Playing with the Chrome OS on a S10-2 netbook

Mark Hopkins

I'd like to introduce David Churbuck, our VP of Digital Marketing, who thoughtfully shares some of his personal experiences loading Google's Chrome  OS on a Lenovo S10-2 netbook.   

David, a quintessential leader in the Social Media space has guided the launch and evolution of Lenovoblogs, spurred the launch of our community, and as an early adopter, advocated our presence in relevant social networks such as Twitter and Facebook.   I think his post below epitomizes his adventurous spirit to embrace new technology and challenges us to answer "why not?".

David Churbuck, VP Digital Marketing

In late November a few of us at Lenovo with an interest in netbooks and stripped down operating systems loaded Google’s Chrome OS – known as the Chromium OS – onto our S10-2 netbooks. I thought I’d share the instructions in case you want to experience the novelty of a browser-centric operating system and some thoughts on the future of the platform for netbooks and smartbooks. Chromium is an open source project and is in the earliest stages of development. I can’t vouch for its stability and need to stress it is recommended only for adventurous users who are comfortable with modifying their systems at the BIOs level. The processes for loading the operating system are a little complicated, so bear with me. Before you start you will need:

  • A Lenovo S10-2 (other Lenovo PCs have been tested and there is a compatibility matrix for other systems)
  • A USB stick with 4 gb of open memory
  • A copy of WinRAR for unpacking the image
  • A copy of ImageWriter for writing the image to the USB key
  • A wireless 802.11 network or direct Ethernet connection

The Chrome  build I use comes from a user who goes by the name of “Hexxeh” – he maintains a comprehensive site with full download and installation instructions at http://chromeos.hexxeh.net/ Download the Windows image from one of the mirrors listed on the Hexxeh site, unpack it with WinRAR, load it onto the USB stick with ImageWriter then get ready to boot your netbook off of the stick. The way you do that is interrupt the boot sequence by pressing F12 at the Lenovo BIOS screen. Right arrow key over to “Boot” and set the option to boot from a USB “HDD” first. You set the priority by using the down or up arrow to put the highlight on the USB HDD option and then press <F6> to promote it up the list to first place. Save with <f10>. Then reboot with the USB drive in the netbook. The PC will boot into the Chromium OS screen, display this logo, and give you a log in screen.

chromium OS       

The username is “facepunch” and the password is “facepunch.” From there you should boot into a Chrome browser. At the top right of the screen you will see three small vertical rectangular boxes. Click on the middle one – that will indicate the presence of any Wifi networks. In the version of Chromium I tested the Broadcom wireless drivers were very slow and took five minutes or more to detect my wireless network. Alternatively, if you are in a hurry, you can always stick an Ethernet cable into the netbook and be off and running instantly. There you have it. In theory – once the wireless drivers get sorted out – Chrome OS gives you the promise of going from power on to a working browser in 15 seconds or less. Not bad if all you want to do is hit the web, work in the cloud, and use your device as a web terminal. My personal opinion is very biased towards a cloud-based future – with local apps moving onto the network but remaining accessible through off-line synchronization such as HTML 5 (Google is sunsetting it’s off-line solution Gears). If you work in the cloud with Google Docs, Gmail, etc. you in theory will be fine with Chrome on a small device such as a smartbook. Google says Chrome and Android – it’s smartphone OS – will converge at somepoint, but for now, Chrome OS is the direction the company is leading hardware manufacturers for netbook/smartbook solutions. When I get a chance to get Windows 7 on my S10 I’ll report back with boot times – certainly the utility will be much higher as I’ll have completely access to my familiar non-cloud options. Good luck and let me know how the experiment works for you.