The $199 Acer C7 Chromebook may not be the best Google-powered laptop around, but its port options, Intel processor, and 320GB hard drive make it more like a traditional laptop than Samsung’s ARM-powered alternative. In fact, an operating system called ChrUbuntu can kick the cloud to the curb and turn your Chromebook into one of the lowest-cost Linux laptops around.
Building alternative operating systems for Chromebooks has proven difficult for a couple of reasons. The laptops utilize specialized BIOS and bootloader software, for one thing, and they’ve traditionally had very limited flash storage space – good for the cloud, but bad for traditional operating systems. Acer’s model skirts those hampered hardware issues, and in fact, it’s easily upgradable if you want more RAM, a speedier SSD or a roomier HDD.
ArsTechnica installed ChrUbuntu on an Acer C7 Chromebook and reports that the operating system works like a charm on the device, aside from missing two-finger scrolling and HDMI audio support. Virtually all of the other hardware works just fine, however – including Wi-Fi and the webcam – and you have full access to the OS file system and the Ubuntu Software Center, which lifts the laptop from its cloud-limited Chrome OS roots and transforms it into a full-fledged computing machine. (Don’t worry, ChrUbuntu keeps Chrome OS around in a second hard drive partition.)
Setting up ChrUbuntu on the Acer C7 takes a bit of technical skill, but Ars walks you through the entire process step-by-step. ChrUbuntu should work fine on other Chromebooks, as well – there’s even an alpha ARM-based version available – but as we said earlier, you might run into problems with the limited hardware found in the other Google-powered machines.
Interested? Check out the ChrUbuntu blog for even more info about the operating system.