The commercial Chromebooks are almost here, but if you want to try Chrome OS sooner than that you can do it. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as you might think. Here’s how to do it.
First, if you just try looking for “Chrome OS download” on Google, ironically, you’re going to have trouble finding it. Instead, you’re most likely to find links that will eventually take you to Chrome OS Linux. This is not Google’s Chrome OS. It’s a Linux distribution that uses Chrome OS. It may be fine. I don’t know. I haven’t tried it, but it’s not the Chrome OS that you’re looking for.
The real Chrome OS, which is indeed based on Linux flavored by Ubuntu, is available as source code, along with build instructions, at the Chromium OS Developer Guide. If you’re not an experienced programmer with access to a 64-bit Linux system, Ubuntu 10.04 Long Term Support (LTS) version for choice, you don’t want to go this route though.
For people who don’t program in C for a living, the smart thing to do is to download a Chrome OS virtual machine (VM) or USB stick live image from Hexxen.