Need Fast Web Access? Try Chromium OS on a Stick
We've all had those moments at an airport waiting room, hotel lobby or coffee shop when we just want to yank out our laptops, hop onto the Web, check our e-mail and get offline. Try that with a Windows notebook and you're talking about a few minutes to boot up, and maybe even longer to shut down. Your plane could be gone by then.
Thu, December 10, 2009
PC World — We've all had those moments at an airport waiting room, hotel lobby or coffee shop when we just want to yank out our laptops, hop onto the Web, check our e-mail and get offline. Try that with a Windows notebook and you're talking about a few minutes to boot up, and maybe even longer to shut down. Your plane could be gone by then.
The solution? Arm yourself with a USB flash drive loaded with Google's new Chromium OS. Boot your notebook with that when you're pressed for time and you'll be on and off the Web in less than a minute each way. Don't want to boot with Chromium right now? Just remove the USB drive before your next boot-up. Your Windows notebook will forget all about Chromium and boot up normally.
As we reported earlier, a Twitter user Hexxeh has brewed a version of Chromium that boots a Windows, Linux or Mac computer from a USB drive. The latest build requires an empty USB flash drive (installing Chromium will wipe it) with a capacity of as little as 1GB.
Unlike Microsoft Windows, which loads from your notebook's hard disk, Chromium will run entirely from your USB stick. The Chromium OS assumes that all of your data is on the Internet, be it your contacts, e-mail, documents or other files. If all you need at the moment is Web access, Chromium on a stick provides a much faster route to the Web.
To my surprise, my vintage, 2007 Gateway MT3418 running Windows Vista Home was able to boot the current "Cherry" version of Hexxeh's Chromium build from a 2GB USB flash drive with few hiccups. In about 50 seconds -- including the time it took me to enter my Google ID and password -- Chromium was ready for work.
By comparison, under Windows it took the same notebook almost five minutes from power on to the moment its Google Chrome Web browser became responsive enough for me to access my e-mail. As with any beta software, your mileage will vary; Chromium doesn't support all hardware at this point and may not boot with your unit.
If you're familiar with the Chrome browser for Windows, navigating Chromium will not be a problem. It comes preloaded with links to popular e-mail sites such as GMail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail and other popular Web sites such as YouTube and Hulu. The current version of Chromium includes improved Wi-Fi support, which is managed from a tiny, easy-to-miss network icon in the upper right corner of the screen.