Sunday, November 22, 2009

Chromium OS on the EeePC901

Yes, I got it working such as it is and am wondering why I put such effort into this.
Actually, it's not really totally on the EeePC901 because I'm booting it off a usb key (4 GB). I had initially considered building the image until I found out that I needed 10GB of HD space which is a tall order on a 901 which already has 5 OSes installed.
However, then I found this link where some guy had uploaded a zipped-up chromiumos.img which is ready for dd'ing over to a pendrive.
But even with this I was going to have a problem as the unzipped image is 2.99GB which is quite amazing given the zip only comes to something around 300MB. The reason, apparently, is that there's an awful lot of free space in the image that still has to be burnt to the pendrive.
So, I had to look at my brand new MacBook 6.1(which I'm going to post separately about as it's a wonderful machine). But my terminal experience is OS X (10.6 Snow Leopard) is very limited. So first I had to find how to mount/unmount my usb key, find out what the usb key device is called and then how to dd the chromeos.img to the pendrive on the Mac. Using the diskutility with the pendrive inserted tells what the device is called.
In addition, using the mount command in a terminal does exactly what it does in Linux and gives more information on what's mounted where.
So, here's a summary of the commands I used and everything went fine:

diskutil umountDisk /dev/disk2

I had unzipped the chromeos folder (which contained chromeos.img) to the Desktop and in OS X the address of this is
/Volumes/Macintosh HD/Users/paulfxh/Desktop/chromiumos

Now, after cd'ing to this folder, I issued this command
dd if=chromiumos.img of=/dev/disk2 bs=1m

This took quite a while (25 minutes) probably because I used bs=1m rather than bs=4m.
In any event, after this I booted to the pendrive on my 901 and it booted up fine. I used my google account name and password when asked and then it moved to the Chrome browser. Incidentally, this is what ChromeOS (or ChromiumOS which is what it's called while still in development) is -- it's just the Chrome browser with just one addition to the same browser that I already use in both OS X and Ubuntu Karmic. This is the ability to "pin" tabs. Pinning causes the tabs to become much smaller (but with an identifying favicon) and it makes them permanent so they become like permanent applications.
To get a terminal, you need to hit ctrl-alt-T or ctrl-alt-F1. However, while I could get to the terminal (full screen TTy) I couldn't get back out of it other than by restarting the machine.
In the terminal, to run sudo I needed to use not my password but "facepunch" which is what the guy that uploaded this set as both username and password.
Now, having had to do an unclean shutdown a few times in ChromiumOS, I was asked to hit a Restore button when booting up again. After hitting Restore, the pinned tabs all came back.
However, after maybe 3 reboots, Chromium would no longer accept my username/password, so I switched to using facepunch/facepiunch (or basically, facepunch for the username and then hit enter a second time).
In this, I could still bring up GMail, Twitter and whatever else with my user/pwd and these would remain permanent as pinned tabs.
That is, until they stopped re-appearing as pinned tabs which also happened to me. Well, this OS seems like it hasn't even reached alpha yet so bugs must be expected.
Other problems I had included, although YouTube worked right out of the box, sound only worked on the internal speakers. When I plugged in the headphones, got no sound from anywhere. Of course, there's no config tools to twiddle around with the sound settings so not much can be done here.
To avoid the unclean shutdown corruptions, I found it best to move to the terminal (bearing in mind that you can't change your mind after having done this) and do a sudo reboot.
The biggest problem I had was that browsing was not fast which I assumed was due to inappropriate DNS servers (basically, just the router IP). I always have to change to the OpenDNS servers to speed up my browsing.
So, how do I do this in ChromiumOS? Well, I haven't figured it out yet.
My intention was to add the OpenDNS servers to /etc/resolv.conf. So, I opened vi in a terminal (nano doesn't seem to be available) and made the changes. However, couldn't save it and got a read-only file error. Even tried chmod'ing 640 on /etc/resolv.conf but still got a read-only file error (and I used sudo su before running the chmod).
Couldn't figure this out but it seems that something or other is mounted ro.
Anyway, it was exciting actually getting this very early version of ChromeOS running on my EeePC 901 but, really, there's very little to it other than the Chrome browser which you can run with an awful lot less headaches on basically any platform.
Here's a nice video from Google that explains well what ChromeOS can do now and what the intentions are.

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