Google Chrome OS, the operating system that Google released to open source last week, has been compiled and posted for download on several file-sharing sites.
The ready-to-run Chrome OS has appeared on several peer-to-peer BitTorrent tracking sites, including Mininova.org and Pirate Bay. The Gdgt website has also posted a free download of the Chrome OS disk image. Users must create an account with the site to access the download.
The operating system, which Google bragged will be faster and more secure than rivals when it ships late next year, can be run in a virtual environment using a desktop application, such as those available from VMware or Sun Microsystems.
According to notes appended to several of the BitTorrent downloads, users compiled Chrome OS from the bits that Google publicly released as part of its move to take the operating system open source. Last week, Google also posted instructions on the Chromium Projects site for creating a build from the source code.
To run the Chrome OS build, users must launch a virtual machine client, such as VMware's Workstation, or for the Mac, Fusion, then install Chrome in a new virtual machine. VMware offers free 30-day trials of both Workstation 7 and Fusion 3 on its site. The free VirtualBox, a Sun-hosted open source virtual machine, does the trick as well, users said on the filesharing sites.
VMware's free VMPlayer also lets users try out Chrome OS.
Although Google didn't provide directions on how to run Chrome OS in a virtual machine, several websites took up the slack with step-by-step installation guides. TechCrunch, for example, has published instructions that walk users through the process with VirtualBox.
Download traffic has been heavy on some of the Chrome OS builds. One of the files found via a search on Pirate Bay, for example, sported about nearly 3,000 "seeders," the term for a computer that has a complete copy of the torrent file and is able to share it with others.
The posted files are large: A compressed version of a VMware-ready Chrome OS build tips the scales at 281MB.
While Microsoft has predictably pooh-poohed Chrome OS as nothing for it to worry about, some analysts have argued that Google's entry into the operating system market marks the beginning of a "fight to the death" between the two technology giants.
Thursday, Google said that the first netbooks powered by Chrome OS won't reach shelves until late in 2010.
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