We’re getting ready for a trip in which we expect to take a lot of pictures. So I’d like to take a small, indexpensive computer along to handle the task of copying pictures from the cameras and memory cards to a portable USB hard drive (for backups and to make sure we have enough card space). For a while I considered using our old Samsung NC10 Netbook, but it’s rather slow and a little thicker and heavier than I’d prefer. So I looked at my Samsung Chomebook instead (the 300 series ARM-based 10″ model).
That seemed ideal, since it’s light, thing, and has great battery life as well as a built in SDCard reader. However, the operating system (ChromeOS) is so heavily bent toward “cloud” computing that it doesn’t make interacting with local storage devices easy. So I decided to take the plunge and install a full-blown Linux distribution: Xubuntu.
The preferred way to get various flavors of ARM-based Ubuntu on the Chromebooks is the CruBuntu script. You simply put the device in developer mode, open a shell, curl a file, and run it. From there it takes care of partitioning and downloading all the needed packages to give you a full-blown Linux “desktop” distribution. The only weird thing I’ve encountered so far is the strangeness of the default trackpad settings. But this guy has as fix for that. I may or may not apply that, since I’ve already paired a bluetooth travel mouse with the laptop.
It’s funny, I always thought of the Chromebook as a little toy that’d be handy on trips when I don’t need much time on-line. But now it’s suddenly become about 500% more useful since I can get access to all the Linux tools I could possibly want. Sure it’s not a powerful machine, but for moving photos around, handling email, and maybe posting a few things on-line, it’s more than up to the task.
This process wasn’t without a little “adventure” of course. It took three tries to get right. But since it’s mostly unattended, that wasn’t a big deal. Had I chosed Xubuntu the first time instead of taking the default Ubuntu (with Unity) I’d have been a bit better off. In any case, I now have a nice little Linux “netbook” (to re-apply an old label).