James Williams

Two days with the Chrome OS Netbook

Tags: General

It's been almost a full two days since there was a major "Oprah moment" at the Silicon Valley Google Technology User Group meeting and I received a shiny new CR-48 netbook. All attendees were offered the chance to join the pilot program and other than agreement not to sell the equipment without Google's consent, there aren't any strings attached.

All and all, it has been a really pleasurable experience. It's not quite fully baked but I didn't expect it to be. The first thing you had to do when setting up the device was to enter your Google credentials and take a photo that would act as your login avatar. There's a great chance you will look goofy or weird in the photo. Luckily there is a way to change that photo with a different one using Picnik.


Some companies have decided to make their Chrome Web Store application act as a simple bookmark to their web app and others like TweetDeck have made a new experience for Chrome which is much appreciated. One major difference between a regular desktop and Chrome OS is how it handles Google Talk. The collapsible chat windows float above the browser and they can be rearranged along the bottom edge of the screen. One of the issues in regular Chrome where you opened a chat window in GMail then accidentally navigated away from the page killing the chat is not longer a problem. Scratchpad is a built-in note taking app that floats above the browser and syncs to Google Docs. Seems like a welcomed retooling of Google Notebook. The other app I've used alot is Google Books.


Despite the reviews about Flash, it has worked reasonably well for me with Youtube and other Flash sites. Netflix doesn't support Linux and ChromeOS is Linux so that was an immediate no-go. If you buy movies and tv shows à la carte anyways, then Amazon Video on Demand fills the gap. Jaman is also a source for more indie content.

For music, I use a combination of Rdio and Jamendo. Both worked fine.

Video chat

I haven't yet tried video chat in Google Talk but I was able to stream from the web cam in UStream. The web cam name is the "Mario cam". LOL. It should work on any site that uses flash


I was able to get the netbook to see my USB flash drives but it wouldn't read from them. The help site says that input devices are supported but nothing about storage devices. A wireless mouse worked fine.

A Developer Netbook?

I've read some of the press referring to this as a developer netbook. It is if you only consider that developers will generally use equipment that is more early adopter and hasn't all the warts worked out. It isn't a developer laptop that you can develop on as your sole machine as John Resig noted. Some shell access would be nice but that interferes with the fact that an update blows away the whole partition. I would love to be able to partition or reserve an area that wouldn't be wiped at any moment. I have been looking at Cloud9, a web-based IDE to do some coding. That solution would still require a server but it is more elegant that a SSH situation. Perhaps an extension/app that saved to the download directory and synced on reconnect could work. There is already Dropbox JS code out there. My goal for this thing is to be able to create a Chrome extension from start to finish using only the CR-48. The one get out of jail free card I will give myself right now is using an outside service to zip the files(probably will do something on Google App Engine). There is also the developer switch that allows you to enable NaCl or install another OS.


The CR-48 fits a good niche for a conference computer. Being able to come back from sleep instantly and browse over Wifi for 8 hrs is a major plus. Office workers that live mostly in Microsoft Office won't notice much difference I don't think. It's not like they don't take a coffee break anyways when the network is down. As a developer machine, it's going to be a stretch. With a suite of apps that use the HTML5 Application Cache, it might just be possible.