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News

Google Chrome alpha review

Due for release in late 2010, Google recently set loose a beta version of its new Chrome operating system. Already there is much interest from a large crowd of international developers. Much is promised from Google, which feels sure that it has the right marketing strategy for its network-based operating

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Google recently set loose a working version of its new Chrome operating system, due for public release in late 2010. Already there is much interest from a large crowd of international developers. Much is promised from Google, which feels sure that it has the right marketing strategy for its network-based operating system. We take a look at Chrome OS to find out what it offers…

What is Google Chrome? It’s really only a web browser that downloads web applications over the internet. Using Google Chrome you can connect to and use YouTube or an online email application. Google docs or similar online office suites can be accessed. Online calendars and photo albums can also be used. Most things that you can do with a real operating system can be done. In an operating system such as Ubuntu or openSUSE, your data is stored on your hard disk, in the Google operating system, everything is stored somewhere out there on the internet. Chrome is not like other operating systems and is being aimed at netbooks. The early netbooks, such as the Eee PC 701, did not arrive with a great deal of RAM or disk space, however, more recent netbooks have something like 64GB or 160GB of disk space and at least 1 or 2GB of RAM. You can install a full version of GNU/Linux into any of these.
Some design goals for the Google Chrome OS user interface include using minimal screen space by combining applications and standard webpages into a single tab rather than separating the two. Google Chrome will follow the Chrome browser’s practice of pushing forward the HTML5 web standard in offline mode.

So how does it work? On top of the GNU/Linux kernel, which is used in so many places around the world in the present day, sit the X-windows and graphics libraries
(see Fig  1, on page 90). Alongside these are the system libraries. Above this there is the Chrome OS and the GNU/Linux window manager that Google has introduced to make things look pretty. There is a strong reliance on GNOME or GTK+ libraries and themes here, and signs of the IceWM or XFCE or LXDE in places. This is a good thing because the present GNOME 2.xx desktop is very stable and reliable. Above this sit the web apps, website and extensions for various functional uses as well as cosmetic effect. The firmware helps to maintain a fast boot time by not probing for hardware. A complete lack of floppy drives on the netbook speed this process along the way and the firmware adds to security by verifying each step in the boot process, and system recovery if it is required. The Linux kernel has been patched to improve boot performance. Userland software has been trimmed to essentials with the inclusion of upstart which can launch services in parallel and re-spawn crashed jobs and defer services in the interests of a shorter boot time. The window manager handles user interaction with multiple client windows, much like other X clients do.

Chrome OS is supposed to be about speed and ease of use. “We want Google Chrome OS to be blazingly fast,” says Sundar Pichai, Google’s VP of product management. It should be so fast that it will be able “to boot up like a television,” according to Pichai. If you’re trying to figure out whether or not your television has a boot time, just think of the time it takes for the screen to warm up to fully vibrant colour. That’s how quickly Chrome will go from pressing the power button to ready to check email. About seven seconds. That’s fast. The reader should remember that it will be something like 12 months yet before Chrome OS is finished. You can try it just now, but there’s not much there that you can use in a production environment. If you like the design idea of Google Chrome OS and you want to use it now, you might consider downloading and using Jolicloud from www.jolicloud.com/. This will allow you to achieve a greater understanding of what this kind of software is about. Just a few days after Google released the Chrome OS source code, there is already an openSUSE version out there on the internet – however, it’s claimed that this is a fake version of Chrome OS. It’s in the nature of the open source development framework and the business model that this kind of thing will happen. You should expect to see at least half a dozen different versions of Chrome OS out there in the next 12 months – all of them similar in nature, some offering more of one thing than another. This is a well established way of doing things with open source software. Only organisations like Microsoft and Macintosh shout about fake or knocked off versions of their software.

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