Saturday, April 16, 2016

Chromebook with Croutons

Killing A Little Time

So, Google Calendar Goals is telling me that I want to do a daily blog about some damn thing, or another. I
was doing OK keeping up for a while there, and then I sorta lost interest. Let's give it another shot while I sip a little coffee, and look at the backyard view.

Chromebook And Crouton

What's to ramble on about today? For quite a while, I've been a Chromebook user. I've been a happy Chromebook user. I love these things, and I recommend them to anybody who will listen. Even as a professional software developer, I find these things meet the vast majority of my personal computing needs. Sure, it won't handle a little music mixing or development, but it'll do damn near anything else. 
Where it does fall short, is one of the previous points. I've been unable to do any development on personal projects. Yeah, there are some cloud IDEs, a few browser plugin IDEs, but none of them happen to be the tools I'm used to using. Most of those tools are based on Jetbrains products, and when I come home and decide to code, I sorta like to continue working in the tools I've been using all day. Call me lazy, I don't care. I don't want home tools that are different from work tools. 
What to do? Well, for a good long time I've been looking at Crouton. An environment that lets me run Ubuntu Linux on my Chromebook. I've held off mainly because I thought it was silly to think that I could expect any sort of performance on a machine with a 16 gig drive, SSD though it might be, and only 4 gigs of ram. Let alone, getting usable performance once I've installed git, an IDE, Java, and whatever other dependencies I might need. It just doesn't sound like this little Chromebook would be able to do the job. 
Finally, the other day I had an idea stuck in my head that I really wanted to sit down and hack out. As usual, when I got home my computer was occupied by a kid playing minecraft, and I gave in. I installed Crouton. I installed Ubuntu. I installed Webstorm. A while later, I had an ultra-portable, long battery life light weight development machine. What was most surprising wasn't that it worked. Any computer works, painfully, but it works. No, what was most surprising is that it was working better than the Lenovo development optimized laptop that my company provides for me. The thing is lightning fast. 

Yeah? What's the downside?

OK, nothing is perfect. There are a couple of issues. The most annoying is that in order to use Crouton your Chromebook has to be in developer mode. This means that every time you restart your happy little Chromebook you get this message telling you that your system is not secure, bla bla bla, and if you don't press <ctrl>-d fast enough, it beeps at you. 
Second, you have to be careful about which side of your trackpad you click on. 
That's about it. 
So far, I've done some nodejs stuff. It works like a dream. Next up, I'll be installing Android Studio to see how well this works in that environment. 
I'm crazy impressed. This could convince me to drop a few pennies and get me a Chromebook Pixel to take advantage of the beefier specs.

How do I get started with Crouton?

Google Crouton on Chromebook. There are plenty of tutorials to choose from. 
The great thing about Chromebooks is that you've got nothing to lose. If you don't like it, shut off developer mode, your machine will be wiped clean, and you'll log back in to your Chromebook as if nothing happened at all.