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Google's Chrome OS is a work in progress

Preston Gralla | Nov. 26, 2009
Google's upcoming operating system has caused a lot of talk, but there's not much there yet.

Click the time display icon, and you're brought to a display tab labeled Chromium OS (more explanation later). It shows you the date, and gives you the option to change your time zone (though there's no option at this point to change the date itself). Also on this tab are options to control the sensitivity of the touchpad, including an option to enable tapping to be used as clicking.

You click the battery icon to see the state of your battery.

The networking icon is designed to let you turn Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity on and off. Because I was running a VirtualBox virtual machine, turning Wi-Fi on and off had no effect, even though I was connected to a network via Wi-Fi. However, turning Ethernet off disconnected me from my network, and turning it back on again reconnected me.

The final icon is a bit baffling, because when you click it, you get nearly the same menu as when you click the wrench icon in the Chrome browser. The final Chrome OS icon offers more choices than the browser icon, including selections for clearing browser data, importing bookmarks and settings, and an odd item called Compact nav bar that actually controls how new tabs are opened, including the odd selection "Open tabs clobber." (I couldn't figure out what that did. I expected it to close any open tabs -- in other words, "clobber" them. But choosing it did nothing that I could detect.)

The menu that appears when you click the wrench icon in the Chrome OS browser includes an item for synching bookmarks, although it's grayed out and doesn't appear to work yet. The menu also includes an Extensions choice, although extensions aren't yet available.

Both menus offer the same Options selection -- you'll see the same tabs labeled Basic, Personal Stuff and Under the Hood. The final Chrome OS icon has one additional tab, labeled Chromium OS, that currently offers the same screen you see when you select "Open date and time options" from the time icon.

There are other minor changes in the OS version of the Options screen. For example, in the Under the Hood tab, the existing Chrome browser includes options for changing your Google Gears settings, allowing you to turn it on and off for various sites. (Google Gears is an add-on that controls whether you can use Web application data and capabilities offline, such as Google Docs.)

However, in the Chrome operating system, there are no features for turning off Google Gears. That may be because the Chrome operating system needs Google Gears to function, or perhaps because Google believes turning it off for certain sites may prove to be confusing. Or it may be a simple oversight that will be changed in later versions.


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