How to Run Chrome OS the Easy Way

A few of us here at MTE have a bit of a crush on Chrome OS. It’s not just the system itself, it’s the fact that someone is finally taking the concept of an operating system in a new direction. We wrote a brief synopsis of Chrome OS shortly after the first announcement that showed how things stood at the very beginning, then more recently did a manual build guide. Building Chrome OS from source code can take several hours, and can be a somewhat challenging process even for an experienced Linux user. To help solve that problem, some developers have begun releasing custom Chrome OS builds with included installers and software tweaks. This guide will show you where to find the images and how to get the latest Hexxeh release, Flow, on to your netbook or VM from a Linux host.

There are currently two supported ways to run the initial Flow image – USB or virtual machine. You can download the USB and VMware images here. Either one will take a while to download, as the image is a few hundred MB.

It’s been my experience that recent Chrome OS builds, for whatever reason, seem to have trouble booting in Virtualbox on my system. I’d therefore recommend the free VMware Player for booting Chrome/Flow. After a quick free registration at the VMware website you can download the free Player for multiple platforms.

chromeos-flow-newVM

With the image downloaded and VMware open, choose Open a Virtual Machine, and select the VDX file downloaded from the Flow website. When ready, hit Play on that VM and you should be brought to the main login screen.

Before logging in: Make sure to read the Post-Install section of this guide to get Flow properly configured.

Installing to USB

We need two things to get Flow installed on the USB thumbdrive: the .img file and an application to write that .img file to the drive. The .img file is in a compressed tarball, and can be extracted by right-clicking in a file manager or using the command line:

tar -zxvf ChromeOS-Flow.tar.gz

To write the image file, we’ll be using usb-imagewriter. It should be available in the standard repositories of most Linux distros. Ubuntu and Debian users can install with the command

sudo apt-get install usb-imagewriter

The USB drive must be connected before we can launch the image writer. Once that’s done, launch Applications -> Accessories -> Image Writer.

chromeos-flow-writeusb

Choose the image file extracted in the previous step, and of course the target USB drive, and click Write to Device. When finished, cleanly remove the device and load it up into your netbook or other target device. Boot up that device and you should be brought to the Flow login screen.

chromeos-flow-login

There’s one major component still yet to enable before we’ve got a fully usable system. Before you can log in using your normal Gmail/Google account, you’ve first got to load up a custom built-in user account in order to enable wireless support.

From the login screen, enter the user and pass combo facepunch/facepunch. Yes, that’s really what it is. All we need to do here is go up to the networking icon in the top-right corner, and select Turn Wifi On.

chromeos-flow-wifion1

There does not seem to be a GUI way to logout/reboot, so you can do it manually by hitting Ctrl+Alt+T to open a terminal, then

sudo reboot
#Password still "facepunch"

You can now log in using your normal Google account to enjoy Flow.

Installing Flow to Netbook HD

Flow includes a hard disk installer that can be accessed from the terminal. Once you’ve completed the post-install steps and enabled wifi, log in using your Google account and open a terminal with Ctrl+Alt+T. With the terminal open, the installer can be launched with the command

/usr/sbin/chromeos-install

The system will prompt you for any information it needs in order to install.

If you’ve got stories to share about Chrome OS or Flow, let us know in the comments!