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ASK HN: Has anyone adopted Chrome OS as their primary OS?
54 points by scorpion032 25 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 57 comments
I'm in the market for a new device (and also an OS), having used exclusively Mac OS for the most of last decade.

Recently I used Chrome OS, in break time, and I like the simplicity. I'm wondering and interested to know if Cloud9, EC2 and such platforms kind of enable remote development well enough?

Specifically, mostly interested in how it would work out for web-development and Data Science.

I used Chrome OS as my primary OS when I worked at Google. I didn't really like screwing around with the Linux desktop, so I just used a Chrome OS desktop as an interface onto a more powerful Linux box. All I really use are a terminal and a browser, so it worked fine. It never did anything that annoyed me; it just stayed out of my way and I could get my work done without annoyance. It also solved the problem I've always had with laptops; they are never configured the same as my desktop so it's jarring to switch to one (for travel, meetings, etc.) With Chrome OS, that was never a problem, all my settings sync'd perfectly between my two desktops (home/work) and laptop.

These days I use an iPad Pro as my laptop and it's not as good, mostly because even when iOS is connected to a 4k monitor, Safari tells the remote website "hey, send me your shittiest mobile site please". Apple should really make the iPad Pro browser tell things it's a desktop.

A lot of the time it isn’t Safari that’s asking for the crappy mobile version of a site. Quite a few sites will return the mobile version even if you request the desktop version because they identify that you’re using an iOS device through avenues other than the user agent. The only way to force a desktop version to load in these instances is to inject Javascript and/or spoof a bunch of stuff.

There is a request desktop version in iOS Safari, just like in chrome, but as the other answer mentioned - it’s up to the site to comply.

I’ve used my iPad Pro as a portal to Google Cloud and AWS for almost 2 years in personal projects. It works fine via SSH and the apps, but Cloud Shell isn’t great via the native app, so I end up running an extra instance. AWS, I just ended up doing an EC2 for command/control/dev.

Observed a few people at work on ChromeOS and they seem to be productive, so most likely you need something like a high end pixelbook to be safe on local tasks for data science.

You might want to try the Pixel Slate as a iPad Pro replacement as that would fix most of your issues. Several folks report doing this here: https://www.reddit.com/r/pixel_slate

> With Chrome OS, that was never a problem, all my settings sync'd perfectly between my two desktops (home/work) and laptop

did these two desktops also use Chrome OS? This sounds pretty nice

Non-chrome OS: It syncs your Chrome browser settings (bookmarks, credentials, etc).

On other Chrome OS: It syncs your Chrome browser + the OS settings.

I've tried but failed. There are a couple of key issues: 1) The first is that the chromebook that I purchased before the Crostini announcement (Asus C302CA), which was very much a flagship laptop remains unsupported. The wonderful software update hell of the google ecosystem bit me here.

2) I do a lot of work on airplanes, so not everything can run on a cloud instance. Apple cost too much (and has a remarkable lack of native apps for things like netflix). I also need it to fit on a airplane without jamming my elbows into my sternum due to size. The Chromebook has the form factor, but not the flexibility to work when the net is spotty(again, Crostini probably helps this out).

What I ended up doing ironically was a Surface Go. Great keyboard, nice form factor, and WSL support. 8GB of RAM (which is really needed by notebooks) and it works on plane.

I don't understand the appeal of cloud only/mostly computing for non-trivial use cases. It's probably that I care a lot more about Internet hiccups getting in my way than most. To me it'd be like having a smartphone that only unlocks when there's a signal.

FWIW, it will unlock when there is no signal. I unlock mine with my phone using Smart Lock (https://support.google.com/accounts/answer/6160273?hl=en).

Netflix is one of very few examples where I expect the upcoming Marzipan iOS -> Mac app conversion to be decent.

If the quality of Apple’s own Stocks/News/Home conversions is anything to go by it’s not going to make for good software. But I’d take it for offline Netflix viewing.

Chrome OS is okay but typically leaves me wishing I had a more flexible system. Sure, you can install Linux apps on some models (not my Samsung Chromebook Pro because of the old kernel it shipped with!), or flip the developer switch, but I'd hate for this to be my main system. They're making strides with every release but given Google's track record with support and listening to community feedback, I probably wouldn't purchase another (though maybe a sub $200 "disposable" model?). They also EoL these things so one day it will be frozen in time and your only option will be to flip the developer switch which warns you on every boot that you're in developer mode, though there may be a way to remove that with hardware a hardware modification. There is some chatter on the product forums about enabling "unknown source" installations on ChromeOS, but it's been open for years now and progress is slow on that front. I'd only suggest it as a supplemental system, not a main one. A used Thinkpad can run Chrome.

Not really primary OS and probably never will be, but primary for my Laptop which I use a lot.

Main reason is good driver support out of the box. Also not perfect(trouble with sd-cards, that can cause freezes), but my ASUS C213 runs very smoothly and long compared to my other laptops and it is sturdy and not expensive. Perfect for working while traveling ...

But ChromeOS itself ... is quite horrible. You feel cripled anytime you want to do more than Surfing and basic writing.

With the developer switch and some pain, I could set up my work enviroment with node and chrome dev tools and now that works pretty good, but every time I am forced to use that joke of a file browser I get annoyed.

But once linux apps will be fully supported (stable and gpu accelerated), things might get interesting. But I still hate beeing limited and restricted in many ways. I like to fully tweak my system to my taste. It is Linux underneath but different. And not very well documented.

You want to change key-binding or just want to invoke a shutdown after a long script finished? Or ... dare to create new logins(without google-connection)?

Good luck, I gave up on that.

I've used a Chrome OS device for a long time as my primary device. I'm a researcher and never do any "real" development besides some web stuff or writing code locally, though (most of my code runs on clusters). However, using just web stuff like Cloud9 was not for me, so one of the first things I did with my Chromebook was to install crouton.

If you need to run any specific stuff locally, get a Chromebook that has an Intel CPU, not an ARM. Some stuff (especially proprietary binaries) are not available for ARM. If you get a device with a touchscreen, Android apps sometime will be good enough for things that do not work well on Linux (e.g. Skype).

I did for a number of years, mainly as an SSH client, and for web-based stuff. The automatic OS updates are great.

A noted limitation is that there's no good X11 story. The new Linux subsystem looks very interesting, but it only works on some hardware, and you'll have to do heavy research before buying to figure out if your new Chromebook works.

All that said, I'm thinking of moving away from it. Using Chromebooks for everything requires trusting Google a lot, and because of their various recent behaviors, I'm willing to do that less and less these days.

It may or may not be important to you, but Chrome OS is a 'cloud-based' operating system (OS) which means everything you do in the OS is tracked and recorded by Google. This has important privacy implications. Although you can use Chrome OS with a guest account, to take full advantage of the OS reqires you login with your Google account.

Your Google account (containing your personal details such as your location and date of birth) is now tied to all your activity in the OS. Even if that data is 'anonymised' (a pretty meaningless term) or aggregated with other user data, this is a colossus sweep of user data on an industrial scale.

I presume all the people who are happy to use Chrome OS would also be happy to sign-in to Windows/Ubuntu/Mac OS with a personally-identifying account and have everything they do recorded and tracked by those operating systems?

After my macbook pro keyboard became completely unusable and keys literally started to fall off I went out and bought a Pixelbook and handed my Macbook in for repair. I'll tell you right now, I'll never go back and I immediately understood that Apple are truly screwed. The macbook is dead and they don't even know it. All developers will eventually move to a Chromebook, Surface or whatever else.

Chrome OS for me is perfect, especially since they introduced linux support and android apps. I can run anything I need, I do not feel like I took a step back, in fact I feel like I leaped forward by pushing towards a cloud first experience. I was already using Google for all my apps, spend most of my time in the browser and I personally have not felt any pain beyond adjusting to my new keyboard layout.

I highly recommend everyone ditch their macbooks and buy a Pixelbook.

Honest question here: Do you have any concerns regarding privacy?

Agreed. I’ve been using one for about a year. It’s my favorite machine since my first MacBook Air.

Good keyboard, decent screen, long battery life.

The only thing I’d have done differently would be to have gotten the i7 version.

It really depends on why you need your computer. I have an Asus CA302 and it works great for most of my usage like watching Netflix and browsing the web. But for any coding, I explicitly use my Thinkpad X62 that's running Ubuntu and it works flawlessly. If you're willing to pay for Cloud9 or EC2, I think you're better off buying an ultraportable gaming laptop like a MSI running Ubuntu, but they are much more expensive. If GPU isn't a requirement, a Thinkpad T-series is the way to go.

I remember when Microsoft was fined for not offering other browsers to users: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/mar/06/microsoft... . Chrome OS can not even install other borwsers by default, and it seems like nobody cares :/

Market share of Chrome OS is significantly less.

> Chrome OS can not even install other borwsers by default

We live in weird times when there is (almost) only one browser left... Chrome (chrome-clones). The argument may soon be moot regardless of market share or other variables.

(Of course, I'm stretching this a bit for effect but it's scary to think about).

That laws suit was crazy. Every other competing OS came with a browser, and how are you even going to download a third party browser, if the OS doesn't come with a client you can use to download it with? The 'browser selection dialog' was just Bonkers. What if I wanted one that wasn't in the court-approved list?

I need MS to install IE, so I can use it to go and get IceWeasel, or whatever. Leave them alone!

> how are you even going to download a third party browser, if the OS doesn't come with a client you can use to download it with?

Software was distributed offline as well. It seems like a long time ago now, but there was no shortage of AOL installation discs at the time.

(In fact, I believe both Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator were distributed on floppy disks at one point, although that would have been long before the antitrust case.)

2001 was at an inflection point where it was very rapidly becoming clear that argument was archaic. In any case, the fact that everyone else was giving away browsers for free is hardly a great argument that Microsoft should be prevented distributing it for free also, and if they can why not let them bundle it?

The world of 2001 was very rapidly becoming the connected world we're in now, and imposing a restriction on anyone like that now would just seem ludicrous and in fact user hostile, as it was. To me and I think anyone else paying attention back then, that was very obvious.

The main downside of using any of the smaller/cheaper devices is in the I/O capabilities, which manifest both in the software and the hardware. With the hardware it's pretty obvious - a lot of Chromebooks are like phones and only have one or two USB ports. With the software, it's more like the sandboxing perpetually getting in the way of you doing things locally. Chromebooks are more flexible than Android devices in that you have the possibility of getting a full Linux environment, but the little issues will still arise now and then - and if you're on ARM, a lot of Linux software just will not be made for you.

If your workflow is just remote access with SSH and an occasional Web site, a smartphone or tablet can already do the job. Just deck it out with peripherals, a stand, etc. You can get very, very far with remote access. But for a full local development environment, especially if it involves graphics, there's a tendency to depend on a "desktop x86" stack that tends to creep in no matter what you do.

Several Chromebooks now support Linux apps, so in theory you could have all the proper coding tools you need without relying on a Cloud IDE.

I bought a Pixelbook when it was $300 off last year and was pleasantly surprised at how great of a laptop it is. It's now my primary personal use laptop. For consumption/light dev work, I greatly prefer it over Mac/Windows

With crostini, I can do local dev (python, js, golang) 90% as well as I can on a full fledged OS, without having to rely on cloud IDEs, etc.

I'm interested in responses here. I'd like to get a lightwight laptop, similar to my 11" Mac Book Air. I don't feel like I want to pay Apple prices for a second "travel" machine.

I would like to be able to run Emacs on it. It doesn't have to be full blown dev machine, but I'd like some of my simple tooling, and backup to cloud storage to share with my main work machines.

I currently using an iPad with a Brydge keyboard attached (I paid $350 for the setup, ipad on sale for $250 + $99 keyboard), which I love, but I don't have native Emacs and some other stuff, so I'm actually looking at a Chromebook. I think I could do most stuff with native Android apps and the web browser. I'd still like to figure out the Emacs/lightweight development type of thing. I've tried some of the online tooling like repl.it, but have a hard time with the portable keyboard bindings...

I recently picked up a Yoga C630 out of curiosity. I figured that if the chromeos thing didn't work out, then I could probably install linux. It turns out that the C630 is a pretty capable machine - I'd initially toy'd with developer mode but gave up pretty quickly once I found crostini.

The chrome crostini project [0] basically gives you a little container in which you can run a terminal (probably more, but a terminal is good enough for me). Docker is supported so I can run additional containers within the crostini.

I've pulled all of my dotfiles into the crostini terminal, and have encountered very few issues experimenting with docker, python/flask, ruby, and C/C++ locally. I can't speak to emacs, but vim/tmux run as expected.

The C630 in particular has worked out remarkably well: the hardware is much better than I'd expected, the battery is very good, the touchpad is second only to my macbook (this is what piqued my curiosity initially), and the display, while not matte, is big and bright enough to split a browser and terminal side-by-side.

The C630 would probably fit the bill for a nice travel box. It's not as pricey as a macbook, but at $600-700 it's a little more than most chromebooks.

The only real concern I have is the reliance on Google and the G-ecosystem.

[0] https://chromium.googlesource.com/chromiumos/docs/+/master/c...

This is pretty interesting. Thank's for the details, I might try this out.

With Android app support, I use termux and just SSH into a server I keep my command line environment set up on. Termux has the emacs package too though (https://github.com/termux/termux-packages/tree/master/packag...).

I've done that as an option (I can do that from my iPad). But I'd really like to be able to be disconnected, do all my writing, have it synced to the cloud.

I can't rely on available internet connection (with this portable setup).

The Inspiron 11 from Dell might be what you're looking for -- you can get it with either Windows or Chrome OS, and it often has models that are under $200. It's not a bad machine for the price, and it's a really nice mini form factor for travel.

I just took a look. I actually don't mind spending $500 to get something in a little bit better form factor and a much better screen. Something like those Samsung Chromebook Pros are what I'm eying up.

The Samsung Chromebook Pro form factor is nice but did ship with an older kernel, which is preventing them from enabling Linux app support. You should be able to find one around $400ish though.

I should preface that I'm officially a "SCREEN" snob. Otherwise, I'd probably just buy a few 2014 11" MacBook Airs and burn through those over time....

But, I'll check out the Inspiron 11.

I have adopted Chrome OS as my primary OS. I started doing so with a Chromebook Pixel in 2013, which I used when writing the first version of https://CoCalc.com. I ended up switching to running full Linux on it, since Chrome OS was too limiting then. After a year I switched to using various Mac laptops. However, ALL of my Mac laptops broke due to keyboard failures, and modern mac keyboards have a feel that sucks for me personally. I switched to an iPad pro 10.5" for a few months, as an experiment in pain (but also freedom, since it is so small and light). Over a year ago, I bought a Google Pixelbook, and switch to it as my primary OS. Since I'm the lead developer of https://cocalc.com, what I do under Chrome OS is web development (literally, of cocalc.com, which is all done within cocalc.com), data science (which is what cocalc.com is for), and email (via gmail). I use crouton so I can easily get a local root shell and use encrypted USB drives (for offsite backups), and I Crostini so I can run Docker containers, e.g., so I can do offline work with the CoCalc codebase and use local X11 applications like Inkscape.

The biggest surprise for me was that I bought a $450 14" HP x360 chromebook for a booth at a tradeshow, and I've been using that chromebook as my main laptop for the last few months, instead of my 16GB top-end Pixelbook. Why? The larger 16:9 screen is way better for coding (for me), and the keyboard is amazingly for me (I consider it much better than the pixelbook keyboard). This HP chromebook weighs a pound more than the pixelbook, but I'm not carrying it around that much so it doesn't matter. Also, it's nice when I do carry it around knowing that it cost $450 instead of $1599, so if it is stolen or damaged, it is much less of a loss.

Conclusion: I've been using ChromeOS as my primary OS off and on since 2013, and I'm impressed with how ChromeOS (and the Chromebook ecosystem) have improved over the years. And I'm very surprised, because today I choose a $450 Chromebook over a $2000 Apple laptop, whereas from 2007 to 20017, I would choose the Apple laptop. Also, for me, everything is a company (or university purchase), so even though "money is no object", I still prefer the relatively cheap Chromebook.

Another, thing -- my old Chromebook Pixel had LTE data, since it always had internet. My iPad pro also did. However, with modern tethering (I have a Pixel 2 XL), a phone provides perfectly good tethering --there's no need to have it built into your laptop.

I use ChromeOS with a chromebook. It works fine but it's not a convenient swiss army knife.

For example: To use 'adb' to connect to my phone I know of three options. 1 Use Chrome but that is extremely limited to web. 2 Activate developer mode and upgrade adb to current. Or 3 Connect to another device like rpi.

I chose to activate developer mode for convenience. I run OpenBSD via qemu for a decent CLI. I keep a loopback ethernet cable and proxy settings to fool ChromeOS into letting me use alternate network set ups.

Are there any disadvantages to choosing developer mode?

It's no longer a safe and supported system. (Opposite of what I really want.)

Also the nag screen on reboot is alarmingly bright and, i think, just gives directions to disable developer mode.

Always backup your files if you use developer mode.

Always backup your files if you use the linux system.

Always backup your files.

I got an Acer C720A 5 years ago and tried to do that. I sideloaded linux on an SD card. I was able to do web dev and hybrid app development (I worked for Intel at the time). It worked fine for what I needed.

I got my wife a Samsung Chromebook 3 and she uses it for her job as preschool director. Being able to install Android apps is great. I feel like I could use that machine for most of my personal projects. I would NOT use a remote development tool; try to do it all locally when you can.

My main device is a cheap Acer Chromebook, and I also have a low-end Mac mini. I've done a lot of development on the Chromebook using Remote Desktop to drive the mini. If you're looking for a flexible and affordable setup, it's hard to beat.

Originally I expected to write code directly on the Chromebook using Crostini (edit: Crouton), but it required a lot of hand-holding. I eventually gave up. But that was years ago, so maybe they've smoothed out the edges.

Crostini hasn't existed for years, and it's still in beta. Are you sure you don't mean Crouton?

In any case, Crostini has gotten much better since last year -- but the chromebook itself is too underpowered compared to a desktop to make a good experience. This is even true for the Pixelbook.

Crostini also seems to have problems with storage; the filesystem constantly soft-locks, for seconds at a time, under any appreciable load. This might be because they use Btrfs.

You're right, I was thinking Crouton.

I'm using chromeos as my primary computer. However I also have a Linux workstation at my desk.

So chromeos is more my mobile/meeting computer.

My fiance has on her laptop, but definitely not me as she is usually saying how slow it is and all she does is browse the internet.

My quite old Chromebook is my main laptop for university. I have Python + Latex + Gcc on it and live with ~ 500 spare megabytes...

When I code, I generally do it with Emacs in crouton, not with a remote IDE like Cloud9.

New Chromebooks are even better for development because they support docker, but I can't test it with my "too old" Chromebook.

I got a Chromebook for my wife and she is able to use it for many things, but she still has to use Chrome Remote Desktop to get back to her Windows PC to get files that she didn't move to the cloud yet (most of them). For her kind of work, a third grade teacher, she could probably get away with Chrome OS forever. Some of the apps she uses on iOS weren't available though.

Before I gave her the Chromebook, I set it up for myself to try it out. After updating it (an Acer Chromebook 14), I was able to install Android apps which all ran pretty well. I also installed Sublime Text and VS Code in developer mode. Sublime ran much faster, but they both had issues compared to my nice fat PC. However, Chrome Remote Desktop works well enough that I could have just used the Chromebook as a remote screen for my PC. I don't think I could ever bring myself to use Chrome OS as my primary OS though...ever. It's too limited.

So, I switched to Manjaro Linux with XFCE for all of my web development and other work needs last year. I highly recommend it! (Before that I was mostly on Windows and sometimes on Mac.) I installed it on an Acer E5-575G and I got everything working including precision touchpad gestures which perform just as well as on any Macbook (I own a Mac Pro and also a Macbook Pro for comparison). It took some work to get the touchpad configured correctly, but not much. Then I got a 2nd PC workstation (a refurbished i7 desktop from Amazon for like $400) and I put a new 500GB ssd with Manjaro on that... Honestly, it's great. All the development tools that I need just work and there is plenty of software for Arch/Manjaro. I'll probably never go back to Mac or Windows for work, despite the fact that Manjaro updates have twice caused me a minor setback which were solved easily with help from threads like this - https://forum.manjaro.org/t/19-february-2019-system-update-i... (No big deal - I've had similar scares from Windows and Mac updates over the years.)

A Linux desktop is the only desktop OS that makes me feel like a kid again. The reasons I failed at moving to a Linux desktop before were because things broke all the time or required hella work just to get the proper drivers...or becuase I didn't like UI (on Ubuntu for instance), etc - but Manjaro with XFCE was a breeze and changed all that for me. I'm so glad I decided to try it out. I only ever tried Gnome or KDE before that.

I don't see any value on them versus a full blown OS.

In fact they hardly took over outside the US school system.


I tried for a couple months with the pixelbook...I couldn't do it. I ended up getting the surface book 2, and while I'd much prefer Linux for development, windows is far better than chrome for doing anything development-wise.

I used a ChromeBook as my primary machine for several years. Nice machines, and you can do Linux things when needed (back then, developer mode and crouton, now I guess the better-supported crostini).

Later I switched to working on a tablet instead.

I really wish there was an official build of chromeos for virtualbox, it's ideal for a virtual appliance. There is one company that has a build for vmware but I don't use VMWare and it only has a 30day trial IIRC.

I've went the opposite direction. I flashed my Chromebook's bios so I could actually install Linux.

Acer C720P user here. Works flawless... but not for dev.

So i enable dev mode then installed Ubuntu in a chroot.

the main issue was the hard_drive space, ymmv.


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