The Dell Chromebook 11 is one of the better chromebooks available and crucially is available with 4gb of RAM, which makes it a much better proposition for installing Chrubuntu on. The other requirement is an Intel processor; the first generation of Chromebooks had ARM processors.

A chromebook is essentially the netbook idea come of age, i.e. a small and cheap laptop which is more than adequate for the majority of general purpose uses like email, editing documents, web access etc.

Chrome OS itself is quite an interesting idea in itself; essentially an auto-updating stripped down and customised linux, with only the web browser exposed to the user. The two main drawbacks are of course that i) it seems improbably that it does not sends all sorts of data back to Google about how you are using it and ii) the limitations of the wall garden environment can lead to some amusing software, such as a torrent program written entirely in Javascript. For the interested Google’s marketing spiel can be found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QRO3gKj3qw.

No doubt in part because of the (small) SSDs that come with these laptops, the performance is surprisingly good. Another benefit is driver support, which also has a bearing on performance with a graphical desktop like Unity.

I took the steps below to install Ubuntu on the Dell Chromebook:

1) Activate developer mode

I found the answer to this in the Arch linux documentation at https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Chromebook

  • Turn on
  • Press and hold Esc + F3 (F3 is the one with the refresh circle on it), then while continuing to press down press the power button
  • This will enter recovery mode – then press Ctrl + D

2) From there on I followed the instructions at http://chromeos-cr48.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/chrubuntu-for-new-chromebooks-now-with.html

Once Ubuntu is installed, hit Ctrl-Alt-L at the developer mode boot screen to boot into it.

So far it works well. My only gripe with the Dell Chromebook 11 is an aggressive (and slightly noisy) system fan, but this feels like a minor criticism given how fast and cheap it is.

3) Add trackpad support

Update: as at 3 Mar 2015 updating in the usual way suddenly fixed the trackpad.

4) Sort keymaps

This actually worked fine as soon as I changed the input to English (UK) from English (US)

I thought about changing the search key to do something else per http://askubuntu.com/questions/105558/how-do-i-disable-the-super-key but I then found out that if you hold it down, it gives you a keyboard shortcut overlay. Given that the trackpad doesn’t work, this is pretty useful, so I decided to keep the default bindings.

5) Sort locale

I added to /etc/environment

LANG=en_GB.UTF-8
LC_CTYPE="en_GB.UTF-8"
LC_COLLATE="en_GB.UTF-8"
LC_TIME="en_GB.UTF-8"
LC_NUMERIC="en_GB.UTF-8"
LC_MONETARY="en_GB.UTF-8"
LC_MESSAGES="en_GB.UTF-8"
LC_ALL=en_GB.UTF-8

Then ran

sudo locale-gen en_GB.UTF-8
sudo update-locale

This will sort the locale for the system with the exception of the system console (accessible through the ttys with e.g. Ctrl-Alt-1). To sort that out

sudo apt-get install console-common

will set up.

I then had to do the below to make consistent across reboots:

sudo dpkg-reconfigure console-data
sudo dpkg-reconfigure keyboard-configuration
sudo dpkg-reconfigure console-setup

6) Add flash in Firefox

Not a big fan of Flash but Plex uses it so

sudo aptitude install flashplugin-installer

7) Stop Ubuntu phoning home

This is after all the whole point of an open source operating system, that it should not phone home. I use the script at https://fixubuntu.com/ but I changed the iptables tweak to the /etc/hosts one by commenting-out and un-commenting-out lines in the script as appropriate.

8) Stop bluetooth being turned out automatically

sudo sh -c "echo 'rfkill block bluetooth' >> /etc/rc.local"

9) Set correct region for wifi

sudo vim /etc/default/crda

Per http://ubuntuforums.org/archive/index.php/t-2020528.html