I saw some pixelbooks the other day...

That's the chromebook that google designed in house, with the unreasonable nice display and the overpowered for a chromebook hardware and the all day battery life.

You remember.

I saw it and I was Enamored. It's a beautiful piece of hardware.

I imagine it's useless, as it's a chromebook and I imagine all chromebooks are useless.

Can someone who has used one chime in and tell me if it is actually useless? Is there a way I can make it useful?


I had a chromebook when they were new.

In order to do anything fun with it, I had to set up some kind of chroot environment.

I don't want to do that.

But it would be kind of fun to get it booting in to a full screen GemDOS or, like, an amiga emulator.

How locked down is this thing?

So it looks like they'll run debian in a container out of the box. That's neat.

Stick it in dev mode and it'll let you install another OS.

That's neat.

There are a couple for sale locally for less than $200, so I might pick one up and fiddle with it as a Not-Work laptop.

@ajroach42 For one, these days it's trivial and official within ChromeOS to have a Debian (or other distro, but Debian is what the official support installs and configures by default) container running, GUI apps and all. I've even installed and used Steam in it, so your emulator usages should be fine.

For two, flipping things into developer mode (via official software methods, no hardware fiddling required) allows alternate boots. I have both ChromeOS and Kubuntu installed on my Pixelbook.


@ajroach42 No problem! The Pixelbook really is very, very nice hardware. I got mine without having read any confirmation that normal distros could be installed on it (I saw the Ubuntu-based GalliumOS could be, but nothing more at the time), and no official distro-in-a-container solution existed at the time either, so I'm kindof shocked by how well that gamble has paid off in the long run.

It's certainly not without hiccups, which I should probably mention some of:

* I think these days there might actually be better ways to do it where one can use EFI instead, but my dual-boot is set up with Kubuntu using the "Legacy" boot (ie. MBR-based BIOS booting) using blocklists, which can break on ChromeOS updates, requiring me to chroot into the partition where Kubuntu is installed from the ChromeOS boot and manually run a `grub-install --force`.

* When I turn on my Pixelbook there's a beep and a scary warning screen about things being unlocked and imploring the user to press spacebar to wipe and reset the device, but secretly the correct course of action is to either press ctrl-D to boot ChromeOS or ctrl-L for Kubuntu. Honestly I mostly like this because it's a deniable security measure, someone trying to get into my laptop could very easily accidentally wipe it ;)

(I should note that the above two points can be mitigated by installing custom firmware; I haven't felt the need to myself.)

* Using the Debian container in ChromeOS, many GUI elements are weirdly oversized, and sometimes fullscreen sizing of things is weird or misbehaves oddly. I largely blame this on Google rolling their own windowing system and their custom theme that tries to align things with ChromeOS. It's not annoying enough to stop me from just using the KDE text editor Kate as my GUI text editor in ChromeOS though, and some of this can be solved by just changing themes (and if you're just running everything inside an emulator of some kind that may not matter to you at all).


@keithzg I appreciate this extended perspective.

It sounds less painful than it was on my Acer chromebook 8 years ago (although the ctrl-d/ctrl-l is familiar, and I did accidentally wipe the thing the last time I picked it up.

I'm still trying to reason out exactly how I want to use the thing, but I'll figure it out by the time it's here.

@keithzg I'm strongly considering sticking ubuntu studio on in developer mode.

@ajroach42 All of the pixelbooks can be put in to developer mode and run Linux, natively, and are as well supported as Linux on a laptop on x86 hardware tends to end up being (I say as I expect a lockup per week from sleep). The just announced framebook chromebook might be a tiny bit better of an overall choice for longer term usage.
And in either case, the chroot tools, so that you don't have to just go native Linux unless you want are a lot more polished these days.

@ajroach42 From what I remember the x86 based ones can basically be regular linux laptops. The Arm ones required the chroot stuff.

@kelbot @ajroach42 I've considered turning a very underpowered laptop into a ChromiumBook or Chromebook. Might fetch it now to potch with...

@kelbot @ajroach42 1.5 GHz dual-core E2-9000e APU, 4 GB RAM, 32 GB eMMC.

@kelbot @ajroach42 Arm chromebooks work well enough running other Linux distributions bare metal, at least after enough of the patches find their way to the mainline kernel. (I'm typing this reply from one, which is seven years old and still going strong.)

However, most people do stick with the depthcharge bootloader which requires manually packing kernel images when using most distributions. Installation is also a fairly manual process.


I've crammed galliumos on an x86 acer chromebook a few years ago and it's still happily in use in our house.

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