Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 16th Nov 2017 22:47 UTC
Linux

Well, I've really done it. I've taken a pure and unsullied Google Pixelbook, which at one time was fast and secure in all ways, and made it into a crashy mess. My crime? The desire to code.

I'm going to walk you through my process for converting this machine into something that's marginally desirable for programming, but I just wanted to warn you before I begin: this isn't easy, clean, intuitive, or practical. There are rumors that Google is working on better ways to make Chrome OS a host for other flavors of Linux or Linux apps, but right now we're basically working with hacks, and hacks hurt.

Because these hacks hurt, I'd implore you to read this entire guide before attempting any of the steps so you know what you're getting yourself into, and if you, in fact, desire the results.

I think the PixelBook is a stunningly beautiful and fast machine, and while Chrome OS isn't nearly as useless as people often think it is, it clearly isn't the kind of operating system many OSNews readers would prefer. This is a guide to getting a traditional Linux setup up and running.

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Containers and Android studio
by iampivot on Fri 17th Nov 2017 00:23 UTC
iampivot
Member since:
2005-08-09

Ability to run unsigned containers, and getting Android studio natively on Chrome OS will make things very interesting. It would certainly put pressure back on Apple who seems to be neglecting their professional users as of lately.

Reply Score: 3

only necessary for GUI stuff
by tidux on Fri 17th Nov 2017 00:58 UTC
tidux
Member since:
2011-08-13

There's a very nice Androidy way to do this sort of thing now - Termux. If the Pixel Book supports running Android apps, which I suppose it does, then Termux gives you a nice local shell environment, plus full versions of OpenSSH and Mosh if you don't like the official apps for those. If you don't need a GUI (if, for example, you're developing a ChromeOS app, a webapp, or something without a GUI at all), then Termux is hands down the better option here.

Reply Score: 2

RE: only necessary for GUI stuff
by Necroplasma on Fri 17th Nov 2017 20:13 UTC in reply to "only necessary for GUI stuff"
Necroplasma Member since:
2013-09-20

It does exactly that. That's how I'm working with my new Pixelbook. My team is curious enough to let me try it out for a few weeks instead of working with the company Macbook. No issues so far.

Reply Score: 2

Thin Client
by Alfman on Fri 17th Nov 2017 01:17 UTC
Alfman
Member since:
2011-01-28

Step -1: Don't do any of this

One of the best ways to do development work on Chrome OS is to ditch these Crouton shenanigans and just set up a virtual machine in the cloud somewhere and SSH into it. That's what iPad-based developers usually do, and they seem happy enough. You don't get to use any GUI apps, but you get a real Linux distro, and there are a lot more things that "just work."

Or you can be a rebel and use the actual Linux distro that Google gave you. There's a project called "Chromebrew" that packages Linux utilities for Chrome OS. It even has crowd favorites like neovim, node, and yarn, so you might be able to get your whole ideal setup running locally. I had trouble with my own particular use case (running Rust code), and it doesn't have Crouton's magical Xiwi for GUI apps. But it's something!


There isn't necessarily anything wrong with thin clients, but IMHO it's an acknowledgement that the local platform tools are inferior to the tools available on other platforms.

I use a terminal and SSH almost every day for remote administration, but I'm actually most productive with a good local editor + IDE. I find that mounting network shares and running local apps gets me the best of both worlds. Alas, I've cursed android so many times for being so damn deficient with network shares!

Reply Score: 6

RE: Thin Client
by Wondercool on Fri 17th Nov 2017 11:31 UTC in reply to "Thin Client"
Wondercool Member since:
2005-07-08

Totally agree. I am hoping GalliumOS will get Kaby Lake support soon. That would mean you can run Xubuntu natively with Coreboot BIOS rather than som clumsy thin client soluiton or chroot.

Kaby Lake support only just came onto the radar.

https://wiki.galliumos.org/Hardware_Compatibility

Reply Score: 3

mlankton
Member since:
2009-06-11

Funny you should post this. Tomorrow I get my first Chromebook. I bought an Asus C302. Since Steve died I feel that Apple has moved steadily away from what I thought made them great, while Google has made me more and more dependent on their ecosphere over the years. I still have an iMac, but I've really been over my iPad for the last couple major iOS upgrades. Yeah Chrome OS doesn't do much, however Google's web apps and a browser have finally reached the stage where it does pretty much all of the recreational use computing. This is my lap device when I'm in the living room watching a game or a movie with my wife. I only recently started thinking Chromebook as an iPad replacement. I think the Android app thing is appealing, like you feel it will fill in any holes having a web only laptop will need filled. Looking forward to seeing what I think of it.

Reply Score: 2

mlankton Member since:
2009-06-11

my initial impression is that using this Chromebook could be all I need for recreational computing.

I can't help feeling I'll end up installing Solus on it anyway.

Reply Score: 2

This... is wrong tool
by grat on Fri 17th Nov 2017 02:44 UTC
grat
Member since:
2006-02-02

Instead of paying $999 for a highly customized system that's dependent on someone else's server (ie, the cloud), and then hacking it to get to the point where it almost does what you want, why not buy a general purpose laptop like a MacBook Air, Surface Pro, or an XPS 13?

You can even get the XPS 13 with Ubuntu pre-installed.

If you want a lightweight, Google ecosystem friendly tablet with a keyboard, get a PixelBook.

If you want a development machine, get a development friendly machine.

Reply Score: 8

RE: This... is wrong tool
by jpkx1984 on Fri 17th Nov 2017 09:20 UTC in reply to "This... is wrong tool"
jpkx1984 Member since:
2015-01-06

Price and battery life. My Chromebook set me back by ~1200 zł (23% VAT included, ~340$) and offers 10h battery life. I can use it as a terminal: SSH, RDP, VNC while on-the-go. With a traditional laptop I had to hunt for available AC sockets.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: This... is wrong tool
by grat on Fri 17th Nov 2017 14:59 UTC in reply to "RE: This... is wrong tool"
grat Member since:
2006-02-02

Price and battery life. My Chromebook set me back by ~1200 zł (23% VAT included, ~340$) and offers 10h battery life. I can use it as a terminal: SSH, RDP, VNC while on-the-go. With a traditional laptop I had to hunt for available AC sockets.


I have the 2015 XPS 13, which is good for 12+ hours, and a recent review of the Kaby Lake version reported a 16 hour battery life.

Reply Score: 4

RE[3]: This... is wrong tool
by calden on Fri 17th Nov 2017 23:16 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: This... is wrong tool"
calden Member since:
2012-02-02

Instead of paying $999 for a highly customized system that's dependent on someone else's server (i.e., the cloud), and then hacking it to get to the point where it almost does what you want, why not buy a general purpose laptop like a MacBook Air, Surface Pro, or an XPS 13?

You can even get the XPS 13 with Ubuntu pre-installed.

If you want a lightweight, Google ecosystem friendly tablet with a keyboard, get a PixelBook.

If you want a development machine, get a development friendly machine.



Actually, it's not. I've been using a Chromebook for development work since the first one, the CR-48. Though I started to use a Chromebook exclusively when Google released their first Pixel. In which I later bought the Pixel 2 and now the new PixelBook. Again, all of which were used exclusively for programming.

Collabration, I don't care how good you think you've setup your IDE on Windows to handle collabration, current cloud IDE solutions are 10x better. CodeEnvy for example has redefined the way we develop applications, so much so that going back to a Windows solution would be like using a computer from the 90's to edit 4K videos.

Instead of installing a Chroot, I simply compiled my own builds of Chrome OS with every Linux CLI application that I needed i.e., a LAMP server, Python, Ruby, Perl, Tomcat, Java, virtual machine, Citrix, you name it, I most likely compiled it into my build. IDE, I either used NetBeans by streaming it through a service, though most of the time I use the utterly fantastic CodeEnvy cloud IDE with Eclipse CHI running under Termux. Chi creates a Docker for a local devlepment server for CodeEnvy, AWESOME!!!!!!!

https://www.eclipse.org/che/

Well, that is until the Pixelbook as I went all in with a cloud solution as it's now completely feasible to do so. Desktop applications, no problem, I simply stream them using the utterly fantastic service, http://rollapp.com, which houses pretty much every Linux desktop GUI application there is , i.e., Blender, Android DEV, LibreOffice, etc. When I need Windows applications, I either stream them from a service similar to rollapp, which allows me to lease the apps I want to use or I use Citrix, both at home and at work.
As we are issued dumb terminals at work anyway, using a Chromebook was a huge step up, in fact it was my firm that paid for mine and many others.

At home I also have a Citrix application server, if I need Photoshop, well, I just call it up. I use a Intel NUC Skull edition with and i7, 32GB of RAM, 2TB Samsung 960 M.2 with an external GPU when I need to encode or render.

Those that think the Chromebook isn't a decent platform for such things as programming or other development work is, well and excuse me for saying this, really do not know what they're talking about. I mean you can even play games on it, I have RetroArch installed that allows me to play all of my favorite games from the past. I even have replica game controllers for all of the different emulators. Use it as a TV set box with Kodi.

The list of the things are endless, though it depends heavily on the user. So if you actually know how to use Chrome OS to it's fullest, the ChromeBook is one of the best computers out there, secure fast, simple, background updates, etc.

Basically it makes Windows look like a bloated mess,

Edited 2017-11-17 23:31 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: This... is wrong tool
by grat on Sat 18th Nov 2017 06:51 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: This... is wrong tool"
grat Member since:
2006-02-02

Why do you keep saying "Windows"? ;)

Reply Score: 4

RE[5]: This... is wrong tool
by calden on Sat 18th Nov 2017 21:41 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: This... is wrong tool"
calden Member since:
2012-02-02

Huh, I said it like once. Reason being is that it's the development platform choice for many. I personally never really used Windows, pre 2000's I used SGI and Apple exclusively, than Sun, than OSX/BSD/Linux and now Chrome OS. I do have a ThinkPad 8 tablet, the size and power was just to much for me to ignore, it's still a must have device, though make sure you get the 4GB, LTE model, plus keyboard.

I know many of you think Chrome OS of this nutered system that only provides a web browser, those in the know however, like myself, are able to elevate the system into something much, much more. Like I said above, using Eclipse Chi under Termux, with CodeEnvy as the front end is something trully special. Like next level special. As I work with in a team, the leader actually, collaboration is an absolute must. As such we have found by using Chromebook's, i.e., HP's Chromebook 13, Dells Chromebook 13, Pixel 2's and now the PixelBook, all of which have an i7, 16GB of RAM, 256/400GB SD Cards or and updated internal SSD's, with the setup I mentioned above, we're able to work faster and smarter, like a lot smarter.

Not just programming either, Office, we just stream it to our Chromebook's and it's fast, even when at home or when I'm using the 4G connection. Which in Switzerland, where I'm at right now, have an extremely fast network. Example, I constantly get a sustained bandwidth of 130Mbps or more. Thats faster than 85% of the land line based Internet connections in America, let alone mobile. Meaning, that even when I'm streaming Photoshop you would barely tell the difference from a local install. Which is fantastic as I spend a lot of time on the train going from one office location to another, the life of working for a large bank.

The ChromeBook has gotten a bad rap from those who really haven't used one or really don't know how to use it to it's fullest do to a lack studying. Anyone I've ever ran into who had a Chromebook and claimed that they hated it because they couldn't do anything were blown away after I spent just a little time with them showing what is actually possible, I didn't know you could do that. Ever heard of Google?

Everything is available online today, even full Desktop applications. Like right now, stop what you are doing and head over to http://rollapp.com/apps, than click on, I don't know, try LibreOffice. Okay, now you won't be able to save your work as you need subscription, cheap by the way, but you will still understand what I'm getting at, by the way the subscription service is much faster. Look around the site, they even stream the Android Development IDE, though you will need to join to get it as not all apps are available for free viewing. This is just the tip of the iceberg, there are services that stream everything from Photoshop to ProTools, why pay for software when you can just lease it for a fixed price every year, cheaply I might add.

I personally just house my own Application Streaming Server using Citrix's XenApp, love this hardware. I just got a fixed IP and off to the races I went. I didn't even buy an expensive server, just an Intel NUC Skull Edition. Though I did get the 32GB of RAM and the 2TB m.2 drive from Samsung for free. You don't need that though, 256GB and 8gB is more than enough, heck, even the $280 i5 Nuc is more than enough.

This setuo by the way works flawlessly with Samsung's DEX with either the Note 8 or S8. When I travel I just bring my Note 8, the Dex cradel and a small projects (I train people on the use of our software). Anyway, it works so good that I didn't even bother with the latop, though I do now cary the PixelBook as it's so thin and light. When you travel for business and only bring a single carry on bag, less is the key. On a side note, I used to carry the HP X3 with the laptop dock but Continuum is no match for the Dex, especially when Samsung releases it's Linux version, now that's going to be awesome, though Termux does do everything that I need at the moment.

I hope this gives you and others a little more insight on the Chromebook and how it's not that weak system most average users thinks it is.

Edited 2017-11-18 21:44 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE[6]: This... is wrong tool
by abis on Sun 19th Nov 2017 09:25 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: This... is wrong tool"
abis Member since:
2017-11-19

Why on earth would I want to pay a subscription for GIMP or OpenOffice??

I do not see any application in rollapp that I cannot install on my laptop running linux (mint BTW).

I mean, buy a used T520 for $500, install any linux and you are done.

You have all the software you need locally, so no need for always on connections, while at the same time you have all the on line tools too.


You mentioned that you are forced to use a dumb terminal, which is fair enough, but if you can buy a normal laptop, why go through the hassle of converting a chromebook *to* a laptop?

Reply Score: 3

RE[6]: This... is wrong tool
by BlueofRainbow on Sun 19th Nov 2017 17:15 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: This... is wrong tool"
BlueofRainbow Member since:
2009-01-06

The suggestions made in this comment and the previous one are well appreciated. They offer approaches to do certain things not commonly mentioned on the web.

The underlying model of ChromeOS is that of a web-centric thin client. There is of course the annoyance associated with the cloud-only and subscription models used for many applications.

The web-centric thin client model may become the norm within the next five years given that Microsoft is steering Windows into this same direction. On the Apple side, iOS has been web-centric from the onset. And, from what I understand, OS X is also being steered toward the same direction.

For those desiring absolute control of their system, there will always be some flavor of Linux available. However, what proportion of computer users are willing to follow this path?

In the context of a family, or even a small business, there is some appeal to have a home server configured to provide those expensive applications and resources which do not need to be taken on the road every day.

Reply Score: 3

RE[6]: This... is wrong tool
by zima on Tue 21st Nov 2017 23:23 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: This... is wrong tool"
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

Huh, I said it like once

Actually, you said "Windows" 4 times ...is ctrl+f not working on your Chromebook? ;)

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: This... is wrong tool
by l3v1 on Sun 19th Nov 2017 09:31 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: This... is wrong tool"
l3v1 Member since:
2005-07-06

Actually, it's not. I've been using a Chromebook for development work since the first one


No. From all your descriptions it shows that you've been using your chromebooks as thin clients. All nice and easy if you don't have to pay for it, you can afford paying for all the services you need, you always have access to high speed unlimited connections. Also, in my book, this doesn't really qualify as usage as a dev machine since you can use almost everything as a thin client.

There's no way I'd work from/on a thin client for dev work if I can buy a good laptop with equally good battery life for similar - or less even - price.

Reply Score: 4

RE: This... is wrong tool
by Az4x4 on Sun 19th Nov 2017 14:56 UTC in reply to "This... is wrong tool"
Az4x4 Member since:
2014-05-29

Instead of paying $999 for a highly customized system that's dependent on someone else's server (ie, the cloud), and then hacking it to get to the point where it almost does what you want, why not buy a general purpose laptop like a MacBook Air, Surface Pro, or an XPS 13?

You can even get the XPS 13 with Ubuntu pre-installed.

If you want a lightweight, Google ecosystem friendly tablet with a keyboard, get a PixelBook.

If you want a development machine, get a development friendly machine.


Absolutely. I've often wondered why there's been so much effort put into hacking a PixelBook so it'll halfway do the job that other highly capable machines fully do right out of the box.

Happened upon a high end XPS 13 the other day and picked it up for a song. Replaced Win10 with Linux Mint 18.3. Ended up with a system on which I can do things the 'hack a PixelBook' crowd only dreams about.

Think outside the box. You'll save yourself a ton of money and a bucket full of frustration..

Reply Score: 3

RE: This... is wrong tool
by BlueofRainbow on Sun 19th Nov 2017 16:25 UTC in reply to "This... is wrong tool"
BlueofRainbow Member since:
2009-01-06

The XPS 13 Developer Edition (Ubuntu) does not appear to be currently offered on Dell's site.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: This... is wrong tool
by grat on Mon 20th Nov 2017 02:25 UTC in reply to "RE: This... is wrong tool"
grat Member since:
2006-02-02

I found it via google, although I also found two discontinued versions (earlier versions of the XPS 13).

Reply Score: 2

RE: This... is wrong tool
by Morgan on Sun 19th Nov 2017 18:47 UTC in reply to "This... is wrong tool"
Morgan Member since:
2005-06-29

Exactly. While from a hardware/OS hobbyist perspective (which I shamelessly admit to being), turning a Chromebook into a dev system is fun and absolutely something I would do for the hell of it. I've messed around with turning non-Chromebook hardware into ChromiumOS machines with a lot of success, and this is pretty much the reverse of that. But for production work, I need something that is supported out of the box and is the quickest, easiest path to a working machine.

Yes, I can get a Chromebook for $300 or less that then requires hours of hacks and the potential for instability and broken updates down the line. Or, for $700 I can go to System76 and get their 14" laptop with a better display and keyboard, and it's already running fully supported Linux right out of the box. Or if Mac was my thing, I could take that same $700 to Swappa or Gazelle and get a quality used MacBook or MBP and again, have a high build quality machine with a commercially supported OS, no hacks necessary.

This is a neat and really cool hack, and if it works for the author's needs, great. However, I would hesitate to call it "production ready" unless and until Google signs off on supporting the hacks to achieve it. Given their horrible reputation for software and product support across the board, I'm not holding my breath.

Reply Score: 3

I've seen that android crash
by emerson999 on Fri 17th Nov 2017 08:17 UTC
emerson999
Member since:
2007-12-08

The Android app crash with xiwi has popped up every now and then. But I feel like it's been about half a year since the last time I saw it on my R11 on dev channel.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by Sidux
by Sidux on Mon 20th Nov 2017 09:45 UTC
Sidux
Member since:
2015-03-10

Fun project.
You could even put containerized version of *nix systems (Fedora Atomic, Rancher-OS) and load shells for whatever developer platforms you would like from a simple command.
One detriment to this is that without an internet connection you're pretty much out of options and this is what I fear the most. We're becoming too much reliant on this..
Just think of a situation when someone may cut the main fiber network line in a major city.. The impact it would have on society is much more than anyone of us can anticipate at this point..

Edited 2017-11-20 09:46 UTC

Reply Score: 2