Online skillshare: Chrome OS Flex, 28 Apr, 7:30pm (BST)

Google recently launched Chrome OS Flex, an operating system designed for older or less powerful computers (including Macs & PCs). We talked about it recently in another topic.

As we’re all pretty keen on keeping older devices going for longer (and don’t always trust Google), we thought we’d dive a bit deeper.

Join us for this online skillshare, led by @Lee_Grant, to learn how Chrome OS Flex works, the pros & cons of using it, and whether it’s an effective way to give older hardware a new lease of life.

Everyone is welcome to come along! No expertise or experience required :slight_smile:

To help us get a sense of numbers, please let us know if you’d like to join by voting on the poll below.

Here are the details:

When? :clock730:

Thursday, April 28, 2022 6:30 PM (Coordinated Universal Time) for 1 hour.
(click or tap the time to see it in different time zones)

Where? :compass:

Here: https://whereby.com/restarters-community

Would you like to come to this skillshare?

  • Yes, I plan on coming to this skillshare :raised_hands:
  • I can’t make it, but I would like to read a summary afterwards

0 voters

Add this event to your calendar :spiral_calendar:

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Any questions, just ask below :+1:

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Will there be a Zoom or Teams code to join the meeting and how do you register

Hi Waseem,

The session will happen on a website called Whereby (not on Zoom or Teams). The link is in the post above, but here it is again for easy reference: https://whereby.com/restarters-community
The link is already live, but the room will only open a few minutes before the session is due to begin.

To register, just vote on the poll above (selecting the ‘yes, I plan on coming to this skillshare’ option) :slight_smile:

Just a quick reminder that this skillshare is happening this evening, from 7:30pm UK time.

Join us then for @Lee_Grant’s demo of ChromeOS Flex and a short Q&A session. We’ll be meeting here: https://whereby.com/restarters-community

The session will be recorded for those who can’t make it live.

See you there!

Cc: everyone who said they’d like to come:
@ugo, @philip, @sami, @Steve_Cook, @Monique, @Gregg_Ferry, @Mike_Brisley, @Chris_Blandford, @Waseem_Kazmi

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A huge thank you to everyone who came along yesterday, and especially to @Lee_Grant for delivering such a thorough and entertaining session!

I’ll start processing the recording today and aim to post it here later on or early next week (depending on the amount of editing required :wink: )

So, if you couldn’t make the session, keep an eye on this topic for that.

Spoiler alert, the key takeaways for me were:

  • ChromeOS Flex seems pretty easy to install
  • For anything browser-based, it seems like a really good solution, especially for older hardware
  • It does require giving Google a lot of data
  • The fact that it doesn’t (yet) have the Google Play store means that running non-Google apps isn’t an option for most people
  • It can be set up specifically for kids, giving their parent(s)/guardian(s) quite a lot of control over how they can use the device

What did others find interesting?

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And here is the (lightly edited) recording of the session:

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Thanks @james and @Lee_Grant for a wonderful session!

@Lee_Grant, you were excellent: very informative AND funny :slight_smile: - I want more!

As for ChromeOS Flex, it looks promising. Aside from the ease of installation, I wonder what would be the advantages compared to having an installation of (for example) Linux Mint MATE, or another reasonably “light” version of Linux? It’s a genuine question - as we’ll look at giving a second lease of life to rather old laptops as part of the Fixing Factory project

Thanks again,
Ugo

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You are - as always - very generous. Humour is always is great way to mask the technical bin-fire happening six inches out of view of the camera.

I like your question - my take would be the quick link into the Google eco system. ChromeOS Flex has it out of the box, Linux has to work a little harder.

Thank you.

I had a really great time, despite the tech clunks.

It was great to talk to an informed crowd who are passionate about technology and making it live longer.

Thanks for looking after us all on the night.

Thank you Lee for the great session.
I followed the process and easily created the install media.
Although Google Flex OS ran from USB stick, when I tried installing on the computer hard disk, it would not boot.
I could not find any disk utility or system information in the OS, to check the destination media.
Work in progress…

Hi @Waseem_Kazmi,

Thank you - pleased you could make it and enjoy the technical juggling.

Did it complete the installation process? If so, it may be something simple like a BIOS boot order issue.

There aren’t any granular control in Chrome - it’s quite basic - it doesn’t even tell the user which drive it’s installing on - it just finds a drive, erases and re-partitions.

However, your question has got me thinking about what happens if it’s installed on a machine with more than two drives…does it give an option to select which drive to use? I’ll test that next week.

Good luck with the tinkering…let me know if you get it working.

Some experiences of my first attempt using ChromeOS Flex dev build today. Yesterday we were donated two reasonably good condition 64-bit Windows 10 capable laptops for recycling into new user’s hands … so I diverted one of them to experiment. These were an Acer and an Asus, both about 10 years old and both well stacked with RAM 6GB and 12GB and both had been reset to factory state with a data clean by their previous knowledgeable owners.

After a bit of a struggle creating the Flex USB stick (“Unknown error: Failed to read device… Try again”) - three tries later I decided to use the 32GB USB stick regardless and all went well. It was a SanDisk USB which the Neverware install guide suggested was a bad choice :wink:

The Flex installer didn’t report that the Asus had a 500GB HDD and a 20GB SSD available (a bit small?) and went ahead and used the 500GB HDD regardless. There are some other Google reports of this behaviour too when multiple drives are available.

Installation was pretty quick - less than 5 minutes I’d say.

On removing the Flex build USB during the 60 second installation shutdown countdown (as suggested), the shutdown seemed to end with a blank screen, but left the backlighted keyboard on the Acer Aspire M I was using still lit up and the fan at full pelt, Waiting a minute or so didn’t help turn off everything, so I resorted to a hard power down. All was well on the restart!

It had installed Flex version 102.0.4992.0 which it then later suggested be updated to 103.0.5035.0 in the same style as Neverware Cloudready. In so doing I noted the user interface changed between these versions for the opened up app “shelf”. It moved from the centre to the left of screen and from multiple pages indicated by on screen dots to a simpler scrollable page.

I also noted the absence of Google Play and the fact that the Zoom app I had previously installed on a Neverware build (and had been synced via my Google sign-in previously used for Neverware to Flex) was telling me I had until August 2022 to use the Zoom for Chrome PWA version. Nothing similar available in the Web store though. So I hope you’re right that Google Play becomes available on Flex but I suspect that’s what is keeping sales on nw Chromebooks going!

A little annoyed at references to Chromebook in the ChromeOS Flex What’s New articles… its not quite a Chromebook if you can’t install apps (e.g. Zoom PWA app) to bring your device into a supported state!

Quite impressed that its very much similar to the Neverware product and use fairly straightforward, apart from the identity crisis it has: “Am I a Chromebook or not?”

Thanks for the session last week to inspire this experiment!

I am now wondering what the latest “Neverware” Cloudready build might look like as I suspect there may be some convergence going on… so the jury is out on whether we’d recycle our lower spec 64-bit refurbed devices using Flex instead of Cloudready at the moment.

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I tried to install on 32 bit pc , HP Mini 200 but install failed with error “cannot install on ix86. Minimum is i686”
Tried installing on ASUS np300ex5 and the process seemed to run but at the stage where it said verifying, it took ages and nothing happened. Rebooting the pc, I got an error invalid boot disk.

Hi Waseem, I have in the past built Cloudready on another device’s SSD, then transplanted it into the target device - it worked with Cloudready but I have not yet tried this with ChromeOS Flex. Doing that might avoid the issue where the target laptop cannot boot from the build USB stick.

For Cloudready and ChromeOS, it seems the minimum spec is a 64-bit device, so we’re still searching for a suitably simple solution for really old PCs. There is/was an unsupported 32-bit Cloudready version available, but without support it doesn;t really have any future.

… and I just noted that the Neverware Cloudready download page now offers early access to ChromeOS Flex at the top of it!

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Thanks @Chris_Blandford.

Sounds like you gave it a thorough workout. Agree about the Chromebook references but I suppose that things are changing so fast (as you mentioned in regards to the GUI) that documentation hasn’t yet been tackled.

Play Store is the deal-breaker for many users here, but for browser-based users who use some Google Docs, it’s pretty usable.

I haven’t (yet) got around to installing on a multi-disk system, but I will give it a whirl.

Hi Chris,
Thank you for your reply.
Have you had any success I installing Chromebook OS on an external drive?
If this were possible, I wonder if the external drive could be installed internally.
I will experiment and let you know.
Regards
Waseem

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Hi Waseem, no I have not been able to install Flex onto an external drive. What I believe will work is to install it onto an internal drive on a “build” laptop, then remove it and place that into the target 64-bit laptop. I have done that with Neverware Cliudready with success but have not yet tried that with Flex.

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Hi,
Installation of Chrome OS Flex on Asus 64 bit laptop had 1 hiccup. During installation, screen went blank. I rebooted and install continued and completed in less than 5 mins.
I removed the hard disk and installed in 32 bit laptop but it would not boot. Error said kernel would only run in x86-64 bit environment and target was i686.

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Delighted that you got a result @Waseem_Kazmi - that’s great.

There is a point in the process where the installer copies the files from the USB and then ‘restarts’ the system - only it shuts down the system instead. As you discovered, turning the machine on solved the issue. It’s an odd thing to do as Windows & Mac always restart - maybe it’s a glitch they’ll fix.

I bet that part of my demo was overlooked due to me juggling HDMI cables.

Well done for keeping at it! Hope you have some fun with Flex…