Chromium is the lightweight, cloud oriented OS installed on Google Chromebooks. It aims to make everyday tasks such as web browsing and email quicker and more convenient by stripping the OS down to the bare bones, in this case the Chrome browser and almost nothing else.
It is designed for bespoke hardware from Acer and Samsung, but can be made to work on other hardware with a little effort and some help from the community (www.hexxeh.net has builds compatible with many PCs). My trusty old Dell Inspiron 1545, however, needed a few extra tweaks that I’ll share with you here.
The issue with the Inspiron (and many other Dell laptops) is the Dell 1397 wireless card, this has a Broadcom 4312 chipset that doesn’t always play nice Linux and requires extra drivers. This means that with standard Chromium builds the 1545 hangs at the ‘Connect’ screen, as it can’t connect to any networks.
Fortunately, the lovely people at Dell compiled a semi-official Chromium build which includes these drivers. Job done? Not quite, there are a few extra steps to get the wireless working.
1. Download the Dell build and extract the .img file from the .img.gz archive. I used 7zip on Windows for this, but there are many alternatives. Linux users can use gunzip.
2. Write the .img to a 2GB or larger USB drive (or SD card) using Win32 Diskimager on Windows or the dd command from Linux. This examples assumes that your USB media is sdb, you will need to check this: sudo dd if=ChromiumOS_x86_April15_2012.img of=/dev/sdb bs=4M
3, Boot your Laptop from the USB – press F12 at the Dell bios screen and select USB from the boot menu.
4. At the Connect screen press Control, Alt, Fn and F2 to get into a terminal.
5. Log in as username:chronos password:dell1234
6. Run sudo /etc/install_wl.sh
7. Get back to the Connect screen with Control, Alt and F1
8. Select your wireless network from the drop down list, wait for it to connect, then click next.
And there you have it. Your’re running Chromium from a USB drive on your Dell laptop.
Now you’ve got Chromium running from USB you probably want to install… again, not as simple as it looks. But don’t worry, I’ve written this up as a howto as well.
Thanks to chromestory.com for much of this information.