It's been a while since I posted last. Here are a few things I've been doing with the Google CR-48...
1. I tested using my old-ish TRENDnet USB to 10/100 NIC and found that it works flawlessly. I ran into a problem at my office and wanted to see if I could solve it from my Chrome OS browser. I found that at the time, I could not connect to my work wireless so the TRENDnet TU2-ET100 came to the rescue. Since that time, I have used the TRENDnet to configure new routers and other network equipment using the CR-48 without any problems. I have the old style TRENDnet USB network interface adapter, but I'm sure the new, version 3.0R they show on the TRENDnet website will work fine (or even the fancy gigabit adapter).
2. I finally broke down and started using the CR-48 in developer mode. I have also started dual booting with Ubuntu. I followed Jay's fancy guide over at his ChromeOS blog to install Ubuntu 10.10 from his easy script source, and last week, did the auto update to Natty Narwal, Ubuntu 11.04. (Jay now has a new post to do the install directly to 11.04, and allows you to resize your partition sizes!). During the upgrade, Ubuntu barked about not having enough disk space, but after the clean up was done, everything was running fine. Now, I'm just trying to get used to the strange new sidebar in 11.04. And, if you're wondering, the USB network interface adapter, works just fine in both Ubuntu 10.10, and Ubutnu 11.04.
3. Even though I just told you I have been booting Ubuntu on the CR-48, 90% of the time, I have honestly just been using the CR-48 as it is meant to be used, booting Chrome OS and saving everything in the cloud. But that other 10% of using Ubuntu happened recently. I just changed jobs, and during the transition, I found myself needing to download documents and upload documents from a thumb drive to send to my new employer. I think that Chrome OS has taken great strides in helping with removable media management, but honestly, there is still a lot lacking. For instance, it's difficult to use the default GUI to copy files from a USB drive, to an SD card, or temporarily copy the files to your local disk, then to copy them back off to another USB as to transfer files around. I realize that the idea of Chrome is to store everything in the cloud, but that's just it... I want to be able to keep my files mobile so I can move them over to my workstation, or to my office laptop, and not feel restricted to going to a third party, when my files are right here on my thumb drive, sneaker net style. My wife got a digital picture frame for Mother's Day and I found it difficult to copy any of our pictures off my thumb drive to an SD card she would be using, so I finally gave up and went to find the pictures on my Flickr and Dropbox to download to the SD card. I have noticed that the last few operating system updates have introduced new file management features, so I'm sure there is a greater plan that will be revealed before long.
All in all, the CR-48 is still a great platform device. I think that the laptop hardware itself is very easy to use, has tremendous battery life, and is a good platform to put Chrome OS through it's paces, but has it's downsides like a single USB port (think thumb drive + wireless mouse at the same time), a huge track pad that actually catches my left thumb often enough to be annoying, and an operating system that pushes it's users to rely on software and data stored on internet based services (the cloud). All of that being said, I really do like where Chrome OS is going. The features it has offered like cloud print, cloud sync, and the addition of very useful plugins like LastPass, have really been the force keeping me using the laptop and putting the hardware through it's paces. I thought we might see Chrome OS laptops in the market by now, but I think that Google is still trying to decide it's path for Chrome OS vs the Android platform, and that will probably need to be pathed out before Dell or HP will put their name on any CR-48 like hardware.