You Can Now Run Full Linux Apps Inside A Chrome OS Window

Chrome OS started out as an operating system designed to work primarily online, and the dev team has slowly begun adding more offline features. These include offline HTML5 apps such as Gmail or Google Drive, which can take your input as if they were online and then sync the data later to the cloud, to receiving support for C++ applications through the Native Client plugin.

Earlier this year, Google made the major announcement that Chrome OS would start running full Android applications, although only a handful would be supported initially.

Now, we get the news that a Google intern has made it possible to run Linux directly in a Chrome OS window. This will allow users to run any kind of Linux application (such as Skype, for example) from a Chromebook.

Francois Beaufort, a Chromium evangelist, made the announcement in a Google+ post:

"Google Intern has added support to run Crouton¹ in a Chrome OS Window. Thanks to a 4,471 lines patch², fearless people can now run their favorite Linux distributions on their Chrome Devices in a nice window without jumping between Virtual Terminals as before."

There have been ways to either install Linux on a Chromebook machine and dual boot both operating systems, or run both at the same time using a tool called Crouton. The latter is actually being used here as well, but this time setting it up is much simpler than before.

All you have to do is put the Chromebook in developer mode (the equivalent of a bootloader unlock for a Nexus phone), install the new Crouton extension, download the Crouton tool and then type a simple command. After that you'll be able to use any Linux distro you want inside a Chrome OS window.

Chromebooks are already highly popular in the education sector, and they're slowly taking off in the consumer market as well. The growth has been slower in the mainstream market because either Chrome OS doesn't support the apps people need right now, or users believe they might need a certain app in the future that Windows or Mac OS has but isn't available on Chrome OS. The easier support for full Linux applications should make that gap between application support much smaller, and it should thus make Chromebooks more appealing to those reluctant consumers.

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Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.
  • alextheblue
    At that point I'd rather just dump ChromeOS entirely and run a major Linux distro. You could still use Googleware (Chrome etc) if you want Google to make money off you.
  • Quixit
    Kinda defeats the purpose there. I mean it's useful for ChromeOS developers but otherwise this just allows you to run linux, inside a window on terrible hardware. You could already do that pretty easy on any number of low-end platforms.
  • fil333
    To me this wreaks of, crap we've failed... Time for plan B!
  • MarkW
    The mainstream world is still waiting for even a single app that runs a linux based program that they need. Expanding Chrome to run Linux will please the 1% to 2% of diehard Linux evangelicals, but almost nobody else.

    And I says that wishing that we were not tied down to Windows. But the reality is, most of the business programs that we need to run on a daily basis require Windows. Nearly all of the games released for PC's requires Windows. Nearly all utilities require Windows.

    I was a tiny little part of the world that loved OS/2. It contained features that we still do not have in any other OS today. And in my opinion, it was so stable that no public facing Windows OS has ever been as stable as OS/2 was. In fact, when I ran Windows in OS/2 was when Windows was the most stable. But those days are long gone.

    Now I know someone is going to jump on what I have written here and scream, "Steam is going to solve the lack of AAA Linux game releases". Maybe. Maybe not. We are waiting. I know some games now run on a Linux version of Steam. But still, the vast majority of games written for PC's still only run on Windows. And I do not think Steam is going to change that statement in the next 10 years.

    So I sit here wondering when someone, anyone of any size, will ever break the chains of Windows. Linux needs to consolidate. And despite decades of work, Linux still cannot get enough users to run it to get mainstream software developers to release their apps for it. Its the chicken and the egg problem.

    And unless Microsoft implodes, which could happen somehow, albeit pretty unlikely, we are going to remain stuck using Windows for the most part.
  • OppenH
    As a Chromebook is little more than a thin client in laptop form-factor, the use case for installing anything on it, rather than a server, may need explaining.
  • xaephod
    I just did this to my Chromebook and it's really cool. Linux runs very quick and it's nice to have access to libre office and other programs I can't use in Chrome os. For normal browsing I will use chrome os, but when I need something more robust, I have the option.
  • passat31
    So what's the point really.......I don't get it .
    What's even the point of chrome OS?
  • Maxor1
    The point of having the chrome OS is to have an OS with tech support and major company updates and patch bug fixes rather than community based when we get to it like most linux distros. Its also meant to be less hardware intensive than windows. When chromebooks first came out they had a tendency to be middle of the road pentiums (Sandy bridge pentiums were not bad. especially for the time) with small hard drives 250 and 300 gb were common with for gigs of ram. ) You're still getting the ram and a haswell pentium or in some cases an I3. The fit and finish on the nicer ones has gone up quite a bit. The problem is they have very small SSD currently. Which causes issues, and forces cloud use.
  • jeroly
    The main motivation for doing this, for me, is to obtain access to my Samba / DLNA servers to my Chromebook. It's kind of crazy that I can't use the 'thin client' chromebook as a thin client to a standard media server! Until I saw this I've had to download my .mkv files before playing them, which is a pain in the a** especially when I want to watch a video over the internet from my home media server when I'm on the road.

    I hope it's not too complicated a process.
  • CaptainTom
    We just need some company to actually make a distro of Linux that has all of the functionality and ease of use as Windows. I want to be able to download and install all of my crap without using the CMD as a crutch.

    Hell charge $20 for it! We just need an alternative to Windows!!!