OK, so now having established my database server in Volume 1 of this series, I now need to move to the next step - setting up my chromebook with Linux in order to facilitate node.js development. I chose a chromebook as my dev machine of choice as I wanted something that natively runs on Linux, but didn’t want to pay as much as a Mac and didn’t really like the Linux based machine options out there… Google is doing a great job with these and after having my chromebook for a little over a week - I have to say I love it…

The first step is to put your chromebook into developer mode - this is a fairly frightening experience, but since everything on your chromebook is “in the cloud” and can be restored, fear not and hack on!

I bought a Toshiba Chromebook 2 and found instructions to put the machine into developer mode at this URL and this URL as well…

  • To put it your chromebook into developer mode, you simply hit the esc+refresh+power keys at the same time after you’ve logged in. When you do this, your machine will reboot and show an alert screen - at this point, hit Ctrl+D to go into Developer mode. THIS WILL WIPE YOUR MACHINE! You’ll need to re-login and setup the machine again, but once done you won’t need to do this again… I bought this machine to develop, so this was basically the first thing I did with it - the data wipe didn’t concern me… Since most things you do are auto backed-up to Google drive, this probably won’t concern most people. The process for the laptop to transition to Developer Mode takes 15 minutes or so (one time only) - so go grab a beer…

Next up - Crouton! …What the hell does a crouton have to do with this? Well, crouton stands for ChRomium Os Universal chrooT envirONment - and all the information you really need about it is at the GitHub location here. This is now the point where I’m over my head, but I believe crouton is a set of scripts written by a prolific Google developer named David Schneider that allows you to create what’s known as a chroot, which allows Linux distributions to run under a segregated file system as a guest OS - more info about chroots here

Basically, in order to run Ubuntu (the Linux distribution I’ve chosen) alongside my ChromeOS, I need to run it within a chroot. I need to use the crouton script bundle to generate this chroot.

You should go to https://goo.gl/fd3zc - it will download into your Downloads folder - leave it there.

In order to properly generate a chroot - you have to have some opinions. You need to choose a Linux distribution and a desktop environment…

I need to choose a Linux distribution? I have no idea where to start even - there are over 600 distributions of Linux and 300 are actively being developed!! Where do you even begin in this world? My understanding of a distribution of Linux is that it is a packaging of software (libraries, desktop environment, utilities, GUI, etc.). I have a lot to learn on this, but for now I’m going to be lame and choose a commercially backed option - Ubuntu. I am choosing the most recent “Long Term Support” (LTS) version of this distro, code named Trusty Tahr.

Within Ubuntu, there are different flavors based on the desktop environment you prefer. After some basic research, I want a basic desktop - I actually installed several different versions and thought the Unity desktop was awful… So, I’m going with Xfce - a basic, yet comfortable desktop environment! This flavor of Ubuntu is known as Xubuntu…

I have my opinions settled - I know what I want - next is to go to the Chrome web store and install a few items

  1. Secure Shell
  2. Crosh Window - opens a separate window from your browser
  3. crouton extension - Allows for copy/paste to/from guest OS window (in my case Ubuntu)

You now have all your dependencies - you can either do Ctrl+alt+t to open a “Chrome Operating Shell” or crosh for short in a full screen window or you can use the Crosh Window app you just installed.

  • At the command prompt, type shell
  • Next type sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -t xiwi,xfce -r trusty
    • This is basically telling crouton that the target (-t) is the xfce desktop environment using the xiwi version (which allows for the copy/paste) and the distribution release (-r) should be Trusty Tahr (trusty)
    • This takes a while to install - go get another beer… At the very end of the install, you’ll be asked “Please specify a username for the primary user:” - plug in your preferred username… you’ll then be asked for a password as well…

Once done, you’ll be taken back to the shell prompt where you just type sudo startxfce4 and bam! Ubuntu should boot! It will boot in a full screen Chrome OS window - in order to minimize and size the window, just click at the top where it says “crouton integration” triggered full screen Exit full screen and then resize as necessary.

Each time you log out of Ubuntu, you want to ensure you logout properly - for the distro I chose, I just go to the upper right hand corner where my username is, choose it and select Log Out…

Now that I’ve done this once, the next time is a breeze - open a new Crosh Window, type sudo startxfce4 and that’s it - I’m up and running in seconds.

I learned a lot about this crouton extension jazz by reading this - the dude Francois Beaufort seems to be one of the chromebook leads and has a lot of great posts… You probably want to follow him on Google + if you have a chromebook and are a developer.

OK - it worked - I have Linux up and running within a Chrome OS Window! Sweet!

That’s it for today - next up Volume 3, Setting up node.js on Ubuntu in my Chromebook