Since detailing the our original ‘Flexor’ discovery a couple of weeks ago, there has been a bit of discussion that had me wondering if we got this all right or not. Don’t get me wrong: ‘Flexor’ is definitely still a sizeable mystery and one that may or may not ever become a reality. But the findings by Kevin Tofel over at About Chromebooks had me questioning what exactly ‘Flexor’ really is until this morning, when new details from the Chromium Repositories now seem to confidently support my earlier claims.
Could ‘Flexor’ be for an Android desktop?
When I first read the headline of Kevin’s article, I was a bit perplexed. How could ‘Flexor’ have anything to do with an Android desktop? When the files I looked at so clearly pointed to ChromeOS Flex, how was it possible that this entire ‘Flexor’ experiment could be anything but a riff on ChromeOS Flex?
But as I read his post and took a look at the file he found, I immediately understood where he was coming from. Deep in the code changes that exist for ‘Flexor’ in the Chromium Repositories, one of the files contains language around exploring PhoenixOS – an OS based on Android that is trying to be a real desktop solution. From FossHub.com (where you can download it):
Phoenix OS is a free, Android™ based project operating system that can be installed on tablets, laptops and desktop computers. It is an “enhanced” version of Android™ focused on bringing Windows features such as the well-known “Start Menu” and “Task Bar”.FossHub.com
Now, you may be wondering why I sourced info on PhoenixOS from FossHub.com, and the reason is simple. PhoenixOS’ actual home page is now a wasteland of a website and I’m not entirely sure what it is even there for. It seems the entire project is likely abandoned, and other than a handful of sites that have the OS available for download, all signs point to a now-defunct project. If you plan on visiting the PhoenixOS site (I’m not even directly providing the URL here) on a Windows device, go ahead and prepare for some malware. It’s shady, and I’d stay away if I were you.
But the point still stands: why is this included in one of the core ‘Flexor’ files at all? Your guess is as good as mine, but it seems equally puzzling to those working on ‘Flexor’ as well (according to some comments on the commit), and there’s a chance that this part of the code ends up geting removed completely.
Clear language that ‘Flexor’ is ChromeOS Flex
But questions around PhoenixOS and its legitimacy aren’t enough to completely dispel the idea of some sort of Android desktop being toyed around with on ChromeOS, right? I definitely don’t see it as a possibility, but I can’t deny the clear references in code when I see them.
However, I came across a new commit this morning for ‘Flexor’ that has me quite certain in my original assertion that ‘Flexor’ is in fact ChromeOS Flex for aging Chromebooks. Please go read the original post about all this to understand why I initially thought that was the case, and then read the following bit from the flexor-9999.ebuild file from the Chromium Repositories:
Clearly, ‘Flexor’ is and “experimental Flex installer” with a capital F for Flex. From this we can gather that ‘Flexor’ is not only meant for ChromeOS, but that it is installing ChromeOS Flex as well (not some fork of Android). And if you need further proof, here’s another file that was just entered in the past hour or so:
In this file, we see ‘Flexor’ clearly not just installing some random thing that could be called Flex, but installing a ChromeOS image. Why there is reference to PhoenixOS anywhere in the middle of this is definitely a curious question, but I have no doubt that we’re looking at a project set to attempt some sort of install of ChromeOS Flex on Chromebooks one way or the other.
Uncertainty for the future of ‘Flexor’
All that being said, ‘Flexor’ is still shrouded in complete mystery. Will it ever actually launch? What will be the full purpose? And will it become available to all Chromebooks manufactured past a certain date? Those questions and more will have to be held for another time as we simply don’t have the answers and absolutely no confirmation that this project will even see the light of day. For now, it’s enough to know that ‘Flexor’ is at least an attempt to get ChromeOS Flex working on Chromebooks; and that’ll just have to do for now.