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Google Chromebooks molt, grow fresh browser

Two month olds get new lease on life

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Google has released a new version of Chrome OS – the browser-based operating system that first arrived less than two months ago – offering VPN hooks, 802.1x secure Wi-Fi , and what the company claims is a 32 per cent faster resume time.

The new stable release is based on Chrome 13, so it also includes "Instant Pages" – a service that attempts to accelerate your Google searches by rendering pages before you actually click on them.

Chrome OS officially arrived on June 15 atop two Google Chromebooks: one built by Acer, the other by Samsung. The OS is essentially a modified Linux kernel that runs a single local application: Google's Chrome browser. It moves (most all of) your applications and data to the interwebs.

Google pitches Chrome OS as an operating system that's eternally improving. The Chrome browser is on what used to be considered a rapid six-to-eight-week release cycle, and Chrome OS will updated just as rapidly, with updates automatically pushed down to devices. "One of the things that excites us about Chromebooks is that unlike other computers, the user experience automatically gets better over time," Google says in a blog post announcing the latest release.

The flip side is that compared to traditional desktop operating system, Chrome OS is rather limited. And it does even less if you lose your internet connection.

Though Google claims a 32 per cent faster time with the new release, the resume time on our Samsung notebook was already so fast, we didn't really notice an improvement. Chromebooks use solid state flash drive rather than old school hard disks, and they not only resume quickly but boots quickly. Ours boots in about ten seconds.

The OS now supports VPNs using L2TP over IPsec with pre-shared keys. It lets you mount Android devices via USB. And Google's Cloud Print tool now lets you grab documents and save them as PDFs on Google Docs, the company's online word processor and file storage service. Google has also rolled out various big and crash fixes.

Separately, several Google partners have apparently released web-based applications to coincide with the new OS release. Google's Chrome Web Store now offers a Netflix app; Amazon's Kindle Cloud reader, which lets you read Kindle ebooks even when offline; and a "tech preview" of the Citrix Receiver, which lets you run traditional desktop applications on Chromebooks. When you complain that Chromebooks don't run good old fashioned Windows apps, Google inevitably points to Citrix Receiver. ®

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