Monday, April 03, 2017

Acer Chromebook 14 Dual Boot with LINUX / GalliumOS / Ubuntu 


Following the success of running Ubuntu on an Intel Smart Stick, I realized I needed a portable solution for travel, along with more power for daily home desk use. Including developing software, editing media images and videos, and using office applications for work (including my own CAM Editor project).

After researching Chromebooks I settled on an Acer Chromebook 14 from my local MicroCenter store. The metal hard shell case, HD 1080p screen quality, light weight and great battery life all made this impressive and then quad-core CPU, 4GB of DRAM give it solid performance potential.

Using the Acer as a simple Chromebook and ChromeOS is a delight, super fast power up and log in to browsing. Perfect for those quick needs to hop on the Internet. Flip the lid, log in to Google account, surf.

Next is enabling the dual boot so you can also run serious desk applications, media tools and do software development. And of course work without being tethered to a WiFi connection.

There are several on-line resources setting out these steps (see below).

Essentially the steps can be summarized as:
The Acer Chromebook has 2 USB 3.0 ports that makes this straightforward. You need to purchase two sticks, an USB 3.0 128GB stick and an USB 16GB, or 8GB or 4GB stick. I went with the Samsung Ultra Fit for the 128GB and a 16GB stick for the install - since I figured I can reuse the 16GB stick for storage later too.

Fascinating Captain here provides the necessary overview instructions, but before you rush off to do all that, read my insights and the pitfalls to avoid. Plus use the tips and tricks and links here NOT those on Fascinating Captain (he is using a Toshiba not an Acer).

For the Acer Chromebook you need to install the Braswell GalliumOS which is tailored for Chromebook devices. The regular Ubuntu will not work. GalliumOS is also using the Xfce4 desktop and not Unity. Note that with Xfce4 you can make it look and use much of Unity functionality; more on that later.

Next thing to realize is that the ChromeOS is actually a parred down LINUX (GenToo) version produced by Google. What this means is that terminal mode is right there. Once you enable the developer mode, and boot to ChromeOS, you can now access command line bash, and then shell commands. This means you can download the Gallium boot ISO image and then use the Chromebook to create the bootable USB stick. The GalliumOS install page tells you how. It suggests the Etcher tool, but I used the LINUX dd command. It is vital you use the command exactly though e.g. sudo dd bs=1M if=galliumos.iso of=/dev/sdb ; sync

Again this is slightly different from how Fascinating Captain has it. Notice also that to run the dd command you open the terminal window.
  1. Press [Ctrl+Alt+T] to get a ChromeOS terminal ("crosh") window
  2. At the prompt, enter shell
Then cd to your download folder where you should find the GalliumOS ISO image you downloaded.  Then run the dd command.

Now you have the ISO boot stick ready, you need to enable dual booting. For dual booting on a Chromebook you should use the RW_LEGACY BIOS mod from the MrChromebox web site.

The way dual booting works is, the boot screen displays, and you then use Ctrl-L to boot LINUX, or Ctrl-D for ChromeOS. If you do nothing, it will time out, beep and boot to ChromeOS by default.

After pressing Ctrl-L, wait until the text appears directing you to press Esc, then pick option 2 to boot from the USB. Now the installer should boot. Insert your USB 128GB stick into the second USB slot. Fascinating Captain has good instructions for installing and setting up the LINUX partitions. Once done shutdown. Then you can remove the boot stick, place the 128GB USB in the first slot and now boot with Ctrl-L, Esc, 2 again and your brand new shiny GalliumOS should start.

I have added the USB 3.0 port extender and Ethernet connector and the external HDMI cable in the picture here. That allows me to use my HD monitor and wireless keyboard and mouse. The HDMI works well with a VGA adapter if you need that to use your monitor or a projector.

I also have an external Samson "Go Mic" USB microphone for Skype and recording with using tools like Audacity. The Bluetooth works also with my Sony DR-BT50 headphones and Pandora and Google Play and A2DP fidelity.

So now you have things working, its time to move in and set up the "furniture and fittings" as you like it.

 I have configured the Ubuntu Unity theme look and feel following these instructions for Xfce4. And set Nautilus as the default file browser.

The keyboard mapping you can get to by pressing the ? search key and entering search term - keyboard. More on Chromebook keyboard here.

You can also setup Weather services from My-Weather-Indicator here. The default Weather Update in the Xfce4 panel does a nice job too.

I also added the Caffeine service from the Software library to prevent screen sleep during video play. In addition I ran the Startup app from the Settings and disabled a range of services that I do not need generally, including the timeout manager.

There's a big laundry list of software to install; naturally those are to you own preferences. Open the launcher and enter search term - software to see the software center.

Then here is my top dozen list:

1) Firefox browser. It is noticeably faster than Chromium (and do not install extensions in Chromium; it will crawl then).
2) LibreOffice Suite 5
3) Wine for running Windows software
4) Screenshot tool
5) Skype
6) VLC video player
7) Pithos for Pandora
8) Google Play desktop
9) Freeplane mindmap
10) GIMP editor
11) Kdiff3 compare
12) Audacity audio and OpenShot video

For many more tips, see this what to do guide. For online help see the GalliumOS community links. And don't forget to install latest updates using launcher and run the GalliumOS Update app. Then last but not least, purchase a spare USB 128GB stick and do a complete backup so you have an image.

Welcome to GalliumOS on your Acer Chromebook.

Here is a desktop screen shot of the Xfce4 launcher, Ubuntu theme and nautilus file manager open.

Here is a of screen shot of several desktop items open and the system performance monitor.

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