Is Chrome OS Linux

Where did Chrome OS come from? Originally, it seems to have started with Ubuntu Linux. Chrome OS was released in November 2009 and the news quickly came out that Canonical, Ubuntu's parent company, had helped build Chrome OS.

In a Canonical blog posting, Chris Kenyon, then Canonical's VP of OEM Services, wrote, "Canonical is contributing engineering to Google under contract. In our discussions, Sundar Pichai [Google's senior vice president of Chrome] and Linus Upson [Google's VP of engineering for Chrome] made it clear that they want, wherever feasible, to build on existing components and tools from the open-source community without unnecessary re-invention."

So, Chrome OS today is based on Ubuntu? Well, no... it's not. The first builds of Chrome OS had Ubuntu as its foundation, but it's changed over the years. In February 2010, Chrome OS started switching its foundation Linux distribution from Ubuntu to the older, and more obscure, Gentoo Linux.

This was done, as recorded in a Chromium OS developer e-mail list discussion, because  "the need to support board specific builds and improve our tools has become more urgent. In order to get there more quickly we’ve been investigating several different build tools. We found that the Portage build tools suit our needs well and we will be transitioning 100% within the next week."

Portage is Gentoo's package management system. It's most noteworthy because, instead of using prepared program packages, such as those used in Red Hat's RPM or Debian's DEB, for installing software, it compiles programs directly from source code.

That's not the end of the story though. While Gentoo's Portage is still used for package management in Chrome OS, sources say that today's Chrome OS "kernel is a regular upstream kernel plus our own changes. We don't pick up anything from Gentoo in that area." So, today's Chrome OS is based on Google's own take on the vanilla Linux kernel while Portage is still used for software package management.

No matter how exactly Chrome OS got its start, today it's becoming a popular Linux distribution. While it's most often found pre-installed on Chromebooks, Chrome OS can also be installed on PCs.

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