My new go-to linux dev machine is a Chromebook…


The other day I arrived at work to discover I had left my laptop at home. I hot-desk some days each week in Liverpool in fabulous SensorCity (@SensorCityUK) and was lost without a keyboard and ability to geek. Fortunately, just 5 minutes walk away is the local branch of a well-known UK “previously-loved” chain, so I went for a meander. I returned with an ASUS C101PA ChromeBook for less than half-price. It has a 10.1″ 1200×800 touchscreen with 6-core ARM CPU, 4GB RAM, 16GB eMMC, USB-C charging and a 9-hour battery – what should a geek do???

The answer is to enable Chrome Developer mode and install xenial ubuntu, of course – note that you should backup before enabling as this will factory reset your chromebook and delete all your data. Warning over.

It is possible to run a full linux desktop (something lightweight, like xfce, bearing in mind the free space on the eMMC), but I like working with a command line and you will see that you end up with linux running in one or more Chrome Tabs, while retaining full access to the Chrome/Android side of things – browser, email, 6Music on BBC Radio iPlayer, etc.

So, The best instructions are those available from the master – take a look at https://github.com/dnschneid/crouton

Here are the basics:

1. Enable developer mode – https://www.howtogeek.com/210817/how-to-enable-developer-mode-on-your-chromebook/
2. Download the current version of crouton from here – crouton
3. Open a shell (Ctrl+Alt+T, type shell and hit enter)
4. Run sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -t core – wait patiently and answer the prompts to add user, etc.
5. Done! Run sudo enter-chroot

The result is an arm64 install of ubuntu xenial that has access to serial over USB, USB and SD card storage

So far, I have:

1. mbed-cli to build and flash code to STMicro Nucleo boards – this installed build-essential, git, python, etc.
2. go version go1.10.3

I am very impressed. So, don’t dismiss chromebooks as over-sized androids, poor iPad substitutes, especially if you can pick up a bargain…

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