Thursday, July 31, 2014

Chromebook, crouton, Ubuntu trusty

I had been in the market for a low cost Linux laptop for a while, but was not overly excited about the choices. There are a small number of Linux laptop vendors, and Dell offers an Ubuntu based ultrabook at a price around $1300. That is not a low cost option.

Then, I found a blog post where someone had installed Linux on a chromebook. I always thought chromebooks were interesting, but limited. The ability to run Linux in a paravirtual mode sold me, but I still had issues with the performance, having used a chromebook loner earlier this year. I was waiting for the new generation of chromebooks to be released late this summer with Intel i3 processors. That would be plenty of horsepower to run Linux and Chromium at a low cost.

I am typing this post on an Acer C720 with the i3 and 4GB RAM ($379), just a few days out of the box. So far, I am happy with the fit and finish of the Acer, the performance, the ports (2 USB, 1 SD, 1 HDMI, Wifi, Bluetooth), and battery life. Following this guide from Lifehacker, using a script from Google called crouton, I installed Ubuntu in a chroot environment and am able to hot key back and forth between Linux and Chromium. It is freaking sweet!

If you run a crouton install with no parameters, you get Ubuntu 12 which is a couple of years old. However, there are 3 versions of Debian, a penetration testing distro called Kali, and 2 versions of Ubuntu LTS available from crouton. After some experimentation, I eventually installed Ubuntu 14 LTS (trusty) with the Unity desktop using this command:

sudo sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton -r trusty -t unity

It doesn't come with a lot of applications, so I need to get busy with apt-get and set up my development environment. This is the low cost Linux machine I've been wanting.