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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Ubuntu Linux on Chromebook: Crouton vs ChrUbuntu, or installing over Chrome OS or dual booting.

For the end of the term at the University, I've decided to bring with me my Chromebook (Samsung Series 5). I am on a computer science degree, so I must sometimes act like I am a power user or at least, have access to ssh, plus a X client. Therefore, it seemed obvious that I sometimes needed to have a desktop environment able to run native applications (e.g java), plus the X thing via ssh. Okay, Chrome OS is somehow able to do ssh and some sort of X server-client thing, because it's still a Linux operating system underneath, but it's not brilliant at that. 

Before starting anything, I need to say that I am not responsible for anything that happens to your computer by following what I will say. You are doing everything on your own responsibility. Everything is specifically designed for Samsung Chromebook Series 5. It might apply to other machines, or it might not. Please check the sources carefully before doing anything.


One vs. another.

Just to make everything clear: 
  • ChrUbuntu is installed on a removable storage, so it doesn't touch the internal storage or alter it.
  • crouton is installed on the internal storage, so it *might* touch the internal storage.

My recommendation is crouton, for a number of reasons I will enumerate in the section designed to it. ChrUbuntu is probably easier to install, and easier to use, but it has some fundamental drawbacks which make it a bit annoying. For crouton, you'll probably need to use the terminal a little bit, but it's really not that much to be afraid of.

However, because ChrUbuntu is installed on a removable storage, all you have to do in order to get rid of it is to format that storage. This is rather easy, and won't affect the existing Chrome OS installation from the internal storage at all. For crouton, there are some commands to run in Chrome OS in order to remove it, because it installed on the internal storage of the Chromebook. This can get risky sometimes, and if something goes wrong, the only way to recover is to get back to the original state of the storage, and that is to wipe everything and set-up as a new Chromebook.

Fortunately, on Samsung Series 5, there is a hardware switch which just turns off developer mode, and so it wipes the internal storage completely. It might be this easy on other Chromebooks also, but I am not sure about this matter. I advise you to search a little more on recovery for your Chromebook before doing anything.


ChrUbuntu.

First off, I tried to install ChrUbuntu. ChrUbuntu is a quite nice thing, it runs, as I have already told, on a USB flash drive or on a SD card, and you basically dual-boot in order to be able to get into Ubuntu. Yes, you need to reboot for that, so you don't have both running on the same time. 

Installation. 

Technically, to get anything working you need to follow everything from (this is the official ChrUbuntu website) (here), except that at point number 4, you MUST replace the command with the one you get from (here), according to your device and according to where you are installing it (USB flash or SD card). That is all.

Note: turning on developer mode will remove everything from the internal storage!

Luckily, it's not a very hard process (even though at first sight is seems so), and it should be easily reversible in most cases. Unfortunately, after a month, my USB drive stopped working (applications were reporting I/O errors when it happened), and after a reboot it failed to boot anymore in ChrUbuntu. I've seen some other people complaining about this, I don't know if it's only the flash drive which has been broken, if it's related to ChrUbuntu, or if something from the operating system got broken. Anyway, Chrome OS was just fine. 

Booting it up.

What I should mention here is how ChrUbuntu is supposed to start. When you first start the Chromebook, you'll get a warning screen with a "scary" face. At this point, you have three options:
  • Wait for about 30 seconds and it will beep two times, and boot Chrome OS.
  • Hit Ctrl + D -> instantly boot Chrome OS.
  • Hit Ctrl + U -> boot Ubuntu.
Nothing that complicated at all. If you hit Ctrl + U and the installation of Ubuntu is not present, than it will beep so that you know that it can't boot.

Good and bad points.

+ Ubuntu runs exactly like on a regular computer.
+ so you can do (almost, look below) anything you would do on any other machine running Ubuntu.
+ the guy who created ChrUbuntu took care of the drivers, everything is working fine (on my machine at least).
+ little or no maintenance to involved, so might be suitable for people not willing to touch the terminal at all.
+ nothing really altered on the internal storage (except when you first turn on developer mode).

- it's only Ubuntu 12.04, not one of the latest versions.
- because it's installed on a USB drive (2.0 is supported only), or on a SD card, it's deadly slow.
- limited to the maximum speed of the medium it's installed on.
- requires a medium of at least 8 GB, about 2 GB will be free after installation.
- has no swap partition, so when you get out RAM...well, Chrome and other applications will eventually crash, or lag being very bad.


Crouton.  

It's a bit more complicated, but the huge advantage is that it runs on top of Chrome OS, and in the same time with Chrome OS. Therefore, it uses the kernel provided by Chrome OS, all the drivers from Chrome OS, and everything else that is provided by Chrome OS, and so everything should be working just fine and it's extremely fast. When I say extremely fast, I mean that it's one of the fastest experiences I've seen to date on a computer running Ubuntu (this is on just 2 GB of RAM and a dual-core Intel Atom processor running at just 1.6GHz!). 

Important here: just don't do the silly thing of installing Xfce instead of Unity. Xfce is just awful. It has the worst interface I've seen, it's not attractive at all, half of the icons are broken etc etc etc. Go for Unity from the beginning. I did the silly thing, and it seems that there are some "traces" from Xfce on my installation of Unity, and it's sometimes annoying, but I can still do whatever I want because I have the terminal available. 

Actually, forget what I said above. Xfce works actually quite well, and it is worth to give it a try. It will be significantly faster than with Unity, but I still think that Unity will give higher productivity. It's really up to you. Please note that you must use "xfce" wherever you see "unity" in this guide, and start it using "sudo startxfce4" after installation.

Installation.

For the installation, follow the first point from ChrUbuntu for your own Chromebook, that is, just to turn on developer mode. I repeat, from (here), follow just the first point!

Then, from (here), download the package provided. 

Afterwards, follow the guide from (here, same as before but at another heading), but for the point 2, type "unity" instead of "xfce". This will install Unity. For point 4), type "sudo startunity", and Unity will start. Everything else is the same.


Note: logging off does not work for me, for some reason. If this is the case for you, to close Unity, just hit Ctrl + Alt + Back to get back to Chrome OS, and then, in the crosh window in which Unity is running, hit Ctrl + C. This is not a very elegant way of closing it, but it should kill it pretty okay.

Starting it up.

Just as with ChrUbuntu, when you power up your Chromebook, you will get the "scary" face warning. But now, you can wait for 30 seconds and Chrome OS will boot automatically, or you can hit Ctrl + D and it will boot Chrome OS at that moment.

When you want to start unity from now on, hit Ctrl + Alt + T. This will open a crosh window on Chrome OS. There, type "shell". Afterwards, type "sudo startunity", just as before, and it should start.

To close it, try to click logoff. If it doesn't work, then go to Chrome OS, and in the crosh window, hit Ctrl + C.

Good points and bad points of this method.

+ it runs on top of Chrome OS, in the same time with it.
+ easily switch between them.
+ everything is guaranteed to work.
+ performance is absolutely astonishing, as everything is optimized for Chrome OS.
+ Unity + my apps apps add up to about 2 GB, leaving around 8 GB of free storage.
+ unified storage, so each OS can easily manage the files.

- it's only Ubuntu 12.04.
- can be a bit too technical for some users.
- in my experience, I had to use the terminal quite a little bit.
- uses internal storage (not excessively much).
- resources are shared, but I could not notice any difference.


Conclusion.

I've seen a lot of people complaining about the Chrome OS not being a complete operating system, about not knowing to do that and that, about being too minimalist and so on. With the possibility of having Linux working on a Chromebook, this completely vanishes. It's definitely not a solution which satisfies anyone, at least not on my machine. I am expecting it to work much better on the Series 5 550, the newer generation of Chromebooks that has the Celeron processor and double the amount of RAM.

However, it transforms the Chromebook into a computer that is capable of handling almost all the tasks a home or a power user would need to perform.


If you have any kind of questions, I will answer them here. I will try to look regularly for this on this particular post. I think that almost anything you would need can be found just by searching on Google, but if you still need help, I am here and I will try to provide it. 

48 comments:

  1. I just ordered a chromebook after seeing i could install ubuntu on it. I've seen all the youtube videos with the chromebook+ubuntu but i have some doubts.

    Crouton vs chrUbuntu

    at work i have desktop with ubuntu 12.10...I do programming so i need to be able to use eclipse...apache...php...ruby

    as you said here:

    Chrubuntu:
    + Ubuntu runs exactly like on a regular computer.
    + so you can do (almost, look below) anything you would do on any other machine running Ubuntu.


    So that means Crouton can't do the same as chrubuntu?what are the limitations?

    I'm not getting the differences.

    What versions of ubuntu are?12.04?

    thanks

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    1. Can I run crouton on my Hp 14 chromebook? I just got it and its been downloading for like hours

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    2. Crouton/Chrubuntu works just fine with the HP14

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  2. Hi Mauricio, thank you for visiting my blog!

    ChrUbuntu is actually like a "regular" Ubuntu, but on top of that, the guy who created ChrUbuntu, added all the drivers in order to get everything working fine (they are automatically installed and running since the first boot).

    When I am talking about the limitations, I am talking about its slow speed (using eclipse and witting code in php and that kind of stuff should be fine however). What I did not mention is that only USB 2.0 is supported (will update the article later this day). And it's only Ubuntu 12.04, so there might be features from Ubuntu 12.10 you won't have (but you might be able to install them, probably).


    For couton, you basically get the Unity plus a few applications basic applications, but it does not contain all the applications from ChrUbuntu or from an original Ubuntu installation. You can install all of them I guess, but it requires you to use the terminal (at least it required for me). This is also Ubuntu 12.04, no 12.10.

    Eventually, they can both do the same things, but crouton will be faster.

    My advice would be to try with ChrUbuntu first, because you can easily get rid of it if you don't like it. But, as I've said in the article, the first time you turn on developer mode the internal storage will be wiped, for safety reasons. And I would recommend having a backup of all your work somewhere, just in case something unexpected happens to the storage on which you work.

    Thanks.

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    ReplyDelete
  4. With crouton you can install any Ubuntu version, I'm installing Raring right now with the command sh -r ~/Downloads/crouton -r raring -t unity
    Also, after install you can just 'sudo apt-get install ubuntu-desktop' and you'll have all normal ubuntu software installed. I wouldn't say that is too much commandline...

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    1. Thanks for that, I was wondering if I could install the Ubuntu desktop!!

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  5. Wow, you are amazing. How is Raring working on your Chromebook, and which one do you have? Mine (the first Samsung Chromebook) has the nm10 graphics card from the Intel Atom chip, so I am afraid it might cause some problems with Ubuntu's X server...if it is using that X server at all (I don't know that much about this, to be honest. Do you have any ideas?).

    I did not know about ubuntu-desktop at all. I had to do everything by myself.. search for the ppa's for the applications I needed, fix the dependencies if any, and then install. It was a really headache for me.

    Anyway, thank you very much for the information! I will update the article with what you've told me.

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  6. Thanks for your opinion on Crouton vs ChrUbuntu. Thats what I'm pondering this weekend. I'll get an acer chromebook C710-B847Cii in the next days and will ad 8GB of ram and 120GB Samsung 840 SSD.

    My Question is. You prefer Crouton over ChrUbuntu because its faster. Will having ChrUbuntu on the SSD solve that or will Crouton still be smoother with the chrome drivers and kernel.

    I'd love the option to switch without rebooting in Crouton, but reading in other blogs that ChrUbuntu is more stable and hoping to run wine and to get virtualbox to work. So stability and compatibility are important as well.
    http://velvet-underscore.blogspot.nl/2013/01/chrubuntu-virtualbox-with-kvm.html

    btw I love to mess around with computers and being dutch I like things cheap and this wil give me a lot for very little.


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  7. I am not sure you can change your hard drive to a SSD or update your RAM to 8GB. Did you check and are you sure it is possible to do that?

    I am also not very sure you can actually run Ubuntu from an internal hard drive on a Chromebook. Booting is somehow controlled by EFI I think, and I have no idea how to alter it in order to make it boot from a hard drive something else than Chromebook. By default, it can either boot from the internal hard drive, on Chromebook, or from a USB 2.0 removable device or SD card.

    It might somehow work if you will be able to.. make EFI start the booting process and then pass control to GRUB, which in turn will allow you choose the OS. But I doubt that EFI or whatever controls the boot will allow you to do this, because I suppose it will immediately scream that the booting partition is damaged and will ask you for a restore.

    However, if it would be possible, the performance would definitely be improved over the old ChrUbuntu, but I still don't think it can be faster than crouton, considering the heavy underlying optimization. It might be worth anyway.

    I am afraid I don't have such knowledge to help you anymore, unfortunately. If you do find a way to install chrUbuntu on the internal hard drive/SSD, please let me know. I am really interested in such stuff. :)

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  8. I've got a new Acer C710, there are several versions of it now and mine has a 16gb ssd (not a 320gb hd) and 2gb ram. I installed chrubuntu (ubuntu 13.04) on the internal ssd and it was running fine. I also installed GNOME 2.8 and several other packages, but ran into errors when I tried to install cinnamon. Since I wanted to try Cinnamon I've restored back to just ChromeOS again. Trying to decide whether to try Crouton this time. My point is, ChrUbuntu can be installed on the internal SSD, works fine and very fast. But you do see the "Verification is turned Off" screen after booting and can either wait 30 seconds or press Ctrl+D to get to Ubuntu. You can easily switch to booting ChromeOS instead. The ChrUbuntu script supported installing to the internal drive before it supported USB. I haven't tried installing it to a USB drive. I did try booting from a "normal" Ubuntu live media USB I have and that works on my desktop computer, and that did not work.

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  9. Chrubuntu is NOT normal ubuntu, for one, it does not run virtualbox without a certain package being installed, and has a lot of system errors. TRACKPAD IS TERRIBLE.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. @thetechguy911: I truly believe it actually is normal Ubuntu, but it has stuff such as the drivers added on top of it in order to make it run properly on a Chromebook. Trackpad was absolutely fine on my machine, and I have the Samsung Series 5 one. I did not try virtualbox, but I highly doubt there will be any issues on my machine. And I didn't really have any system errors or such stuff.

      Do you happen to have the ARM based version of the Chromebook? If so, then that is the issue, not everything runs on ARM CPUs if it was written for x86, as far as my knowledge goes.

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    2. Well, I know in mind of late, but did you ever fix the touchpad? I have and it is really simple.

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    3. Wayne you really should post links to what you find, this stuff is pretty new for most and finding helpfull information can be difficult.

      For anyone having issues after installing chrubuntu check this post, includes fixes for trackpad, audio and others.

      http://virtuallyhyper.com/2013/03/install-chrubuntu-12-04-on-samsung-chromebook/

      Delete
  10. Thanks for clarifying that the Crouton version with Unity is better than XFCE - LifeHacker didn't make that distinction and now I have the pleasure of scouring the web (and finding your blog post) about how to uninstall and reinstall with Unity.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Has anyone found a way to uninstall Chrubuntu from the ARM Chromebook? I installed it onto the SSD instead of a USB drive, but I'm not sure how to wipe the partition clean and unify into just Chrome OS again.

      Thanks for any help!

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    2. Just run Chrome recovery from a USB drive or SD card, it will repartition the SSD back to normal.

      https://support.google.com/chromeos/answer/1080595?hl=en

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    3. If you don't like XFCE and prefer Unity that's fair enough, but it's a matter of opinion, not one of fact. Personally, I can't stand Unity, I much prefer to have access to proper menus, and since Unity doesn't offer that it makes it effectively unusable to me.

      Delete
  11. I installed Crouton (unity) on my brand-new Samsung ARM chromebook yesterday & I'm really pleased: now have both OS's running side by side, & switching between the 2 works just as advertised.

    Now I'm trying to get Crouton configured the way I want/need it & running into a few challenges. For example, I need to change the keyboard layout from qwerty to Dvorak (this is critical for me). I'd also like to get Ubuntu One working, configure the desktop a bit so I can add shortcuts to the taskbar, increase default font sizes, open or run some programs as root, etc. I'm wondering where one gets help for that sort of thing? I had a look at the GitHub site for Crouton but it seems geared mostly to developers & not run-of-the-mill users like me.
    TIA

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, try with this:

      sudo add-apt-repository ppa:tualatrix/ppa
      sudo apt-get update
      sudo apt-get install ubuntu-tweak

      Ubuntu tweak is a nice utility considering your needs, and it will satisfy most of what you asked for. Let's hope it'll work properly on your ARM-based chromebook. Can you inform us if everything works fine? :)

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    2. Also see the entry in the crouton wiki near the top on configuring your keyboard layout: https://github.com/dnschneid/crouton/wiki

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    3. Also see the Crouton wiki near the top on keyboard layouts:
      https://github.com/dnschneid/crouton/wiki

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    4. Also see the entry in the crouton wiki near the top on configuring your keyboard layout: https://github.com/dnschneid/crouton/wiki

      Delete
  12. This blog is awesome. I installed the crouton on my Acer C7 using xfce and have been loving it. Would love to possibly be able to get the Mint desktop (with cinnamon) and also, have been unable to get an HDMI output for videos. Any suggestions??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, do you have crouton? I don't know how that one will go, because here it's a little more complicated. Unfortunately, I'm not able to help you too much, you might want to try to install cinnamon, which should normally give you the option to choose between xfce and cinnamon. However, crouton is quite new stuff and you might run into trouble. If you can afford breaking the Ubuntu installation and then installing it again, then it might be worth a try.

      I don't think it can affect in any way your existing chrome os installation.

      Please see here on how to do it: http://community.linuxmint.com/tutorial/view/1246

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  13. Hey there,
    It's most certainly possible to install ChrUbuntu on the internal storage. In fact for a while that was the only way possible. Installing on an sd card was added later.
    When you run the internal install scripts, you are asked to choose what size partition to create on the internal drive for the new OS. On my 320GB C7, this is non-issue, on a 16GB SSD, you probably want to limit the ChrUbuntu partition to 10GB to leave room from ChromeOS to work well.
    And you need to enter a terminal command to switch between OSes (Ctrl-U is only to boot from the SD card.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep -- I only needed 6gb on the stateful partition and it was fine.

      Delete
    2. Thank you for posting that. I was about to do the same, but you beat me to it. I used ChrUbuntu on an Acer C7 with 2GB of RAM and a 320GB HDD. You certainly can upgrade the RAM and the internal storage on that model. ChrUbuntu ran fine for me, but I switched to Crouton due to wanting to still have the option to use Chrome OS in an fast manner.

      I actually love the XFCE interface for its customization options and how light it is on system resources. Yeah, it isn't as pretty, but it gets the job done.

      Delete
  14. Thanks for this great blog article. I've been trying out crouton for a while and found it to be rather unstable for web development purposes (nginx, php5-fpm, vim, and browser open on xfce wm) on Samsung Chromebook series 3 (armhf). I had switched back and forth using Ctrl-Alt-<= or => between my terminal on VT2 and ChromeOS, but after several of such switch makes the whole computer somewhat unstable and ChromeOS decides to die. I found your blog while trying to find more information about ChrUbuntu and I think that might be more for development.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Most of the issues with Chrubuntu no longer exist.
    - it's only Ubuntu 12.04, not one of the latest versions.
    Nope latest version on Chromebook is 13.04
    - because it's installed on a USB drive (2.0 is supported only), or on a SD card, it's deadly slow.
    It doesnt need to be, can be on SSD
    - limited to the maximum speed of the medium it's installed on.
    see above
    - requires a medium of at least 8 GB, about 2 GB will be free after installation.
    agreed. You can write to SSD, and then use the internal SD card for extra space, you may even be able to configure swap space too.
    - has no swap partition, so when you get out RAM...well, Chrome and other applications will eventually crash, or lag being very bad.
    see above


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can you download Crouton on a hp chromebook 14. Im doing it right now and sadly Im using the xfce version but its taking hours more plus it keeps saying connecting to archive.ubunut.com

      Delete
  16. I've been searching my butt off, but does anyone know the terminal command to get the Acer C7 to boot Crouton OS by default?

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    Replies
    1. There is no such thing so far as I can find.

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    2. crouton runs inside of ChromeOS it isnt booted, it runs inside of ChromeOS so you cant boot it

      Delete
  17. I just got an Acer C7. I installed Crouton (Ubuntu 12.04, Unity). I like it, but I can't figure out how to change partition size to accommodate all the programs I want to run (they are fairly large, and for my job). The HDD has 320GB, so there's no reason for the machine to start telling me I'm out of space.

    From what I read, Chrubuntu uses all the free space well, but I like the way Crouton works (and how fast I can get online directly in Chrome if that's all I want). I've tried gparted, but can't get it to run, much less work. I really need a way to free up big chunks of the HDD for my own use.

    I'm pretty helpless in the terminal without line-by line instructions, but I haven't been able to find any that relate to my issue.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know what could be your issue, as far as I am concerned, on my Samsung-based Chromebook, I've been able to install any program I needed, though I have absolutely no idea where the installation was actually done. What I can see for sure is the Downloads folder, which is the common one for both Chrome OS and Crouton.

      You will probably need to search for how to resize crouton's partitions, I see that it did some partitions on my internal SSD but I have no clue on how it actually uses them. I am sorry I am not able to help you more. :)

      Delete
  18. Hey Lorin, great blog, its good that you are giving options on Chrubuntu. I have an Acer C7 w/ 320gb and I started off installing Chrubuntu on internal drive and was happy with it for a while, but as a computer tech I wanted to see how far I could go with it. I found instruction on how to update Chrubuntu 12.4 to raring Ubuntu 13.4 and that made my Chromebook more stable and the only pc I use now. So a tip to everyone if you do a little bit of research you can find the right setup you want for what you need.
    If you want to check out some pics of my setup you can check out the Chrubuntu community on google+, and if anyone needs help i'm always online their.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I am a big fan of Chrubuntu 13.04 on my Acer C7; yes, it does act just like Ubuntu on a desktop. I have set up dual booting; I type "sudo chromeos" to get back into ChromeOS, and from ChromeOS, I can open the chronos terminal and type "linux" to reboot into GNU/Linux.

    I have been pleasantly surprised with the capability of this little $200 slab. I have run GIMP to open RAW picture files, used pan and pypar2 for USENET, installed Steam and run Half-Life 1 and the Orange Box games, and more. I wouldn't try DOTA 2 on it, but I have been surprised at what this 1.1 GHz dual-core Sandy Bridge Celeron is capable of. In fact, I'm composing a "Don't Buy A Tablet!" post for people who might want to spend that kind of money, so that they can have an ultraportable with a real keyboard and tens of thousands of free apps.

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    Replies
    1. I have 12.04 running on my acer c7. How did you upgrade to 13.04? Could you pls provide some instructions.

      Delete
  20. Hi all,

    Problem. I installed Unity per the instructions but when I get to the Unity desktop, I can't find terminal anywhere. I did a search for it and no results were found. I don't think I can install any useful apps without it. Another problem is I can't seem to change system time. The unlock option is greyed out.

    What am I doing wrong? Please help! Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, Look for Uxterm :) In the end I installed the default ubuntu terminal since I did not like uxterm or xterm

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  21. In ChrUbuntu, for me at least, there was one thing I found to be *painfully* slow: firing up the Android emulator, which is critical for developers looking to write Android apps, such as me (well, down the line anyway). In crouton, performance is MUCH more improved. Everything feels snappier, which is what using Ubuntu directly on top of Chrome OS does in the first place.

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  22. anyone know how to run a virtual machine with virtualbox on c7 acer and try everything on the network and to me nothing worked, thank you very much for your help

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    Replies
    1. Just an idea, Have another pc as the "host" and set up virtual box using a RDP server?

      Delete
  23. Dude sweet blog... Can you tell me if Wine works? I want to run full Office when I need dat powerpoint... and also did you try TF2 or Minecraft? Thanks so much

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  24. I have the HP pavilion chromebook, not the 14, and I have tried both. Crouton seems to have way less storage available and there is this weird drive that says 8.6 gb on the sidebar, but it says I can't access it. Can this be freed up or am I a noob?

    ReplyDelete