Chrome OS Alternative(s)


Chrome OS is awesome, I do really feel that this is true.  Modern browser support, check.  Android apps for other stuff, check.  Need (almost) full-blown (desktop) Linux, check.  But if you've looked around this site, you may have figured out I like to get the most out of old hardware.   Including old Chromebooks.  So what to do?!?!

First off, these pages are in flux.  Putting a Linux distro on a Chromebook isn't what it was in 2017.  Check out for more details about write-protect on Chromebooks.   In addition to Chromebooks,  most devices are online and/or media consumption.  So why not do the same thing with generic old hardware?

I also want to have on this page a bit of how one might manage a Linux distro similar to how one manages Chrome OS.  This idea could be useful for any device that supports Linux too.  

No Chrome OS Flex?

Chrome OS Flex is great for many things.  No Android, sadly.  I have it on a few laptops, a desktop for web development, and my 86 year old Mom uses it!

On the discontinued Chromebooks I've tried Flex on, oddly, there always seem to be sound issues.  Well, not oddly from Google's perspective I guess.  But, these same Chromebooks have working sound on most Linux distro's I've tried.  One of the main internet browsing places to go is YouTube.  And no sound means no go.  

An added drawback is that Chrome OS Flex management is stuck with having a paid Google Workspace account/domain.  Not so important for personal stuff, but still...

So the tl;dr is no Chrome OS Flex for old Chromebooks.  For other personal use on (medium) older hardware, you will probably be good.  

Distros for Acer C731?

Who knows if anyone has any Acer C731s anymore?  They were great little Chromebooks and the last one I had died.  :-(   With many distros, the old Chromebooks are not responsive enough.  I've tried many.  The TL;DR is that only Bunsen Labs has been able to play YouTube videos without buffering, in Google Chrome, while logged in for syncing.  

With other distros, most any website works as long as it isn't multimedia-heavy.  You can get some added throughput using Firefox too.  But with any I've tried besides Bunsen Labs, after about 10 minutes of YouTube ... buffering problems galore.   With Chrome or Firefox.

There were a few caveats with Bunsen Labs.  They may or may not be deal breakers; they were not for me.

The other distros I tried and some comments:

Where & Why To Next?

I'm super glad Bunsen Labs worked.  In fact, I am using Bunsen Labs on a Acer C731 as a secondary computer when my primary is doing something.  But I want to eek out a bit more performance, and am crazy enough to enjoy the low-level stuff in Linux.  

So, what to try next?  I wanted a reliable, stable, and well-maintained distro.  For the most part, this is Ubuntu.  And a flavor that won't have a lot of bloat is Ubuntu Server.  So let's start there and see what a minimal "desktop" is needed to use Google Chrome.  Can I get even less than Bunsen Labs for something only needing to run Google Chrome?  Now that's an adventure!  :-P

Right now, I'm working on a script to add the extra stuff to Ubuntu Server.  Once I've figured that out, and any steps that are manual, I'll post some more.