Global Chromebook shipments are on the rise as folks around the world are stuck working, studying, and binge watching from home. They tend to be affordable, reasonably responsive, and fairly simple to learn to use.
But a key selling point for some is a turnoff for others – Chromebooks put Google’s Chrome browser front and center.
So this summer developer Rudra Saraswat decided to build a Chrome OS alternative focused on Firefox rather than Chrome. Now the first release of Ubuntu Web Remix is available for download.
If the name didn’t give it away, this operating system is based on Ubuntu, but it’s designed to offer a Chrome OS-like experience thanks to a simplified user interface and a set of pre-installed apps including the Firefox we browser, some web apps from /e/, and Anbox, a tool that allows you to run Android apps in Linux.
Saraswat notes that Android app is experimental and “may not work properly in the LiveCD or a virtual machine,” so I haven’t tried it out yet.
And if you’re wondering why you’d want to run Android apps on a device that’s designed not to run Google software,
While you should be able to install just about any Ubuntu app by opening a terminal and using apt-get, you won’t find the Ubuntu Software Center in this operating system. Instead there’s a shortcut to an “Open Web Store” on the taskbar. Click it and you’ll be taken to a website where you’ll find a set of website/web apps that you can download and install so that they’ll show up in your app list. Opening them will open a new Firefox browser tab.
Right now the Open Web Store has only a handful of apps including SoundCloud, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Mastadon. But developers can build their own and make a pull request to submit them for inclusion in the store.
Is Ubuntu Web Remix ready to topple Chrome OS in the commercial sphere? Probably not. You can’t buy a laptop pre-loaded with the operating system and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. It doesn’t have the backing of a corporate giant with resources to push regular bug fixes and feature and security updates. You don’t get the long battery life, cloud backup, and many other features that make Chromebooks different from other laptops (especially other cheap laptops).
But if you’re looking for a simple, web-centric operating system that isn’t made by a corporate giant? Then I guess it’s nice to have the option. It’ll be interesting to see whether Ubuntu Web Remix becomes anything more than a side project from a single developer over time.
Chromebooks gained success in education during pandemic for obvious reasons. Remote learning forced schools to find a cheap way to move the classroom onto a device. However, I do not see huge market share gains with Chrome OS as its market share generally is still under one percent.
This does not mean there is no need for these minimalist cloud OS devices.
It just means, most users still require more in the real world. I’ve been trying Neverware’s cloudready version of Chrome OS on a older notebook. It’s fine for a cloud based netbook sort of task device. I wouldn’t say it’s better than a full version of a Linux desktop distro. My wife a teacher has had plenty of experience with Chrome devices and remote learning. Some of it good, but not everything was perfect. Chromebooks are popular more for their cost per student then how good they are in actual learning. Remote learning actually exposed some limitations to that closed ecosystem.
Has the developer (Saraswat) actually said this is a distro that is going after ChromeOS??? I am asking because I haven’t seen anything like that being said in any of the blogs that have reported on Ubuntu Web Remix. I personally LOVE IT! If you’re looking for a speedy distro – this is it. I’ve successfully installed on external drive and currently triple booting it along with Ubuntu & a Chromium OS variant called FYDE OS.
It is not ChromeOS and I believe that is the point! The description speaks of a NON-GOOGLE type of environment, but some of the idiot comments suggest CloudReady! WTF????
If you want to try ChromeOS install FYDE OS. It runs Android & Linux, additionally you can sync with your Google account. Neverware isn’t “cloud ready” – they have many limitations in place that take away from the full ChromeOS experience.
Now if you want a cloud based Ubuntu experience that is pretty KICKASS, especially coming from a single developer, then try out UBUNTU WEB REMIX. It is a light, fun, well thought out distro that breaks away from the norm. Try just using it without comparison to ChromeOS, or any other OS for that matter. Otherwise you are doing it a disservice. You cannot get in a car for a test drive and when done, complain about how it’s nothing like a motorcycle.
why not firefoxOS (KaiOS) ?
Have been doing this with edge chromium with a lighter window manager and display manager.
I like how smooth Firefox runs on Solus (my current daily driver distro choice) and I don’t expect it to run any worse on Ubuntu.
Another thing I like about Firefox is its lower RAM usage. Chromium based web browsers still have noticeably bigger RAM usage than Firefox and even Epiphany for that matter.
Chromebooks have been the monopoly of its own niche market for far too long. And since Firefox is light and fast even on my aging Lenovo laptop, I believe this is the right direction.
If you want a real Chrome OS alternative, try Phoenix Linux or CloudReady for Home.
Do you remember Chromixium OS, Cub Linux, Joli OS? It is the same thing all over. It will be discontinued in a few years.
There are some serious performance issues with Firefox in Linux. Youtube and other video sites stutter heavily.
I’d recommend chromium, edge dev, or ungoogled chromium if you trust community repositories.
How does this compete with GalliumOS which is already up and running on underpowered ChromeBooks?
Specifically, we need to install and successfully run an audio I/O app which runs live on stage via midi to a keyboard rig. Yes, that’s the challenge (and it’s a big one). Forcing a tiny, weak ChromeBook to do something it was never intended for.
Will Ubuntu Web be able to pull off such a feat in 2021?
There seems to be this program called Jack you can use on any linux distro including this one. There’s also Ardour. What you’re asking about certainly seems possible.
Setting it up is not as easy as clicking “next” a bunch of times but you only have to do it once.
It’s nice to see Ubuntu WITHOUT the horrible Gnome 3 graphical interface. I really hate how the Gnome 3 Activities Overlay makes the whole screen go dark, sort of like the infamous UAC introduced in Windows Vista. it’s good to see there are more alternatives like this.
That looks like it still is Gnome 3, just with the dash to panel extension: https://github.com/home-sweet-gnome/dash-to-panel
(There are options to get back a traditional menu too though.)
Try Ubuntu Budgie, it is lightweight and you can make it look like Chrome OS.
Definitely Linux community has some user features to learn from ChromeOS, particularly PowerWash. Under the hood of course plenty of differences. Apps ecosystem is quite important as well, having tracked the androidx86 project for almost a decade, I can foresee these things will grow if developers stick with it. Anbox also requires the Snaps ecosystem which is yet another infrastructure burden, but Anbox is still beta last i checked so I suppose there are reasons 🙂
Snapd is blocked from installation in Ubuntu Web, and I’ve repackaged Anbox and its parts as DEBs to make it completely Snap-free in Ubuntu Web.
But… this thing looks like it’s running GNOME?!
Don’t get me wrong, gnome is my favourite DE and everything. But competitor to the lightweight ChromeOS window manager it ain’t. It was that window manager and graphics stack that made ChromeOS so efficient on low end hardware. This is not even remotely going to compete.
I’ve stripped down GNOME completely, so you’ll find a lot of difference in memory usage, as has also been reported by people who have tried out Ubuntu Web so far. I was able to spin up a 2GB RAM virtual machine with Ubuntu Web and it worked pretty well.
I tend to strip down GNOME as well on my machine – only thing I leave on there is tracker.
But this is not primarily about RAM. I’m talking about compute efficiency. GNOME is still less efficient than other Linux competitors (e.g. Kwin or Compiz), and the ChromeOS window manager beats those by a large margin on top.
The ideal choice for a project like this would be something like Wayfire. Though that’s still in a beta state.
If you want something truly lightweight feature rich and customizable in the FLOSS world then look no further than EFL, that’s Enlightenment Foundation Libraries, enlightenment or “e” it’s been around since the 90s as an amazing open source project (see elive) and for a few years already, Samsung has been participating in the development too. It’s so light it works on phones and you can easily strip it down to almost nothing and run it with 16mb of ram, or have a full fat system running around 150mb.
Bodhi Linux is an Ubuntu LTS derivative that uses EFL and their own enlightenment fork called Moksha.
Could be much better than gnome for something like this.
I can install Bhodi Linux on old old computers that can’t even run Debian with XFCE or Lubuntu.
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