Quick Update on Chromebooks, Debian, crouton

Hey there Crime Stoppers!

Just a quick update on my quest to get Scrivener up and working on a cheap Chromebook. I spent a lot of time trying to get things to work on the ARM Samsung chromey and in the end gave up. I’m a tech pro, and I’m pretty sure there might have been a way to manage it, but I doubt it could be done without source code for the app. Also, I was surprised how little other software is available in the ARM repositories for Debian wheezy. One of the stated goals of wheezy was to expand the support across more hardware architectures, but there is still a lot of stuff missing in the ARM world of Debian.

So I picked up an ACER 720, which has a hobbled 64 bit Celeron as the processor, but other than that is pretty similar in terms of specs to the Samsung.

I started by installing Debian via crouton (github.com/dnschneid/crouton). The first time I forced an i386 install just to test if Scrivener would work at all on the machine. With almost no trouble, it did.

Why did I use Debian? Because I’m ancient and remember when Ubuntu didn’t exist, so i"m just a wee bit more comfy in Debian world.

After the ‘proof of concept’ install, I wiped the machine and installed amd64 wheezy, once again via crouton. Having gone through the threads here about people installing onto 64 bit distros, using the instructions on this thread


got me 90% of the way there. Essentially you have to install the following packages lib32z1 lib32ncurses5 lib32bz2-1.0 and then it was almost there. A few packages where still broken, but looking at the errors thrown when starting Scrivener it was only a few things where I had to install libFooBar:i386. I kept a list, but lost it at some point during a reboot. But it was all easy stuff.

So, long story not so short, I set out to get a lean, mean, Scrivening machine, and with just a little effort I have it up and running. Not bad for USD 220 if you ask me. It’s also really nice to have the Debian install only a few keystrokes away from the normal Chrome environment. Running in the chroot mode seems to cost almost nothing in terms of performance and battery life. So far, transferring files from my Windows box to the chromey via google drive has been seamless. Very, very nice workflow.

Thanks lads, keep up the good work!


Welcome to the geezer club.

The one that gets me is when folks try to explain that Ubuntu isn’t debian. Really? not Debian? yet is uses the debian repo for some packages, the debian packaging system, and even says in the docs that it is based on debian? Really?

I still don’t know why they call it “common sense” given how uncommon it really is…

As to the ARM point… Debian is the geezer OS, Ubuntu the cheap OS. In both cases there will be very little ARM hardware in use. You will actually find more SPARC running deb than ARM. This is true of nearly all linux variants though (chomeOS is linux variant but runs so much “stuff” off the net that it really isn’t contributing to ARM branches). Use a gcc-arm and cross compile what you need of a beefy Intel host and you should be able to get everything with source available working on ARM.

Glad you got scriv working.

See, differences like that are less annoying to me than people who call any linux distro “ubuntu.” Even surface, the different distros are VERY different, and under the hood can be widely divergent. Doesn’t even get into the whole System V/systemd vs. BSD pissing contest, either.) It’s like people who call salad dressing “mayo.” Nope. Not even close to the same.

People complain about Debian, but it’s pretty freaking stable (and always has been.) IMO, I’d rather have stability than the next best thing.

I’ve been running a deb vs rhel contest here. Deb is winning but the lack of “enterprise” support it keeping folks married to rhel. that and oracle not really supporting deb…


We’re straying a bit (OK, a lot) from Scrivener here, but I’m one of those rare old Debian geezers who likes Ubuntu. I have a ton of respect for what Cannonical has done over the years, both on their own and for Debian. I still think Ubuntu is the only ‘grandma certified’ linux distro for the desktop and their no-GUI server installs have been rock solid when I’ve used them. Ubuntu has also, IMHO, forced Debian to be a little more responsive and dance a bit quicker. I remember those sarge and etch days when to get anything recent you had to be running sid. These days even stable wheezy is reasonably up to date, and I think a lot of the credit for that has to go to Cannonical for kicking them in the ass a bit.

But back to Scrivener, I’ve been using it for a few more days and I’m really, really impressed with the Chromebook. Because you’re in a chroot environment almost all of the hardware issues are gone. The chrooted environment seems to ‘talk’ to the audio/video drivers native in the Chrome OS no problem, so things ‘just work’ in the best way possible. In addition, the battery life on the thing is almost tabletesque. And the Debian install also makes it a bit easier to use when offline. So far, a great combination.

Now then, back to that crime novel . . .


that’s great news. I may look at corrupting a chromebook for my next laptop based on what you’ve done.

I too like ubuntu. It’s what I install on any system that I expect to support for “free”. It is pretty hard for them to screw up. My beef is with the folks that “swallow the koolaid” but swear it is really whisky.

Heh, Sarge. First-ever linux distro I used was potato or slink. I can’t remember. (April of 2000, I believe.)

What was the first public test release named… I remember 1.0 on a 1.4 or 1.6 kernel (I’m pretty sure it was 1.4/1.6 as modules were “experimental” still (but stable)). It might have been potatoe, but it was in the late '90s. I’m losing my mind.

That was also when my name dropped of the kernel contributors list. My contribs had been rewritten by IBM staff. not really rewritten as they took half a dozen lines and bloated them to a couple hundred. That’s when I realized that Linux was the future for all but the uber big boy corps. Now those uber big boy corps are 90% Linux.

But back to chromebooks…

The key is the intel chip. Anything else we should look for?

You GO, Jaysen!!

The new Samsung Chromebooks will be even faster: tinyurl.com/nsudf87

So I am wondering if that will make Ubuntu & Scrivener installation any easier??

The install should be faster, but since the chips are ARM7 they will not run scriv and you will need to build any packages that are not already available for ARM.

But yeah, those should be nice for general use.

Those new Samsungs look pretty sweet but, indeed, they are ARM.

I’m guessing if one wanted to spend the time to hand compile and then package all of the right libraries using and ARM C compiler, it should be possible to run Scrivener. However, I promised myself that I wouldn’t let my Scrivener on Chromebook project become an OS/programming task. That might be interesting and fun, but the whole point, for me, of getting it to work was to FTGDB (Finish The God Damn Book). So I sold the Samsung on to a friend and picked up the Acer with an Intel CPU.

So far, it’s working like a charm. Highly recommended, especially until the day when there’s a tablet version of Scrivener.