ChromeOS in VirtualBox – no problemo

I installed the RC release 0.9.576 of Chrome after waiting a while to be able to download it in a reasonable amount of time. For a first-try, I decided to install ChromeOS in a VirtualBox VM – just select any Linux distro if you do this, though ChromeOS is built upon OpenSuse 11.3.

Like Ubuntu, ChromeOS boots to full function from CD. There’s at least one post out there already on booting it from a USB thumb-drive.

My current interest in ChromeOS is to build/configure a lightweight but performant HTPC; really more of a set-top web on an HD display (thin client) type of application. OK, Google TV is sort of doing this, but I want to see if I can beat its current price point and get anything available on the web. I recently purchased a Roku XD, and I like it as a very cost-effective alternative to PayPerView or rentals – though Amazon’s VOD is a competitive offering for now. Part of the problem right now with HuluPlus on Roku for example, is support for H.264 but not necessarily for Flash or Silverlight encoded content with DRM. So a PC, even a nettop, still rules until some form of convergence happens as it eventually did with smart phones.

My end goal is to see if it will boot from a Acer AspireRevo AR3700, which I believe it will. If it performs better than Windows 7 with the Chrome browser, then I would keep that configuration as I already have ways to do Windows Media Center from a desktop to our Xbox 360 as a connector, though streaming video from my Windows Home Server may tip this experiment in favor of Win7 (which the AspireRevo comes preloaded with anyway). At $349, the Acer AspireRevo is at the throw-away price point when something better comes along that enables many of us to ditch the cable TV, i.e. I’ll consider the $349 well spent in the interim.

Keep in mind that Google released this as a Release Candidate. For starters, you may get a few errors concerning the fact that the license key file is missing, but they appear so far to be inconsequential.

ChromeOS is using Gnome desktop, which I think might be why folks thought it was built upon Ubuntu, but it’s definitely OpenSuse. Once it’s fully installed, which takes a few reboot cycles, it does boot to the Gnome desktop pretty fast. ChromeOS’s installed application footprint is small, so no surprise here.

Oddly, and somewhat humorously, upon final reboot, the Chrome browser did not autostart, but can be added to the Startup group with a click. Below is a thumbnail of a grab of the Win7 desktop running ChromeOS in VirtualBox (click it for full size).

The playback was excellent considering this was in a VM and no special drivers or tweaks were made. If I can get the display fully functional, i.e. widescreen from the VM like Ubuntu or Mint support, then I can just enter full screen mode in VirtualBox and use the native Win7 HDMI support to get this on my TV, but I suspect it will look pretty poor on a larger display.


About generation12

I am a SharePoint/.NET consultant in the twin cities.
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