Earlier today we published a story about Neverware, a New York City startup that is helping schools refurbish old Windows PCs and Macs that had been abandoned as unusable, converting them into "Chromebooks" students can actually work on. Neverware charges schools a licensing fee for every machine it enables this way, but it also offers the software for free to individual users. And starting today, you can set up most computers to dual boot into their original operating system or Chrome, meaning you don't have to get rid of anything on your machine to give it a spin as a Chrome-capable laptop.
Now these aren't technically "Chromebooks" because that name is a trademark reserved for the laptops created by Google and its hardware partners. A Google representative suggested we call them Chrome laptops, or Chromium laptops. I'm partial to Chromiumbook myself. In any case, you'll find that the experience is mostly indistinguishable from Chrome, and that all the Google apps and services you expect work without a hitch.
I have been using a six-year-old Dell Latitude laptop running Neverware's CloudReady software for a few weeks. In Chrome it boots in under 30 seconds and runs fast enough for me to use it as my only computer at work. In Windows, well, not so much. As we noted in our feature, an irony of the cloud computing era is that a lot of older machines discarded as obsolete actually have far more horsepower, in terms of pure hardware, than the latest Chromebooks coming to market.
Older machines will probably still have problems Neverware can't fix — my Lenovo's battery, for example, leaves a lot to be desired — but if you have some spare hardware lying around that no longer works, Neverware's software is an interesting and easy way to try and resurrect it as a netbook that you can get some real value out of. The download is available here.
This Is My Next: Chromebook