Liberating Crippled Chromebooks

“Chromebooks are everywhere. Google’s little Linux based PCs have been booming since their introduction several years ago in everything from homes to businesses, and even educational settings. Many users, especially Linux users, can’t get past the fact that the devices are hopelessly hamstrung by their ChromeOS operating system which both cuts down on the number of apps the device can run and makes it dependent on an Internet connection to get anything done.”
 
See How to Install Any Linux Distro on a Chromebook
This seems like a great idea for anyone already confident in their use of GNU/Linux. Liberate the Chromebook from the straight-jacket of Chrome OS. It is a GNU/Linux OS but anchored to the browser. This procedure should permit full use of the hardware to run general applications. Amen.

NB: TFA quoted on the right is about Intel-based ChromeBooks. Some variation of the process should work on ARMed ChromeBooks

Unfortunately, I don’t own a ChromeBook but I do have a legacy system of PCs and servers in my home which I will soon convert to running GNU/Linux on ARM. I started today to purchase components needed to revitalize my own IT including UI and storage. Over the next weeks I will document the complete migration from x86-64 to ARM64 in this blog.

A neat item I’ve ordered is a nice quad port PCI-e V2 x2 SATA 3 card driven by a Marvell 88SE9235 chip. That will allow me to replace my current stack of 512MB SATA2 drives with some nice newer faster 1TB SATA3 drives on ARM. This will complement the Lemaker Cello or Huskyboard motherboards running AMD A1120 CPU. One or both should become available in the next month.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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17 Responses to Liberating Crippled Chromebooks

  1. oiaohm says:

    Why not just take a Wintel box’o’choklits and convert it into a Linux box instead?
    Simple answers a every Chromebook hardware all drivers are in a mainline Linux kernel and mainline distribution. Only think you have to mess with is getting the thing to boot Linux without complaining. Now a Windows machine may or may not contain Linux compatible parts.

    Same result. Practically no price differential whatsoever.
    Not really the same result it you being a idiot again. Windows cannot be installed on chromebooks and work due to exactly the same issue that Linux suffers from on Windows machines from time to time missing drivers.

    Please note missing power management drivers is the common one. This is evil takes a 8 hour usage laptop down to less than 2 at times. Price might be the same but result on the chromebooks is 100 percent predictable without any research or major due care. One number/letter different in model of a windows laptop can change it from Linux compatible to Linux incompatible.

    Also something else about Chromebooks is the fact some do contain EC instead of ME.
    https://www.chromium.org/chromium-os/ec-development
    Yes that is all standard model of Chromebook on shelf are using EC.

    ME is a Intel black box that can in fact be used to fully remote control a PC. So if you are security worried buying a EC containing Chromebook with audit-able source code and convert that to a PC or do other things avoiding intel and amd closed powermanagement/remote control chips.

    Dr Loser there are a lot of places using a chrome-book as a base is no where near the same result as using a Windows model that is Linux compatible as a base. Security is one of them.

    Converting a chromebook on security grounds makes absolutely sense. Now the other restrictions that a chromebook applies might be totally not workable.

  2. Dr Loser wrote, “Don’t waste your time trying to convert a Chromebook into something it’s not. That makes no sense on any level whatsoever.”

    What makes anyone think a ChromeBook is anything but a general purpose PC with a particular set of software on it? Google has made it easy for computer geeks. (You know, the people who bother to install operating systems…) See all about “Developer Mode“.

  3. Dr Loser, having attended 8 semesters at Trump U, wrote, ” Confess that you are completely worthless, ignorant, dumb, and bigoted.”

    Of course he slept through the lesson about repeating everything three time to make a more convincing argument…

    Just to be clear, spending money doesn’t necessarily prove one is wise.

  4. Dr Loser says:

    Nope. I wanted cheap capacity, good enough speed and greater reliability. These bits won’t polish off…

    Bollocks, Robert. You wanted cheap.

    Just admit it, Ancient Druid Of The Prairies. If it makes you wince, you won’t buy it. No matter how obviously superior the technology is.

    I’m actually amazed that you’re not still dealing with an abacus. Big cost/benefit justification for abacuses, Robert.

  5. Dr Loser says:

    Naturally, my opinion of you completely worthless, ignorant, dumb and bigoted people might be swayed by even the slightest evidence that even a single one of you had taken the time and invested the dollars into proving their proposition.
    So let’s go then.
    1) Buy a Chromebook.
    2) Modify it, according to the protocols set forth.
    Or alternatively
    3) Confess that you are completely worthless, ignorant, dumb, and bigoted.

    Your choice, really. I suspect I win, big time, on this one.

  6. Dr Loser says:

    Here’s a really dumb question, directed at some very obviously dumb people.

    Why not take a simpler route? Don’t waste your time trying to convert a Chromebook into something it’s not. That makes no sense on any level whatsoever.

    Why not just take a Wintel box’o’choklits and convert it into a Linux box instead?

    Same result. Practically no price differential whatsoever.

    Also, you get to Stick It To The Man by wiping out TOOS, “one window at a time,” to coin a phrase, and you probably get hardware that has better QA applied through the process of production engineering.

    (By precisely the same Chinese production engineers, incidentally.)

    Still, why bother with a nose when you still have ugly faces?

  7. Modular sunfish wrote, “Well worth the wait.”

    The trouble with plums is that one can only eat a few with each meal or the digestive system will be overwhelmed. That recipe is too sweet, even for me… I hope to have over-production and will probably dry or freeze or can a bunch in various ways. In winter here fruit costs ~$3 per pound so having a reliable local supply is worth the years it takes to achieve. I’ve been planting trees and freeing pots but at the same time seedlings need to be repotted into larger pots, so I’m always running short. It will take a couple of years yet before I have enough trees. Then it’s up to the trees to grow…

  8. Modular sunfish says:

    If you have the hardware capacity, ie. number of spindles, then I’d say go for raid 10 (as opposed to 01) or else try Debian GNU/kFreeBSD with ZFS. I’ve uses RAID 0 before and use it now, but only on throw away systems. There is a lot of risk otherwise with RAID 0 especially with the variable lifespan of drives these days. RAID 1 at the minimum is what I’d worry about.

    About the plums in the other thread, I’d save the stones, but otherwise follow this most excellent recipe: http://sweetsoursavory.com/blog/2013/8/23/plums-in-madeira
    Well worth the wait.

  9. Dr Loser wrote, “It isn’t an SSD, is it?”

    Nope. I wanted cheap capacity, good enough speed and greater reliability. These bits won’t polish off… I intend to stack these up in RAID 0 to increase the read-rate. There is a tradeoff among average file-size, number of drives and reliability. I think 2 or 3 such drives would be optimal for me. There’s not much benefit using more and a lot of files are rather small so there’s less benefit to having faster transfer rates with the same old seek-times. With 3 to 7 such drives and a backup unit, I’ll have lots of flexibility compared to a small number of expensive SSDs. I’ll also test RAID-5 to see how that works on ARM without RAID hardware. The interface-chip I’ve ordered doesn’t do XORs so that will increase the load on the CPU somewhat. Some combination of RAID-0 for speed and mirroring for redundancy and a separate backup will do the job.

  10. Dr Loser says:

    Today I got a 1TB Seagate hard drive delivered by courier. The drive looks so small. I guess it’s a single platter and it is very fast, more than twice the hdparm numbers of Beast’s existing 512gB drives.

    Just a vague guess then. It isn’t an SSD, is it?

  11. Modular sunfish wrote, “Can you pop out the SSDs from old Chromebooks and replace them with something larger?”

    On most notebooks that I’ve seen the big storage device is easily accessible in a trap door on the bottom. In that case, it should be possible but you almost certainly would need a second machine to copy to/from.

    On a related note, the first items I’ve ordered for my new IT-system have started to arrive. Today I got a 1TB Seagate hard drive delivered by courier. The drive looks so small. I guess it’s a single platter and it is very fast, more than twice the hdparm numbers of Beast’s existing 512gB drives. I did a backup of TLW’s files in an hour on a new partition and XFS file-system. I had to rebuild Beast’s kernel because I had not included XFS but it rocks now (80MB/s >>200MB/s). If RAID 0 works as expected, this will be so cool, er, hot!

  12. Modular sunfish says:

    Can you pop out the SSDs from old Chromebooks and replace them with something larger? The batch of 2011 vintage Chromebooks are going to be going out of support, their five years are up, and probably could be refurbished with proper GNU/Linux this way. If there are enough, it could be a windfall for many, including projects like ReGlue.

  13. oiaohm says:

    kurkosdr MS Office free version Android if screen is larger than 10 inches its not free. Guess what most chromebooks are larger than that. There are other free Office suites in Android without that restriction.

    Now we are seeing chromebooks be treated exactly the same way Linux users have treated windows PC. The how to install Linux instructions there if you had read them kurkosdr is nuke chrome os completely off the machine for good and putting back a old school BIOS of course the machines still does not run Windows well due to lack of drivers.

    http://www.omgchrome.com/google-play-store-coming-chromebooks/
    Now question here will all the parts appear in Chromuim OS what is the open source part of chrome OS to run play store apps? Yes Chromuim images can be installed on normal PCs. So this could get interesting.

  14. joepf says:

    More market share for GNU/Linux. Good 🙂

  15. kurkosdr says:

    real office = real MS Office

  16. kurkosdr says:

    With the Play Store coming to ChromeOS, I doubt it’s a good time to make such a move. At least with ChromeOS + Play Store you ‘ll have real office and good games.

    Anyway… in light of this new information, can we put the “M$ tax” rhetoric to rest?

  17. Gonzalo says:

    We want more on this, Robert! 😉 Carry on!
    (in my case is just curiosity and philosophical view that ChrOS is a product not a distro and any hardware can and should yield more).

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