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Dell sows 'experimental' Chrome OS for Mini netbooks

Google that sours after 36 hours

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A team of Dell engineers has released a very unofficial version of Google's Chrome OS for use on the PC manufacturer's Mini 10v netbooks.

Dell isn't on the official list of Chrome OS hardware partners. And the company's founder and CEO believes his netbooks go sour after 36 hours. But you now have ready access to an early open source incarnation of Google's browser-happy "operating system" that's been tweaked specifically for those 36-hour machines.

With a post to the company's Community Blog, Dell technology strategist Doug Anson tells the world that he and "some other Dell folk" have managed to get the open source ChromiumOS up and running on a Mini 10v. And he kindly provides a link to their USB key image file.

Anson's description of Google's "operating system" is far from surprising. "Without a network connection, ChromiumOS is not very interesting," he says. "With a network connection, ChromiumOS shines." He and his fellow Dell folk have managed to tap the Mini 10v's Broadcom WiFi adapter, but there are (many) caveats. "It's definitely not perfect (read: highly experimental, untested, unstable, yada yada...," Anson says, "but it does appear to function."

He warns that the network manager may need 5 to 10 minutes to "see" available access points and that the manager and its underlying components "can easily break or get hung."

"When in doubt," he says, "reboot and give it another try."

And you'll have to reboot by hand. The image lacks a reboot/shutdown option, leaving the power button as your only option.

Anson also warns that the entire image "comes with absolutely no support of any kind and is to be considered highly experimental and completely unstable." But he does confirm that Google's "operating system" boots quickly. Though he hasn't quite duplicated the 7 second boot time claimed by Google, he does manage 12 seconds on his Mini 10v.

Google Chrome OS is still a year away from its arrival on commercial machines, but last week, the Mountain View Chocolate Factory released an early open source snapshot under the ChromiumOS moniker. Google's says its engineers will work with external programmers on the same code tree, but we're assuming the real work will take place behind closed doors.

Based on Google's Chrome web browser, Chrome OS does not run native applications and works only with certain hardware. It will not, for instance, run on traditional hard drives. It works only with solid state drives. ®

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