Hexxeh's Google Chrome OS builds
Recently I was interested in viewing the latest developments on Google's Chrome OS given that it will be released in the second half of 2010. It's not got long to go now, and I assumed that I'd be able to find a beta release built somewhere on the net. I have to say I didn't look for too long as I found Hexxeh's website. He's a teenager who's taken Google's Chromium source and built his own Chrome OS builds, currently at a version he refers to as "Flow".
Something that has to be considered when using this OS is that it is solely a web-based build, every tab and most menus are, as far as I can see, hosted from Hexxeh's website and so if you don't have an active internet connection when you run the OS, expect to see basically nothing but "page cannot be displayed" errors.
Initially you have to login with a pre-defined username and password, in both cases it is facepunch (a bit of a strange one, I admit). However once you're logged in and signed on to your services you should be able to sign into the OS with your gmail user/password whenever you use the system in the future, though once again, only if you have a proper internet connection (example, I have shared internet via USB at the moment, so it didn't work for me). Hexxeh suggests those on net/notebooks use an ethernet connection initially to log in, as it helps make sure the sign on works correctly. An issue I noticed was a lack of a shutdown icon, I had to hit the power button on my laptops, which invokes a "Chrome did not shut down correctly" at next logon.
Visually it's Google Chrome.. but with a few extra twists. Nothing different to other Google Chrome OS builds as far as I can see! The menus are customisable, and allow for drag and drop arrangement of icons. You can't create your own menu items which is a shame, but anything not in the menu you can easily navigate to by simply opening a new tab. Any menu item suggestions you can make to Hexxeh, with your own icon via his submission page. Themes and extensions are available, just as with Chrome - I experimented with a few before deciding I personally just prefer Chrome's default theme (I like the blue, just personal opinion).
Technically, aside from a few glitches I mentioned above it's sound. Hexxeh has done a good job of making a stable build from Google's source. It boots up mighty fast for me on both my Dell D610 and Acer One. I imagine on a desktop it would be even faster, though I believe on a netbook is a realistic test, given that this is what the OS is eventually going to be used for.
To summarize, if you're wanting to play around with Google's Chrome OS but don't want to wait until the launch, then please feel free to check out Hexxeh's ChromeOS page and get downloading! I think it's the best I've found so far after some extensive searching and highly recommend it. I very much like the USB boot option, as I feel that this could spark another use for Google's Chrome OS - a portable Operating System you can take with you where-ever you go, which I think is fantastic, and could revolutionise "personal computing" in the future.
Enjoy, and let me know your thoughts in the comments, or alternatively find me on Google+.