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Using a Chromebook For Web Development: Part 2

angelarae63 profile image Angela Whisnant Updated on ・2 min read

Early last week, I wrote about my excitement over Google's support for Linux on Chromebooks and my search to find a used Chromebook on the list of supported devices. My promise was to let you all know how this plan of mine has worked out.
So, I bought an "open box" Lenovo Chromebook from Best Buy, model number ZA270025US, for $150. The charger was missing, otherwise, it would have been $100. I was able to locate it on the list of Crostini-enabled devices here. Check. Took it home and enabled Linux in the device settings, as promised...thrilled and check. Started my download in the Linux terminal for Atom, but... errors ensued! Oh, no!

error processing atom-amd64.deb (--install)
package architecture (amd64) does not match system (arm64)

No problem. I'll look for a arm64.deb file...
Hours later...I got an arm64 version of VSCode from Headmelted to work on my Chromebook.
It turns out that the processor in this Lenovo is an MT8173, also on the list. But the architecture is Arm64. I had no inkling of an idea that I needed to be concerned about the architecture, other than, that it was supported, and it is, but not so many apps are available. Huh.
For now, I am good. I have a Chromebook that runs Linux and I have a code editor I like. But I'm disappointed that I can't seem to run much else. I have posted an inquiry at r/crostini about what might be doable with this device, so I'll continue to keep you updated.
If you are looking to find a Chromebook of your own to run Linux, I would say, look for one on the list, and make sure apps are readily available; Amd64 and x86-64 seem to be good choices.

Discussion

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bradtaniguchi profile image
Brad

I got my first Chromebook before Android app support was released, and was very happy when Linux support was announced. I tried out crostini, but had stability issues and the performance was questionable. On-top of that, I disliked the fact putting a Chromebook into developer mode, threw all the great ChromeOS security out the window. So the native Linux support was welcome.

Unfortunately I had "growing pains" with all the new features due to the specs of the Chromebook I was using.

  • 16gb of HD disappears if Linux and Android support is added, I ended up with less than 1gb of working memory.
  • 1.6ghz base processor speed makes any heavy duty tasks slow

I was able to utilize my Chromebook as my main development platform using some online IDE's for a project. (legacy Cloud 9) So its totally doable, its capable but Chromebooks are under powered, so don't expect to be able to perform heavy duty tasks. 😄

I now use a Pixelbook and have little to no qualms, besides the less than stellar cpu performance. Its good enough, but you wouldn't consider it fast haha. I still use a Manjaro desktop for day to day, heavy duty work. I use the Pixelbook for everything else and I love it! (was not cheap though...)

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samuraiseoul profile image
Scott Lavigne

Haha we had similar chromebook experiences! I'm so glad that there are other chromebook fans on here, I thought I was alone, but you and me had really similar chromebook paths including cloud 9 and even manjaro(though I switched to ubuntu budgie). Also I switched from a pixelbook to the hp 14 x360 cause the pixelbook was a bit small.

Either way, keep up the good fight!

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bradtaniguchi profile image
Brad

Don't hear of too many Chromebook fans, but I think that will change over time as the OS gets better every day 😄

I like smaller laptop sizes (11 inches is my go-to), as they are easier to carry around, but that's just me :D

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angelarae63 profile image
Angela Whisnant Author

I like them, too!

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samuraiseoul profile image
Scott Lavigne

There are literally like 10 of us chromebook developer fans! Soon we will take over the world though, I'm sure of it!

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angelarae63 profile image
Angela Whisnant Author

Ha-ha! I know! I played with the i7 version they had at Best Buy. It was $1500+, much more than I can afford. I found it at Amazonfor $1200 if anyone is interested??? 16G Ram and 512G SSD. Sick.

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samuraiseoul profile image
Scott Lavigne

The pixelbook and other great flagship chromebooks like the pixel slate and hp chromebook 14 x360 are on sale often and chromeunboxed.com/ always keeps things up to date on sales. That's how I got the x360 for $350 and it's an amazing machine.

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angelarae63 profile image
Angela Whisnant Author

I’ll keep that in mind! I had a bad experience with HP once so, I didn’t really look at those this time around.

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samuraiseoul profile image
Scott Lavigne

That's fair. All my hp chromebooks have been nice though!

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angelarae63 profile image
Angela Whisnant Author

I’m willing to give them another chance since you are recommending them. Hoping I can buy a new one in the new year!

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samuraiseoul profile image
Scott Lavigne

Yeah, don't feel obligated for an hp if you don't want to, really anything more powerful and intel based should be good for you I would think. :D

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bradtaniguchi profile image
Brad

My Pixelbook was one of the few impulse buys I've made in my life. The 1.2k deal is out there most of the time, which makes it a little more palatable. We are still talking about Macbook price range though haha.

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David J Eddy

Thank you for this Angela. I recently had a hard drive die on my main desktop and realized all I really need to do what I need is a terminal, an editor, and some tooling. A GUI OS helps this, but is not 100% required. So I was considering a Chromebook. Please let us know how it performs day-to-day.

As for the architecture, you are correct n seeing arm not as popular as amd64 or x86_64. For $150 bucks though, not a bad email/video/light editing piece of hardware.

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angelarae63 profile image
Angela Whisnant Author

So far, it’s performing brilliantly. The 10 hours of battery life is a plus. Also, it’s so portable. It fits in my purse. I can run android apps so that helps with anything else I need,

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samuraiseoul profile image
Scott Lavigne

I mostly have a linux desktop at home for dev work, and at my job I have a macbook, but on the go, I use a chromebook with crostini(HP Chromebook 14 x360) and I really enjoy it. I have PhpStorm and IntelliJ running on it with no real problems. The only issue at all which may be fixed(haven't looked in months)is the lack of being able to map domains for web dev using apache. You can do it if you run a browser in crostini to access it but not if you try to access using ChromeOs' browser. There's a work around that I found a while back that is way too much work so I'd rather not do it.

Overall crostini is a great dev experience especially soon once hardware acceleration and virtual desktops hit the stable channel.

The default distro for crostini is debian, but you can install whatever one you want if you're into that stuff.

Let me know if you have questions and I can try and help. I'm a big fan of chrome os and evangelizing it! :D You said you're disappointed that you can run much else besides your code editor, what are you looking to run?

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angelarae63 profile image
Angela Whisnant Author

Yes! Me, too! Love the Chrome OS. I guess I am a little concerned I might not be able to do some stuff I need to later on, just because of the arm64 issue. Right now, it’s great for what I’m doing., I’m a webdev student. I’m on gitHub and my editor as well as YouTube but those aren’t a problem, but I haven’t tried to use Docker yet?

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samuraiseoul profile image
Scott Lavigne

Docker works for sure.

It takes some effort but you can also get snaps and flatpaks working for installing things besides the normal apt-get flow.

The arm thing I'm honestly not super knowledgable about but I think that's a result of the actual chromebook you have, if you got a different intel based one then I think you wouldn't even have to worry about that. That's less of a chromebook/chromeos/crostini thing and more of a hardware issue.

Also if you haven't explored into it yet, don't forget you also have almost the entire google play store's app's that you can install and use on the chromebook! :D

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angelarae63 profile image
Angela Whisnant Author

Ha-ha! Yup! Just installed Stardew Valley!

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Esteban Hernández

ARM processors are the biggest caveat on cheaper Chromebooks. I bought the Acer C720 which had an Intel x86_64 processor so everything worked (unless it needed more than 2GB of RAM).

However, you should still be able to use web IDEs like Cloudstorm on Firefox which IMO is the best ARM compatible browser. Docker now has multi-arch builds for most popular images so things like Node, Python, Ruby and Java should work just fine.

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angelarae63 profile image
Angela Whisnant Author

That’s encouraging! I may come back to you for help if I have issues😜

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Adam Crockett

I had always wondered about this, I have a disposable Chromebook.

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Angela Whisnant Author

I still love the simplicity of the Chrome OS, though...not a big fan of Windows.

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Adam Crockett

As long as I have 2 monitors a keyboard and mouse and the machine is still responsive I don't mind what it is. I am accustomed to Mac os at the moment due to work. But honestly as long as I can code 😁

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Angela Whisnant Author

Yes! So, far, so good!