ChromeBook Runs Ubuntu

$200 ChromeBook Runs Ubuntu!

ChromeBook C7 by Acer(Video included at the end of this article)

This article was updated on 03/12/2012

The C710-2847 (Acer) Chromebook is now available at the Google Play Store for $199 plus shipping.

If you are already convinced, here is the link to our simple guide to installing Ubuntu on the ChromeBook.

Read my review.. after the break… 

Update:

I have used the Chromebook (modified by installing Ubuntu Linux as a second Operating System) for about four weeks now and here are my PRIMARY impressions of Ubuntu on the device. Other updates will be merged into the original article below:

  • Ubuntu is FAST! The ChromeBook (running Ubuntu 12.04) seems faster than my HP laptop (DV6, running Ubuntu 12.10) even though the CPU and memory of the laptop have much better specifications than the ChromeBook. It is not just an impression – calling up the same web site on both devices, the ChromeBook always loads the site first!
  • Battery life using Ubuntu appears to be slightly less than when using the Chrome OS. My general use of Ubuntu allows the device to operate around two or three hours before the battery needs recharging. However, I set the scren brightness much higher than it was on the default ChromeOS setup. For general computing, it is difficult to measure battery life since any particular use is different from one time to the next. Work that makes use of the network adapter and/or the hard drive will reduce the battery life.
  • Ubuntu’s Chromium Browser (Chrome for Linux) hangs. This is an issue on my laptop as well as my ChromeBook. It does seem that the ChromeBook does it a little more frequently. If I have several sites loaded in different tabs and begin interacting with one (entering data in forms, for example), it may lock up. On a few occasions, I have had to hold the power button until the device powers off. Then, I can restart and Chromium will restore the tabs and the sites will respond properly.  I rarely use the Windows version but, when I have used it, it has not hung on me.
  • There is no Screen Print function (that I have discovered). I don’t use the screen print a lot (maybe a couple times a month) but, when it is needed, there is no substitute. I really miss this function. I have discovered that the <alt><F10> keys will create a screen shot of the current window. Thanks Ubuntu!

I LIKE IT! Having listed only one positive and three two somewhat negative points about Ubuntu on the ChromeBook, one could assume that it is not worth while – NOT SO! This is definitely a great little device. It functions as a full fledged computer. It has become my “Go To” daily computer. I use my Nexus 7 (tablet) and my HTC One X (phone) for reading email or Facebook. But, if I need to use a keyboard, or for true Internet browsing, or any other real computer tasks, I grab my ChromeBook. And, I have it set up to default to Ubuntu. I don’t recall the last time I booted it to the stock Chrome OS. And, the laptop has been sitting idle for most of the time.

What to like about the Chrome Book and Chrome OS:

Boot Time: The C7 ChromeBook boots in about 25 seconds! If you set up a password, then you will have to add some time for that but it is still very quick. NOTE: when you enable Developer Mode (necessary for Ubuntu), the boot time is extended, due to the warning screen that is displayed for approximately 25 seconds at each boot-up.

Load Time: Practically everything you do on the ChromeBook is done via the web (with the embedded Chrome browser). Whatever Google & Acer have done to “tune” this device, it runs FAST! Sites load almost instantly.

Integration: One of the very best things about the Google ecosystem is the close integration of all the various components. You can observe this from any computer using the Chrome browser. You are simultaneously logged into all the components (click here to check the Google products page to see all that they offer). You can seamlessly move between these products.

Synchronization: All your data, once saved to the “Google Drive” (cloud storage for all kinds of documents), or to PicasaWeb (for photos), or to YouTube (for videos), or to GMail, etc., is synchronized across all your devices. This is automatic for Android devices but is also easy to do via the appropriate apps on iOS, or via the standard web interfaces for PC, Mac, or Linux. What this means is that you can access (stream or download) any of the data with any device. For GMail, when you read an email on your phone, it will show up as “read” on all other devices. If you delete an email on from your tablet, it will be in the “trash” on all other devices.

Size and weight: The C7 (folded) is just slightly larger than a 10″ tablet. As a matter of a fact, I use the same sleeve that I used on my 10″ G-Tablet. I have to stretch it a bit before zipping it up but it fits. It is a bit thicker than the G-Tablet and weighs a little more. It is very convenient to throw into a briefcase, or the side of a small overnighter, or to just carry underhand. (More technical specifications at the end of this article.)

Keyboard: Although the C7 keyboard is slightly smaller than a full-sized keyboard, it works well for a touch-typist, such as myself. I miss on a few keys that are miss-placed but overall, it is much better than the on-screen keyboards of most touch devices – and CERTAINLY better than the miniature slide out keyboards on some phones. The keys have a decent separation and have some resistance and “feel” to them. After several weeks of use, I still like the keyboard.

What is NOT to like on the C7?

Touch Pad. Although I dislike ALL touchpads (see my article here), this one may be the worst of all. It does not have the mouse keys – just a large touch area. You are supposed to use a single finger to move around, then tap to click. To simulate a right-click, you place two fingers on the pad and click with one of them. (I find this very difficult to do.) Scrolling is done by dragging with two fingers on the pad. This will work with both horizontal and vertical scrolling. What I found impossible was to drag and drop using the touch pad. Fortunately, the C7 supports a USB keyboard and/or mouse. I ALWAYS have a small USB adapter plugged in so that I can use my Logitech wireless mouse (and optionally, the wireless keyboard that works with it).

Summary

I predict that in the next two years, as much as 90% of all (common user) computing will be done via touch based devices and that their associated data will be stored on the cloud. This device does not utilize “touch” but the C7 is the epitome of web based computing.

Given that this device is basically “web only” it is not for everyone. However, if you (like me) do practically all of your work online and store everything on the “cloud,” then the C7 is certainly worth considering.

UPDATE: By installing Ubuntu, the ChromeBook is transformed into a full fledged computer of amazing ability. I would recommend it to anyone.

Based only on the C7’s designed functions, the $200 price point is about right. It would provide good value and appears to be of pretty solid construction. As a web-only device, I would rate it 7/10. 

However, since the C7 is already running an embedded version of Linux, it is no big surprise that users can adapt it to run a full version of Ubuntu Linux! Google provides some of the instructions and there is no need for any physical changes to the device, therefore, I doubt that loading Ubuntu will void the warranty (I leave that question to the lawyers.) Here is the link to our simple guide to installing Ubuntu on the ChromeBook.

As a $200 laptop running a fully functional copy of Ubuntu Linux and it can dual boot as a nice web appliance, the C7 moves from an “also ran” to a “WOW!” In that case, I rate it at 10.5/10 – especially for VALUE. It is amazing that you get a great laptop for such a small investment.

[important]Will you buy a Chromebook? Leave a comment. Tell us which version you plan to buy (or already have); whether you will (or have already) load Ubuntu on it; and what do you think of the resulting computer? Would you recommend it to others?[/important]

For instructions on how to load Ubuntu onto the C7 Chrombook, visit the next article… HowTo: Ubuntu on ChromeBook.

Here is a video of the device running Ubuntu:

Tech Specs of the Acer C7 ChromeBook:

SCREEN
11.6″ (1366 x 768) HD display
High-brightness, 200 nit screen
HD Webcam
SIZE & WEIGHT
285 x 202 x 27.35 mm
3 lbs / 1.38 kg
CPU
Dual-core Intel® Celeron® Processor (@1.1GHz)
PORTS
3 x USB 2.0
1 x HDMI
1 x VGA
2-in-1 card reader supporting: Secure Digital (SD) Card, MMC
MEMORY
2 GB DDR3 RAM
320 GB Hard Drive – 5400 RPM
AUDIO
Stereo internal speaker
Headphone/microphone jack
No audio in except via USB
BATTERY
4 cell, 37 Wh battery. Up to 4 hours*
NETWORK
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n 2×2
Built-in Ethernet
Bluetooth – The device also includes a Bluetooth radio but it appears to be turned off with the ChromeOS (but works well under Ubuntu).
GOODIES
100 GB of Google Drive Cloud Storage for 2 years
12 free sessions of GoGo® Inflight Internet

[important]Note1: The website Toms Hardware states that Acer has a newer version of the C7 that will be released soon. It has some improved features and a $100 price increase (up to $299). The biggest difference seems to be… “local storage capacity, increased from 320 GB to 500 GB (5400 RPM HDD)… 2 GB of DDR3 SDRAM has been increased to 4 GB. The Chromebook’s battery has also doubled in capacity, moving up from a 2,500 mAh li-ion pack promising 3.5 hours of runtime to a 6-cell 5,000 mAh li-ion pack with an estimated 6 hours runtime.”[/important]

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43 Responses to ChromeBook Runs Ubuntu

  1. Pingback: HowTo: Ubuntu on ChromeBook - Bishop of Technology

    • ray says:

      Congratulations Ivan! Glad it is working so well for you. I use my ChromeBook almost exclusively for my computing needs. Only occasionally do I have to use my hp with Windows (spit).
      Perhaps you could check in sometimes and keep us up to date on what you are doing. You might also help some others who come here.

  2. pauljay says:

    Can I swap my wifi card for a wifi/bluetooth card and expect it to work?

    • ray says:

      I don’t really understand the question. My CB has WiFi and Bluetooth built in. However, if your device does NOT have these and you normally use a WiFi card, then it likely will work with a combo card.

  3. Derek says:

    Does Ubuntu as configured on this C7 support multiple user logins?

    • Ray says:

      Yes, both this and the Crouton install (my favorite) include it. . AFAIK, all Linux installations include multiple user logins.
      Both this install and Crouton have some quirks (each is different). Both are full os installs that support local (vice cloud) computing. But there are some issues with each.
      One definite issue is reduced security – compared to stock Chrome.
      This install would probably allow more control over users.

  4. Jon Ham says:

    this is weird when your book restarts mine does {system repairing itself}

  5. Jon Ham says:

    mine is a chromebook c710-2847 I tried to do what you did I am in developer mode but it does not accept some of the commands you give so i am at chromos@localhost~$ the errors started appearing when you go to the add command I hat this chromeos I bought it the store said oh it will run what ever you want to install
    I got it because a similar asus died on me I am close to removing the hard drive and tossing it

  6. S. Coronado says:

    Greetings Sir,
    I got myself the Acer C7 that has basically become my laptop for a class at a University.
    I am running 12.04 LTS and want to use the “latest and greatest” 13.04. I heard something about bricking the Chromebook upon updating. Could you tell me how to update with assurance that nothing is going to break?

    • Ray says:

      I am always run the most current version (13.04 at present). The instructions are at the bottom of the “how to” article if memory serves me.

  7. Sheri says:

    I just got a new C710-2833. I think the only differerence is it has a 16gb ssd instead of the 320 hd. I chose it hoping for longer battery use and cooler temp, but having never used one with a hd, I’m not at all sure there’s an improvement. It runs rather warm in my lap and the battery seemed to deplete quickly when watching flash videos. For Ubuntu, do you think I should use part of the 16gb or try to install it on a 32gb thumbdrive? Or should I exchange the laptop for one with the 320 gb hd? I have a couple weeks to decide.

    • Ray says:

      In order to run Ubuntu effectively, you need the larger hard drive.

      • Sheri says:

        Not sure I agree with that, it will definitely install with little space and a flash drive can be used to extend the storage space. I have loaded it up for a test drive and 13.04 works well. I also put on GNOME and some other software and I later tried to put on Cinnamon but am getting some errors due to conflicting dependencies. I may try to start over. I did start by creating and testing recovery media. I hope recovery will actually repartition the drive. I used the chrubuntu script to install Ubuntu on the internal drive. Something else I’ve tried hasn’t worked: booting a live cd usb thumb drive with Ctrl+U at the developer startup screen. I did put on Have you gotten Ctrl+U booting to work? I did repeated enter the “sudo crossystem dev_usb_boot=1” command but Ctrl+U didn’t boot my flash drive. Same drive boots fine on my other pcs. BTW pressing Enter on the Developer boot screen does not remove Ubuntu. It does cause user data on the Chromium side to be erased but you just have to get back into developer mode and its Ctrl+Alt+F2 console and reenter the cgpt command for switching the boot default back to booting Ubuntu and that part is all still there.

        • Ray says:

          Thanks for the comments. That is really good information. Sorry to be a little slow responding, I am now in the hospital with an infected knee.

          • Sheri says:

            How’s the knee doing? I was sorry to hear you were recently in the hospital.

            Just to further update my Chromebook experience, I kept the Acer with the small SSD. At least it will never take long to back it up lol

            I was able to get Ctrl+U to boot a USB flash drive that contained a ChrUbuntu installation (where the installation had targetted the USB flash drive). It won’t boot an ordinary live media drive. I set up my latest ChrUbuntu with ubuntu-standard (13.04) and added Cinnamon after the fact. It was a learning odyssey because ubuntu-standard initially booted a command line interface with no wireless access. There are lots of Chrbuntu desktop options that are easy to install but I was determined to try Cinnamon and fortunately I was ultimately successful.

            ChrUbuntu details can be found here: http://chromeos-cr48.blogspot.com/2013/05/chrubuntu-one-script-to-rule-them-all_31.html

            I’ve also experimented with crouton. Crouton is a script that installs Ubuntu in a chroot instead of independently. You can access the chroot with hotkeys once its running: launch with Ctrl-=> followed by Ctrl-Refresh and get back to the ChromeOS environment with Ctrl-<=. Its less robust than a full Ubuntu install but uses little disk space and shares some services and memory. With crouton you can actually utilize the Chromebook as it was intended (but in Developer mode, so you you do get the ugly startup screen) and bounce to crouton when you need more (convenient, except the clipboard is not shared). My crouton chroot has XFCE desktop enviroment and raring release (i.e., 13.04)

            Crouton details are available here: https://github.com/dnschneid/crouton/blob/master/README.md

          • Ray says:

            Hey Sheri. My knee is almost healed. Thanks for asking and thanks for reporting back.

      • Sheri says:

        Something else I learned, there is a place in Ubuntu settings for the Mouse/Touchpad that enables two finger scrolling on the touchpad (which was an improvement, at least for me.)

        • Ray says:

          Yes, I am aware of that and I believe that I posted it in an article that I wrote about how I dislike the laptop touch pads (grin). I ALWAYS use an external mouse. But your info will be helpful to others. Thanks for posting it.

  8. samuel says:

    friend ray, has tried putting on windows 8 or if you can? since I’ve heard that you can install windows 8

    • Ray says:

      As far as I know, Windows 8 will not work. However, even if it does, I STRONGLY discourage you from trying. I have Win8 on my laptop and it definitely is not appropriate for a computer without a touch sensitive screen.

  9. samuel says:

    Friend ray, a greeting, fulfils his tutorial of installation of ubuntu 12.04 and I work correctly realize everything without mistake, everything I work well, but to the moment to restart it me goes to chrome you, and execute the commands I sweat cgpt add-i 6-p 5-s to/dev/sda and do not manage to accede to ubuntu, the question is: which was my mistake? Or which is the command to accede to ubuntu?

    • Ray says:

      Go back to the “how to” article and follow the steps there.
      The command is…. At the “chronos @ LocalHost $” prompt, type “sudo cgpt add -i 6 -P 5 -S 1 /dev/sda” (without quotes). Be VERY careful and make certain that each character is typed exactly as shown above.

  10. nichelle says:

    Ubuntu and your whole blog has made my life way easier….I bought the chrome book without knowing what I was buying…like a jerk. I totally should’ve looked into why it was so cheap. Anyways, so after installing ubuntu, I find I can not watch netflix. I troubleshooted and googled why….there are PPA’s you can try, but nothing works on ubuntu’s 12.10 64 bit os…any suggestions?

    • Ray says:

      Thanks for the compliment!
      I assume that you got the wifi issue fixed?
      Netflix and Linux are at odds over the copyright protection issue. Netflix has said that they were coming out with a version of their player that would work on Linux but I am not aware of anything yet. You might try running it under Wine (Windows emulator.)
      Since your comment suggests that Netflix works under ChromeOS, just switch back to ChromeOS to watch Netflix and use Ubuntu for everything else. I never tried it on either side.

  11. Ryan Olivas says:

    I am thinking about installing Ubuntu on my chromebook, how would I switch between chrome to unbuntu, and switch between unbuntu and chrome, the only reason I want to install Ubuntu is to play minecraft on it. Do you think a 14 year old geek will have trouble installing Ubuntu, I have never installed an os before beside windows.

    • Ray says:

      Read the how to article. It tells how to switch.
      If you can read and follow step by step instructions, then you should be fine – regardless of your age.

  12. Ray, I just want to say thank you for the through and complete instructions on how to install Ubuntu.

  13. Ryan says:

    help me i have load Ubuntu on my acer chromebook so far 13 times and evary time i restart my CB it resets help

    • Ray says:

      I am sorry but you did not give me ANY information to work from.
      My advice, read all the CB articles CLOSELY. Follow the “How To…” guide EXACTLY. And, watch the video… As you perform each step, see how it compares to what happens for me on the video. THEN, report back on what you were doing when things started to go bad. Tell me what YOU did, what was displayed on the CB, and what was different from what you see on the video.

      • Ryan says:

        ok i’m going to get more in there i followed the guide 100% yours and for a 2nd reference johnythegeek word for word and if i turn of my CB and turn it back on back to chromeOS. Ps i have talked with other people the have the same thing going on with them

        • Ray says:

          First, use only one guide at a time.
          Second, if you followed MY guide “How to..” 100%, then you would have seen the section, “Switching between Chrome & Ubuntu:” and your question would be answered.

  14. boodou63 says:

    I loaded Ubuntu and it word fine now when I start the computer it goes to the screen saying. Chrome OS is missing or damaged. please insert recovery USB stick.Now I can’t get to either OS. What do I do now?

  15. steve10brink says:

    I was hoping it would. What is the size of the hard disk on the Chromebook and which version do you have?

    • Ray says:

      The present C7 has a 320GB hard disk and 2GB memory.
      I have pretty much finished the review of the ChromeBook. See the article for more.

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