When the yellow "Do you want to run or save..." window opens at the
bottom of the browser, click the [Save] button.
13. A yellow and white "...download has completed" window replaces the
"run or save" one. Click the [Open folder] button.
14. When the folder with the new Win32DiskImager download opens,
right-click on that file and then click Run as administrator. Enter
your Administrator password if needed, and click the [Yes] button.
15. In the following five windows, click everything affirmative and all
the [Next] buttons, including the Create a desktop icon checkbox and
the [Install] button.
16. Click the [Finish] button in the last Setup window.
17. Read the "About:" and "Known Issues" sections of the Readme that
opens, and then close that Notepad file.
18. The powerful little Win32 Disk Imager is open and waiting to create
your ChromiumOS-on-a-stick tool (or anything else that can be put on a
stick, for Windows for that matter.) Close any OTHER open windows.
19. At the top of this window, under "Image File," there's a cursor
blinking in a text field, and a tiny button with a folder icon on it.
Click that button and browse to the folder on your desktop with the
ChromeOS-Vanilla image file. Open that folder and then click to select
the Disk Image File icon (you'll see its filename in that text field
now), and then click the [Open] button.
20. Plug your USB memory stick into the computer and close the little
Autoplay window that opens.
21. Under "Device" in the Win32 Disk Imager window, there's a button
now labeled with the drive-letter designator of the memory stick you
just plugged in, something like "[E:\]" and you should visit Computer in
your Start menu to make sure that this is indeed the device you want to
use and that you're ready to continue.
22. Click the [Write] button.
23. In the Confirm overwrite window, click the [Yes] button. The Write
process begins immediately. The Win32 Disk Imager is a wonderful tool
but even on a fast computer, it can take 15 or 20 minutes to complete
this task. You'll see a little Complete window with an [OK] button when
24. Click [OK].
To use your Chromium USB memory stick, start or restart the computer
with the thing plugged into a USB port. You may get a black and white
screen advising you to press any key to start up from the memory stick
and if you do, press a key and the next thing you'll see is the
Chromium OS Welcome screen and you're on your way. If instead Windows
starts as usual, you then need to follow this little procedure:
1. Restart the computer and immediately and repeatedly press the F2 key
at the top of your keyboard until you see a black and white screen with
a system of menus. This is the computer's Setup system, also known as
2. Use the menus to navigate to a screen called Boot (or Boot Order),
and use the menu there to change the order of the boot process so that
the computer will try to start from a USB port BEFORE it tries to start
from the hard drive. Don't forget to Save and Exit. After this, any
time you start the computer with your Chromium on a stick plugged in,
it will start as advertised, and otherwise, Windows will start.
If any of this seems daunting, John can walk you through it. He awaits
May 13, 2015