February 24, 2011, 11:02 AM — In this multi-part report, nerd extraordinaire Jason Kennedy will look at all sorts of fun and interesting ways to hack his CR-48 laptop. Come along for the ride, and watch his tragedies and triumphs.
Like many of you, when I first heard about Google's Chrome OS Pilot Program I was clawing at my mouse to sign up just as fast as I possibly could. ChromeOS was something I think I had difficulty conceptualizing; an OS built around a browser to be used almost entirely online.
The online part I was into, certainly. I blog entirely in Google Docs, use Gmail for all of my email needs, and even stream my video/audio via services like Pandora and Hulu. I won't deny having a sizable media collection that I keep digital for space reasons, but I find myself utilizing it less and less as streaming goes mainstream (if I may). As far as having the entire user interface exist inside of a browser, that I needed to see for myself.
I received my CR-48 a couple weeks ago, and I've been using it daily ever since. And I can honestly say I think I've found my preferred OS. I will admit to some random annoyances when I need (or want) to save something, but that's a small price to pay for this sort of convenience. It's fast and useful. Intuitive. Fun.
But, let's get to the even more fun stuff: breaking it.
I did a ton of research into this before I started, and it's actually rather difficult to permanently brick your system. If you do get the sad CR48 screen meaning it can't boot, you have only to throw in a USB stick to make it all right again. Make sure you make this drive before you start playing around, for your sanity's sake. Google provides some recovery instructions in case something goes wrong. In either case, something can still go wrong, so hack at your own risk.
That's the method I used, but for the record you need a linux or mac system to utilize it. I run Ubuntu everywhere so I had no issues at all with the instructions. If you don't have access to such operating systems, you can play around with something like VirtualBox in order to install a workable OS, or just go someplace like this blog. I didn't try making a recovery USB stick from Windows because I don't actually own a windows machine, so do so at your own risk - I won't cover it here.