[nmglug] any experience with installing gnu/linux on chromebooks?

Sam Noble s at mnoble.net
Sun Nov 1 10:49:18 PST 2020

On Sun, Nov 01, 2020 at 10:55:36AM -0700, Mark Galassi wrote:
> I know little about installing linux on a chromebook, and I don't have
> one to try on, but i do have students who would like to use chromebooks
> for my course.  Of course part of the course is to install a full
> distribution with all the programmer tools, so we can't just use the
> ChromeOS.
> Here are things I have heard, but it is all vague:
> 1. There is a way to unlock the boot so that you can boot from your
> debian or ubuntu or fedora USB drive. 

This is of course the ideal scenario, however there are a lot of
different chromebooks out there both arm and x86 and the details are
different for lots of them.
I'm very happy with my current crop of secondary market (ebay) purchased
Asus C201's and C100's which are supported by prawnos.com a little
distro that started just to handle the tricky bits of where to put a
kernel on an arm chromebook. (as a side note, they're beginning to fall into the
old trap of customizing things to their own preference, and diverging
from debian in small dumb ways, but debian's working on native support
the relevant SoC so hopefully by the time prawn annoys me too much
that'll be done.)

> But I don't know what it looks like after that - do you do dual boot?
> Full replacement?  Does the original ChromOS live in ROM so that you
> can do a full replacement and then return?

It's the standard stuff with flash block devices, there's typically an internal
emmc, so it's easiest to get started on a usbstick or sd card, leaving
the internal flash alone to boot chromeos when the usbstick is not
present. N.b. that doesn't mean the first step in most of these
processes doesn't totally reset the device and wipe any local data.
(Possibly less of a problem for students who are all-in with google

A good resource for checking out other models might be
https://mrchromebox.tech though there's so much going on there it's not
an easy starting place.

> 2. I've seen someone set up some kind of apt installation on top of
> chromeOS and get emacs and gnuplot going.  It seemed insufficient to get
> the benefits of all the great utilities.

I've not done this at all, as my goals when buying former-chromebooks
involved nuking the chromeOs as quickly as possible, but when I started
there was a project called crouton, that did seem to be handily running
full debian installs inside a chroot or container.

> 3. I've heard that more recent chromebook models make the #2 type of
> integration work better.  I'm guessing that there are revisions of
> ChromeOS, or maybe a cutoff date (any Chromebook after (say) 2019-03 has
> full debian behavior, or something like that).  In that case, would
> there be a resource available that lets you look up which makes and
> models (HP, Dell, Lenovo, ...) ones are good for that?

Yes my understanding is also that upstream chromeOS now supports a
crouton-like experience that's to some extent blessed by Alphabet.
I have some not-very-linuxy coworkers who are happily using it.
https://beebom.com/how-use-linux-chromebook/ looks to be a description
of the process, though again, I've done none of this.
And it does have this link
which I believe is the list you're looking for.


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