Rose Park in Georgetown

Turn your laptop into a Chromebook with Chromium on a stick
Wikipedia's article on Google Chrome OS

Amazon's Acer Chromebook 13 page

Hexxeh's Chromium builds page

Arnoldthebats World of Whimsy

Amazon's SanDisk Cruzer Blade 8GB page

An index of all of John's articles

Thomas Computer Services Web Site
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 battery.

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.

The process
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

10. Click the Sourceforge project link there. You'll see the new home of this utility in 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 " 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 it's done.

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 the BIOS.

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 your call.
May 13, 2015

John G. Thomas,  your all-natural geek for

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