Chromebook's biggest fan: Linus Torvalds

Chromebook's biggest fan: Linus Torvalds

Summary: Chromebooks are now on sale in more places around the world than ever. In part, that may be because Google's high-end Chromebook Pixel has a very well-known and enthusiastic fan: Linux's inventor, Linus Torvalds.


Google's already popular Chromebooks are getting more popular than ever.

Not only has HP recently joined in selling these Linux-based, lightweight netbooks, but now Acer, HP and Samsung Chromebooks are available in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands. Part of the reason behind this broader availability may because the Chromebook, especially the high-end Chromebook Pixel, has a very well-known and enthusiastic fan: Linux's inventor, Linus Torvalds.

The Chromebook Pixel's biggest (or at least best-known) fan is Linux's inventor, Linus Torvalds.

Torvalds, who is as demanding of his hardware as he is of Linux software developers, wrote several Google+ posts praising the Pixel for its "beautiful screen." In his seconding posting, "Day two of Pixel porn", Torvalds started writing more about Chrome OS, the Chrome-book native, Linux-based operating system.

He wasn't that impressed by Chrome OS:

"So Chrome OS wasn't horrible, but running a native environment (currently still testing using a livecd just to see that it all works) really makes the screen come to its own. The Chrome OS browser decision to do scale things by double pixels is probably the right thing for introducing people to this screen, but it also holds you back from seeing just how nice the screen is."

"I think Chrome OS isn't necessarily a bad idea, but I think Google is being a bit too timid about it, and limiting things a bit too much. And that may make sense if your hardware is limited (ie slow Atom or ARM CPU, cheap 1366x768 panel), but on this machine it's really holding the hardware back."

Torvalds is right. Chrome OS, which is made up of the Chrome Web browser running on top of a Google customized Linux, is a lightweight, cloud-based operating system. That's why it can run well even on hardware as lightweight as Samsung's ARM-powered Chromebook with its Samsung Exynos 5 Dual (5250) system on a chip (SoC)and its a dual-core 1.7GHz Cortex CPU. The Pixel, with its 1.8GHz Intel Core i5 processor, is easily the fastest and most powerful Chromebook currently available.

So, what would one of the top operating system developers in the world do when faced with great hardware that he feels isn't being used to its full potential? Why, he'd replace the operating system, of course.

He didn't do it all by himself. Torvalds acknowledged that Linux Kernel networking maintainer and a Red Hat engineer David Miller's work on getting ordinary desktop Linux to work with the Pixel's hardware was a great help.

That said, there are still some problems with the Chromebook Pixel's suspend function and Linux. Duncan Laurie, a Google senior software engineer, has nailed down the problem and has issued a fix for it until such time as a future firmware fix removes the problem once and for all.

The only remaining problem, from where Torvalds sits, is the touchscreen. The touchscreen works now, it's just that while Torvalds like "the concept of touch-screens...with the kind of small detail I want, my fingers look like Godzilla-like sausages trampling all over Tokyo. No fine control."

That only leaves the 64-bit question: "Which Linux distribution is Torvalds running on his Pixel Chromebook?"

Torvalds told me "I tend to try to avoid that question, since I'd *like* to be distro-independent, but in practice I absolutely hate having multiple different distributions in my house, so I end up standardizing on one particular one, not so much for 'that's the superior distro' reasons, as simply because that way updates etc all work the same way. So I'm running F18 (Fedora 18) on my Pixel for that reason."

In other words, Torvalds is not saying that Fedora is the best Linux distro, he's just saying that it works for him as a common platform for his work. And, that as nice as the Chromebook Pixel is with Chrome OS, it's even better for him with a full-sized Linux desktop distribution running on it.

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Topics: Linux, Browser, Google, Laptops, Mobile OS, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software Development

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  • Chromebook's biggest fan: Linus Torvalds

    Kudos Linus
    • RickLively your a 100% correct....Linus Torvalds is number ONE

      By the way Loverock Davidson and his buddies Todbottom3 and Owlll1net should be along shortly to try and spread more anti anything type FUD to keep Microsoft Surface & RT above water.................

      They must really get paid well from Microsoft to keep yapping on Zdnet every day.
      Over and Out
  • Chromebook a big Failure in US

    US consumers are more intelligent that Google thing.

    They did not buy the hype nor the glorified Google browser.
    • I wouldn't call it a failure.

      It's a new OS. Let it grow.
      • That's very kind of you

        "The first Chromebooks for sale, by Acer Inc. and Samsung, were announced at the Google I/O conference in May 2011 and began shipping on 15 June 2011"

        "The operating system was released to manufacturing on August 1, 2012, and was released for general availability on October 26, 2012"

        So anyone who says that Windows 8 and Surface sales sucks, I point them to ForeverCookie's excellent reply:
        "I wouldn't call it a failure.
        It's a new OS. Let it grow."
        • I quite agree

          with both of you.
          Michael Kelly
        • Can you call the raspberry pi...

          a failure?
        • Windows is a new OS?

          ChromeOS: First and only cloud OS in existence.

          Windows 8: The 12th(?) rehash of 25 year old technology.

          Nice try, but you can't latch Windows 8 onto the coattail of ChromeOS.
          • And again you Linux people try to pull a fast one

            ChromeOS: the 1 millionth rehash of 20 year old technology.

            Or is ChromeOS NOT a Linux based OS?

            Both Windows 8 and ChromeOS are different enough from their predecessors to be new OSs. Surface RT doesn't even have the advantage of being able to run 25 years of Windows programs so for end users, it truly is a brand new OS.
          • Maybe RT will be dropped sooner

            than chrome OS.
            I wouldn't be surprised...
          • its worst than that actually!

            "chromebooks and surface tablet are both powered by electricity, so we can compare them!" - toddbottom3
          • What about NO?

            Do you understand the difference between an Operating System and a kernel?

            Chrome OS is a new OS running over the Linux Kernel.
            Windows 8 is a new version of Windows.

            Windows Phone is a new OS over the same Windows kernel. Windows 8 and RT are not
          • On 25 year old rehash.

            Using Microsoft products since DOS, I can assure you those nasty tiles, annoyingly intrusive MS store and Xbox sign in credentials for the most mundane task of Solitaire are unlike anything I've ever seen on Windows ever. Alternative operating systems look even better since Microsoft released 8.
          • "Tiles" are just . . .

            The "NEW" tiles version of icons on the "NEW" Windows 8 are just boxy widgets. Linux has had those for over 10 years now. I prefer the non-boxy versions I have on Android.

            But, still, let the Windows boys think they have something new and shiny. I'll continue to use what I find works for me.

            Windows is just going through what Linux went through with Gnome 3 and Unity. Oh, if only they had the option of installing more than one Windows Manager. Then, everyone would be happy.

            I've heard that you can 'sort of' turn the (Not)Metro screen off and get a weak version of the Windows 7 screen, but, I have no real experience with that. Microsoft should allow support for XFCE or KDE. Then Windows users could be happy too.

            Personally, I use Windows 7 on Windows, and XFCE on Linux. I'm thinking of giving Gnome 3 a whirl again, after the new release next week. Maybe even Unity for a bit. Who knows, they might have improved enough to not be a pain for me to use.
        • comparing apples to orangutans

          ie. the latest iteration of a de facto standard, ubiquitous product from a convicted and habitual abuser of an effective monopoly, to an actually new concept and fledgling product from someone else.
        • windows rt only a 1.9 market share

          1.9 market share and no real signs of growt, is a failure.
      • ChromeOS is an unmitigated failure.

        Since Dec 2010, when the first hardware shipped, an OS that is nothing but a web browser has achieved 0.02% of web share usage. And it is declining.

        That is a failure.
    • eh..what??!!

      It's selling like hotcakes. What planet do you live on?
      • Not hotcakes

        Only 500,000 in one year is not selling like hotcakes. The Surface sold three times as much in less than half that time.
      • That's not saying much since hotcakes aren't a great seller themselves

        And I imagine he lives on planet Earth, the same planet where Chromebooks, (and hotcakes) aren't selling all that well.
        William Farrel