Saturday 3 November 2018

Linux on a HP Chromebook 11 G5 - First steps

Cool, a free Laptop! Now what?

Google currently gives away free Chromebooks to promote GSuite and other cloud services. Once the Chromebook had served it's purpose to do an interview through Google hangouts, the device remained with us. (Which is probably cheaper than sending sales-reps to any mid-sized company.)
Google most likely got a good deal out of HP getting rid of their 2016, 5th generation model of the 11" Chromebooks for them. (Current devices are G6 (6th generation))

HP Chromebook 11 G5 running Linux (Project Crostini)

The specs

You can't expect stellar specs from a Laptop that goes for unter 200€, a 10 year old Core2 Duo will still have more processing power.

HP Chromebook 11 G5 ee

  • Intel Celeron N3060 / 1.60 GHz (2.48 GHz) /2 MB cache, 2 cores
  • Intel HD Graphics 400 / 29.46 cm (11.6 in) 1366 x 768 screen + HDMI out
  • eMMC SSD 16GByte
  • 4GByte RAM
  • WiFi 2,4/5GHz
  • Webcam (720p) Speakers/Mic - Headphone jack
  • 2xusb 3.0 Ports
  • SD Card slot

Of course it has enough grunt to run the Chrome browser plus some apps at an acceptable speed. It easily beats my Raspberry-Pi's desktop performance.
And despite being very plasticy, it feels quite sturdy and doesn not bend or creak.

Chromebook 11 with sleeve

Microsoft Office 365

Quite unlike what Google probably intended, I installed Microsoft's Office 365 apps from the playstore. This integrates nicely with my E3 plan for Office 365. The usual Word / Excel / PowerPoint jobs are not much of a challenge for the little machine. The documents stored in OneDrive are instantly accessible.
PowerPoint in all it's glory
I tried some of my larger PowerPoint presentations and was amazed that all of them worked very well. Including the embedded videos.


Before potentially ruining a percectly useable machine, my first attempt was to go the easy route and use what Google has already provided: Crostini
Other than other Chromebooks, the HP 11 G5 has to be set to update it's Chrome OS from the Beta channel. (No need for the developer mode, though.)

Change the channel
Switch to beta

After a restart, the Linux option is available in the chrome://settings menue
Inside the VM

This installs a VM along with a terminal application and a shared folder. Everything looks and feels pretty much like Debian stretch.
Now I can run some super exciting software:
xeyes - a classic :-)
I also installed thunderbird as a proper e-mail client, gnuradio and gqrx. The latter two suffer from the still missing USB support, so they won't talk to external SDR hardware.

The shortcomings of Crostini

For some, Crostini might be good'nuff already. If you need sound, hardware accellerated graphics and USB-access, it is not ready at the time of writing. (Nov 2018)
So it is quite possible, I'll try crouton (a chroot solution) some time soon. See here for more on crouton. (I'll keep you posted.)

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