Everybody Should Be Haiku Writing

haiku

As many of my readers have probably figured out, I am a fan of the stuff that’s “out there.” You don’t even have to use it. It doesn’t need to be something that will necessarily set the world on fire. If there’s passion in its development and design, I’m pretty much on board. And I can’t wait to try it.

To understand the philosophy behind Haiku, it’s a good idea to examine the word. Of course, it is the Japanese word referring to a short poem in which you have two philosophical, often conflicting, elements. It is also defined as the essence of the act of cutting, which is translated as the Japanese word “kiru”. No, I don’t speak Japanese but I really, really like sushi; and that has nothing to do with anything.

And Haiku (current version being alpha 4.1) is so far away from the norm that I don’t know where to begin describing it other than by giving a brief history. Its roots are in BeOS, a simple, yet highly functional operating system development effort headed by Jean-Luise Gassee in 1990. At the time, the company Be Inc. was designing the OS to run on a personal computer they dubbed BeBox.

Gassee was a former Apple Computer executive who was “run outta the building” by then-CEO John Sculley. Undeterred, Gassee decided to take a lot of the design aesthetics of the classic MacIntosh design philosophy into a C++ coded operating system. It was pretty (for the time) and it worked well. It began to gain a following, and even though the BeBox wasn’t a commercial success, it was being incorporated into hardware from Sony and the like.

In 1996, Apple came a-knocking and hoping to find a new system to replace the aging Mac OS. At the time, BeOS and NeXTSTEP, the OS from Apple-ousted Steve Jobs’ company NeXT PC, were vying to be the next Apple crown jewel. Of course, NeXTSTEP was purchased and ripped apart for the following iterations of Mac, eventually evolving to the OS X brand.

BeOS was still alive. Kinda. But things weren’t the same afterward. Eventually, they were purchased by Palm, Inc., makers of the legendary Palm Pilot handheld organizers. Elements from the BeOS aesthetic were showing up in Palm OS, with their “cartoony” icons and pillar-y window frames. Palm eventually gave the public some of the first incarnations of the smartphone, with resistive touchscreen functionality and hard keys that were like baby corncob kernels. My thumbs still hurt thinking about it.

Now the legend of BeOS lives on with Haiku. And yes, I realize I just went several paragraphs only mentioning Haiku twice.

Now, to understand this OS, you need an appreciation of its history. Let’s start visually; Here’s a screenshot of a typical BeOS desktop screen:

BeOS

 

Now, here’s a screenshot of the Haiku desktop:

 

Haiku

It’s pretty easy to spot the influence in the aesthetic. But it’s in the actual functionality where Haiku aims to carry the BeOS philosophy and make the improvements the user needs.For one thing, Haiku’s file system is structured like a small database, each function performing a query for an event. With the system being as low-overhead and efficient as it is, this is easily accomplished.

It also doesn’t have a lot of the luxury appointments as many of today’s operating systems. You won’t find window transparency or crazy, wobbly animations that we all enjoy. (Come on. You like them.) It truly is like the “essence” of today’s operating systems.

That doesn’t mean it’s “boring” or “ugly”. On the contrary, looking at the Haiku desktop is a “feel good”moment and I’m one who loves his dark theme. It’s colorful and breezy, but without being obnoxious about it. It’s as though the overhead appointments aren’t really sacrifices for speed alone. It seems to leave room for the user to think. And develop. More on that in a bit.

This is not Linux

While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s also a very different thing that may make some of the less adventurous Linux users shy away from the experience. And that’s too bad because different can be fun. For starters, you’re not going to see icons like these anywhere else. It’s a real headtrip back into the 90’s. You’ve got exaggerated curvatures and subtle gradients. Pieces of paper look like they’re in motion. Pencils and mailboxes that look like they were used by the America Online “You’ve got mail!” guy. It’s a bit of grade school bulletin board art meeting classic advertising style. This was an era when things were still being called high-tech and made no apologies for trying to show us what they thought the future was going to look like. Haiku incorporates this with a loving hand. Its classic simplicity yet it maintains a style that’s classically its own. Even the pointer looks like the severed, floating hand of Mickey Mouse (minus the gore, of course).

Haiku, like a few Linux distros we know, is extremely lightweight. The decompressed .iso weighs in at a mere 615 MB, small enough to fit on a CD-ROM. Remember those?

Installing it on a modern processor with 4 GB RAM and an SSD shouldn’t take you more than a couple of minutes. Don’t wait for a punchline. I had this up and running in Boxes faster than I could think of a password. Of course, this tells me that on older, slower devices, Haiku is something to at least be considered. Well…it could be. I’ll get to that in a bit.

What really made me happy was that it worked with my hardware, all of it, at the crack of the bat. I’ve been known to throw an OS right out the window when some things don’t work. I’m not kidding. If I have to spend hours trying to connect to my wireless network, it’s back to metal. It’s times like these when you can really appreciate the simplicity of an OS.

Apps? Is there an echo in here?

Actually…no! Haiku comes with a surprising number of apps. However, I have to get the bad out of the way first; there’s no productivity suite. And that made me really sad. I was really hoping to be able to write this piece natively in Haiku on an actual word processor. Although there are a few threads I’ve found where contributions and development for such a suite have been discussed, nothing is final. There.

Let’s start with web browsing, WebPositive. Thematically, WebPositive is fun and is consistent with Haiku’s cool and vibrant aesthetic. It delivers a considerable amount of rendering power. Going to some of the websites I tend to frequent, like Blizzard.com or Newsarama was surprisingly nice trip, which means it’s good at rendering some sites that are relatively heavy on content and plug-ins. YouTube, however, was a different story as it was unable to play anything. Not a dealbreaker. But if going to a favorite news site is what you really want, where you can, you know, read the news, it does the job really well.

webpositive

I can’t live without music. I have a strong preference to very, very old Black Sabbath. So I was pleased to see that I only had to drag my Snowblind mp3 file directly over to the player interface and it was ready to play instantly. Building playlists is also very easy. You can also randomize and delete files with ease. If you’re in the unenviable position of having to conserve CPU cycles (!) you can switch over to a hardware mode and cut some overhead.

Playing video files has pretty much the same functionality. It natively covers mp4 and .avi. Fullscreen and subtitling are also supported. Framerates are smooth and the low overhead on an overkill system will do the job with nary a sweat broken.

What surprised me was the inclusion of a video converter in which a range of video filetypes can be compiled into a more palatable format of your choosing.

System tools are plentiful, including a CPU monitor, boot manager, debugger, calculator, can opener (no, not really). It has a truly decent e-mail client, as well and it’s packed with features you’d expect from some of the most well-known out there. You can even run many native BeOS apps.

stackingup

So app-wise…eh. BUT there’s no better time to become a developer. There’s always a silver lining. I hope I don’t sound too much like Larry David when I say that.

If you’re feeling nostalgic, there are some really cool surprises inside Haiku. Perhaps the most well known was the OpenGL graphics demo that came with BeOS. In the demo a 3D-rendered, flatshaded teapot will rotate and spin inside a window. A meter at the bottom left of the window displays the frames per second in old-school digital readout fashion. When at default start up, I was getting about…oh…500 or so FPS. However, this was a very reduced window. So I maximized the window and was still getting nearly 80 FPS. In a VM.

glteapot

It also comes with an analog-style clock that you can move about the desktop by clicking on the lower right-hand corner of the tiny little guy. Clicking elsewhere on the clock window will change the design at random. I, of course, left it at the old “Be” logo selection.

Package management and software repository are works in-progress. Currently, native packages are designated with the .hpkg extension will eventually be downloadable from the HaikuDepot, to which features are currently being added. In the meantime, when an .hpkg is downloaded, they can be moved manually into the ~/config/packages. Full apps should be moved to ~/config/apps. Still, at best, these means are little more than rudimentary, a fact of which the Haiku community is well aware. It will be very interesting to see where the efforts toward a polished repository will lead. I do intend to follow-up on it.

The Essence Suggests Opportunity

Haiku is an environment that is NOT for everybody. It’s NOT for your grandma. It’s for people who really want to get involved in building something with a proven heritage and with an aesthetic and payload where simplicity is law. While I’ve had to suppress my “practical” side a bit when I say that this OS is highly functional and very, very, very fast. It’s not what you want when you want to get in a session of World of Warcraft. It’s a solid base for what could be a contender in the slowly growing pantheon of operating systems. This, I think, is what makes it an alpha, yet not an alpha. It would be better to think of it as what is possibly the most fertile ground you’ll find for development for anyone wants to pitch in. It has two great things going for it in this respect; it has a proven and faithful heritage in an operating system that could’ve been the choice for powering Apple’s systems and it has a growing community of dedicated developers. They really want this to be an alternative that anyone can turn to for work and play. I, for one, believe they can do it. Furthermore, I think it merits a more consistent regard from the community, considering that it’s a true survivor and a very capable effort.

Finding Solace in Solus Linux

Solus-article

There are so many reasons why you might want to try a new distribution. For all intents and purposes, the desktop has very few jobs when it comes to the “average” user. You need a desktop that:

  • Runs a web browser; and if you’re a Google Docs user, you can skip the next item!
  • Runs a productivity suite.
  • (Optional) Can run a casual game or two.
  • Can do these few jobs reliably and securely.

That’s it! And it doesn’t hurt that it looks nice and runs fast. It’s not that you’re less demanding. You just want something that works. I know. We’re all sick of hearing that expression.

This week I chose to immerse myself in Solus, a Linux operating system that doesn’t rely on another Linux OS as a base. Rather, it’s engineered from the kernel out and geared toward a safe, reliable desktop experience.

Living inside an unfamiliar operating system is a little like being in another country. You know you’re not the first one there so you’re not going to die. Most likely. But you also know that it’s not always going to be hospitable. You’re going to stumble over things that you’ve yet to try. You’re going to see exotic places and experience some strange situations. And the natives in the forums aren’t always nice. Sometimes, they can be downright hostile and not at all charitable to those who don’t yet know the culture or the language.

If you’re one of those who’ve been reluctant to travel the Linux galaxy, Solus is your kind of place. This time that’s for real.

A Brief History of the Solus System

Solus is not really new. It began life as a Debian-based distribution. It had a Gnome 2 desktop environment and was aimed at squeezing more life from aging systems.

In 2014, it was reintroduced to the world as Evolve OS, but later was changed to Solus because GOOD LORD! Someone had a legal issue with the name and it went back to Solus.

But ambitions change and Solus’ chief developer, Ikey Doherty began work on Solus as we know it today and derivative-only on a Linux kernel level. It is its own animal. I believe it has what it takes to break from the rest of the pack and have a significant impact on the “just make it work” crowd.

firefox

Am I the Right Guy for This?

I tried to approach Solus from the perspective of someone who hasn’t used Linux before. Unfortunately, after a few years, my life has changed a bit. So not to be melodramatic but this is different. Solus is important. In fact, I’d call it one of the most important developments in recent Linux memory; again, not to be melodramatic.

Solus may not be the most well-known place on planet Linux. It is not one of the most vastly-developed emerging distributions. Day by day work is being done. And Ikey is exerting a lot of effort to make this operating system a simple, fluid experience for the user.

I remember the day that I announced that I was going to be installing it on one of my SSDs in my growing collection. I tell you Ikey was there and was determined to not let me screw this up.

If you get stuck, give me a holler. 🙂 And this is your friend:

sudo eopkg up

Now, I’m not suggesting Ikey will be there for everybody on such a personal level. This was after I announced that I was going to be writing about it. But you gotta love that.

And Ikey was right. As it stands right now, this is the way you get your updates from the terminal. A lot of us who are familiar with various flavors and distributions are very familiar with this concept.

But Solus, at least not right now, is not just for people who like spending a lot of time in the terminal—if any! And let’s be fair. If you want to convert the average user to Linux, you’re not going to start them on Arch or openSUSE. You might not even start them with Fedora. You might try and steer them in the direction of Ubuntu or one of its derivatives. But there are a LOT of those! And if you mention a command line interface of any kind and you run the risk of ending the conversation badly. Simple enough, right?

terminal

Users of a visual desktop want a straightforward experience and Solus delivers that with easy setup. A fast installation is probably not necessarily the first thing anyone necessarily looks for, but Solus nailed it. On my Intel Core i5 with SSD and 16 overkill GB of RAM, I was up and running at the desktop in five minutes. Predictably, this is not Ikey’s focus, but he gave me a big fist bump over Google+ for the bonus.

Menu

You Got Your Chrome OS in My Solus

No, not really. You can breathe now. But come on. You can’t get much simpler than Google’s infamous Chromebook interface. It’s extremely light and unobtrusive. It’s the perfect example of staying out of the user’s way.

It’s no coincidence that Solus’ Budgie desktop interface is so close at default to that of Chrome OS. It’s pretty much WYSIWYG. However, it’s top-mounted, similar to Gnome 2. To the left corner you’ll see the menu button, which drops down the categories in the usual fashion. Nothing unusual there. By default you’ll have, from left to right, the Software Center icon, Firefox, X-Chat, (GASP!) VLC video player and RhythmBox (admittedly not my first choice). Other apps you open will also be displayed next to these for quick switching between them. I’ve been doing a lot of that. It’s extremely snappy and responsive. It’s designed to be that way for systems with less robust specs, as well.

The search feature in the initial menu is pretty quick as well. No surprises here either. Just type in what you’re looking for and it will look for it in short order. This is especially handy when you start adding to your collection of apps and files. Since this baby is here to work, you’ll be doing just that in no time.

Calendar

The clock in the center is just that. A clock. But the magic happens when you right-click on it and you’re presented with a simple dropdown of clock settings and calendar. In this instance, it’s Gnome Calendar, which I love. It very easily can be syncs with your favorite, such as Google Calendar. As I look right now, each and every mind-numbing obligation I have this month is staring me in the face. But at least I’ll be able to plan ahead. Wonder what Matt Hartley wants for his birthday.

Applets

Turning our attention to the upper-right corner of the panel, we will see the usual system tray-like features we’ve come to rely on. From left-to-right your network connection indicator begins the array, followed by a notifications indicator, one of my favorite features, battery level indicator, sound, Bluetooth on and off and power on and off options. A little further to the right there’s another clock, which seems a bit redundant.

When you click on that you’ll see the Budgie notifications panel slide out ever-so-slyly from the right side of the screen. It’s laid out pretty neatly. At the top you have two buttons, one for applets and the other for notifications. It defaults to notifications and you’ll most likely find your network connection confirmations there immediately. The bell in the system tray will turn from white to red when you have notifications waiting. You can easily delete these when you’re done reading them.

panelset

Just a little further to the right on the slide-out panel is a handy settings button, from which you can change system theming, color scheme and fonts as well as font styles. You can also change your pointer styling. This is one of my favorite features. If you get bored with the overall look of the system, this is a great way to make some changes on-the-fly.

Click on the applets button and you’ll have access to an at-a-glance calendar. The only bad part is there doesn’t appear to be a way to integrate it with an online calendar, but it’s good for at least knowing what the date is and flipping through. There’s also a volume slider as well as on/off toggles for speakers and microphone.

It’s nice and simple, but not without a slight level of badassery. Budgie may be simple, but it’s probably one of the reasons why it has the potential to gain a lot of users.

Let’s Go Shopping!

Compared to a short, short time ago, Solus has been racking up some apps in its Software Center repository. While the selection still isn’t necessarily on the Mall of America level, it’s certainly better than the Glenview Plaza Shopping Center. (Sometimes it sucks being in Kentucky).

software1

Theres a decent selection of developer tools, including guake and Lua. I know I’m just naming a couple, but that’s in the Development Tools section alone. A pretty nice collection of Perl modules also exists if you’re into the Camel. Plus there’s a lot of programming files you can look through to see if any of them fit your needs or (I’m assuming big time here) if you’d like to lend Ikey a hand. The poor man is busy!

The games selection is light, which is pretty much what you’d expect on a desktop default. But rather than field questions all day about it, they took the liberty of installing the Steam client. God bless them. It’s completely configured. Just type in your username and password and get the big warning about how your account is being accessed from another computer and you’re set!

Steam

I tried the Space Hulk remake from my collection since it’s pretty hefty on the 3D requirements. I’m running this on my trusty System76 Gazelle Pro with Intel Core i5, 16 GB RAM and one of my many SSDs. It ran very smoothly and I suck just as much as I ever did at this game. But the point is Solus did a great job at getting me what I wanted—my game to run and run well and give me a sound thrashing.

If keeping it simple is the name of the game, Solus is winning. Where Canonical is busy conquering the package space and its mobile platform version of Ubuntu, Ikey’s in little danger of scope creep.

Sure, Solus may not have literally everything you need right out of the box. It may not be geared toward a certain anticipated kind of user. It’s clear the developers didn’t want to paste a label on anyone in terms of how they use their system. But Solus has a place for everything. It’s like a home with all the essentials and hookups you need. What you place in there and where you place it is up to you.

For example, it doesn’t come with LibreOffice 5. Under the Office menu, you’ll find a calendar. That’s it. Everybody needs a calendar. I certainly do. It’s not necessarily the one I’ll end up using, but it’s certainly worth a try. Also, I’ve read a lot about people not listing LibreOffice as their first choice. Some people like OpenOffice.org, for example. Some people want to just go to the cloud and use the MS Office cloud-based suite (yuck!) or Google Docs (not as yuck!). There’s a lot to be said for “You don’t have to if you don’t want to.” That’s empowering.

Your Mom’s a Package Manager

Ikey says that Solus is not a distro that will be defined by its package manager. Unfortunately, that’s where a lot of tech journalists and talking heads seem to place 90% of their attention these days. There’s a lot going on in that particular area in the community what with (it rhymes with “pap snackages”) and other “competing” technologies under the lens, it’s hard to not talk about it. And I won’t—not talk about it. Because it’s good.

eopkg

Currently Solus uses the eopkg system, something I’ve never encountered before. Recently I only ventured into the zypper realm after years of apt-get. On and on it goes. Again, Ikey’s intention is for the user to never have to worry about that thing when it comes to installing software, updating the system and keeping things fresh. And that’s key in getting people away from Windows and into Linux. If the system is going to scare them to death, they’re not going to want to use it. This is a huge goal.

I think Ikey and team can pull it off. In just the last few days since I began writing this piece they’ve made strides toward eliminating unnecessary layers from their build server configuration, allowing for less…well…build time and increasing their productivity. What this means to you is that we could be getting more new packages in their Software Center—always a good thing.

WINE Whining

While I’m having a good time with Solus, I’ve experienced some issues with certain packages that are near and dear to my heart. Take WINE for instance. At the time I tried installing certain Windows apps, such as the Aardwolf MUD’s specialized MUSHClient and Notepad++, I’ve failed miserably every time. As it turns out, they’re in the process of rebuilding the WINE package. So we may be able to get back to our necromancing in Aardwolf…now! WHOA! It works! I was even able to get the MUSHClient update. I’m even happier now. Apparently scraping away the cruft off the build stack helped a lot. So no more whining. I’m not sure how it will react to other Windows apps I throw its way. But based on my less-than-demanding demands, it looks as though it’ll be a much better experience now.

Honestly, it’s amazing how much progress these guys have made since I began my research. Hat all-the-way off.

On the Coming Away

It’s fascinating watching things come together for Solus. With that in mind, in many ways this experience has felt sort of like a beta test. I assure everyone that I don’t mean that in a condescending way. It’s been like an extended stay backstage.

It’s a courageous move, creating something completely new and avoiding the status of “derivative”. Not that being a derivative is a bad thing either. But the approach with Solus seems to be that it’s easier to just build it than tear it down and rebuild it in order to keep your vision intact.

That’s pretty special. After all, how many times can we stare at Gnome or KDE and not wonder what else is out there? Linux has really been on the move over the course of the last decade. Lots and lots of polish and refinement have been applied. When since Unity have we really seen something unique? And what have these operating systems really offered in terms of getting people to switch to Linux from a mainstream OS?

While it may sound presumptuous to say that Solus would give the larger distributions pause to think about those questions for even a second, it might be worth their time to give it more than a passing glance. Because it is unique. It’s original. And it’s something that, with just a few more months at the rate they’re going, can and will be refined to the extent that the distributions of the future will be relying upon as a basis for the new derivatives.

How to Install openSUSE Tumbleweed on Acer Chromebook 15

Gecko

Since the dawn of time…well, since the dawn of Chromebooks, we’ve wanted to take these notebooks and make computers out of them. Utilizing their speedy startup/shutdown times, their fast onboard storage and incredible battery life, our goal here is to successfully install a favorite Linux distro (in this case openSUSE Tumbleweed). Ah, the power! I should also point out that you can use this method to install other distros but not all are guaranteed to work.

Contrary to what you might think, Chromebooks are actually a pretty diverse lot and not all are created equal. For this particular project, I’m working with my Acer Chromebook 15 C910. Also, since this particular system has a removable SSD of a paltry 16 GB, I’ve replaced mine with a 128 GB model from Adata and followed the usual precaution of backing up Chrome OS to a flash drive. I recommend at least a 4GB flash drive, larger if you want to backup any data you may have stored locally on the machine.

Get ready to read a bit because there’s some explaining to do before we get too far into this. First, this operation is not going to make use of the Crouton script. It will not make use of a chroot instance inside Chrome OS. I would imagine you could partition the SSD after everything is set up for openSUSE Tumbleweed and install another OS if you like. In short, this is commitment. Bye-bye Chrome OS, at least for now. By the end of this project, you should be able to boot from USB with legacy BIOS much like you would with a standard PC. I experienced a few hiccups along the way, but I’ll detail those later in this piece and help you avoid those.

Next, it will involve an invasive hardware change. Here’s a list of what you’ll need to complete the entire process:

1. A flash drive with at least 4 GB of space keeping in mind that it will be wiped. So back up any information you might have on it.
2. A set of precision screwdrivers.
3. Another flash drive with bootable openSUSE Tumbleweed image. Use your favorite method on another Linux or Windows (if you must) PC to prepare the flashdrive.
4. A USB mouse just in case your trackpad doesn’t work during the Tumbleweed installation process. The good news is my trackpad worked right after the installation was complete.

First, you’ll want backup Chrome OS. So go to the Chrome Web Store on your machine and install the Chromebook Recovery Utility. Follow the instructions carefully since the app will request that you type in the model number for the specific Chromebook you’re backing up. In my case, the machine actually supplied the model number on-screen, so I simply had to type it in. If yours doesn’t, you can find the model number below the error message.

Insert your flash drive. Make sure you select the correct storage device from the dropdown menu. Then click ‘continue’. It’s not a long process; it takes only about ten minutes to complete. Grab a cup of coffee and read FreedomPenguin.com for a while.

Once the recovery utility has completed its task, your Chrome OS image should be complete and you can remove the flashdrive.

Next, you’ll place your machine in Recovery Mode, which will lead to you placing the unit in Developer Mode. This will give you access to use the Terminal on the Chromebook at root level.  To do this, simply hold down the <esc> and Refresh keys while tapping the power button on the opposite side of the keyboard. The Refresh button has a symbol that looks like an incomplete circle with an arrowhead near the top.

Chrome-screen

Once up, you’ll notice a white screen with a warning and a big yellow exclamation point near the center. And, no, your Chrome OS isn’t missing or damaged. Whatever you do, don’t hit the spacebar. That’ll re-enable operating system verification and you’ll have to start the process to get into Developer mode again. “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

RecoveryImage

Press <ctrl>+<d>. This combo isn’t on the recovery screen because they don’t want anyone getting into Dev mode unless they know what they’re doing.

As I mentioned earlier, the method we’re using is very different from the Crouton chroot method. It will involve actually removing the bottom of the unit and removing the write-protect screw. This will void your warranty like a “motherfather.” Linux people should be used to that kind of thing anyway. Just understand this before attempting.

Be prepared to remove more screws from this thing than you’ve probably ever removed from the bottom of a laptop in your life. The Acer C910 has a ridiculous number of the little guys on the bottom–18. I don’t like it anymore than you do. Bear in mind they also have tiny washers on each. They really don’t want you taking this thing off! Sorry for their luck.

The good part is the bottom panel isn’t really hard to remove. Just do it carefully, gently prying the tabs apart. I started at one of the narrow corners and it was pretty easy. You’ll be glad to know there are no surprises. The bottom removes cleanly with nothing attached.

Once the bottom panel is off, you’re going  to locate the write-protect screw. It’s the largest screw on the motherboard, located near the bottom center, the side that’s next to the big battery. It’s surrounded by soldering points. This little jerk is a bit of a challenge and the head is easily stripped. So you’ll want to use a screwdriver with a small, shallow phillips head. Don’t give up. Unless you really like locking the read/write on your BIOS, you can toss the screw away.

board

Once the screw is removed, place the cover back on the bottom of the machine but don’t replace the 18 screws that secure it just yet. It’ll hold really well once you’ve snapped it into place and give you the time to check and see if you’ve removed the right screw.

cli-chrome

Start the Chromebook back up, remembering not to hit the spacebar. Once the system is fully booted, hit the combo. This will bring up the Chrome OS Terminal. In there you need to type:

“shell”,  excluding the quotation marks, of course.

You’ll see the prompt change from “crosh>” to “chronos@localhost / $”.

Now, type:

sudo flashrom –wp-status

chrome-flashrom

You’re going to get a stern warning at this point that, if you’re a Linux user, you will find familiar. “Respect the privacy of others.” “Think before you type.” “With great power comes great responsibility.” How did Stan Lee get in here anyway?

Below the warning you’ll see an array of flashrom information and a message somewhere near the bottom reading, “WP: write protect is disabled”. If you see this then you’ve completed one of the hardest steps in this whole process. You’re well on your way.

At the prompt, type the following:

sudo crossystem dev_boot_legacy=1

Hit then type at the next prompt:

 sudo crossystem dev_boot_usb=1

Keep your Terminal open.

What you’ve done here, as you may be able to guess, is enabled the computer’s ability to boot from USB as well as enabled legacy booting. I wish I could make it plainer than that. But suffice it to say it’s going to allow our next steps to work.

To quote Star Wars, here’s where the fun begins. We’re going to download the scripts that will replace the BIOS of the Chromebook with custom ROM called SeaBIOS. This operation is full of crucial steps, so follow along closely.

The following step contains a very long command from a website maintained by John Lewis, which also happens to contain a very handy table. On this table is a list of Chromebook models compatible with SeaBIOS and other valuable information regarding each machine’s compatibility. I extend him a huge thanks for creating this site.

Onto the task-at-hand. In the terminal you will type the following command line:

 cd; rm -f flash_chromebook_rom.sh; curl -0 https://johnlewis.ie/flash_chromebook_rom.sh; sudo -E bash flash_chromebook_rom.sh

As the process starts you will be presented with the opportunity to donate some Bitcoin to John for maintenance of the site and further research. You can bypass this but I’d send him something to help keep this effort going.

After that, you will see a clever means of absolving him from anyone possibly bricking their Chromebook, since this is as close to a brain transplant as you’re going to get software-wise. You’ll have to type a phrase verbatim, observing case. This will allow the process of replacing the BIOS to continue. I was biting my nails at this point but thankfully the process only took a few seconds. Once you get a message reflecting that the installation of SeaBIOS was successful, you can move onto the next steps. Wipe the sweat off your forehead and continue.

biosupdatecomplete

If you have not done the following by now, get another flashdrive and create a bootable drive from which you will install Tumbleweed. I had done this previously so it was just a matter of inserting the drive and rebooting the machine. And biting my nails again.

If your system reboots, praise the Lord. You did it!

Now choose the option to boot from your flashdrive. You should at this point see the “infinity-looking” symbol for Tumbleweed. Next screen you will follow through with the steps for installing your new operating system. Simply follow the on-screen prompts (which I have to say are very well-done) to complete the process.

google-suse

Also, unless you are a partitioning sorcerer, click the “Use Entire Hard Drive” button. This will destroy any lingering partitions and allow openSUSE to build its own. Currently, openSUSE will not install if there are pre-existing partitions on the drive. If you don’t do this then you’ll likely be stuck around the 96% mark and unable to boot the system. Like me. (I suffered for this.)

But wait! There’s more! Here are a few other things to keep in mind during and after your openSUSE installation process. The GRUB bootloader will be installed, which Chromebook seems to have a huge problem rendering. In fact, it will basically be invisible except for a few fragmented green and other color pixels at the very top of the screen preceded by several gray lines all smooshed together. I took a chance and just hit <Enter> and Tumbleweed began booting up. This will keep you out of startup process hell.

Another issue I ran into was during the installation of Google Chrome. There’s a text rendering issue in which the text is all but unreadable due to considerable vertical tearing inside the window. Pixels from the text will likely appear scattered. I updated the system and tried installing Chrome again and had no text rendering issues at least in that application afterward.

Updating is a crucial moment since these files will be latest available from the main repository. So it’s possible for things to break even if it’s the first task. In this case, I highly, highly recommend that you use the GUI method if you don’t know what you’re doing. I “kamikaze’ed” the Terminal method for this and, although it seems to have worked, I’ll now have to go through each app and see if/how they were affected by the update. Butterfingers.

I tested my sound by pulling up Chrome and going to my Google Play Music account. (Don’t start with me. I like it.) PulseAudio was doing its job very nicely and was taking advantage of the two big honking speakers flanking my keyboard. Sucker’s loud.

Adding some trusted software repositories would be a good idea. The goal here is to unlock the potential of the machine with a different operating system, but at the same time keep things within the confines of lower-end hardware specs. Essentially, we have a decent laptop that’s capable of a lot of light-to-medium duty tasks. Since a lot of us tend to work with those most frequently, this should serve as a convenient little satellite for a daily driver machine.

If you should ever want to return to Chrome OS, you can simply insert your Chrome OS recovery flashdrive and boot directly from it, following the processes thereafter. I must, however, disclose that I have not tried this yet. And I’m not going to. Besides, I have Chrome installed and if I ever want the Chrome OS experience again, I can install other desktop environments such as Budgie or maybe even CubOS, formerly Chromixium.

One final tip:  Don’t hit the spacebar at startup unless you want to start all this all over again. I know I said that earlier. But unfortunately this is the yellow your power ring won’t work against.

Join me in my next article when I’ll attempt to install Solaris on my Chromebook. I’m kidding. That’s not going to happen.

Important: I just want to reiterate the importance of having a bootable Chrome OS flash drive in this instance. Don’t skip out on this step. If you need to start over you don’t want to get stuck without it. Also, you might want to go back to Chrome OS to try out all the cool Android apps on Chromebook when the compatibility wave finally hits your machine. It’s very important to follow all the steps carefully. I’d hate to see a bunch of bricked Chromebooks. I’m a huge fan of Chromebook.