paint-brush
Finally, I' m Not Coding on a 5-Year-Old Chromebook Anymoreby@ian101
245 reads

Finally, I' m Not Coding on a 5-Year-Old Chromebook Anymore

by IanOctober 7th, 2021
Read on Terminal Reader
Read this story w/o Javascript
tldt arrow

Too Long; Didn't Read

Chromebooks aren’t meant to run Linux, so I had to install a [special distro] just to get it up and running. There is no clear option to boot into linux, instead you must press a keyboard shortcut. To fix this, you must install custom firmware, which means taking the write-protect screw out. Not content with a google-controlled operating system, I decided to put Linux on it alongside Chrome OS. (Yes, Chrome OS is *technically* Linux, but not in the spirit of Linux).

Companies Mentioned

Mention Thumbnail
Mention Thumbnail
featured image - Finally, I' m Not Coding on a 5-Year-Old Chromebook Anymore
Ian HackerNoon profile picture


Recently, I got a nice, new computer, but before that, I was learning to code on a very old Chromebook.

The Samsung Chromebook

This Samsung Chromebook was never meant to be a developer’s computer, even when it was brand new 5 years ago it wasn’t exactly the pinnacle of technology. I bought it for $200. It has 2GB of RAM. About 5 years after I bought it, when my laptop broke, it became my main computer for a short time.


I decided to put Linux on it alongside Chrome OS. (Yes, Chrome OS is technically Linux, but not in the spirit of Linux). Chromebooks aren’t meant to run Linux, so I had to install a special distro just to get it up and running.


The process wasn’t so easy: while the chrx cli installer is pretty good, there was quite a bit of fiddling necessary to get it how I wanted. For one, the boot process involves some loud beeping and a big warning sign from the Chromebook, and if you ignore this for 30 seconds, it will boot into ChromeOS. There is no clear option to boot into Linux. Instead, you must press a keyboard shortcut.


To fix this, you must install custom firmware, which means taking the Chromebook apart - not just removing the cover, but also removing screws from my motherboard - and then taking the write-protect screw out. I was definitely scared I was going to wreck the device.


Like most Linux users, I also wasn’t satisfied with the default (Xfce) desktop. I spent a little (too much) time tinkering with stuff, adding a dock, adding blur, changing the panel, adding a wallpaper manager, adding widgets and launchers…


Then I started coding; I set up Atom (using VS Code now) and started making some stuff using Vue, Typescript, and Javascript - I’ll share some of my projects later. Despite freezing at times, I was able to be productive and even ran apps like Inkscape, Libreoffice, Github Desktop, and Vivaldi Browser.

Conclusion


This has been a great experience, even if it wasn’t fun at times. I learned a whole lot about Linux - much more than I knew before despite already using Linux. Perhaps it was an even better learning experience than installing Arch. It also taught me more about computers, and hopefully I won’t be afraid to “get my hands dirty” and fix things myself the next time I need to.


I learned that the kind of hardware I run does matter, and I do feel more productive with my new, albeit more expensive, setup. But hardware doesn’t matter that much unless you are making AI - and for that there are (free!) cloud GPUs.


I wouldn’t recommend a Chromebook for running Linux, unless you already have one. But there are cheap computers, such as the Pinebook Pro or Raspberry Pi, that will run just fine. You don’t need to be able to afford a fancy computer to learn a lot of computer science. All you need is a small amount of money and some time - things that not everybody has, but many do.