Using My New Chromebook

I got my first Chromebook for my birthday a few years back. It was an Acer C720, a darling of the Chromebook world and a great machine. I used it in it’s stock configuration for quite a while and then I realized i could enable dev mode and run a Linux environment via Crouton. Linux is my OS of choice for everything and being able to run it on my Chromebook was awesome. I soon got tired of crouton and began to search for other options. In dev mode, I could boot from USB so I got a 64GB USB 3 flash drive and installed Xubuntu Linux on there. That way, I could essentially “dual boot” with ChromeOS. I ran the machine that way for years. Eventually, I realized I wasn’t booting into ChromeOS ever and decided to take the plunge and wipe ChromeOS off the system, entirely. I opened up the case. I replaced the 16GB ssd it came with with a much larger one. I removed the write-protection screw and installed Gallium OS. It works flawlessly and I use it often. It’s much lighter than my Thinkpad and most of what i need is a terminal, a web browser and VS Code. But, the C720 only shipped with 2GB RAM and it is hard soldered to the motherboard. Gallium OS runs great; I even wrote an article about it; but I’m a geek, right? New hardware is always on the horizon. I have never been a tablet guy, per se. I have an Amazon Fire Tablet hacked to run apps from Google Play, but I really need a keyboard. Writing markdown or ssh-ing into a server are both difficult tasks for a touchscreen keyboard. My wife has a 2-in-1 Chromebook from Asus and it is great for watching Netflix/Hulu/Disney+. I have also been following the development of Chrome OS and the addition of Crostini, a technology for running Linux apps in a sandbox. I decided I wanted to try my hand at a new Chromebook.

So, for Christmas, I got a Lenovo C340-11. This is a 2-in-1 with an HD (720p) IPS touchscreen, a 64GB SSD, and 4GB of RAM. (lenovo site). This particular machine also has the Intel N4000 series Celeron processor which is, IMHO, a better choice than the MediaTek processors found in other Lenovo Chromebooks. The build quality is not mind-blowing, but the lid is aluminum and the body is tightly integrated plastic. My only real complaint about this machine is the touch pad. It feels a little “plastic-y”. I can solve this with a bluetooth mouse or, more likely, I will just get used to it. I am currently running Chrome OS 79 and I’m on the stable channel. I have enabled dev mode and I have enabled the Linux Apps Beta.

So, how do I use this little guy? It’s really great, actually. Even for a full-time linux user like myself. I have made great use of the android app support and the Linux app support. Because I have enabled dev mode, I can install .apk’s from outside sources. First thing I did was install fdroid and used that to install the Nextcloud (Dev) Sync client for Android. I also installed DAVx5 to sync my Calendar and Contacts from my Nextcloud server. Using the Linux terminal, I installed Firefox and VSCode, my preferred text editor. We can get into editor wars at some point, but for now, this is my editor of choice and I can use it ANYWHERE. The other main linux app I use constantly is Keepassx; Keepassx is a cross platform password manager and I use it for all my login passwords across all my accounts. Being able to run the native linux version is awesome, although there are several compatible apps for Android, as well.

So, I have been using this machine for about 2 weeks now. It has been rock solid doing the day to day tasks like email, web, media consumption and writing. In a future article, I will talk a little more in-depth about how I use VS Code and why i like it. As always, if you have any questions about anything in this article, hit me up on twitter: @norcalgeekdad; on Telegram: @g33kdad; or newly on Mastodon: @norcalgeekdad@mastodon.social.

Thanks for reading and I hope to hear from you soon!

Cheers!