Chris J Powell

OS Sunday – The Free Version of a Chromebook

There are times in everyone’s life that you look at an option and say…that would be nice to have and then when that nice to have doesn’t turn out to be what you thought it would be…you are either disappointed at best or down right angry and vengeful!  From the early days of the ultra affordable Netbook Craze that was brought on by the Asus eeePC (yes remember the days of that 7 inch, under powered toy of the ultra geek) that was a major blow to the world of Linux as the default OS that came with the eeePC well…badly thought out and less than effective use of the Xandros OS.

Earlier this week I decided that rather than go out and rejoin the crazy world of spending money on an unconfirmed idea like a Chromebook I would see what I could do to transform an existing Netbook into a Chromebook and what I found was not only surprising, it was a full on welcome change in the world of computing!

When I started the process of looking at installing the Google ChromeOS on my Asus Aspire Netbook I thought that I would jump into the world of “mobile computing” with an unfettered and clear conscience so I installed a 60GB SSD in the laptop and prepared for the install…to my surprise, the build from Nexxah is a completely built OS that does not require me to do anything except for install it on a bootable medium.  I first tried it on a USB stick and to my surprise it became very apparent that this would not work because of the size of the USB stick in comparison to the Netbook so I swapped this out and installed the image using the Linux Image Writer suggested by the website and put the Nexxah Vanilla image on a 32GB SD Card that I had kicking around.

After configuring the Network and logging in with my Google Credentials I had a “Vanilla” build of the Google Chrome OS at my beck and call and the best part…it runs from an SD Card meaning that I can actually transfer the OS from computer to computer and have a persistent and continuous experience where ever I Go (I even tried it out on my Work Laptop, my Wife’s Laptop and even the MonstaPuter that I typically run these weekend projects on) and all the settings stayed persistent and my Bookmarks (that I sync across all my devices) follow me from place to place).

With the installation being so incredibly easy I had to see what came under the hood with the sub 300MB download and well the reality is…it is really just the Chrome Browser and the fully jam packed Chrome Webstore that comes with this OS.  When you navigate through the Webstore and decide to plug in and include a new “App” it is just there…in your App Folder.  No downloading, no compiling and no installing.  Just ready to use.

The genius behind this is that probably 90% of my computing life is spent inside of a Browser window.  I operate from for work, I do my blogging from within Chrome and I prefer using the Browser based Facebook and LinkedIn over the App Version on my iPad.  The single requirement for this OS to work…is a persistent Internet Connection.  I was incredibly impressed by the fact that because it does not touch the Hard Drive of the computer that it is hosted on…I was able to get more than 5 hours of battery life out of the Acer Aspire that because of its age has been lucky to pull 3 hours at best.

The real question and test for me would be…if the FREE version is this good…would I go out and get an optimized HP, Samsung or Acer Chromebook… and the answer is emphatically no.  Whether I leverage the power of this SD Card powered OS on my current Netbook or look to a slightly larger discounted Netbook or even an Ultrabook that I could effectively Dual boot with the use of an SD Card.  I like my Acer Aspire and considering that the entire OS lives inside of the Browser the typical issues with Application “squishing” on the 1024×600 display are no longer an issue.

To be able to achieve this pretty amazing feature, you could skip the Chromebook craze and do what I did.  To start from scratch, the Acer Aspire 10.1 is going for $279 on Amazon, I had already upgraded the RAM to 2GB (but even going for 4GB of RAM would likely only cost about $25) and a 32GB SD Card is will set you back another $25-30 (jumping up to a 64GB card is about $70).  So the reality is, if you have a Netbook kicking around (or locate one on Craigslist, Kijiji or eBay for cheap) you could have a fully functioning kick ass Chromebook for well under $400 and it is all yours to tweak and change to your style (while the whole time retaining the option to revert back to a full OS if you need to).

Overall…I really like the Hexxah Vanilla Chrome and will continue to use and experiment with it for some time.

It would have gotten a full Dozen but, the connectivity requirement is still a bit of a challenge for me to get past!


Chris J Powell


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5 thoughts on “OS Sunday – The Free Version of a Chromebook

  1. thanks Chris – I have been toying with the idea of getting another machine that is not a Mac and I love playing with this stuff when I have the time… This looks like an interesting / fun option

    • I am not too far behind at 40. The nice thing about Nexxah is that it makes no changes to your current setup. It all runs from a USB Stick or as I did, an SD Card.

  2. You do like to tinker, Chris ! This was a great idea – a good thought for those of us with old devices lying around gathering dust because they just don’t cut it with their bloated OS any more !

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