Blogs‎ > ‎

Can a Chromebook Replace Your Desktop?

posted 6 Oct 2015, 15:13 by Andrew at Lycom   [ updated 6 Oct 2015, 16:08 ]
I get to play with lots of different bits of kit. Sometimes I need to get used to a new Operating System by using it for a while for everyday tasks. Recently it's been my cheapo Windows 8 (Now Windows 10) Acer ultraportable laptop - great for catching up on emails, surfing and doing general admin - even logging into servers using the RDP client to do the odd task out of hours. However, after a while its hardware limitations become obvious - running more than a few Chrome tabs began to slow it down to a crawl, and the post-login slowdown caused by various apps updating and the antivirus software scanning at the start of a session made it unusable for about 5 minutes.  Time to upgrade!

Chromebook - A Modern Thin Client

I already have a variety of machines to use, some of which I use for specific tasks - my CentOS desktop for coding, system administration and network troubleshooting, for example.  What was needed was a light laptop for email, office work and web-based tasks which I could pick up and start working with straight away.
Chromebook Pixel 2015In the past, I've been a fan of thin-clients, mainly in the context of a centralised server-based work environment. So what I needed was something similar for home - step forward the Google Chromebook Pixel, running Google's Chromium OS (a Linux-based operating system based on the Gentoo distribution). 

OK, so it's a little over-specified for web browsing - but what it does offer is a very fast client for anything which can be run from the Chrome web browser - which these days is just about everything. Google docs, Google drive, Amazon S3 buckets, numerous cloud-based application services - all accessed from a device which boots and opens in a few seconds. Moreover I can secure it with Google two-factor authentication. 

But the killer application? I can utilise an application called Crouton to run a full Linux distribution as a chrooted application, in a window on the desktop, with clipboard sharing and so on. So I get a very fast browser-based thin-client with the a proper Linux installation to run those occasional applications (such as GIMP) which don't fit easily into the world of cloud services.

Initial Findings

So far so good, Gmail and the Google Apps suite work well for most of my office needs. I bought a large SD Card to add some local storage, and may experiment booting off it with another Linux distro at some point.

Printing is a weak point - luckily I have a CentOS box which I can use to connect my network printer with my Google account via Google Cloudprint. But would be so much easier if I could find an LPR client for Chromium OS!

I have been impressed by the quality of some of the Chrome Extensions available. Currently I am migrating my Password Safe passwords to LastPass as it integrates well with Chrome and Android.

RDP access to Windows servers is provided by ChromeRDP

It will be interesting to discover where the gaps lie, and when I need to boot a 'proper' desktop to solve a problem.