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Getting a bit more out of crouton on a Chromebook

chromebook_pixel_dtI recently wrote a post about using a cloud based VPS for doing development work on, it was pointed out to me in a Google+ conversation that this could be done equally as well with the Crouton installer.

Its true that most of the posts i’ve found on the internet cover running the default installer which will get you a Unity Shell Ubuntu 12.04 LTS i386 install. I’ve also covered in a different post that it’s possible to get the latest Ubuntu 13.04 Raring running with a few command line tweaks to the crouton installer.

The github Readme File (https://github.com/dnschneid/crouton) has a really good readme which explains how its possible to really do much more with this excellent script.

Other GUI’s

Most of the guides i have found on line focus on getting you a basic Unity install however Unity isn’t the only option and using the command line

sh -e crouton -t help

provides you with a list of other GUI’s you can install

Available targets:
chrome
        Google Chrome browser. Replaces Chromium if specified first.
        Requires: x11
chrome-beta
        Google Chrome browser, beta. Replaces Chromium if specified first.
        Requires: x11
chrome-dev
        Google Chrome browser, dev. Replaces Chromium if specified first.
        Requires: x11
chromium
        Chromium browser. Uses the distro's version, which may be old.
        Requires: x11
cli-extra
        Basic CLI tools such as wget and ssh.
        Requires: core
core
        Performs core system configuration. Most users would want this.
e17
        Installs the enlightenment desktop environment. (Approx. 50MB)
        Requires: chromium gtk-extra
gtk-extra
        GTK-based graphical system tools such as gdebi and gksu.
        Requires: x11
kde
        Installs the KDE desktop environment. (Approx. 800MB)
        Requires: x11
lxde
        Installs the LXDE desktop environment. (Approx. 200MB)
        Requires: chromium gtk-extra
touch
        Touchscreen and limited generic gesture support.
        Requires: x11
unity
        Installs the Unity desktop environment. (Approx. 700MB)
        Requires: chromium gtk-extra
x11
        Basic X11 install. Does not install any desktop environment.
        Requires: core
xephyr
        Nested X11 install. Replaces X11 if specified first.
        Requires: core
xfce
        Installs the Xfce desktop environment. (Approx. 250MB)
        Requires: chromium gtk-extra

This list shows that KDE, XFCE and even Chrome (very meta) are viable GUI Options, as is a CLI which we will cover later

Other Distro Versions

-r RELEASE  Name of the distribution release. Default: precise

Adding the -r switch to the install command line provides you with an additional option of chosing which version of Ubuntu you want to install. I have treid this with precise, quetzal and raring and they all install well. However it’s worth remembering you are about to install the very basic of installs once inside the Ubuntu environment the additional features need to be installed. (see here)

Downloading the Bootstrap

Each time you install from the command line the core files to create the Chroot environment are downloaded and checked, this is not the same as the Ubuntu files, its the ones which create the environment which ubuntu boots into. You can speed this part up a lot by having a local copy of these files

the -d command switch tells the script to download the bootstrap files and save them into a compressed file

sh -e crouton -d -f /home/chronos/user/Downloads/mybootstrap.tar.bz2

Then removing the -d will enable you to create the next chroot environment using local bootstrap files, the installer still needs to pull in the files for the Ubuntu install from the internet.

sh -e crouton -f /home/chronos/user/Downloads/mybootstrap.tar.bz2 -r raring -n unity -t unity

You can start the Ubuntu shell by using the normal startup command.

startunity

Locating the files

Once installed the chroots are stored in :

/usr/local/chroots/

Deleting the files

You can delete old chroot environments by using the command

delete-chroot <name>

Running in the background

When you run startunity lots of command line information shows up in the tab and you can’t close the tab as that closes the chroot environment however you can make commands run in the background so that you can close the terminal tab. This is particularly useful for desktop environments.

sudo startunity -b

Running a command line only environment

My previous post about using the Chromebook as a Development environment I had my Ubuntu server running as a VPS, it is possible however to run and Ubuntu CLI environment locally on a chromebook which will act as an Ubuntu Server, there is no X11 install or Gui.

If you just want a nice CLI environment for running Vim, servers, gcc, there’s no need to install X11. Just use the  cli-extra targets and use the chroot via

enter-chroot

From the crosh shell. You can enter the chroot simultaneously with as many crosh shells as you want.

Conclusion

It’s obvious that with a little patience it is possible to run multiple chroot environments using crouton and we can create a locally running dev environment, if i was running a Pixal I would happily do this however on my little ACER C7 i’m happy running the Cloud system as well.

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