Chromebook Pixel: Run Ubuntu alongside Chrome OS

Chromebook Pixel: Run Ubuntu alongside Chrome OS

Summary: A common complaint about Chrome OS is that it's not a full OS. That's no longer true as you can easily run Ubuntu alongside Chrome OS on the Chromebook Pixel and toggle between the two.

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Ubuntu Chromebook
Chromebook Pixel running Ubuntu

Chrome OS has a bum rap that it is not a full OS. Chromebook users know that is not the case but for those who must run OS X, Windows, or Linux it can be insurmountable. That's no longer true on the Chromebook Pixel for those who need to run Linux. A simple process installs Ubuntu and it can run alongside Chrome OS. Once Ubuntu is running, a key combination can toggle between Linux and Chrome OS without missing a beat.

The simple Ubuntu install method is thanks to a script developed called Crouton. Once developer mode has been enabled on the Chromebook Pixel, Ubuntu can be installed and run at will. This gives Pixel owners access to the full complement of Linux apps, opening the Chromebook to a vast library of "real" programs.

Typical Linux install
Typical Linux install

It's important to know that entering developer mode will wipe your local storage so be sure to back up before you start the process. That can be done by simply dragging local files to the Google Drive. But as a Chromebook owner you already store everything in the cloud, right?

Brad Linder of Lilliputing has a great article with complete step-by-step instructions for getting Ubuntu installed and running on the Chromebook Pixel. It's a great source for those who want to give it a try and the place you should go to get started. I used Brad's instructions without a single problem and had Ubuntu running on the Pixel in about half an hour.

Once Ubuntu is running on the Pixel, switching from Chrome OS to the Ubuntu desktop/environment is as simple as hitting CTRL-ALT-REFRESH. Going back to Chrome OS is done by entering CTRL-ALT-BACK ARROW. The Refresh and Back Arrow keys are the ones on the top row of keys on the Pixel. Both Ubuntu and Chrome OS are running at the same time by sharing the Linux kernel of Chrome OS.

The first thing you'll have to do in your new Ubuntu environment is enlarge all the desktop icons and font sizes everywhere you can. Ubuntu takes full advantage of the high resolution display on the Pixel without scaling elements like Chrome OS. That makes everything in Ubuntu really tiny until you make things bigger wherever possible.

Why would you want to run Ubuntu? If the Chromebook is doing everything you need, then you don't need to run it. If you like to tinker with things, this is an easy project to do. However, if there are special tasks needed that you can't do on the Chromebook, odds are they can be done in Ubuntu. Bloggers may find Chrome OS to be perfect (as do I), but those who also podcast can run the Audacity sound editor in Ubuntu for example, something that isn't possible in Chrome OS.

Update: Forgot to mention that those who need to use Skype on the Chromebook Pixel can easily do so in Ubuntu.

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Topics: Mobility, Laptops, Linux, Google Apps

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80 comments
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  • Interestinn i think they can add linux compatible native apps easily

    we have to wait and see what their next move with chrome os is in next Google I/O
    L3thargic
    • not interesting

      I'd like to REMOVE GOOGLE CHROME COMPLETELY and install UBUNTU as the ONLY operating system. If that's possible, of course, millions of us will by it the instant that happens.
      jrs2121
  • I can run Ubuntu on a $250 laptop

    Sorry, I have to repeat this, Chrome OS is a useless thing, Its just a very expensive browser....
    Owlll1net
    • Right.

      And running Ubuntu next to it doesn't change that fact. Especially since they have Chrome browser for Linux. I'd rather have an Ubuntu OS with chrome as a browser than ChromeOS with pasted on Ubuntu.
      mikedees
      • mikedees.....The the pasting may not make a difference in overall functiona

        but may make it slower in some ways. Setting up a dual boot is an answer but than rebooting to change OS is another thing to consider................Who knows at this point in time anyway.............
        Over and Out
    • The most "useless thing" is ...

      Owlll1net

      Unless you think like him and have his exact needs and desires, you must clearly be an idiot.

      Or maybe not. Maybe it is Owlll1net who is the real IDIOT.
      D.T.Long
      • D.T.Long

        Do not insult others.

        Even though Owl1net is biased about Windows, he got a point saying that Ubuntu can run in lower priced lap tops. I mean what is the advantage Pixel will have over a low priced laptop?

        Heck, you can buy a Macbook Air and install Ubuntu on it and use it if you want and save some dollars rather than going to Pixel.
        spicycheeks
        • Because ...

          Pixel is a quality machine with the best display in the industry. There is probably a small market for the device, and it is probably also a marketing tool.

          As for Owlll1net (and a few others), they deserve all the insults they get. If they want respect, they have to start respecting others first. Liking preferring MS/Windows is one thing. Attacking everything else including those who have differing views/preferences is something entirely different, which is what Owlll1net and a few others here do.
          D.T.Long
          • D.T.Long.............. Owlll1net just seems to enjoy calling people names

            Owlll1net seems to be out of control most of the time and is actually worse than his buddy Loverock Davidson...........I think most people are just getting tired of their same old BS every day
            Over and Out
          • Assuming you are including yourself in this...

            "preferring MS/Windows is one thing. Attacking everything else including those who have differing views/preferences is something entirely different,... "
            ScanBack
          • Case and point...

            "So it is incomprehensible to you ....

            that some people live almost exclusively in Google's cloud and therefore want to run Chrome with all its simplicity and security, but that they once in a while might like/need to run SW not available on Chrome?

            How about opening up your mind just a tad."
            ScanBack
          • Pathetic logic and "case and point"

            The term is "case IN point", but given what you just posted, you have just tagged yourself as an ignorant fan boy or worse.

            Nice try.
            D.T.Long
    • You can run windows 8 on a $300 laptop

      Do you like surface pro?
      AleMartin
    • How many apps for surface RT?

      Anybody has an idea?
      :P
      AleMartin
    • Oh

      So you've used one huh?

      I tell you what, most tablet users could use a chrome book just fine for their daily needs.

      Office Suite, yep it is there.

      MS Office, yep Office 365!

      Facebook, Twitter, Google+? Yep there.

      Offline Apps and games? Yep got that too!

      Offline Email access? Got it!

      AutoCAD WS? Yep.

      What exactly can't the average user do with this?
      slickjim
      • Edit my 12 GB home video of the family

        vacation to the Grand Canyon.
        baggins_z
      • feed their families

        big difference between the chromebook and a cheap $250 notebook or laptop.
        WhatsamattaU
      • Why not a $400 Laptop Then?

        Buy a $400 Laptop, Download Chrome, Viola, You have a Chromebook thats not a paper weight if you lose internet connection.
        cheydaddy
      • Games?

        stupid app games for little children are not games.

        Real games are BF3, Diablo 3, Civ 5, etc etc etc etc
        everss02
    • No "O.S." to it, JUST A Browser

      I'm the first person to try and accept new ideas and technologies, But, why pay $1200 for this browser when you can buy a $300 laptop, download the Chrome Browser and do the EXACT Same thing. Do go hyping the cloud storage thing, that $300 laptop itself will at least have a 500 to 640 HDD, and $85 will buy 1TB external drives, cloud storage choices are dime a dozen. Honestly, That's what tablets are for, browsing the internet, and the $1200 will get you a $500 Laptop, $400 Tablet, and a iPod Touch.
      Again, theres nothing wrong with trying new technologies, but don't have "Stupid" written on your forehead.
      cheydaddy