Following our look at Chromium OS in Part One, we’re now going to try it in a virtual machine using VirtualBox. We’ll use the standard Vanilla build of Chromium OS. Hold on for Part Three to try the bootable USB image.
Hexxeh provides pre-built, bootable, virtualised disk images for VirtualBox. The image is supplied as a VDI file, which is the standard VirtualBox virtual disk format. VirtualBox is free and runs on Windows, OS X and Linux. The Vanilla build for VirtualBox is refreshed every day alongside the USB image. This means you can test the latest changes without needing to burn it to a USB stick.
You will need to download the disk image (a standard .zip archive file) from the main page. The Nightly Builds section containing the link is halfway down the page. Unzip the archive and extract the disk image to a folder on your hard drive.
Let’s assume you have VirtualBox installed and can create a new virtual machine (you can see previous articles within this illustrious publication). The VM I’m using is set up is Other Linux as the guest operating system type, but Ubuntu works just as well. Be aware that Chromium needs a minimum amount of memory of 1GB to run at all, and 2GB to run with any performance. Crank up the video memory to the maximum you can afford, preferably 128MB, as there is no Chromium OS-specific graphics driver currently available. When you reach the step prompting you to specify a virtual hard disk, select Use existing hard disk. Clicking the folder icon to the right of the disk selection list opens the file selection dialog, which you can point at the Chromium OS VDI file.
The Vanilla build of Chromium OS works well enough, if a little slowly, in VirtualBox for you to get a feel for it. Because it is a non-standard Linux distribution, VirtualBox can only provide the standard hardware and there is no version of VirtualBox Guest Additions supporting Chromium OS for additional features such as graphics drivers and audio. There are some side effects such cursor control and I found it best to disable mouse integration from the Machine menu. My laptop’s track pad also worked badly so I added a separate mouse.
For the network adapter, under Settings, Network, Attached, both “Bridged Adapter” and “NAT” work for me, but under Advanced, Adapter Type it seems that “Intel Pro/1000 MT Desktop” works most reliably. Feel free to experiment, your VirtualBox instance has to negotiate your particular host machine and network. It’s a virtual machine, to the network adapter needs to be set to “Cable Connected.”
When you start the VM, from the menu bar, select Machines then checkbox the “Disable Mouse Integration” option.
You should then get a Chromium OS session with a browser and a welcome screen. Have a play around but remember compatibility in your virtual machine may be hit and miss at best and the performance may stutter at times. AJS