Most people will have heard of Google’s Chromebooks. Based on Chrome OS, they offer a simple and eminently usable solution to users who are happy to operate within Google’s infrastructure.
Everything runs in a ‘browser’. If you use Google Chrome on a standard PC or laptop, you will probably be familiar with the app extensions you can add to Chrome. Chrome OS is basically that. Chrome with its apps and very little else.
If you just need a computer for email, social networks, accessing the web and other ‘cloud based’ activities, Chromebooks are brilliant. They are simple to use, don’t have bloated operating systems, and your grandparents could probably use them without too much trouble.
Up until now, they only way to run Chrome OS was to buy a Chromebook. Whilst there are many models that offer great value for money, I have often thought Google were missing a trick by not making it openly available to install on other devices. There are obviously issues with device support and controlling the hardware it can be installed on greatly reduces the amount of driver development Google has to perform. However, Chrome OS is based on Linux which has massive hardware support.
There have been a number ‘techy’ projects providing Chromium (the OpenSource base of Chrome) OS installers but none of them were for the feint hearted and sort of removed the ‘ease of use factor’.
Recently, a US based company called NeverWare has changed that. They have produced CloudReady, which provides the full Chromium OS experience on a variety of hardware. In fact, in one day I threw the installer at 5 different ageing computers and it ran on all of them without a hitch. The best part about the deal is that CloudReady is free for private use.
Installation is simple. Download an image from NeverWare and use Google’s ChromeBook Recovery app in Chrome to write it to a USB Flash Drive (8Gb+). You can then boot your target machine from the flash drive (you may have to change BIOS settings to enable this) and test CloudReady OS without installing. Assuming everything is working as it should, you can then elect to install the OS on the target machine’s hard drive. Please note that the drive will be wiped completely, so back up anything you may need beforehand!
As I have said, Chrome OS/CloudReady is great. You will however need a Google Account. Exisiting users can simply log in using their email address and password and watch all of the apps they’ve already installed on their Chrome browser become available. At the initial set up stage, CloudReady provides the option to sign up for a new account if you don’t have one.
CloudReady can be used by a ‘Guest user’, but nothing will be saved, so having a Google Account is essential.
To summarise, CloudReady is a great way to re-purpose older PCs especially in situations where you may have chosen a full-blown Linxu distro (but don’t need the complexity).
I’m installing on some we have collecting dust in the office at the moment so we can donate them to those more needy than ourselves.