The web has been abuzz this week with the news that Google has released an early version of their new Chrome OS. This early version is actually the open source Chromium OS. If you really want to get a feel for this new operating system, you can follow the directions on the Chromium OS site to compile and build the OS to make your own flash drive image or VMware image. I was unable to get my VMware image running, but my flash drive image does work.
Chromium OS is basically a minimal installation of Ubuntu 9.10 - Karmic Koala with a custom version of the Chromium browser running on top. Chromium uses a web based application start page that is hosted at http://welcome-cros.appspot.com/menu. That page is currently blank for non-Chromium OS users. The good news is that the site just checks your browser user agent string to decide whether or not to show you the content.
Your web browser needs to use the following user agent to see the correct start page.
If you're using Firefox you can use the User Agent Switcher add-on. Then, just go into the settings to add a new user agent and paste the above string into the menu.
If you want to get the most authentic simulation, use Chromium on Linux as your browser. There is no plug-in to change the Chromium user agent, but you can launch Chromium from a terminal with the -user-agent command line switch. Use the following command to launch Chromium on Linux with the Chrome OS user agent string.
chromium-browser -user-agent="Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; CrOS i686 9.10; en-US) AppleWebKit/532.5 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/188.8.131.52 Safari/532.5"
If you've gotten the latest update from the PPA, it looks like the application name has now changed to Google Chrome. In that case, launch it with this command.
google-chrome -user-agent="Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; CrOS i686 9.10; en-US) AppleWebKit/532.5 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/184.108.40.206 Safari/532.5"
Then point your browser to http://welcome-cros.appspot.com/menu to see the Application Start Page. You'll need to be logged in to a Google account to use the Google specific applications.