Testing Chrome OS: With Virtual Machines [A]

Introduction

Do you own a Windows PC, Mac, or Linux PC, and are you a professional on this device? Then you might consider setting up a virtual machine (VM) when you ask how to try Chrome OS for free. For example, with the help of VMware or Virtualbox. That is generally possible, but not necessarily super easy to do. Why generally? Because it is more likely to be done in the form of Chromium OS than with the full Chrome OS.

VirtualBox
Image: Wikipedia

Chrome OS is based on Chromium OS, which is Open Source. That means that the source code is freely available. Have you never heard of it, or would you like to know more about it? You can find some more information about Open Source in this article from WEBSITE PLANET: link.

Google integrates additional features like the Chrome Browser, Android, or Play Store and the Linux of Chrome OS. Unfortunately, you have to do without these two powerful functions under Chromium OS, because – as far as I know – you can’t integrate them afterward. Further technical details: Adobe Flash and Widevine CDM (Content Decryption Module) for HTML5 EME (Encrypted Media Extension) support are also missing. That means: DRM-protected (Digital Rights Management) sources like video streams cannot be played in Chrome under Chromium OS – in contrast to Chrome under Chrome OS.

About Android: If you already own an Android smartphone or even an Android tablet, you don’t have to test Android again. Android tablets, in particular, have a range of functions that is very similar to that of Android under Chrome OS. In other words: You can do the same with a modern Chrome OS device as with your Android tablet and much more!

Maybe the operation of Android under Chrome OS is sometimes a bit different than you are used to, since you get a so-called Stock Android with Chrome OS. Android devices from Samsung and Huawei, for example, can sometimes behave a bit differently because both companies can customize the user interface, operation, and behavior of Android. Almost all apps that run on your Android tablet are also available on Chrome OS in the Play Store. There are only a few exceptions.

If you want to test Chromium OS and you don’t know the virtualization tools mentioned above, you might wonder if they cost you anything! That is not the case! As long as you are a private user, the tools mentioned in this chapter are free of charge. (Status: May 2020)

Important notes

Notes for beginners: My posts usually contain some basics so that you can understand how to proceed. I partly repeat the basics in other posts, so you don’t have to jump back and forth all the time.

Here is the meaning of the abbreviations after the headings: [E] Everyone [A] Advanced [B] Beginner [P] Professional

If you still miss something, feel free to comment. The community will try to help you! 🙂

Notes for professionals: My posts usually have the form of a knowledge database entry and should be equally suitable for beginners, advanced users, and professionals. Just pick out what you need right now. You can also find content specifically targeted to professionals. These are marked accordingly with [P] and other finger points.

Do you want to have more professional content on a topic? Add it to the comments 😉

Disclaimer of liability: As always on this blog, I warn you that all changes to your system mentioned in this post are at your own risk! It is theoretically possible that there are system or application errors that could lead to data loss and further problems!

Chromium OS [A]

Since the sources of Chromium OS are freely available, vendors such as Neverware can create system images of it, which can then be used as a VM or installed on a limited number of popular Windows or Apple devices. Why limited? Because it’s a lot of work to make Chromium OS fully executable on devices with different components. Here you can find a list of supported devices: Link.

Chromium OS
Image: Wikipedia

Neverware calls the in-house version based on Chromium OS Cloudready. Besides that, there is, for example, Fyde OS. The creators have developed it for Chinese students. In contrast to Cloudready, it has integrated Android and Linux. Neverware is now the owner of this variation.

Since I don’t speak Chinese, it is a bit difficult to get further information from the official website https://fydeos.com/. But you can find some English instructions on the web. Also a ready-made VM for VMware is available for testing purposes only, since the developers have configured it insecurely.

I did not test it, because there is simply too little information about this system available in English. That is not quite kosher for me! Test it at your own risk if you like! Then you would have integrated everything from Chromium OS to Play Store to Linux in a single VM for testing.

How to start [A]

Now let’s go back to the preparation and configuration of virtual machines! I wanted to test the VM (with Chromium OS) pre-built by Neverware on a somewhat older Asus Zenbook UX305C. I was using VMware Workstation Player under Linux Mint with the help of this guide https://www.howtogeek.com/128087/how-to-run-chrome-os-in-virtualbox-and-try-out-chrome-os-before-buying-a-chromebook/. Operating system, VMware and the pre-built image of the Chromium OS were up to date, but it didn’t work. At startup, the system always got stuck at a certain point.

Maybe there’s a trick for this that I don’t know, and hardcore Linux fans, unlike me, would be able to do it directly. But I would like to present to you here the simple solutions. Under Windows 10, for example, I was successful without significant problems, and the result is probably easier to reproduce for you! If you still want to try it under Linux, I would recommend you to use Google to search for tips from the Linux community and try a few things.

Here we go! [A]

So on a cheap Lenovo IdeaPad S145 notebook (around 400 €) with an 8th generation Intel Core i5 it was quite easy. It worked for me in spring 2020 under Windows 10 right at the first try! I proceeded quite similar to the method described above with Linux Mint.

That’s all pretty straight forward and quite easy: I downloaded VMware Workstation Player 15.1 for Windows and installed it with a click. Similar thing with the CloudReady image of Neverware for VMware. Then I followed these great instructions again: https://www.howtogeek.com/128087/how-to-run-chrome-os-in-virtualbox-and-try-out-chrome-os-before-buying-a-chromebook/.

So I downloaded the image, opened the VMware Player, selected the image as the VM to open, and the Player imported it into a new VM. After having finished this process, I was able to set up and use Chromium OS without changing the settings of the VM. Great!

If you want to try this, you can find more testimonials and tips from me on this blog soon. I will link them here later on.

But what about Android apps, of which there are millions, and the Linux of Chrome OS? You can’t test both with the VM from Neverware. If you want to, I would recommend you to set up additional VMs or USB sticks to test the full functionality of Chrome OS. That is the only way you can get an idea of what you can do with it later!

Bliss OS (Android) [A]

Since Android is, as mentioned above, very widespread and well-known, I did not give high priority to the topic “Testing Android in a VM or from a USB stick” at first. In this section, I would like to provide you with a few sources that describe very well how to install and use Android on a Windows PC with Bliss OS.

Android
Image: Wikipedia

There are, of course, other systems, such as Android emulators. One example: Bluestacks. I will test them myself if I get the chance and add some experience reports here in the blog.

An excellent article on this topic was published by chip in April 2020 on its web page: https://www.how2shout.com/how-to/install-bliss-os-x86-pc-virtualbox.html Take a look at this article. It describes how you can install Bliss OS – and, therefore, Android – on your Windows PC in a Virtual Machine and use it from there.

I haven’t tested this myself yet and would like to point you to some promising sources such as YouTube videos and articles:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwOXdWybxuE
=> With the help of VirtualBox, from apkHaven

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WA9QpmhteEI
=> With the help of VMware, Link Vegas

Both videos basically follow the following instructions from the provider himself: https://docs.blissroms.com/Bliss%20OS/installation-guide/

Have you tried it yourself or do you know better solutions, please leave a short comment under the blog for the community! 🙂

Linux [A]

The virtualized Linux under Chrome OS is based on Debian. So if you want to get as close as possible to the functionality of a Chrome OS device without having a Chrome OS device, you also need a Linux distribution based on Debian. With Linux, you have a lot of possibilities! For example, you can continue using your LibreOffice or OpenOffice, Firefox, Thunderbird, and Gimp from your Windows PC in the test VM or later under Chrome OS! And later in the post, I will describe how you can install all this from a graphical “App-Store” with just one click!

Tux
Image: Wikipedia

If you take a look at the five most popular Linux distributions according to Distrowatch in May 2020, you will find well-known representatives like 1.) MX Linux, 2) Manjaro, 3rd) Linux Mint, 4) Ubuntu 5) Debian. All systems except Manjaro are based on Debian. So let’s just look at these four systems here. You can test them all on Windows 10, for example, with VMware Player or Virtualbox.

If you are a computer novice, all this probably sounds a bit daunting for you. Except for the problem that Linux often does not run as well in a VM as with a direct installation and a few minor restrictions on the use of USB devices, the procedures mentioned here are straightforward to follow. If you still want to try it, you can find many articles about it on Google. I plan to create my videos and blog posts in the future, but these will 1) always be very close to Chrome OS and 2) never go as low as real Linux tutorials.

I cannot and do not want to offer you a complete introduction to Linux here in the blog. This post has the purpose of giving you some information and sources that should enable you to test Linux in a VM on Windows 10. Once you have completed the installation, you can install and use Linux applications under Chrome OS, just like in Linux.

Well, which of the four Linux distributions should you install now? Actually, in this case, it doesn’t matter, because the Linux under Chrome OS doesn’t provide a graphical desktop environment for the time being. This means that you have no start menu and desktop widgets etc. available. However, resourceful Chrome OS pros managed to do this in spring! Namely, to install the desktop environment KDE on a Google Pixelbook Go. The installation isn’t that difficult at all, as it only requires a few simple steps.

In general, Linux applications installed on a Chrome OS device are integrated into the Chrome OS launcher, and you can start them from there. That is also the case with the following four Linux distributions, which we can use as a test system. In other words: The installed applications are integrated into the (start) menu and can be found and started with the system search, just like under Windows or Chrome OS. The rest is a matter of taste. Just search for the names of the Linux Distributions with the Google image search. If you like the look of a distribution, especially well, just take it for your test.

MX Linux [A]

How you can download MX Linux and use it in a VM using VirtualBox as described very well in this article from H2S Media:

https://www.how2shout.com/how-to/how-to-install-mx-linux-on-virtualbox-vm.html

Linux Mint [A]

An even more detailed guide to setting up Linux Mint under VirtualBox can be found here at geekflare:
https://geekflare.com/linux-mint-installation/

Debian [A]

The same applies to the manual of linuxhint regarding Debian in a VM under VirtualBox: https://linuxhint.com/install_debian10_virtualbox/

Ubuntu [A]

Even the very well-known Ubuntu can be tested with the following instructions from Lifewire under VirtualBox:
https://www.lifewire.com/install-ubuntu-linux-windows-10-steps-2202108
I hope the article isn’t an April joke! 😉

Now that the system you have chosen is ready and you have installed all system and application updates, you can set up your desired applications and games as in Linux under Chrome OS.

How you can do this, similar to the Linux terminal under Chrome OS, is described in the following two articles by itsfoss and phoenixnap:
https://itsfoss.com/apt-get-linux-guide/
https://phoenixnap.com/kb/how-to-use-apt-get-commands

Both articles basically introduce you to the required tool “apt-get” and show you some concrete examples.

Installing a graphical App Store [A]

Are you scared of this, and you want to install your applications later on Chrome OS? And do you prefer to install them from a graphical “App Store”? You only have to bite the bullet once and install the so-called Gnome Software Center with “apt-get,” as described in the following article by CHROME UNBOXED:
https://chromeunboxed.com/news/installing-gnome-software-center-chrome-os-linux-crostini

In contrast, the four distributions mentioned here in the post already each have an “App Store.” So you do not necessarily have to do this step in your test. But you could, of course, install the Gnome Software Center in your VM if it is not already available in your chosen distribution, to be as close as possible to the Linux of the Chrome OS.

Install well-known useful Linux applications [A]

Now you can have a look at the following two articles from Android Police and LinuxAndUbuntu, which give you some ideas about which useful applications you could install:
https://www.androidpolice.com/2018/09/09/best-linux-apps-chrome-os/
http://www.linuxandubuntu.com/home/50-essential-linux-applications

Maybe you already know and use some of the applications mentioned under Windows.

The two websites also explain how to install the applications. Are you wondering why they mention console commands again? No problem! Just use the Software Center of your chosen distribution and search for the applications mentioned on both websites. Most of the time, you can install them by clicking on the corresponding button. I just want to give you a feeling for the great software available for Linux and that all of it will run on your Chrome OS device.

Many friends of mine do not use Microsoft Office at home, but the free LibreOffice or OpenOffice packages. You can install both without any problems in Linux under Chrome OS and use them offline. The four Linux distributions mentioned above often have LibreOffice pre-installed.

Possible problems later under Chrome OS [A]

One last note for testing “normal,” i.e., full Linux distributions compared to the Linux of Chrome OS. It is possible that isolated applications ran great in your test may not install or run stable in Linux on Chrome OS.

So now you don’t want to miss one of your special tools, then I recommend that you first check with Google to see if this is the case. But don’t be put off if that is not the case! There are always updates for the Linux and your tool, so if an application doesn’t run right now, it may work soon without any problems and run smoothly on Chrome OS!

Conclusion testing VM [A]

All in all, you should now be able to appreciate better what Chrome OS can offer you. Of course, Chromium OS, Android or Linux will usually run slower in your virtual machines than on “real” Chrome OS devices, unless you have a speedy PC. That this is not the case on Chrome OS, I will describe in many other posts. The system is incredibly fast!

Back to the overview of How to test Chrome OS first?

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