Chrome OS vs Linux — Making The Switch

I’ve recently started using a Chromebook for the bulk of my computing time. It’s not quite as convenient as a Linux machine, but loads better than Windows. My honest opinion is that, with some caveats, it will work.


December 21, 2017

Why use Chrome OS vs Linux

I’ve farted around with Chromebooks since 2013 when my kids each got one, and I talked about it in my Acer Chromebook C710 post. I never got the hang of using Chrome OS vs Linux, so I never used them much. I got Linux installed on one of them, a legitimate install. But I lost it when one of the kids hit a button during boot. That caused a factory reset, and I never tried it again. I did get a crouton install going on one of them, but lost it again in the same kind of situation. One of those Chromebooks is now fairly demolished, and the other is on its way.

But my desktop machine is now in the basement, acting as a recording studio. And I’ve parked my laptop in my office upstairs, so I’m minus a travel computer. The kids each have newer Chromebooks, and I’ve got my Google account on each one. I’m actually having a fairly pleasant time using them to do the things I’ve always needed Linux for.

Web development on Chrome OS vs Linux 

FTP is a pain. I’ve never liked it, and since I started using Linux I’ve always aimed for hosts that allow SSH access. This lets me just SSH and vi a file real quick. Or I can mount up my website’s directory on my own machine with sshfs.

I can do this on a chomebook though. I’m getting it done with a couple apps. For SSH access, I’m using hterm. It lets me log in to any box like a native Linux terminal does. There was a bit of a hiccup when a target box changed, and when it happens again I’ll document it. The same kind of thing that happens in a regular Linux machine. You have to do the equivalent of nixing that entry in ~/.ssh/known_hosts.

To edit files live on a server, using a text editor on a chromebook. I’ve also found an equivalent for sshfs. It’s called, simply, SFTP File System. When I’m dorking with a WordPress theme, it’s easier for me using a text editor than using the WordPress interface. I use Geany on a Linux box, and text.app on the chromebook.

My recommendations on Chrome OS vs Linux

The Bad

I can work with it, that’s about all I can say. I’m noticing that things are slower in Chrome OS than Linux. It’s a guess, but I wonder if everything, like file saving and directory listings, have to make a trip to Google and back before they actually happen.

SFTP locks up more than I’m used to, and there’s really not a way to shut it off nicely. I’ve only been able to kill a session by actually killing the process in the Chrome OS task manager. In Linux, it’s a simple fusermount -u directory/name.

Duh — I’ve since realized that if you “right click” (two finger click) on the mounted directory, you can close it. I thought I’d leave my idiocy in here for your enjoyment though…

The Good

On the upside though, the battery lasts FOREVER in a chromebook. Even when my laptop was new, I could get a couple solid hours out of it. I haven’t timed it, but I can go several hours before I have to start looking for an outlet with this rig.

It’s small, and light. The case I have for this is just a miniature laptop bag, but I don’t really put anything in it. I’ve got black and red pens, the chromebook, the charger, a spare phone charger, and that’s it. I think it’s about 4-5 pounds at the most for everything. I’m always tempted to stuff as much as I can in my regular laptop bag, and I think that tends to get up in the 25-30 pound range. My shoulder hurts when I have to carry it much.

Ideally I’d install Linux on this, but haven’t managed to get Gallium running both times I tried it. And I’m not sure what that would do for the battery life. So I guess I’ll leave ‘er be.

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