Linux Apps on Chromebook R13! Finally!

For a while I have owned an Acer R13 Chromebook that I occationally have used as a development computer. I have been using Crouton, which is quite ok, but it is like something is missing.

Lately there has been talks and writings about Crostini, Container technology on Chrome OS, which enables Linux applications to run in Chrome OS. This would be different from Crouton in different ways, like:

  1. The Chromebook does not need to start/run in unsafe developer mode.
  2. There is a Terminal App, instead of running Crosh in the browser

This is perhaps not huge, but it is a step closer to making Chrome OS more universally usable.

New features are added to Chrome OS on different times for different devices. Just now (according to this thread) “Linux” was added to the Development Channel for Acer R13. I can confirm it. I changed channels to Beta (R71) and got nothing. I then switched to Dev channel (R72) and now I finally have Linux (Beta).

I guess in a few weeks R72 will have made it to Stable. If everything seems fine I will probably switch back to Stable, disable Developer mode and never touch Crouton again.

The terminal gives me a standard Debian Stretch system. The terminal itself is very minimal. I am aware of these shortcuts:

  • Ctrl + : make text larger
  • Ctrl – : make text smaller
  • Ctrl Shift P : open preferences
  • Ctrl Shift N : open new terminal windows

Compared to the terminal application I am used to in Debian or macOS this is pretty basic (and the limitation of Chrome OS is that you cant just install another terminal application easily).

Unfortunately I tried to install something (the screen command) using apt-get, and something went wrong. apt-get does not finish and when I open another terminal it crashes. A restart of the computer fixid this though. However, when during more real work things crashed on me. So there is clearly a reason for this to be in Development rather than Beta or Stable today, but it is very promising and fun nevertheless.

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