Developing on a Chromebook

Published: 2016-12-15 02:59 |

Category: Technology |

I do some (really) amateur web development when I get a chance to. I enjoy building things that make life easier for me, and others, using the Internet to drive the functionality. I’ve also been working more and more on a Chromebook just because it’s easier to carry around than my 15″ Mac.

The big problem with the Chromebook is that it’s pretty locked down. I got permission from our IT department to put mine into developer mode (which is usually restricted when enrolled in a GSuite environment) so I could make things work.

First, this is not the same as working on a full-fledged computer. The RAM available on this machine is minimal, which really limits what I can do. It also partitions the hard drive in really strange ways, which makes it hard to keep a neat filesystem.

I started by installing Crouton, which puts a Ubuntu desktop environment on the Chromebook. It’s run in parallel, which makes it nice for jumping back and forth. You can also choose which flavor of Ubuntu you like, from xfce to Unity.

I used Crouton to run Gimp and git, mostly. But, I wasn’t using Gimp as much as I expected and it really slowed down the device. I ended up dropping it in favor of Chromebrew, which has worked beautifully. It’s a package manager built specifically for Chrome which includes things like Git, Ruby, python, imagemagick…all kinds of things that make life easier working on such a stripped down device.

I use a mix of Chrome apps to work in.

  1. Crosh – Similar to the bash environment, crosh is the Chrome’s terminal emulator. You can get to it by hitting Ctrl + Alt + T. If you’re not in developer mode, most of what you can do is look at system stats. All other functions are locked down. Once you’re in developer mode, you can type in shell and browse the filesystem (Linux-based) just like any other full computer. This is where I run git.
  2. Caret – Caret is a Chrome text editor that supports syntax highlighting and offline use. It’s based on Sublime Text, so it includes custom keymaps and functions to help the process.
  3. **Secure Shell – Another Chrome app which emulates a SSH client. Really handy for jumping in and out of my own remote server as I need things. Much faster than relying on the cPanel through my hosts’s admin panel.

It’s lightweight, but it works well. Chrome’s own developer tools and console are really helpful with autocomplete and error logging (just like any other browser, really).

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