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  December 21, 2009

Chromium OS on a USB Flash Drive

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A sneak peek at the next-generation Chromium OS from Google

Chromium OS isn’t supposed to be released by Google to the public until late next year, but the early betas are already showing promise. If Chromium OS lives up to its initial hype you can count on having an open source operating system that is fast, simple and more secure than any existing OS on the market today, including Windows 7, Mac OS X and Linux.

We’ve had the chance to test the new operating system on a netbook. Specifically, this is the Hexxeh USB build, which allows the Chromium OS to be booted from a USB flash drive or stick. Within 7 to 8 seconds after hitting the power button, the fully loaded Google Chrome browser has you ready for work. It’s lightning fast and could become the future of mobile computing.

One reason it shows potential is that the Chromium OS is designed for today’s computers. No matter how much Microsoft or Apple operating systems are updated they are still based on a computer framework that is more than 30 years old; a framework that dictates that the OS is the center of a computing universe.
But these operating systems were developed long before the Internet and web-based computing. As such, they’re akin to using a Betamax VCR with a high definition television – the technologies can’t make the best use of each other.

Access to the Internet is just a small part of a computer’s capabilities even though the Internet has become central to the user’s experience as they increasingly access files, games, multimedia, social networks and online applications.
Of course, Google isn’t ready to tout Chromium OS as the be-all do-all in their formal communications just yet. They still need access to Windows, Mac and Linux code to make their browsers work with existing platforms. But we believe they see the writing is on the wall and that Internet-based applications are the wave of the
future.

If this is the case, then Chromium is spot-on in its objectives. It is open source, promoting innovation and ready access to the development community. It is designed to be fast, simple and secure. And it is designed specifically to give you plug and play access to the Web for true mobile computing, taking advantage of applications that live within the browser, not the computer itself. Since there’s no central collection point of processing, security is simplified because each application has its own security sandbox, which makes it much harder to infect your computer. If there is a virus, it will stay isolated in the application, at least that is the theory.

But the commitment to security runs much deeper than that, according to Google. Every time you start your computer up, it verifies the code. If something is wrong, the operating system is designed to fix itself during a reboot. Even if a malicious code is added, the system will delete it.

The real beauty is its speed. So far, Chromium OS is proving to be extremely fast and responsive and the company says this is going to remain a high priority, to the point where developers are receiving specifications to ensure that the system doesn’t become bogged down with extraneous code and bloatware.

In our own tests we’ve been booting up our netbook with Chromium OS, setting the preferences so the computer boots off the USB as priority 1, with the hard drive #2. It has proven to be extremely faithful and consistent in booting up. And best of all, all of our settings, preferences and passwords go right along with us, regardless of the computer we’re using.

That’s true mobile computing and hopefully, Chromium OS will only get better as it undergoes more thorough testing and additional builds, along with the addition of new developer apps to enhance its capabilities.
We’ll have more on Chromium OS as it goes through its beta testing.