It is easier to run Linux within Neverware ChromeOS thanks to recent updates. Alarm bells started ringing, obviously, when Neverware was recently bought by Google…
Neverware has hitherto made it possible to take an old PC or Mac and install a new, modern system on older hardware, turning the device into a Chromebook or Chromebox, depending on whether a laptop or desktop. This, because of the amazingly small demands that the Google system makes on hardware, allowing manufacturers to bring cheap hardware to the market that, in terms of performance, rival highly specced Windows or Apple devices for a fraction of the price. So, Neverware brings the same OS but to older hardware (your old PC or Mac) with the same startling results. Such an amazing state of affairs could hardly be allowed to persist, even in these extraordinary times with schools crying out for cast-off laptops.
Really? You can achieve a thoroughly modern, fast, secure system on a computer deemed obsolete by both its manufacturer and Microsoft or Apple? YES!
And for free? YES!! – We charge for the installer USB disk, but you can of course download for free from Neverware.
So far, so really, really good. Then Google buy-up Neverware. I thought, here we go, it’s going to deflate before my eyes. But, I stand corrected. Instead, something subtle but amazing has happened. Taken away are VirtualBox and Flatpak support, which helped to paper over a rather large crack in Neverware’s ‘CloudReady’ version of Chrome OS. Chrome OS is really just a browser. Everything happens in a browser window. Edit something, you are editing the online version. So, VirtualBox and Flatpack enabled savvy users to install additional apps that allowed for offline editing. (Users of real Chromebooks can achieve the same thing via Google’s Play Store that allows them to install Android versions of apps that they can use offline). Taking the place of Virtualbox or Flatpak support, work has been done on the support of ‘Linux Beta’ that allows for the installation of Linux apps. Linux has always been there in Neverware, and in ‘Beta’ form, and it has never flippin’ worked! Until now!
So, I find with my old MacBook Air 2011, that I can now run Linux Beta, and this allows me to install loads of software on top of Chrome OS. LibreOffice, Gimp, Inkscape, BlueMail, have loaded up fine; this old Mac becomes a viable workhorse again.
You might think I am being stupid; why not just install Linux? And, indeed, I must admit there is a point there. But, I find that a Chrome-based OS has an advantage over Linux, and it is an advantage measured in seconds, in bother, in removing online password hassle. The Chrome OS, once I log into it, logs me into password completion too. No further interaction required. Straight away I am into my web activity. That is a slipstream experience on my old laptop. I just don’t find the same thing happens in Linux, as once logged into Linux, I am not necessarily logged in on whichever browser I choose to use. It is about the primacy of the browser and online accounts in the internet age.
That is the advantage of ChromeOS, and now it has caught up with being able to use Linux apps too. I have even managed to install an alternative browser – Vivaldi. If I really wanted to punish myself I could even install Microsoft Edge. But that is a whole other rabbit hole.
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