Crouton and Emulators with Linux on Chromebook Still Not Good Enough

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  • This topic has 15 replies, 4 voices, and was last updated Sep 13-2:38 am by seaken64.
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  • #64603
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    seaken64

      Setting up Linux on my “Chromebox”

      In a previous document I wondered if I should purchase a Chromebook since I was curious if it would be a good fit for me and they are not very expensive in general. My conclusion in that document was that I would put off buying a Chromebook since I was more likely to use Linux and I didn’t want to be limited by the Google way of computing in “the cloud”.

      (Here’s my thread with that document: https://www.antixforum.com/forums/topic/should-i-get-a-chromebook/)

      Since I have spent several years experimenting with Linux I was comfortable with experimenting with the Chromium OS, the open source portion of the Google Chrome OS that comes installed on Chromebooks. Chromium OS is not exactly the same as Chrome OS but it is close enough for me to get a good feel for what is possible with a Chromebook. I have several old computers in my collection and I chose one to be my stand in for what I may have purchased had I decided to buy a used Chromebook off of Ebay.

      I chose to install CloudReady on my old HP All-in-One desktop, with an AMD Dual Core processor at up to 3.6Ghz and 8GB of RAM. This is now my “Chromebox” in my lab and takes its place alongside several other old computers running various operating systems, mostly Linux and Windows.

      When I first started with this experiment I was hoping I could install antiX linux on this same box and have both operating systems dual booting, just like I have done with several other machines that dual boot multiple operating systems. My favorite Linux OS is antiX and I had already installed both antiX and MX on this old box successfully. Now, can I add Chromium OS to the line up?

      I quickly found out that ChromiumOS/CloudReady does not support dual booting. In fact, Chrome OS wants to take over the entire hard drive at time of installation. For my first attempt I chose to remove the hard drive and replace it with another hard drive so that I could go back to my antiX/MX dual boot system if this Chrome OS install didn’t work. I booted with the CloudReady USB and ran the installer to the hard drive. It worked. I now had a fully operational ChromeOS/ChromiumOS “Chromebox”. I played around with it and I ended up at the conclusion I mentioned above, that I preferred Linux to ChromeOS.

      But now, what about installing Linux as a kind of virtual machine inside ChromiumOS? I had read that the current ChromeOS Chromebooks do support running Linux by using a virtual machine instance. But after some research I found out that this is not a feature of ChromiumOS, it only works on real ChromeOS Chromebooks. However, I did find an alternative called “Crouton” that installs multiple Linux instances using chroots. The results would be similar to what is offered on actual Chromebooks. So, I tried it.

      I installed Crouton on my ChromiumOS Chromebox and then installed an instance of Ubuntu linux with the XFCE desktop. It worked. I had a full version of Linux running on the Chromebox. But it was Ubuntu. I had already decided that Xubuntu was my best Ubuntu option for these old machines but Crouton did not offer to install Xubuntu. Crouton is a collection of scripts and it only supports a small number of Linux distros by default, basically only three -Ubuntu, Debian, and Kali. But it does work. I had Ubuntu Linux running and it was not a bad experience. I could switch back and forth between CloudReady and Ubuntu by using a hot-key combination.

      But what about antiX or MX? Could I get these installed with crouton and get the same experience as with Ubuntu? No. Crouton is not made to install just any linux distro. And while it may be technically possible for the crouton scripts to be modified to support alternate distros it was well beyond my skill level. I needed something that was already setup and working. I decided that I would be better served by a dual boot installation of ChromiumOS so that I could choose to boot into antiX instead of ChromeOS.

      After more research I was able to learn how to dual boot CloudReady with another OS. There are also other alternatives for installing ChromiumOS besides CloudReady that have been reported to work for dual booting. But I decided to stay with CloudReady. The trick to dual booting with CloudReady is to use a separate hard drive for CloudReady and keep the other OS’s on another hard drive. CloudReady will take over one complete hard drive but it will not touch your other hard drive if you enter the commands correctly. I added a removable USB 3.0 hard drive I had available and installed CloudReady to that removable drive and kept the other hard drive with my multi-boot setup of Windows/antiX/MX/Xubuntu.

      After installing CloudReady I rebooted the machine and it came up with CloudReady and I continued with my setup of ChromiumOS/CloudReady. But what happened to my Grub boot menu for antiX? I restarted and used the ESC key to get a boot menu and then selected the internal hard drive instead of the external USB hard drive. I was able to get back to my Grub menu. Now I can run antiX instead of CloudReady when I want to. My “Chromebox” is now dual boot. It’s a little clunky at boot time but it works.

      Now, back to CloudReady and Crouton to see what I can do with Linux from inside the ChromeOS. I was able to install several versions of Linux as chroots. I also was able to install one instance that allows me to run Linux applications inside a ChromeOS window or tab. It all integrates pretty well. The only problem is that it has to be either Ubuntu, Debian, or Kali.

      I managed to modify one of the Ubuntu chroots to simulate Xubuntu. It is not the Xubuntu distribution but it is close and gives me a familiar interface. I started with Ubuntu 16.04 with XFCE. Then I upgraded within the chroot to version 18.04 and then updated the instance using the crouton scripts. Then I modified the theme and added the Whisker Menu. The result is a version of Ubuntu Bionic that approximates Xubuntu Bionic. I will further attempt to update to the 20.04 LTS version. But I think I will leave this Ubuntu 18.04 chroot as is and setup another chroot for the current 20.04 version.

      Since I cannot get antiX installed I attempted to install Debian with IceWM and try to approximate the antiX setup. I installed a Debian Sid chroot with only the Xorg/Xiwi target and no desktop environment. Once it was installed I tested running a Linux app from this Debian chroot inside of a ChromeOS window. It worked! This is proof of concept that I can run both ChromeOS apps and Linux apps at the same time in this Chromebox.

      Now I continued to try and setup the IceWM windows manager and some other packages that I regularly use in antiX. I installed the icewm package and then read up on how to set up the configuration scripts to launch IceWM using startx. I had trouble at first since I didn’t understand that this Debian chroot had been setup to run inside of ChromeOS but did not yet support a full X server by itself. When I tried to launch IceWM all I got was a long wait followed by error messages. Eventually I figured out that I could launch IceWM from within ChromeOS and it worked to start an instance of Debian in a window inside ChromeOS. Fascinating!

      Now I have two types of Linux installed in my Chromebox. The first type is running in a separate full screen instance and I can switch between Linux and ChromeOS using hot-keys. The second type is running inside of a ChromeOS Window/Tab as if it were just another app inside Chrome. In both cases I have to use the Logout/Shutdown options from within the chroot to stop the Linux instance from running.

      So, have I changed my mind about Chromebooks? I mean, I can now run both Linux and ChromeOS at the same time on the same machine. That’s pretty cool, right? Yes, it’s cool. And it is a fun experiment. But I have not changed my mind about Chromebooks/Chromeboxes. For me, they are still not necessary. I can do most of the same things using ChromiumOS on one of my old machines. And Linux is a far superior platform for my own computing needs. And the fact that I can’t install just any Linux distro I choose is a deal breaker for me. And I have learned that Crostini has the same limits. The Linux instances inside ChromeOS are limited and restricted to what is supported by these add-ons. But I want antiX dammit! I will stay with my machines that allow dual booting. I will keep ChromiumOS so I can stay in touch with what is happening in the Chromebook universe. But until I can install antiX on a Chromebook I will not be buying a Chromebook – at least not for the Linux features.

      Seaken64

      P.S. One more thing that annoys me about Chromebooks. No secure local files. ChromeOS really wants us to use cloud storage. The OS is designed to sacrifice local storage. In fact, until recently you could not keep local files on your Chromebook without the threat of losing them to an OS system reset. I prefer to have the choice to store files locally without the threat of the OS deleting them according to their own rules. I’ll set the rules for my own files thank you.

      • This topic was modified 2 years, 8 months ago by rokytnji.
      #64627
      Moderator
      Brian Masinick

        @Seaken64:

        I wonder if this would work another way;

        1. Install antiX, MX Linux or maybe Debian as the primary OS.

        2. Set up a few virtual machine environments using whatever vbox tool you prefer for virtual machine environments.

        3. Install multiple operating systems from the virtual machine environment. Maybe a Chromium OS would work if it “thought” it had its own disk system space.

        --
        Brian Masinick

        #64630
        Member
        seaken64

          Hi Brian,

          yes, I have been thinking I would try putting ChromeOS in a VM. And this would work best with a newer machine rather than recycling an old machine from my inventory. I do have a recently retired HP laptop with a dual core Pentium and 4GB RAM. I may try putting antiX on that with VirtualBox. I haven’t had a lot of success with Virtual Machines in less than 4GB of RAM and I only know how to use VB. But it could be another good experiment. That could give me a “Chromebook” inside of an antiX laptop. I could also use a USB install of CloudReady to accomplish the same thing.

          At any rate, it does seem that if I want antiX as my Linux distro I can’t use a proper Chromebook.

          Seaken64

          #64640
          Moderator
          christophe

            Another good & entertaining writeup.

            Actually, it sounded like good ol’ geeky fun!

            confirmed antiX frugaler, since 2019

            #64643
            Moderator
            Brian Masinick

              Another good & entertaining writeup.

              Actually, it sounded like good ol’ geeky fun!

              Seaken64 outdid me by a longshot on this one!

              --
              Brian Masinick

              #64648
              Moderator
              Brian Masinick

                Yes, I agree with you. Whatever VM you select, you ought to be able to run Linux, Chromium OS and others, maybe even some BSD variations. NomadBSD is a good choice for that.

                --
                Brian Masinick

                #64649
                Member
                seaken64

                  @christophe, yes, it is a lot of fun playing with this stuff. I had run across the Chromium OS a few years ago but I wasn’t able to do anything with it. Since then some other more talented people have figured out how to make it easier to install it on plain old Intel hardware. CloudReady is a commercial enterprise and recently purchased by Google. They had Business and Educational versions of Chromium OS while Google had their Chrome OS. But CloudReady offers a free for home use version. With Chrome OS you have to purchase a Chromebook.

                  It is pretty geeky. I would say it is still too complicated for the average user to use Chromium OS on their old computer. At this point it probably easier to install Linux in most cases. Then again, one can always just buy a Chromebook. The problem is that Chromebooks “expire”, just like Macs and Windows. The nice thing about Chromium OS is that it is an open source project and, like antiX, be used to keep an old computer alive even after it’s EOL.

                  @Brian, you are one of my inspirations. Your depth of experience is only matched by your willingness to try new things, like Chromebooks.

                  I wonder if Linux will actually become more used if Chromebooks are now going to support Linux directly out of the box. I only wish they would figure out how to set it up so that we can install any Linux distro we prefer.

                  Seaken64

                  #64677
                  Moderator
                  Brian Masinick

                    The deal with Chromebooks – the real ones, is that they are very much a “take it as it is” experience, unless you go “rogue” and “build your own”. Given that the source code to Chrome and Chrome OS are available as Chromium and Chromium OS, that is POSSIBLE, but it’s more like an advanced Gentoo or Linux From Scratch project, not something that most people are ready to do.

                    There is a wide range of available computers, even NEW ones, from as low as around $129 for bottom end to well over $1000 for top end. You get what you pay for. Around $300-400 is the sweet spot where you can get excellent value for the money, ESPECIALLY if you either get a Black Friday deal (like I did) or carefully shop for the occasional deal that Best Buy, Amazon, Dell, Asus, Acer, HP and Lenovo MAY offer from time to time.

                    I got my Acer Chromebook 715 on one such deal, and recently I found another really good (short term) deal on an Acer Aspire 5 A515-55. The common threads between the two systems were the manufacturer (Acer), both had backlit keyboards (something I like for evening use), both have metal exteriors, both have solid state disk (SSD) technology, and both were available WELL UNDER regular retail price, and I snapped up both at the right time. The Chromebook 715 has been running $100-200 more than the price I paid; the 515 has had one other slightly below retail sale, but I saved nearly $100 off retail on that too, so that’s the trick; I either buy my equipment near the end of it’s peak retail run or when I can get a sharply reduced price. I also keep my equipment anywhere from 3 years for the cheapest commodities to 10 years + for experimenting systems, so the equipment gets it’s worth; it’s never outside of whatever budget ( have; in “lean years” I buy nothing.

                    --
                    Brian Masinick

                    #66851
                    Forum Admin
                    rokytnji

                      Hmmm. My Acer C710 antiX install acts like a laptop with a blinding fast ssd drive.

                      Crouton for me is PITA. So I blame it. Not the chromebook. So I throw crouton in the bin. These emulators on a chromebook remind me of having sex with protection.

                      To each their own, I guess.

                      When the HP runs out of ChromeOS support. I will turn it also into a full time linux laptop . Glad the choice is still offered.

                      Gotta wreck the stock bios though. Install something more forgiving.

                      Edit: Changed the title of the thread around a bit. Just did not want thorvalds and us to shoulder all the blame for Chromebook difficulties.
                      Hope you did not mind. You know how the web loves to lock in on these type of titled threads.

                      • This reply was modified 2 years, 8 months ago by rokytnji.

                      Sometimes I drive a crooked road to get my mind straight.
                      I don't suffer from insanity. I enjoy every minute off it.
                      Motorcycle racing is rocket science.

                      Linux Registered User # 475019
                      How to Search for AntiX solutions to your problems

                      #66887
                      Member
                      seaken64

                        Hi Roky, yes, I understand how titles can be misconstrued to mean something other than intended. No problem with me.

                        For me, this is just having some fun. I do not have a negative position on Chromebooks. I only want to have my antiX at the same time. If all I had was a Chromebook I would want a way to run antiX. In most cases it seems one has to sacrifice the Chromebook to run antiX as the OS. No dual booting is supported.

                        This makes CloudReady preferable to me. I can just add another hard drive/ssd and can install both Chromium and antiX on the same machine at the same time. This is my preference. I would not be happy with only a Chromebook. I need my antiX!

                        Seaken64

                        #66902
                        Forum Admin
                        rokytnji

                          Well. The only thing keeping me from right now from converting a expired ChromeBox to AntiX is finding some small 2 pin jumpers for mobo.

                          I hate using tin foil, because it is hit or miss and some folks break off the pins when they do this and ruin the unit.

                          Ebay has em for 99 cents but want 7 bucks to ship from china. So I am in manana mode < tomorrow mode > on this project.
                          Another thing is. The socket I need to jumper looks like a micro socket setup.

                          In other words. I gotta be real meticulous on what size pin jumpers I will order. Hard to do on a laptop.

                          Sometimes I drive a crooked road to get my mind straight.
                          I don't suffer from insanity. I enjoy every minute off it.
                          Motorcycle racing is rocket science.

                          Linux Registered User # 475019
                          How to Search for AntiX solutions to your problems

                          #66934
                          Moderator
                          Brian Masinick

                            The *other* alternative I happen to have is this: I have several systems (some of which I got FREE when other people planned to “get rid of them”).

                            As I mentioned, regarding running a real “Chromebook”, there are a few companies who seem to make decent models at affordable prices. Among them are Asus, Acer, Dell, Lenovo, and Samsung. The one I chose had the features I was looking for: 1) A backlit keyboard, so I can use it in relatively dark lighting and still see the keys (if I need to look at them). 2) Reasonable CPU speed at a reasonable price. I’ve been able to get units for under $500; the Acer Chromebook 715 went up in price, but I got one with both a backlit keyboard, 15″ screen for decent viewing, and kept it reasonably priced.

                            MULTIPLE systems: I have an OLD Lenovo Thinkpad X201, which is truly PERFECT for running antiX. It still has enough power to run apps at a decent speed, antiX supports all hardware on it and the speed, features, etc. are good; keys and overall hardware is rugged and solid; only tradeoffs are 1) no backlit keys 2) thick chassis, heavy weight for its size and much smaller screen than the 715 above.

                            Newer hardware with SSD: I don’t know why my Acer Aspire 5 Model A515-55 can’t seem to “see” or work with antiX; it works GREAT (super fast) with Siduction, AVL/MX Linux or other MX versions, Debian Bullseye, PCLinuxOS and Endeavour OS; so I use that Acer hardware with these distros.

                            Still have my older, but rugged, usable Dell Inspiron 5558 laptop; it runs ANY antiX produced in the past 5 years, same with Debian, MX, and several other distros, so this Dell and the Thinkpad are now my main antiX distros and I use the one Acer Chromebook 715 for running Chrome, and the Acer Aspire 5 Model A515-55 for running the fast, new distros. That way, for only a few hundred bucks I get to use ALL of my favorite systems without having to compromise anything except turning on another piece of inexpensive hardware. I give one of ’em a rest and use another one.

                            Also my wife has an older Lenovo N22 Chromebook. It’s old, really slow, but it was CHEAP (just over $100 new) and it still works. The only drawback: when she wants to be in Zoom meetings, this system clips and other people have trouble seeing or hearing. So my wife will use the newer, faster Acer Chromebook 715 for those meetings; therefore we “share” that system. For me, it has a pretty big screen. With dry eyes and vision that isn’t as good as it once was, the Chromebook 715 is a GOOD option for both of us in interactive meetings and when viewing a lot of text.

                            The point of this long winded note is that multiple pieces of hardware to support a variety of things can come in handy. @Seaken64: seems to like to use a lot of REALLY old hardware; quite a few of them are GREAT for antiX. I wouldn’t bother getting a Chromebook at all unless you have a REASON to do so; otherwise people on a tight budget with hand-me-down computers are much better off with antiX. That said, Chromebooks can be useful if you don’t mind Google and are willing to look for good deals @ $300-$500. http://chromeunboxed.com/ is a good place if you are interested in pursuing such things; most of the time the guys spend more money than most of us care to spend, but the site occasionally considers the low end, and does have plenty of good information.

                            Acer isn’t the only company selling reasonably priced equipment; I happened to get “lucky” with that brand 2 years in a row; I’ve used Dell, Gateway, HP, Lenovo and others over the years too; just have to “look around” to find what you are looking for at the right price and the right time, or alternatively find people who get rid of stuff that still works… that’s one way to SAVE LOTS of money!

                            --
                            Brian Masinick

                            #66941
                            Forum Admin
                            rokytnji

                              I’m more of a 50 buck or less when I pick up something online like so
                              HP ChromeBox

                              Sometimes I drive a crooked road to get my mind straight.
                              I don't suffer from insanity. I enjoy every minute off it.
                              Motorcycle racing is rocket science.

                              Linux Registered User # 475019
                              How to Search for AntiX solutions to your problems

                              #66943
                              Moderator
                              Brian Masinick

                                I’m more of a 50 buck or less when I pick up something online like so
                                HP ChromeBox

                                Yeah, that’s fine too; as I said, I have a couple of systems I obtained at NO COST when others decided they didn’t need or want them. Some systems had minor problems. The Thinkpad X201 didn’t have a single problem, other than the PREVIOUS software – Windows something; that WENT, antiX ARRIVED, problems SOLVED!

                                --
                                Brian Masinick

                                #66944
                                Moderator
                                Brian Masinick

                                  Hi Roky, yes, I understand how titles can be misconstrued to mean something other than intended. No problem with me.

                                  For me, this is just having some fun. I do not have a negative position on Chromebooks. I only want to have my antiX at the same time. If all I had was a Chromebook I would want a way to run antiX. In most cases it seems one has to sacrifice the Chromebook to run antiX as the OS. No dual booting is supported.

                                  This makes CloudReady preferable to me. I can just add another hard drive/ssd and can install both Chromium and antiX on the same machine at the same time. This is my preference. I would not be happy with only a Chromebook. I need my antiX!

                                  Seaken64

                                  I played with Cloudready a bit. In particular I used it on that solid Thinkpad X201. One thing I remember is that I had some problems with network connectivity. At first I wondered if my local connection was bad, but I switched to another system and all was well. I ran it another day on the same box and had the same problem. Now MAYBE it was just a hardware/software issue with Cloudready on that particular hardware, but I installed antiX, and I’ve had multiple versions of antiX on that same hardware, including the current Beta 2 testing, and it works perfectly, so I pretty much put my current Cloudready testing to rest, at least for now on that hardware, since antiX handles it so much better. I might try Cloudready in a VM again at some point, perhaps under either antiX, MX Linux or one of my other very stable platforms, and see if it performs any differently, but that’s not a high priority right now.

                                  Points for those commenting here to make sure to TEST antiX 21 Beta releases in any form: runit, sysvinit, live or installed.

                                  --
                                  Brian Masinick

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