Chromium OS Review

So I recently touched base with a guy named Liam who blogs about Chromium OS (misunderstood by me as “Chrom OS”, I thought they were one in the same but apparently they’re not).  I emailed him a few things I found after downloading a Virtual Box image he makes available for download.

Some of my observations:

  1. You have to have a GMail account to use the OS although there is some kind of “guest access”, you can’t use that in any real practical way for computing though.
  2. You can’t get to the root file system (I don’t see a way anyway), I did read online somewhere that it needs to be compiled for “file access” or something like that then Liam said you can access it but it’s “read only”, supposedly this is a good feature. (?)
  3. You can’t install anything except from their app store, reminds me of Apple and how you have to hack the OS to let you install a real installable application (by hack I simply mean dumbing down a security setting).  It would be nice if Chromium OS also had that feature, it is a Linux Kernel so…
  4. The VBox Liam provides doesn’t seem to have the VBox additions thus I have no mouse, hence, all my other difficulties and inability to explore the Chromium OS without putting it on a Chromium OS compatible device.  I’ll have to put Chromium OS on a real netbook or other device to fully explore it I guess.  I doubt I will because of all the negatives of the OS.
  5. You have to trust Google with all your data, it’s pushed to their data centers where the Feds can subpoena them for your information or just look at stuff at will if it’s older than 6 months (is that true for docs and other data or just email?).  Sure, you’re probably not doing anything illegal but do you really trust Google or the Feds with your information?  I don’t!
  6. Because you can’t manage your own system at a file level you assume you haven’t been hacked or your device hasn’t been compromised.  When you use the device I guess ignorance is bliss.  There are lots of documented cases of Google Android devices being compromised in a myriad of ways, they’re almost on par with Microsoft!  :-)

Another thing about bloggers (Liam included) is that I’m finding we’re not fully disclosing conflicts of interest.  Liam is an employee of Google (working there now for 3 months at the time of this post – congrats Liam!).  I thought his blog was a bit too positive, it sounded to me like he was cheer leading the product a bit too much.  He’s been working with the Chromium OS now for 3 years.  He confessed the Virtual Box image lacks full functionality but that he got requests for it so he continues making it available for download.  In my opinion if the mouse doesn’t work it’s pointless but it’s his bandwidth I guess.  I bet those downloading assume the mouse works like I did!  Beware, don’t download the Virtual Box image – it doesn’t work :P

The ONLY good thing about the concept and philosophy of the Chromium OS and pushing your data into the cloud is you’re now device agnostic, you can log into another Chrome Book and have your “profile” if you will on any device.  The negatives in my opinion far outweigh the one positive.

I have security concerns, where is the cache (your local “offline” copy?).  Can another user read it from another profile?  Can I boot into another OS on a pen drive (with Linux for example) and access the profile?  I did fire up a live distribution and poked around a bit but didn’t have much there since I couldn’t get the mouse working in the Virtual Box image thus I never offline cached any data to the image.  I was able to navigate the file system though, interesting layout.  I sudo’d to root and could gain access to every folder.  Seems like 3 disks, OEM, ROOT-A and something else, typical Linux file system layout really.  What happens if the device is hacked like millions of Android phones were and are still today due to malware (yes, malware web apps).  Just search online for “android malware web apps”.   I can’t do anything about it because I have to “trust” Google to fix it, have no access to the file system and I then expose all my data to whomever now owns my device.

The Chromebook devices are CHEAP!  By cheap I mean inexpensive BUT you pay a price.  The price of lost privacy, even if there isn’t a “real person” looking at your data.  It’s the price of becoming a statistic.  They know your age, race, illnesses, where you live, what you look at online thus what you’re intrests are who you be with what numbers to dial (Biggie refferene :P).  Wake up people, GMail, GDrive, etc is not “free”, Google uses that data and sells advertising or your stats to various buyers.

Digitally you are your data.  I’d rather pay more to Google for the stuff I use if I could be black listed from becoming a statistic.  If my data was private and mine but alas, I don’t think that option exists.  You have to hand over your data and your computing soul.

I’m personally avoiding Chromium OS and cloud anything at the moment until I can guarantee my data is my data and it’s hands off from becoming a statistic.  Unfortunately most people aren’t that technical and don’t have those options so they’ll all get pushed like sheep to the cloud :-(