September 12th, 2013


Chrome Over

Ah, shit!  Kylie bit the dust!

Kylie, for those that don't know, is my Lenovo S10 (first generation) netbook.  A great machine, a wonderful machine, she became my full time on-the-go computer when Maria, my IBM T21, broke down.  I don't think Kylie was even meant for the heavy use I put her through.  Rest in peace, you've earned it.

This, however, presented a problem.  I needed a computer.  Now.  I don't have time to fuck around, looking to see which models are Linux compatible and which aren't, plus cost is kind of a major factor at the moment.  I decide my best course of action is a Chromebook.

For those at home -- a Chromebook is a laptop computer running Google's ChromeOS.  Basically, it's the Chrome browser running on top of a dinky Linux kernel.  The catch is that the Chromebook usually needs a wifi connection -- the computer uses a flash memory drive, and to keep it from filling up with programs and crap, any program you want to run, it downloads it from the net to run in the Chrome web browser.  Google took some well-deserved kicks in the ass for this, and they made it so there is some basic functionality without Internet.  You can browse files, edit documents, play media files.  Well, that will do.  It'll be secure without any need for anti-virus (when it comes to online security, Windows is an OS with a "kick me" sign on its back), and I can use it for typing and movie viewing on the go.  The only drawback was, I wanted Linux.  And people had found ways to run Linux on top of ChromeOS, but not natively (you're running Linux on top of a Linux kernel.  That's wasting a step).

I score an Acer C7 (Intel chipset, 16GB hard drive, $200).  I get it home and fire it up.

"Please enter your Google ID."

I don't have a Google ID.

"Then you can only log in as a guest on this machine.  Functionality will be limited, and no personal data like bookmarks will be saved."

WHAT?!?  I can't use their fucking software unless I create an ID for them to track me with?!?  What the fuck?!?  I never went through that with ANY build of Linux!

While I'm in as a guest and debating if I want to do a Google ID, I check out what it can do offline.  Media files play fine.  But then I try to do some typing.

Google's ChromeOS does NOT support Open Document format.

Oh, yeah.  I blew up.

Turns out, they did support it up until about a year and a half ago.  They have dropped ODF in favor of their own proprietary Google Document format.  You can upload an ODF to Google Drive and it will automatically convert it for you so you can edit it as proprietary Google, but not the international open standard.  It also lets you use M$' Word formats, including UhOhXML.  So Google, which owes its very existence to open standards, that says in its mission statement it seeks to catalog all the information of the world and make it accessible, is not allowing the one format that protects access to information.

For those wondering, there is a version of OpenOffice.  But it doesn't work offline, you need a net connection.  TO EDIT AN OPEN STANDARD DOCUMENT!

I get on the coder channel and say, Give me one good reason why I shouldn't take this piece of shit back NOW.

"Just put Linux on it."

I can't!

"Sure, you can.  They found a way to put Ubuntu on it late last year."

...master, please teach me.

Modern computers, in an attempt to make them more secure, only boot if the software has a digital signature.  Windows has this.  OS X has this.  ChromeOS has this.  But only a few Linux builds have it, so the computer will just derp out on you if you try to run another OS.  You have to get it to ignore the lack of digital signature.  How do you do this with a Chromebook?

Enter Developer Mode.

This is actually surprisingly simple.  Before you start the computer, hold down the ESC and F3 keys while you are powering up.  This will make a screen appear saying that the ChromeOS is missing (YAY!) or damaged.  Don't be alarmed, this is all part of the plan.  Press ctrl-D, and you will get a screen giving you the option to turn OS verification off.  (NOTE:  IF YOU DO HAVE LOCAL DATA ON THE DRIVE, THIS WILL ERASE IT!  IF YOU HAD ANYTHING THERE, MOVE IT TO A THUMB DRIVE NOW!)  Press Enter, and the machine will reboot.  You will get a screen that says OS verification is off.  It will either move on after 30 seconds, or you can just press ctrl-D to move it on.  It will then say it is transitioning to Developer Mode.  This will take about five minutes, then the machine will either reboot or it will shut down and you will have to power it up manually.

Everybody still with me so far?  That's good!

When the machine restarts, it will go into ChromeOS like it was brand new.  Either select a wireless network or just plug a CAT-5 into the side.  However, once you have done this, DO NOT click Continue.  After you connect, you press ctrl-alt-F2.  This takes you to the Linux command line that is lurking underneath the ChromeOS.  You need to log in as the user here, and you do that by typing in "chronos" and hitting enter.  Then, type in "sudo bash" and hit Enter.

Congratulations.  Google's OS is now your bitch.

First order of business:  you need the developer BIOS.  From the command line, type "chromeos-firmwareupdate --mode=todev".  It will download and install the BIOS, won't take more than a few seconds.  Type "exit" to leave the developer BIOS business, hit Enter, and now we can install Ubuntu.

From the command line, type in "wget; sudo bash tnyga" and hit Enter.  (If you are reading this, say, a year or so after I post it, don't be surprised if the URL you entered is different.  The folks at Chrubuntu, which makes the installer, will tell you where you need to go.)  You will get a warning that the version of ChromeOS you are running isn't 64-bit.  You can safely ignore that.  Press Enter to continue.

You will be asked to size the hard drive partition for Ubuntu.  I had between 6 and 10, I went with 9 just in case I want to go back and use ChromeOS (yes, you can do that, I'll get to it later).  It will reboot/shut down again.  Once again, ctrl-D at the OS verification screen again.  ChromeOS will once again act like it is a fresh install.  Once it repairs itself like the last time, select the wireless and go to the command line (ctrl-alt-F2).  Type in "chronos", then type in "wget; sudo bash tnyga" again and hit Enter.  It will once again mention ChromeOS isn't 64-bit.  Hit Enter.  It will begin downloading the ChromeOS.  Expect it to take about 30 minutes give or take (you can let the screen go dark, it will keep working in the background).  Once it finishes, it will reboot/shut down again.

So, you will see the OS verification warning, ctrl-D or wait 30 seconds, whatever.

And then you will see the Ubuntu desktop in all its glory.  Hello, Linux old friend.  I missed you.

Now, there's just one problem.  If you restart the computer, it will boot back into ChromeOS.  You don't get a boot loader like other Linux distros, you need to set the default at the command line.  So, from the initial wireless select screen in ChromeOS, drop to the command line (remember, it's ctrl-alt-F2) and type in "chronos" again.  Next, type in (this is case-sensitive) "sudo cgpt add -i 6 -P 5 -S 1 /dev/sda".  Press Enter, then type in Exit and press Enter.  You can then go back to the main screen (ctrl-alt-F1).  Power off, and restart.  ctrl-D to skip past the warning screen, and you will now be in Ubuntu until you say otherwise.

But, let's say you aren't like me, and you like the ChromeOS.  What do you do?  Simple.  Go to the Ubuntu dashboard and type in "terminal".  Yup, command line again.  Type in (case-sensitive) "sudo cgpt add -i 6 -P 0 -S 1 /dev/sda".  Basically, what you wrote above, but with a number 0 in place of the 5.

You want Linux off and just the ChromeOS?  When you start up under ChromeOS, press ctrl-F3 to enter recovery mode.  Insert a USB drive with the ChromeOS recover system on it, and it does the rest.  Or, you could turn on the OS verification, and it will fix the OS.  The partitions will still be there, but the full ChromeOS and its defaults will be restored.

Kiss my Polish ass, Google!


Today We Have The Naming Of The Parts

So, I need to name my new laptop.

The convention is the desktops are named after men (Lenny, Becket, Darwin, Super Dave) while the portables are named after women (Stella, Pam, Maria, Genny, Fermata, Twilight).  I wanted something appropriate, reflecting her dual nature with two OS's, one not so great, and the other dealing with important stuff.

So what have I named my new Linux laptop?

Folks?  Say hello to Kagome.