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May 27th, 2016

Running Linux and Chrome OS Together Using Crouton

The Video Screening Room

Running a GNU/Linux distro within Chrome OS greatly increases the capabilities of a Chromebook.

Leo Laporte is a longtime technology commentator and also the host of the show “The Screen Savers,” on the TWiT Netcast Network. In this video he explains how to install Linux on a Chromebook using Crouton, an open source tool developed by Google employee David Schneider.

I give Leo extra credit points for saying, “I decided to just install the command-line desktop.” I like the way he says that so nonchalantly.

Now that Android apps are coming to Chromebooks, if you also install a full Linux desktop, there’s almost nothing you cannot do on a Chromebook. As Chromebook’s SSD storage increases, you’ll end up with a laptop with as much capability as a Macbook Air, at one-third the price.

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Phil Shapiro

For the past 10 years, Phil has been working at a public library in the Washington D.C.-area, helping youth and adults use the 28 public Linux stations the library offers seven days a week. He also writes for MAKE magazine, Opensource.com and TechSoup Libraries. Suggest videos by contacting Phil on Twitter or at [email protected]

4 comments to Running Linux and Chrome OS Together Using Crouton

  • Mike S.

    @Phil Shapiro,
    I think “with as much capability as a Macbook Air, at one-third the price.” is misleading. The Macbook Air has disappointing display resolutions for the high price, but a mobile Core i5 or Core i7, 256GB SSD or better, and 4GB or 8GB of RAM.

    Google’s Chromebook Pixel matches or beats it in everything except storage, but is not cheaper.
    The only other Chromebook I could find to compete straight on performance was the Acer C910-54M1, which has a mobile Core i5, 4GB of RAM, better (1920×1080) screen but much less storage with a 32GB SSD. And again, if you get anything other than a bottom Macbook Air you’ll have 8GB of RAM.

    I’m not saying Chromebooks with Linux are a bad choice. I think they’re great. I’m just saying that particular closing assertion was hyperbole.

  • Unbeknownst

    Crouton seems nice and it seems to be needed to run Linux on a Chromebook.

    AFAIK, it is possible to run Linux on a Windows or Mac machine _and_ to make it the single OS available. This is important from several points of view (for instance, because of security).

    Google now allows Crouton. But Google has its own interests and sometimes they change (just see the number of even more solid Google products which were discontinued).

    I’d feel safer on a Linux Machine without that danger.

    If Chromebooks were to start some real competition for Windows PCs, I can imagine we would have the same problem we have in Android (and Windows): old versions not being updated because they want us to buy new devices.

    Please correct any mistakes in my understanding above.

    If there are other alternatives which I don’t know of, I’d also like to know how functional they are (alpha, beta, etc.).

    Off-topic, but congrats to Google on proving an important point regarding development which helps not just them but all the development sector (I’m talking about APIs). Once again they did the right thing.

  • Mike

    The only way I’d use a Chromebook is if I could get rid of Chrome completely and not have it revert/wipe the machine if a key gets mistakenly pressed during boot.

    I haven’t investigated replacing Chrome with GNU/Linux on a Chromebook so not sure how realistic that is.

  • Duncan

    I’m with the others here. I’m not particularly interested in an OS-in-a-browser, but if I can buy the (x86_64) hardware at (normal, not pixel) chromebook prices and replace the OS with my choice of distro (in my case, gentoo, hardware must be x86_64 in ordered to allow build-once, run on the chromebook, the router, which I intend to eventually do the same x86_64 thing with when I upgrade, and of course the desktop/workstation), let me at it.

    AFAIK, on google’s own chromebooks, there’s a dev-mode switch which will allow direct installation of a normal Linux instead. Google encourages that on partner hardware as well, but I don’t know that they require it. In some cases the “switch” takes the form of unscrewing a screw and removing a washer, therefore opening or completing a circuit, to enable developer mode. A few are actually a switch.

    But the problem is, (nearly) all the articles and in this case videos seem to be about doing the crouton thing and continuing to run on the chromebook kernel, simply installing whatever distro to effectively run as a container. That’s fine as far as it goes, but for people who aren’t interested in keeping what is after all google profileware around and thus in actually doing a figurative “forklift-replace” of the OS… the resources are sometimes available for specific machines, but are far harder to come by, and there’s effectively _nothing_ I’ve seen doing a comparison of chromebooks with that purpose in mind.

    Given the comments here, that would seem to be a hole that some FLOSS-community news site could fill…