Have your eye on the $280 HP Chromebook 11, but aren’t entirely sold on the idea of a laptop that runs Google’s Chrome OS software? No problem. You can enter developer mode and load another operating system on there.
In fact, you don’t even have to remove Chrome OS. There’s a way to run Ubuntu and Chrome OS side-by-side, letting you install desktop apps such as GIMP or LibreOffice, while also getting the full Chrome OS experience when you want it.
The easiest way to run Ubuntu on a Chromebook is to use the Crouton script which downloads and prepares Ubuntu so you can run it in a chroot environment.
In a nutshell, that means Ubuntu and Chrome OS are running side-by-side and using the same kernel. You can flip from Chrome OS to Ubuntu and back with a couple taps on the keyboard.
It took me less than a half hour to turn the HP Chromebook 11 into a full-fledged PC using Crouton, and just for kicks, I installed the Firefox web browser, among other apps. It works just like you’d expect.
There are a few quirks — the volume and brightness keys don’t work out of the box, but you can fix that pretty easily. And some Ubuntu apps might not work with the Chromebook 11’s ARM-based processor. But adding Ubuntu to the HP Chromebook 11 makes this 2.3 laptop a bit more versatile.
You should check out the Crouton page at GitHub for detailed instructions, but here are the basic steps (make sure not to type the quotation marks, they’re just there to show you which lines are commands:
1. Enter developer mode on your chromebook.
2. Open a browser tab and download the latest version of the Crouton script from this link: http://goo.gl/fd3zc.
3. Press Ctrl + Alt + T on your chromebook to open a terminal window.
4. Type “shell” and hit enter.
5a. Type “sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton” to see a list of options, or
5b. Type “sudo sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton -t xfce” to just go ahead and install Ubuntu LTE with the xfce desktop environment.
5c. If you’d prefer to use GNOME, KDE, LXDE, Unity, or another desktop environment, use the appropriate name instead of xfce in the command above.
6. Create a username and password when you’re prompted.
That’s literally all there is to it. The script will download all the necessary files, prepare your storage space, and set up Ubuntu.
If you’re not familiar with Ubuntu, one of the first things you might want to do is open a terminal window (by tapping the little icon that looks like a command prompt) and type “sudo apt-get install synaptic.”
Enter your password when prompted, and then your machine will download and install the Synaptic Package Manager, which is sort of like an app store for Ubuntu — it makes it easy to find and install third party apps such as Firefox or LibreOffice. You can even install Chromium, the open source version of Chrome… although you could also just flip over to the Chrome OS environment to surf the web.
Here are a few things you should know:
- Advanced users can also choose the version of Ubuntu to install, add encryption, install a command line-only version of Ubuntu, or customize the installation in other ways.
- You can start the Ubuntu environment at any time by opening a shell again and typing “sudo startxfce4.”
- Once Ubuntu is up and running, hit Ctrl + Alt + Shift + forward or back to switch from Ubuntu to Chrome OS or vice versa.
- You can exit Ubuntu by logging out to end the chroot session.
- Remember the brightness keys that don’t work? In Xfce, just open up the Keyboard settings, go to “Application Shortcuts,” add a new shortcut, type “brightness up” in the box, hit OK, and then hit the brightness up button on the keyboard. Repeat with “brightness down” and the other key. Now you should be able to adjust screen brightness.
Crouton works with most Chromebooks, so these instructions aren’t unique to the HP Chromebook 11. They should also work on the Samsung Series 3 Chromebook, Acer C7 Chromebook, Google Chromebook Pixel, and most other devices running Chrome OS.