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Chromebook: Ubuntu alongside stock Chrome OS (plus.google.com)
179 points by platz on Feb 27, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 58 comments

Looks like this is crouton:


"Anyone who wants to run straight Linux on their Chromium OS device, and doesn't care about physical security. You're also better off having some knowledge of Linux tools and the command line in case things go funny, but it's not strictly necessary."

The bit about physical security seems to refer to the fact that for some reason you can't even password protect your machine.


Everyone is confused! This guy is not dual-booting or using virtualization. He installed ubuntu to a chroot. Ubuntu is running in a chroot along side ChromeOS. He's using the ChromeOS kernel.

I'm fairly sure it's a reference to the generally disposable and fully encrypted nature of Chrome OS. There's no reason it wouldn't be password protectable and the link describes that the chroot can be encrypted as well.

To run crouton you need to put your machine into developer mode though, which could mean that all bets are off. (e.g. if you power it off, it comes back up without requiring a password, since this is annoying/unnecessary if you're actually developing for Chrome OS.)

Uh, no. I have had my Samsung ARM chromebook in developer mode since day one, and I always need to put in my Google password to log in, even if you are not connected to a network.

Right but any gmail user can login too (and use your chroot).

Same here, not sure what mjs is talking about.

Huh, I wonder what the crouton developer was talking about then. No encrypted disk? (I don't have Chrome OS, I was just guessing what the crouton README might mean.)

Further down in the Crouton Readme: "Note that developer mode, in its default configuration, is completely insecure, so don't expect a password in your chroot to keep anyone from your data. crouton does support encrypting chroots, but the encryption is only as strong as the quality of your passphrase."

Y, the google+ article was a little light on details (i.e. what the heck is Crouton?). Found this link with more info: http://datko.net/2013/02/04/ubuntu-is-just-a-keypress-away-w...

It boggles my mind that Google isn't making Chrome OS more developer-friendly. If they could bring developers on board, they'd have a good beachhead for taking over the desktop market. They should enable us to build privileged native applications that use the DOM for their user interface but have unfettered access to the underlying OS just like any other application would.

> they'd have a good beachhead for taking over the desktop market.

But do they want the desktop market? As far as I've seen so far, Chrome OS devices are consumer targeted devices iPhones... only laptop/htpc shaped. Developers are just not the target audience.

Take a look at Chrome packaged apps: https://developer.chrome.com/apps/about_apps.html

It's probably not as powerful as you want but it already can do quite a lot.

Yes, to clarify, you have sandboxed access to filesystem, also access to usb, bluetooth, serial...

Sounds like Firefox OS. Yes, Google should do that.

That is f'ing awesome. The only thing holding me back from completely jumping in is Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Right now I'm dual booting Mac and Ubuntu and it is a massive pain. It crashes frequently enough for me to think about it and switching OS just to touch up some photos or cut some assets sucks.

Disclosure: I have financial interest in Apple succeeding. I also have worked on a project for Google regarding the new Chromebook pixel.

Why don't you just run Ubuntu in VirtualBox/Parallels ?

Likely because Ubuntu is his/her preferred OS, and switching to OS X is only done when strictly necessary.

This is correct. I find Ubuntu to be the most usable operating system, but the photo development software is still in its infancy.

The virtue of the method detailed in the article using crouton is that Ubuntu runs alongside Chrome OS without sucking up memory like a dehydrated sponge.

My initial thought about the Chomebook Pixel is exactly that it would be a good Linux machine. But with a maximum of 64GB storage, it'll never be my main machine, sadly.

I'm anxiously waiting for teardown info to see how easy it is to upgrade. I used a 64GB SSD in my main work machine until very recently and would have no problems going back, but if I buy a $1300 laptop, it has to have a little bit of room to grow.

The 4GB RAM spec is more worrisome to me, and far less likely to be user upgradable.

The SSD is soldered to the MB. Neither piece is user serviceable. This was mentioned in the comments of a googler g+ post showing off crouton the day of the announcement by the author.

That was for the Samsung ARM chromebook, not the new Chromebook Pixel, which has an Intel i5 processor. I bet it is just as replaceable as the Macbook Air's internals (e.g. replaceable, but you need one of the small SSD-sticks)

Nope, the SSD is indeed soldered on board.

Sadly, I think your days of purchasing $1300 laptops are rapidly drawing to a close.

The 13" Retina MacBook Pro [1] matches the wifi Pixel in almost every characteristic except the touch screen, and is just $200 more expensive for the model with 128GB storage. However, there's no LTE option.

[1] http://www.apple.com/macbook-pro/specs-retina/

Cheapest 13" rMBP has:

- faster CPU (i5 2.5 vs 1.8 GHz)

- double the RAM (8 vs 4 GB)

- bigger HD (as you say)

- wider aspect ratio (Pixel has 100 extra pixels along the bottom in an overall smaller package)

- a bit higher (1.9 vs 1.6 cm)

- a bit heavier (1.62 vs 1.52 kg)

- bigger battery and runtime (74 vs 59Wh, reportedly 7 vs 5 hours)

Overall, a lot to be said for the rMBP. Good to have options.

Is the pixel's screen really an "overall smaller package"? With an aspect ratio closer to square, it gets more surface area per diagonal inch, I would imagine it is actually larger than the 13in macbooks' screens even though it is only 12.8in or whatever.

The MacBook Pro also has:

- Thunderbolt

- USB 3.0

- Bluetooth 4.0

- Optical In/Out

- MagSafe

- Better Trackpad

Not to mention a company with a history of great support. There really isn't any good reason to buy a Pixel.

Unless you can't stand OS X. Also the "Better Trackpad" is arguable. And I'll take the Pixel's screen.

MagSafe is a big draw though, arguably as important as almost anything else. Comparing the screen on my MBA to the screen in the new Dell Developer laptop with IPS is a bummer though.

In all honesty, I've never even seen a USB3.0 device in the wild either. Not an argument against the option, of course.

Is there anything to stop you from installing Linux or Windows on a macbook?

Nope, Ubuntu 13.04 works perfectly out of the box on my Air. With older versions you have to install more stuff to make sure the fans kick in, etc.

edit: Actually, hotplug Thunderbolt is touchy in Linux 3.8 because Apple's thunderbolt implementation is back-ass-ward stupid, but that's not really a biggie, I don't use Thunderbolt for anything really (the display out is fine)

Another difference between MacBooks and Chromebooks is the guaranteed availability of Linux drivers. If you buy a MacBook to run Linux, you have to do your research first, just like a Windows laptop.

Are there any mac components that don't have full linux support? I would expect that Mac's are so popular with geeks, they would have full driver support, but I never checked.

The new crop of macs always go through a six month's cycle when they aren't supported because Apple decided to use new nonstandard hardware.

If you watch the Apple Store, you can get a refurbished 13.3" Air for $1,269. Retina display (2560x1600, 227 dpi), 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD.

You surely mean MBP retina, not air :)

Sorry yeah, I meant MBP.

Is it possible to entirely replace Chrome OS, though? I have a Chrome box that I don't use, and I'd like to entirely replace the installed OS with straight Debian.

Yes you can wipe the SSD and replace it with Ubuntu (or with some fiddling, Debian).

It's what Chrubuntu does, you can even choose to install to an SD card leaving the existing OS in place.


I set this up on my io chrome box. It is pretty great. I hope it becomes a fully supported feature with better security and x integration...I word love to have my dev setup in a chroot on google drive that I could use from any (x86) chrome device.

Or Fedora:


Or countless other Linux distros.

This doesn't run in a chroot, but boots from an SD card, so this is quite a different approach.

I wrote this technique up in detail a few weeks ago - about how to do this on the internal storage, another guide on doing it from SD... etc etc, all here: http://craigerrington.com/blog/

Thanks! I used your instructions last night.

OK, I need a portable dev machine. I thought about installing Ubuntu on my old 2008 Macbook Air (1,1), but the Ubuntu page itself says that it's a painful install.

How good would a chromebook be for, say, developing a small rails app?

Highly depends on your workflow and the hardware you've chosen. If you're developing locally and have the $249 Samsung Chromebook, it only comes with 2GB RAM and 16GB disk soldered onboard, so things are going to get pretty tight.

I really hope that "Ubuntu for Android" does well, which promises to deliver something similar but even better integrated, except on Android rather than ChromeOS.

I've done this with the 550. I'm using the secure shell app to shell into a chroot running sshd, monogdb and node. pixel? shrug don't (won't) get it.

If this is good enough to replace a macbook air why does this exist? http://www.google.com/intl/en/chrome/devices/chromebooks.htm...

This product seems way out of line with Google's strategy.

I think its about time Apple got challenged on the high end. For the rest of the market to survive they eventually have to pierce the myth that Apple is the upper bound in terms of quality in every market that they operate in.

Chromebook Pixel doesn't really challenge Apple in this regard yet.

It's underpowered, underfeatured hardware costs equivalent to an MB Air and almost MBP-r.

It's a shot across the bow of battleship Apple, but the low-cost Chromebooks are far more of a threat to both MS and Apple.

Apple doesnt compete on the power of their hardware - they compete on desirability. I would say hardware wise this is at least as desirable as anything that apple ships. This with a haswell refresh is going to be sweet.

It may not be good enough for you to replace your Macbook Air, but it was good enough for the author to forgo a Macbook Air. Subtle, but important difference.

To replace a Retina MacBook Pro?

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