So: how would you go about making a Chromebook-like laptop? Yes, I could just install any Linux distro, and then restrain myself from installing most apps other than a browser and a few utilities, but that's not quite the same; ChromeOS is nicely polished, and very pared down; it also seems to do well with low-memory systems (lots of the current models have just 2GB, which brings many Linux distros to a disk-swapping crawl), and starts up nicely quick.
It looks like the most "authentic" thing would be to dive into building Chromium OS (which looks like a fun hobby), but I'd like to find something more like Cr OS — only Cr OS hasn't been updated in quite a while. Perhaps some other browser-centric pared-down Linux would work as well. How would you build a system? And should I go ahead and order some low-end 16GB SSDs, which I now see from online vendors for less than $25?
"Mozilla Firefox, Chromium (the open-source variant of Chrome) and WebKit (the basis for Safari) are all great examples of open-source software. The Qt project has a simple webkit-based web browser in their examples. So that's at least four different open-source web browsers to choose from. But what does it take to actually build them? The TL;DR answer is that these are complex pieces of software, each of them with rather idiosyncratic build systems, and that you should consider 100GB of disk space to build all the browsers, a few hours of download, and be prepared to learn lots of new, rather specific tools."