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Ask HN: Do you use a Chromebook or Pixelbook as your primary machine?
78 points by msrivas on Oct 5, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 94 comments
I love the design on the new pixelbook - https://store.google.com/us/product/google_pixelbook but I have a hard time believing that its of any use for a developer or even a remote power user. Does anyone have any experience using it as their primary machine and for what purposes ?

I used to. I had the second-gen Pixel that has apparently become the third-gen Pixelbook because Google couldn't even resist stealing the name of their own product for something completely different.

I loved it. I could have run Linux natively, but I've spent too much of my life already fighting all the familiar recurring sound/video and suspend/resume and wifi issues on Linux laptops. No, it's not because I'm bad at it. I worked at Red Hat at the time, where most of the people who actually fix this stuff for you also work, and I was no worse than others around me. But being good at fixing problems isn't the same as not having to put up with them in the first place. I don't want to have to take even ten minutes to debug a system issue in the middle of trying to do something else while I'm on the road, over and over again every month or so. The whole point was to have a base platform that was feature-complete and stable, plus a full Linux environment (via crouton) with all of my favorite tools available simultaneously. It also helped that it's a beautiful piece of hardware, with a nice (somewhat square-ish) screen and a trackpad that works and the best battery life I've seen so far.

It was really like having two laptops instead of one, each suited to its purpose. The only reason I don't still use it is that I couldn't be bothered replicating all of the "special sauce" to conform with the infosec requirements of my current employer on an OS different than the one they installed on the laptop they gave me. If I were to switch jobs again, or retire, I'd gladly go back to the Pixel.

I have a Dell XPS13 Dev Edition. I run Ubuntu on it natively, but really hitting the same things you describe. Ubuntu is usually a joy to use, but having to debug random things at random times while at work or on the road really stinks. I'm really on the fence at this point about just getting a Macbook. My work laptop is a Macbook and really polished for development.

I'm also using Dell XPS 13 (model 9360, non-touch, 1080p screen) with Fedora 26, and I haven't had any issues. This is by far the best linux laptop I've had. Just another data point in case someone is looking into buying these.

Linux on laptops is like a disease. It's rare that everyone gets sick, but it's bad enough that many do. Even at Red Hat, where the employees collectively know more than anyone about making Linux run on laptops, internal mailing lists were often full of gripes about issues. If it wasn't the Big Three that I already mentioned, it was fans running constantly and batteries being sucked dry, switching monitor resolutions or dis/connecting a second monitor leaving things in a weird state, the utter impossibility of getting trackpads to work as well as they did under Windows/MacOS, international keyboard layouts not behaving properly, camera remaining locked when it shouldn't, and so on and so on ad nauseam. If you never hit any of these then good for you, but I can say with absolute confidence that such an experience is exceptional.

Had arch linux running on an Samsung ativ book 9. No real/relevant issues.

Yes, been using it as my primary development machine for the last two years. I work on a large Node / React codebase, and occasionally do design work.

My setup:

* Chromebook Pixel 2 in dev mode

* Crouton (https://github.com/dnschneid/crouton/) running CLI-only Debian stretch

* Google's SSH app (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/secure-shell/pnhec...)

* Tmux running with NeoVim, cmus for music

My dotfiles and setup scripts are all here: https://github.com/fortes/dotfiles

Overall, I like this better than the old mac setup I have. Being in dev mode (and having to enter crouton chroot once per boot) aren't ideal, but I've gotten used to it. I'm hoping that maybe we'll get first class support soon though ( https://www.reddit.com/r/chromeos/comments/742f8j/how_chrome... )

> Overall, I like this better than the old mac setup I have.

What exactly do you like more than a Mac setup? I just find it hard to justify the new pricetag of google laptop, for almost the same money I can get a macbook and don’t sacrifice my choice of software for work, but I am wondering what exactly are you liking it more on chrome book apart from a price.

I transitioned from a Macbook Air to the Pixel 2 and got the following at the time:

+ 16GB of RAM instead of 8GB

+ Touch screen

+ Retina display

+ USB-C charger which is the same as my phone now, having a single charger is a convenience I probably overvalue.

+ Very fast startup time

- Slightly more weight

- Severe restrictions on software used

I'm an odd duck in some of my choices though, so I wouldn't recommend my setup blindly.

What do you use for the design work ? Just standard debian based software ? Any hacks to get adobe software working ?

Design work done mostly done in browser via Figma: http://www.figma.com/

Debian is strictly via CLI, I don't do any GUI apps via crouton, felt too janky and I didn't really need the overhead.

They're fine machines once you install real Linux on them. The hardware is excellent and they make great laptops for doing real work. Here are some notes about installing Xubuntu on the 2013 model. I hope some of this transfers to newer models: https://lee-phillips.org/pxsetup/

> The hardware is excellent

Is there a particular model you recommend? Seems like there are a variety of chromebooks, I wouldn't expect them to all be the same quality, but perhaps they are?

I was writing about the Google Pixel models in particular - great hardware. Don't have experience with other makes, except Toshiba, which I bought for my children. I don't recommend those, despite the low price and good specs, because they don't honor their warranties.

Is anyone concerned about privacy using a Google laptop? I noticed recently that for years I've relied on Chrome's private browsing feature only to learn that it does not disable geolocation (unlike Safari) and websites always know where I am located even when browsing privately. And turning this off can change depending on the version of Chrome (in fact I cannot figure out how to turn it off in my current version). I wonder how much intrusion these chromebook's make into your privacy? User data is a core of Google's business model, so that is a big problem for me.

My company uses Chromebooks as primary computers with our own fork of ChromiumOS. Our build excludes Google keys thus hypothetically offers reinforced privacy.

Our fork is called NayuOS ( https://nayuos.nexedi.com ) and is a true system for hackers. It erases user folders on every restart and no extensions are allowed. It is very hard to track and since the Chromebooks are very cheap it is easy to exchange devices often.

It has to be run in Developer Mode thus you have writable /usr/. Chrome Brew is fully functional thanks to that but it is a security hazard.

My company moved everything to cloud so we access everything via browser. It was hard to get used to it but in the end it is a huge time saver. Google went the same direction.

Thanks for your wonderful info. I will bring this in our next meeting to our CTO. BTW, link is not working: https://nayuos.nexedi.com/build-your-own-image

At least for desktop chrome you can set location access. Most websites geolocate using ip addresses if location is disabled. Works quite well, unless you use a VPN.

I cannot find any option to disable geolocation in my current Chrome version on Mac, and when I use a VPN and connect via a different country, sites I visit in Safari are in that country's language, but sites I visit in Chrome, even when private browsing, know the language to use based on my actual country location.

That could just be because chrome is sending language headers based on your installation language.

afaik, chrome asks whenever a site requests location information

(if you go to chrome://settings you can change language preferences)

Of course that is a big problem. One of many reasons to replace ChromeOS with a full desktop Linux.

Chromebook hardware is great for the money. Replace the OS and you have the best of both worlds.

> Chromebook hardware is great for the money.

Do you have a particular model that you recommend?

I used a Samsung ChromeBook 2 (ARM) for about 3 years. You can load a full GNU/Linux environment such as Debian or Ubuntu with Crouton, but you have to enable developer mode.

This involves an annoying beep every time you turn your machine on (or otherwise hitting ctrl-d at the right time), and you run the risk of disabling developer mode--thereby reformatting your drive--if you accidentally hit Spacebar.

Unless they're changing how dev mode works on the new PixelBooks, I do not recommend using one as a dev machine. This year, I bought a Dell XPS Developer Edition and never looked back.

If you are worried about that, just don't use Crouton. Completely remove all of the Chrome OS partitions and run linux natively.

I typically get several months of uptime. Suspend/resume has been flawless too. Pressing one button combo a couple times a year hasn't been a show shopper.

I did that on an Acer Chromebook and installed GalliumOS (https://galliumos.org/) which is a lightweight Linux distro for Chromebooks.

That's badass. I didn't know you could do a full linux install on a chromebook. I used to run Ubuntu using crouton but I had to press all these crazy button combinations to boot up in developer mode and then enter some more shell commands to finally bring up Ubuntu.

Several months of uptime with native linux, or with Crouton?

My crouton-using Pixel shuts itself down if I don't use it for 24h, even without low battery. So I press that button combo about once a week. It's definitely a mild pain in the butt, losing all the state in my dozen terminals.

Native. I wrote up that experience: http://kmkeen.com/c100p-tweaks/

I really liked that computer(haven't bought but have looked at it), well built imo and thin, can actually be useful with regard to the fold into a tablet.

I bought the ASUS Transformer 200 and yeah it's a bit bulky for tablet use but still decent with i3/Ubuntu.

Keeping Windows on there, nice to have.

I had Chromebook 2 as well (with the octacore processor) and having Chrome was nice to switch back into for general use.

Haha I did that before (data loss) sucks. Yeah the arm part sucked when I figured that out regarding not being able to install certain programs, specifically for me was VS Code.

+1 for Dell XPS developer edition. I bought one earlier this year and its fantastic.

I use a 1st gen Chromebook Pixel as a secondary machine, for light development (e.g. personal projects), and I'm actually NOT using crouton these days.

I used to have Linuxbrew for installing packages (git, gcc, etc), and a non-GUI chroot through crouton, which I used for anything that wouldn't build using Linuxbrew's toolchain.

However, a few weeks ago Linuxbrew completely broke for me, so I decided to try something new, and instead of reinstalling it I got Nix (the package manager from NixOS) working via proot.

Nix's toolchain pretty does everything I need so I haven't had the need to run crouton anymore. I also run Docker containers via rkt.

Finally, I tweaked the crosh command so it opens a shell directly without having to type 'shell'. I know it might be somewhat picky, but when you're constantly firing up new terminals it can become a bit of a PITA. :)

If anyone's interested I can post some links for reference, or maybe even do a writeup.

I would say as long as you can install GalliumOS (which is a custom xubuntu build of Linux designed for Chromebooks) on that Pixelbook, then it should be good to go.

Personally, I installed GalliumOS on a $350 Chromebook (Toshiba CB35) and while I don't use it as a primary machine I do quite a bit of "real" development on it.

For example, it has no problem running fairly large Rails applications with Postgres, Redis, Elasticsearch running inside of Docker containers. I often have a decent amount of browser tabs, streaming music through Youtube and other typical developer things open at the same time.

Key features for me are a 1080p IPS diplay, a great keyboard and it was only $350 even after buying a third party SSD to swap in.

Full details, a review and guide on how it's done can be found at: https://nickjanetakis.com/blog/transform-a-toshiba-chromeboo...

I have a 2015 Pixel LS. Wiped out useless Chrome OS, installed vanilla Ubuntu (with Linux Samus kernel https://github.com/raphael/linux-samus). With 16 GB of RAM it handles just about anything I throw at it, like for instance multiple projects on IntelliJ without breaking a sweat.

The 2560x1700 (3:2) screen is magnificent. Design/hardware is top notch, especially USB Type-C charging. Once you get used to plugging in a charger from either side of the laptop and using the same charger (I have Nexus 6P) for your phone too - you'll never want back to the whole multiple proprietary charger bullshit. I can even charge this laptop from a portable battery pack used for phones.

There are some minor downsides of course, such as absence of a conventional BIOS/UEFI, delete key, F key markings, but I can live with that, there's no such thing as perfect when it comes to laptops.

I used an Acer Chromebook 13 (Tegra K1-based) for a couple of years, not as my primary machine, but as my only laptop. I paid $350 for it on sale, in 2014.

Generally, it worked just fine. 99% of the stuff I do on a computer these days is via a web browser, so I didn't feel like I was missing too much. I also highly appreciated the light weight, fanless design and 10+ hour battery life. And the touchpad was seriously good, I'm talking Macbook-level quality, an absolute delight to use.

However, it did have some performance issues. Forget having more than 10 tabs open at the same time, I had to install The Great Suspender to avoid slowdowns. Having music playing in the background from Google Play Music while simultaneously browsing other websites was impossible. Initially, it would play 1080p Youtube videos just fine, but thanks to various updates, codec changes and such, I had to force it down to 720p30 by the end, just to be able to watch videos without frame dropping.

And of course I couldn't install anything on it that wasn't a Chrome plugin/app. So no Spotify client (and the current web player sucks, big time). No games. No decent video player, and the preinstalled one can't play videos with AAC sound, probably due to licensing issues.

After some time, I got fed up with all of these issues, so I sold it and bought a refurb Thinkpad T420, also for around $350. It's bigger, heavier, has a worse touchpad and gets worse battery life. On the other hand, the performance is light years ahead and I can install everything I want, not just whatever can function in a browser.

I use the second edition of the Chromebook Pixel (i.e. from 2015) as my main machine. I've shrunk the chromeos partition and run Arch on it. At first, the mainline kernel barely supported the device. Touchpad and sound didn't work. Nowadays, it's mostly OK. The touchpad driver seems to be not high-quality though: It expects some device to have a hard-coded id which is assigned non-deterministically during boot/wakeup. This means that I have to reset it sometimes using a script the good people at https://github.com/raphael/linux-samus have written. Chromeos has a workaround or something, so before I found linux-samus, I had to reboot into chromeos once to fix it -- extremely annoying.

I have a bigger problem with charging. My chromebook doesn't recognize high-power chargers (both the original one and one I bought afterwards) and charges extremely slowly, to the point that it even unloads when the CPU is busy. Happens in chromeos too though.

I've been using a Chromebook as my primary laptop for the past 3 or 4 years... I do my programming, my blogging, and even photo editing on there. I have one Chromebook that has Linux on it as an alternative, just in case I need SSH or FTP access. But primarily, I'm doing everything on the Internet. There's a website or Chrome extension for just about everything.

Since most of my coding happens in PHP and MySQL.. I don't really need an official platform for that... I just use whatever tools my host provides and thats good enough.

I love it because I don't have to deal with "loading times" or viruses or anything like that. The worst thing that happens is that I open up too many tabs at once and it might crash every so often, warranting a restart, and while most devs might not recommend it, I do recommend it. I'll never go back!

Another advantage is that I only buy Chromebooks with T-Mobile SIMM card adaptions built in, as I can connect it and be wireless no matter where I go. So I won't buy any Chromebook that is not capable of that.

I'm wondering how feasible is it to run your development 100% on a remote machine. One of the drawbacks is that you need always access to internet, but this would not be a problem for me.

I don't think that ssh + vim would work for me. I like GUI editors. Is there a good self hosted cloud IDE? Or is it maybe possible to run VS Code on a remote machine and access it through a web interface?

100% remote development is the norm at my company -- not remote from home, although that's an option you can work out with your manager. You can mount your sandbox's filesystem via sshfs, and use whatever editor you like. If your laptop dies, you really haven't lost any work.

Doesn't it get slow? I'm running Firefox with a profile on a mounted sshfs directory, and it freezes for a few seconds quite regularly, despite having a decent connection.

Nobody's complained, and I am one of the people responsible for fixing such complaints.

ISTR Firefox does an awful lot of writes in order to maintain state; https://www.servethehome.com/firefox-is-eating-your-ssd-here... is from more than a year ago, but I wouldn't be too surprised if something similar were happening to you.

I use c9.io, and also a self-hosted version (https://github.com/c9/core) occasionally.

Using even the free c9 service, connecting to your own server via SSH, you can create a fantastic collaborative development environment.

Although I do most of my development locally, cloud IDEs are perfect for the remote pair-programming use-case - they're far better than screen-sharing.

There are various such things e.g. https://codeanywhere.com/ but not self-hosted; that's quite an onerous requirement.

I suppose you could use Apache Guacamole and remote-desktop to a machine..

I tried cloud 9 it's pretty cool, not sure if I can claim latency problem. Gotta learn it/figure it out but I prefer VS code/local setup.

They have preconfigured setups and you start/stop them pretty neat. Nice GUI too regarding the editor.

From my experience try to get one that has a non-arm chip (intel) with regard to being able to install everything. I almost could install everything (crouton) but like VS Code wasn't supported.

I have this "fear" that my laptop will be stolen so I try to run everything off a USB (attached to my keys) so laptop is pretty much disposable assuming ~$100 in cost (used).

The ram/storage is a concern and I'm talking the junk 2GB 32GB setups. I picked up an ASUS TP200SA 11.6" transformer lately. I know not really able to do much on a 11.6" computer.

Still it's cool got all my stuff setup but can't have different stacks configured (not enough ram) so remote to develop. At least plain JS you can run by browser.

Just my thoughts,definitely got my two screen setup at home just bought a 22" 1080p monitor ohhh yeah.

> I know not really able to do much on a 11.6"

Sir, have you heard the gospel of the Tiling Window Manager?

Really though, they are fantastic. You get ten times as much screen real estate at the tips of your fingers. My laptop has a 10" screen, it is fine. And let us not forget that Steve Jobs selected a 9" monitor for the Macintosh. How much more do you need :-)

So far the only software I miss is Darktable. They use a bunch of x86 assembly with no support for Arm.

With the garbage computers I use I definitely use i3. I don't know guess depends on screen resolution if you're concerned about UI (to be able to develop at common resolutions like 1366x768, 1920x1080, etc...

I personally prefer a larger screen mine eyes not so good I mean like 2-3 feet away from the screen is nice.

I'm not aware of DarkTable (don't know what it is)

VS Code should work fine with crouton. I've seen people running it on some older Chromebooks.

And if the container support lands soon, it might be possible to run developer tools like that without flipping the developer mode switch.

Really? I think if I remember right I bought this ARM version of a chromebook ("octacore" processor) and I wasn't able to install it so I had to use alternatives like Geany.

I use vs-code on arm crouton so it is doable.

I use the headmelted build. looke like it has an actual website now https://code.headmelted.com/

Oh I was not aware of that cool!

Ah, yes. ARM might be a problem, as there might not be VS Code builds available. There are tons of x86 Chromebooks out there, though.

Yeah I got unlucky I didn't even notice/think about it at the time.

your usb key might get stolen. Full disk encryption and regular backups probably buy better assurance.

Yeah I was thinking about that. If you do the "encrypt home folder" and did everything from home folder is that safer?

I'm not sure if I should try to use something like veracrypt to encrypt the OS.

Isn't the flashdrive protected by the OS password if you try to mount it as a drive and read the contents? Or no?(answer to this is no) I think I had that experience when trying to mount an OS hard drive and read contents.

I suppose if my keys/usb drive were stolen that would be a pretty bad day.

Now I'm concerned. My plan with the regular Windows OS, always run browsers in incognito mode.

Don't store credentials on computer, possibly pull code to work on it, push then delete but that might be nuts. Looks like full encryption may not be necessary but read about swap being potentially unsecure. Aye... I don't know.

Well since this computer is garbage I'll try the encrypted home folder method. Not sure about the swap aspect. And I don't think I'll be running any webserver stacks on this because of RAM so can try to just operate from my home directory.

Also, in my anecdotal experience, the most common failure mode of an USB stick seems to be going completely dead without any prior warning. So regular backups, definitely.

Yeah that sucks. I did read that the constant/read write does decrease life, maybe that was specific to SD cards but probably applies to USB as well.

I don't know... one of those things where you think too much about it... like what about general consumers with a password on their Windows/Mac computer... is that "secure"? I don't know.

You could potentially access that hard drive by taking it apart assuming it wasn't a soldered on storage device.

All flash-based memory devices have a limited number of write/erase cycles. Internal flash memories have more sophisticated strategies to extend memory life but they all rely on having spare memory available. Try not to go past 80% usage.

Thanks for the tip. Probably should have bought a larger USB 3.0 than 32GB, the Ultra Fits are nice by San Disk checked read/write pretty good (have numbers if needed)

I tried to use a chromebook as an on-the-go machine where I wouldn't be too worried if it was stolen, but I wasn't successful. The requirements were:

  * Not Developer mode. I want the full security of verified boot.

  * All Security keys and whatnot needed to be on the yubi key.
The ssh client did work with ssh-agent and the yubi keys, so that was good. Establishing ssh sessions from remote machines in parallel didn't work well (e.g., using capistrano), but that's an easyish hack to do serially. I found the ssh client to be a little wonky and not terribly stable.

Termux seemed to be a good alternative, but I couldn't get gpg-agent working with the yubi key.

> Not Developer mode. I want the full security of verified boot.

So you ran something inside of ChromeOS? It seems like a better option would be to replace the bootloader with CoreBoot (which doesn't have a dev mode) and you can add your own keys for whatever OS you choose.

Which seems the hard way to get to an os that I have to manage myself. If I wanted a linux machine, I'd get a thinkpad or something and do it that way.

I have to trust something, somewhere. With ChromeOS + ssh and the keys stored on a yubi key,I'm pretty sure that if someone lifts the machine without the key, there's not a whole lot they can do with it, other then factory reset it and move on.

In doing that though, I am trusting a few bits of software from the chrome app store, and that's probably the weakest link. But it's an order of magnitude less code than a linux distro.

How did you setup ssh-agent?

I'm using nassh, with the smart card connector and openpgp smartcard support.

In the nassh ssh relay server options, I'm using '--ssh-agent=gdbjpffhcollcplpbjehfhpfcpdoicob'




I did this for a few months, sort of. I used the Secure Shell Chrome app[1] to connect to a server where I do my actual work. It worked about as well as a Macbook did for the same purpose - side-by-side Chrome and ssh windows.

It was fine for building and testing web app changes. I used Chrome Remote Desktop to test with Firefox and IE. It was fine for building and testing Android apps but only when I was physically next to the remote workstation to plug in a device for adb. I think there might be some weird hack to tunnel adb over ssh through your Chromebook, but I never got that to work.

It was a bit more cumbersome to get personal and work Chrome profiles running on the same monitor. You can sign in to multiple accounts at once, but they're separate desktops. However, you can right-click on a title bar for a "move to other session" option. A ChromeOS PM showed me that trick; no idea how a user is supposed to discover that.

The other things I missed on ChromeOS were 1Password (the Chrome extension relies on the desktop app being present) and BetterTouchTool (for programming additional trackpad gestures and remapping mouse buttons).

[1]: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/secure-shell/pnhec...

I had a 2015 Pixel for about 6 months; originally used it just using ChromeOS and it was great in every respect for everyday use (screen in particular was fantastic), but I couldn't find a suitable solution for using it for programming in Python - all the web-based solutions weren't as good as Pycharm which I've been using on my desktop at home, and while I'm not a professional programmer, I am spending a fair bit of time doing it as I learn/improve - particularly when I may not have constant internet (such as on a train), so I wanted another solution. That led me to put GalliumOS on it...

I've also got a cheap Acer chromebook (which got me started on the whole ChromeOS trip), which I'd already put GalliumOS on and found it pretty usable overall - indeed almost 'throwaway' because of the low cost secondhand (I paid £60 for it in the UK).

GalliumOS was generally pretty good on both machines - giving access to Linux software which was generally easy to install, but the issue on the Chromebook was the battery life/power consumption and management; it seemed to be running the fan a lot, and went from the usual 8-10 hours on ChromeOS for the Pixel down to maybe 2 or 3, which kind of defeated the object of having it.

During this time I got a MacBook Air at the right price secondhand, and that has taken over as my main 'browsing/mobile use/learning Python' machine, so I put the Pixel back to stock and sold it (amazingly for more than I paid for it).

If there had been a native Python IDE for the Pixel I would have kept it - it really was a high quality piece of equipment - but alas I didn't find a solution that I was happy with (and certainly not one that made use of the Pixel's true power and quality).

What about internet access? Are there still chromebooks with built-in cellular data? If they released a Chromebook with built-in LTE and a google-hosted data plan with unlimited data (from chromeOS), for a reasonable price, I would be all over it.

I use a MacBook Pro which I like but 95% of the time I am doing stuff I could be doing using ChromeOS.

I had one of the 2012 Samsung ARM Chromebooks, then when its battery started to die I replaced it (earlier this year) with an Acer R13 (also ARM).

For development I mostly only need git, ssh, and emacs. So I use the cli-extra target from crouton for an Ubuntu command line.

Occasionally I need to run something graphical so I have a 2nd chroot for X windows.

The R13 is nearly perfect as far as the hardware goes - high-resolution touchscreen, 12+ hours of battery life, trackpad and keyboard are the best I've used (better in my opinion than Macbook Pro). The processor is 64-bit and it has 4GB of RAM, which is usually plenty.

Software is another issue. Most of the time if there isn't already an Arm64 binary, compiling from source works. I view claims of "cross platform" with total suspicion nowadays.

One thing I miss is hardware accelerated graphics in crouton. ChromeOS supports it but the driver isn't open as far as I know.

Just a comment. ChromeOS may soon be able to run OCI containers.

Source: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+WilliamGreene76/posts/Qosa9BstS...

I bought a Chromebook two years ago thinking I could wipe out Chrome OS completely and install Ubuntu to use as my primary machine. But I actually was only able to "sort of" install linux using crouton. It was cool but kind of annoying, you had to press all these crazy button combinations to boot up in developer mode and then enter shell commands to bring up Ubuntu. Pretty neat, but I was left with so little storage space I wasn't able to install Android studio so I couldn't use it as my primary laptop. Sadly, I don't think chromebooks make for very good primary machines. However, I wrote this comment using a chromebook, so I obviously dig them even if they have a ways to go.

I was using it as my primary machine for the last 2 months. It was still a challenge even after putting crouton on it and at times things boggled down to a snail's pace.

The best multi-tasking I got was when I was running VS Code, mysql and mongodb servers, one node web server, one python web server, music from the main chrome browser and opera on crouton.

I was trying to build Android apps on it but Android Studio is a no go so I just ended up building it from the command line. I couldn't run anything other than the editor and the build process at the time and things became very very slow until the process was done. I only did this once or twice though so I'm sure it would have eventually hung the entire system.

Here's a guy who used an ipad and remote servers:


I used to run a Samsung Chromebook 2 13" with Crouton, so I could run XFCE Linux next to Chrome OS. It was an excellent setup for the money, aside from a few drawbacks:

- ARM processor (excellent power efficiency and battery, but you can't run certain Linux packages, or programs such as Sublime Text) - Limited storage space (so you must use USB volumes, or server/cloud storage) - Physical security (chroot runs somewhat at a compromise to security)

Other than those, it really was a surprisingly great little Linux machine. Very lightweight, outstanding battery life, and capable of 99% of what I need as a web developer and for casual entertainment.

Typing this from a first-gen Chromebook Pixel, which is my primary machine for hobby programming (I don't currently code professionally, and I have a beast of a Wintel desktop for gaming).

It's lightweight, build quality is good, screen is terrific. I got it for a great price, too. I think the original retail price of the version I bought was a bit high, but that new version you just linked looks like a good price/performance.

I really only want a shell plus a browser anyway. Though I've had X11/XFCE working in the past.

All in all I'm quite happy with it for this purpose. Though if price was no object, I'd probably reconsider.

I use an Acer C720P with GalliumOS installed on it as my secondary dev machine. My main rig is a Windows desktop.

I have no real complaints with Gallium or the C720P, it's a really solid little machine, and it's super fast. My only gripe is the keyboard - there's no delete key, there's a magnifying glass where the Caps Lock should go, and that gets mapped to Super, and the worst part, I only have F1-F10, missing F11 and F12.

I'm sure there's a good way to remap some keys to get F11 and F12, but I haven't figured out a good key combination that doesn't interfere with other keyboard shortcuts.

On my Acer c720, alt-backspace acts as delete. Not sure if that's ChromeOSes doing or the keyboard firmware.

I've gotten so used to it that I had to make my windows machine do the same thing!

Thanks! That worked for me. I had no idea.

I use a Samsung Chromebook 3 with Linux installed in a chroot via Crouton.


It's a bit underpowered, but it works just fine for my personal use which includes some light coding. It would be way underpowered to use for my day job in any capacity other than ssh-ing into other machines. Then again, it is one of the cheapest Chromebooks available at $169, so you get what you pay for :)

Yes. It has been great and I've written about it: http://kmkeen.com/c100p-tweaks/

Asus has released an updated version (C101) with USB-C: https://liliputing.com/2017/09/asus-chromebook-flip-c101-hit...

Seems like to get any good developer use out of it you either got to root it or run crouton. Basically get some linux on it. I used macbooks for a long time but new one specially the 13" pro did not have the specs I was looking for. Eventually settled for a Dell XPS developer edition. But these new pixelbooks have an amazing build. Would love to get my hands on one but sounds like I'd have to root it for my purposes at least.

I've been using a de-chromed acer c720 as my primary machine for a couple of years now, I upgraded the m2 sata, wiped it, and installed xubuntu. This is a low powered machine though, and the display barely tolerable. I use it for web browsing and side projects using vim and scripting languages.

Sounds like the newest machines are much more capable, I would never try to do Java development with a heavy ide like eclipse on this setup, for example.

I used a Chromebook Pixel as my primary dev machine for a couple of years. Works great with either crouton or Termux for the Linux-y stuff.

Later I switched to an Android tablet: http://bergie.iki.fi/blog/working-on-android-2017/

I had to return the tablet when I quit my previous job, so now programming from an iPad Pro.

interesting, do you use an external kb ? doesn't the small screen bother you (especially multi window IDEs) ?

I used the 11" MacBook Air for a few years, so I'm quite used to working with small screens. Good eyesight means I can fit ton of vim splits on the screen with a small-ish font.

Example: https://d2vqpl3tx84ay5.cloudfront.net/android-tablet-2017/pi... (from the Android tablet I had before this current iPad)

Right now I'm typing this using the Smart Keyboard from Apple, but I also have a nice custom mechanical keyboard that I can plug in when I'm home: http://bergie.iki.fi/blog/atreus-build-log/

I've been using a Samsung Chromebook Pro for the last couple of months as my primary machine. Pretty happy with it! My needs are pretty modest though, as I do my development work over ssh.

I do think it's awesome to be able to run progressive web apps, Android apps and native Linux apps (using crouton and xiwi) side by side rather seamlessly. This makes it a more versatile platform than any, IMO.

For the pixelbook price I’d rather get one of these https://www.razerzone.com/gaming-systems/razer-blade-stealth or since I’m a Mac fanboy a 13” MacBook Pro, then at least I’d be sure the OS would be updated for the next 4 or 5 years or more.

Chrome OS gets roughly that amount of years of updates as well.

Google promises support for at least 5 years after release.

I recently switch from a Macbook to the Asus Chrome flipbook and am happy with the following workflow. I enabled developer mode and installed Chromebrew, vim, git, rsync and tmux. I git checkout my projects locally and edit in vim/tmux and then rsync the changes to a cloud server for compilation and testing.

Usually yeah I do. I'm not using a super powerful one (the pixel is a massive waste of money and always was). Just have the 4GB Acer R11. Small, good battery life and a touchscreen.

My setup: Dev mode Chromebrew with tmux,vim,irssi,python3.6

I don't use crouton because I don't need it.

I work quite a lot with a Chromebook Pixel from 2013. All I need to get work done is a VM somewhere, SSH/mosh, tmux, vim and a nice display.

I hope to be able to buy the new Pixelbook as a replacement, if it ever ships to my country.

Yes, but I fixed the rom, installed a real ssd in it and put Ubuntu on it. It's great and I love it.

Primary laptop, yes. I have a desktop with a vastly superior mechanical keyboard and multiple monitors, but for a primary laptop, sure.

The concept of "primary machine" is weird to me. Since the early 80s, things keep getting separated out. NFS home directories moved bulk file storage to a fileserver in the 80s or early 90s. I could run ALL the self tests and build for ALL possible outputs by hand like the old days on a local machine, but that's what the Jenkins vm is for. I could run git without any centralized server, but no one really does that, there's a host for that. I could keep track of bugs in email or in my head like the baddest of bad old days, but there's a host for that. Logging for debugging is on separate hosts now a days. I used to run my dev environment locally using lots of memory and CPU and battery power but I've had access to a vmware cluster that weighs several tons, I'm not carrying that kind of power around in a laptop. Since everything has abstracted out into cloudy hosts, there's really nothing I can do with local dev resources WRT the proverbial "what do I do in an internet outage?" question. The answer is "same thing I'd do with my desktop, nothing, because everything is online and cloudy today." In 1981 I could program productively on one machine air gap isolated from every other machine on the planet, but that was a very long time ago. There may also be inherent cultural issues, you can and we did program in Z80 assembler in '81 on completely isolated self hosted machines, but I'm not sure that even works culturally with modern languages, burned right into the tools are things like automatic dependency resolution that assume internet connectivity.

Having infinite cloud power laying around makes things weird talking with older generation devs. Yes the Scala compiler is not fast if you run it on a low speed battery friendly laptop cpu with 2 gigs of ram and slow spinning rust for storage, but the vmware image I compile on has specs better than anything you can buy today in as a laptop so I just don't care about speed.

You have to get used to some closed source weirdness, but can be worked around. You "right click" using alt and the touchpad on my weird keyboard. The keyboard feel is awful compared to an original model-M on my desk but it does work. The cheapest chromebooks have ridiculous low res low dpi screens and one with a good screen, is, as you'd expect, hundreds of dollars not $49 or whatever the school kids get today. The vnc client still complains about security every time I use it as if I'll respond on the 35194th complaint. The SSH client UI is like a weird re-interpretation of putty which is initially weird.

On the other hand, its never crashed or failed in any way not designed into it, OS security and maint patching isn't an issue, the boot time is a couple seconds so I don't bother with sleep mode, the battery really does last ten hours while it weighs practically nothing. It just works as an appliance which is very unusual for general purpose computer use.

Most chromebook solutions are multistep which makes it either impossible to use or trivial to use depending on your mindset and past experience. How to program an arduino on a chromebook? Well, that's impossible in one step there is no one click arduino IDE installer on the google play store, but absolutely trivial in multiple steps. Setting up a VNC client on a chromebook is trivial. Setting up VNC server on a dirt cheap pi and accessing it via the network is trivial. Setting up arduino ide on a pi is trivial. So its both impossible to program an arduino using a chromebook in one step, and its also four unimaginably trivial steps to accomplish. So using "windows monolithic thinking" many things are simply impossible on the chromebook and will forever be impossible as long as you demand one click solutions, while "unix small optimized tools thinking" means everything is possible, even trivial, on a chromebook. Chromebooks have acceptable individual tools that can be strung together unix-like to do anything, but there are very few swiss army multi-tool giant monolithic one click solutions. You can't one click install visual studio locally, but you can trivially VNC into a giant overpowered vmware image running emacs connected to cloudy fileserver and jenkins and gitlab and things...

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