Friday, December 30, 2016

I bought a Chromebook! Here's what I did with it.

I bought an Acer 13 R, 64 Gb edition.

Why?  I have used chromebooks at work and I liked their simplicity and long term battery life.  In a lot of ways, this is the computer I always wanted.  It's pretty much just an instant on web browser in chrome os mode (more about that later).  It get's such good battery life that I can go days between charges.  In particular, I really like the screen on this model. Things are very crisp and bright, though the viewing angle is slightly worse than I expected for an IPS screen.  It also has multitouch.

But I bought this particular model for 2 big reasons.
1)  This model let's you use android apps, which is in beta right now but I have no encountered any bugs.  In fact, even full screen gaming with a joystick has worked pretty well.

2) This has a really big hard drive for a chromebook, which is useful because I installed a side by side linux distribution called crouton.  With this distribution, I am able to fairly easily run the grading software I need for school.  Though it runs slowly, it's good enough for my needs.  The linux installation also allowed me to install my printer and print things the normal without needing to use google cloud print.


So the rest of this post will be a log of the things I did to set up both those systems both in case I need to set things up again or someone else out there is curious.

The following instructions are going to be in the order that I think makes the most sense for me, though they were not the original order I did everything in.

1)  Put the chromebook in developer mode.
The instructions I used for that were here.
http://www.codedonut.com/chromebook/enable-developer-mode-chromebook/

I found this was pretty painless, and since ChromeOS syncs your settings, getting back up and running was a piece of cake.

2) Put your installation on the beta update channel  and install the google app store for android apps.(step one might do this automatically, but I am not sure since I actually did this first, it just seems more logical in retrospect to do it second)

https://support.google.com/chromebook/answer/7021273?hl=en
I installed lego star wars, and some other useful programs.  In particular, the brother printing app for android worked and let me print things.

3) Install crouton
I used this guide, I liked it because it reviews many common options.
http://www.codedonut.com/chromebook/install-crouton-chromebook/

The install command and options I used was
crouton -r yakkety -t xfce,extension,xiwi,touch

This installed an installation of the newest version as of this writing, of Ubuntu (16.10) , with the xfce interface (I tried unity and it did not work well on this model), and the xiwi plugin.  I tried the x11 interface and that had some weird touchpad bugs.  Graphics and video ran more smoothly but programs themselves did not load any faster.  There is also a way to switch easily between the two.
sudo startxfce4 -X xorg

sudo startxfce4 -X xorg
sudo startxfce4 -X xorg lets you run with the full screen good video mode,
sudo startxfce4 -X xiwi uses the plugin.
For the plugin, you need to download the crouton extension from the play store.
Once in crouton, disable the screen saver, apparently it causes bad stuff.

4) One crouton was up and running I wanted to get two things to work.  One was java so I could run my gradebook software, and the other was printing.
There are some other programs I installed using apt that helped do this.
sudo apt-get install firefox
sudo apt-get install icedtea-plugin

Getting the printer to work was slightly more complicated.
Here's was I did.
First start cups
sudo service cups start

Then I needed to make myself part of the printers group.
sudo adduser ben lpadmin

Then navigated to 127.0.0.1:631,
From here you can install the printers, the method will vary depending on make and model.
I knew my printer ip, so I entered that directly and it found the printer,
I used the printer driver
Brother HL-2250DN - CUPS+Gutenprint v5.2.1

And that's about it.
There's probably more stuff I did that I am not remembering, one thing I am not sure yet is how to get the cups service to start automatically, but I'll figure that one out.