Linux on the Pixel

After the announcement of the Chromebook Pixel yesterday, a lot of people were in love with the hardware, but thought the price tag was a bit high for a machine running Chrome OS. I'm in that camp as well. I think the hardware is mostly worth the price tag (a 256GB SSD would affirm that in a big way), but can't justify the price for a machine running Chrome OS the way things are now. 

We're pretty sure the Pixel is a portent of big things to come for Chrome OS, but just in case, here's a full blown version of Linux Mint running on the sexy thing. Bill Richardson, Chrome OS software engineer at Google, shows it off and gives fairly easy to understand instructions to do it yourself in his Google+ feed.

With devices shipping out today, things might get pretty interesting next week if you've been looking for a high-end Linux ultrabook. 

Source: +Bill Richardson

 
There are 66 comments

gregmcph says:

But that's the madness. It's good hardware (though an additional hack would be to put in a larger hard drive), for running other operating systems.

For the price Google should offer a sweet deal with carriers for 4G connectivity. I would rather have that instead of the terabyte storage. you can back up to other media for WAY less...That may make me consider buying one for a full 10 seconds...

crxssi says:

$1300 is a crazy price. Nice screen res, but that is about all. I just bought a Lenovo Thinkpad Twist (touchscreen AND convertible) Core i7 with 8GB of RAM and 128GB SSD for about $1100 in December. And it has a LOT more features (much more storage, much more memory, much more battery, much faster processor, wired ethernet, HDMI and Displayport, probably a better keyboard) And it runs Linux very well.

I have a full-voltage quad-core i7 laptop with 8GB RAM and a either a 1TB HDD or 265SSD here as well, that costs less that the Pixel. Gentoo loves it.

But it's not light. When I have to carry it all day, I remember why I want a good ultraportable.

crxssi says:

It is true that the Twist is not terribly light (although lighter than most any notebook from just a few years ago). And at 4.5 hours of battery, it is not like a real tablet either. But it also does tremendously more. I don't think there is much logic in having to spend $1300 to get a glorified terminal. I simply don't see anything in the hardware or the puny included services that justifies such an outrageous price.

If I want something light and simple, then I take the Nexus 10 :)

clashRAINN says:

I can't believe how genius this is on the part of Google. I admit when I first read about the pixel I couldn't understand why Google would create a Chromebook at this price point and thought it was destined to fail. But now I see the light. The beauty of the pixel is that they have changed the BIOS to allow dual boot. What does this mean for the average Joe... pretty much nothing. But to nerds everywhere it means that if all I want to do is surf the web or do some simple doc editing I can do that inside Chrome OS which is super light and super fast and will boot in less than 15 seconds. But maybe I want to edit video or run a development environment... no problem, I just boot into a linux distro of my choice. Given that Google themselves identified this ability I have no doubt this was their strategy. But wait... there's more! Not only have they created a device that will end up getting purchased by nerds everywhere, they have significantly raised awareness for Chrome OS in general by virtue of all the press the pixel is getting. Every article I have read that has bashed the pixel and Google for producing it has simultaneously praised Chrome OS and the much cheaper devices available from the likes of Samsung, HP and Acer. I myself purchased a Samsung Chromebook for my Mom for xmas and she absolutely LOVES it... and she is by no means technically minded at ALL. A device like the pixel would be completely wasted on her. So, cheap Chromebooks for people like my Mom and pixels for nerds like me. Genius. You might be asking yourself... if that was the strategy why not pre-load it with a linux distro. My guess, to not play favorites. Buyers that want to get the most out of their device are just going to load their favorite distro anyway so why go through the trouble.

npco543 says:

"But maybe I want to edit video or run a development environment... no problem"

Yea, no problem as long as the video you're looking to edit is 320 x 240 res clips of no more than a few seconds each, because after you put a real OS on this thing, there won't be space left to edit anything beyond that.

I would have agreed with you, and would have potentially been in line to purchase one of these, had there been a realistic amount of storage included or relatively easily upgraded to. But it just makes zero sense to hobble a premium device like this with such a small amount of storage, especially at a time when solid state storage prices are plummeting. I've recently upgraded all my systems to SSDs for almost peanuts - high end 256 gig drives are going for around $160.

I know Google is pushing their cloud services, but honestly, the cloud simply isn't realistic for anything beyond the most basic of tasks, and therein lies the contradiction with the pixel - it's a super high-end device. A $250 Chromebook is more inline with the basic tasks that the cloud excels at.

The Pixel is the equivalent of buying a Ducati with a 1 quart gas tank from a moped. That gas tank might hold enough gas for a week's worth of riding on the moped, but it won't take the Ducati more than a mile or two.

return_0 says:

Then buy a 500GB WD drive for $70. Or install an extra 120GB SSD for $100. Not a problem for the type of people who want to buy this.

return_0 says:

This. THIS. YES. +18002

icebike says:

You aren't just buying a laptop. You are also buying a service.

Pixel comes with one terabyte of cloud storage, free for 3 years.
12 free sessions of GoGo® Inflight Internet.
100 MB/month for 2 years of mobile broadband from Verizon Wireless (LTE model).

crxssi says:

Agreed, but two of the three are a fairly useless service if you ask me. And the last is anemic.

1) Cloud storage is not real storage. It is not fully yours, nor fully private, nor always accessible, nor low power, nor fast. Plus I wouldn't need a terabyte and if I wanted cloud storage, there are free options.

2) I fly maybe once every 6 years or so. Not sure about anyone else, but I don't think I am way outside the norm. So "12 sessions" of GoGo are pretty meaningless.

3) The 100MB/mo for 2 years is a real service/feature. And on a real laptop with local storage and programs it might be meaningful. But on a thin client with almost no local storage and a chain to the "cloud" for everything, it is an almost laughable lost leader.

deparson says:

You are not the target market for this computer.

For people who don't need to travel that much and don't need to store and manage a lot of data in a distributed manner there are much less costly options.

Google is clearly focusing this product/service (at least at launch) at a very specific slice of its customer base in the same way that Lenovo, or Dell, or HP focus specific product offerings.

It is for people who need/want a cutting edge laptop and are ready and able to embrace Google's vision of how our computers and data interact.

npco543 says:

"It is for people who need/want a cutting edge laptop and are ready and able to embrace Google's vision of how our computers and data interact."

The problem is that Google's vision is totally out of line with people's real world usage of their computers. Contradictions abound:

--A super high res screen to watch what on? Low-res YouTube videos? Does ChromeOS support Netflix or the Amazon player (both of which, or at minimum Netflix, requires Silverlight). Web browsing?

--Cloud everything, but a 100mb per month limit on the included data connection.

--1 TB of storage, but only for 3 years.

And the biggest problem of all - the price is equal to or above equally cutting-edge ultrabooks that can run the Chrome browser, if not ChromeOS itself, with all of Google's services *IN ADDITION* to a real OS and all the capabilities they provide.

On an SSD, Windows 8 boots in seconds. I have to admit, it's shockingly fast. MacOS does the same, so I'm not sure the speed of ChromeOS holds any sway in that regard.

With the Pixel, you're paying a premium for *severely* limited functionality, and other options are readily available for the same, to far less, which offer every bit the next-gen cloud-centric workflow as this *plus* all the advantages of local non-cloud "I actually own my stuff" workflow of today.

MERCDROID says:

Chrome OS supports both Netflix and Amazon video playback:I know because I have an Acer Chromebook that streams both flawlessly.

npco543 says:

Ok, I stand corrected. I had tried to get Netflix working on Linux Mint, and gave up after several days of fiddling with Moonlight and other Linux implementations of such things. I wasn't aware any of that was supported by ChromeOS.

But at the same time, even HD movies streaming from Netflix and Amazon wouldn't truly make use of the screen res of the Pixel and the 100mb per month cellular data connection would be exceeded in mere minutes.

MERCDROID says:

More than likely, the cellular data is included for travelers that need to check email or lightly surf the web, when wifi isn't a luxury. However, more data can be added, which is a huge advantage that the Pixel has over other ultra portables that likely require a dongle to receive cellular data.

npco543 says:

"which is a huge advantage that the Pixel has over other ultra portables that likely require a dongle to receive cellular data."

With many smartphone plans including tethering either free or for a modest cost, I'm not sure how huge of an advantage it is. But even without tethering, at $1450 for the LTE capable Pixel, you can still get a comparable Ultrabook *AND* a dongle for less.

Don't get me wrong, it's a cool laptop and I'm all for ChromeOS where it serves a purpose. I just think the numbers don't work out. The capabilities just don't justify the cost, and the cloud workflow's advantages don't outweigh it's disadvantages in light of the fact that you can get all the benefits of the cloud on cheaper devices along side today's non-cloud workflow.

MERCDROID says:

I completely agree with you; however, I'm not here to debate the short or long term viability of the Pixel vs other ultra portables. It's up to each potential buyer to decide if the product and bundled services justify a purchase by said potential buyer. I was merely stating the possible intended purposes of the included data. From experience, I can honestly say that natively-supported data is superior to data supplied by either a dongle or through tethering. The hassle of getting the latter two solutions to function properly is enough for some people to justify the price to use the former.

npco543 says:

"It is for people who need/want a cutting edge laptop and are ready and able to embrace Google's vision of how our computers and data interact."

I'd also like to add that none of these companies have yet explained or demonstrated how their cloud services vision of how our computers and data interact is any, or even as good as, people's current workflow. I just don't see it.

The *only* advantage is that data is accessible anywhere, and while that's indeed a nice feature, it's available currently, without any services. I have a ~6 Tb NAS unit at home to store all my stuff. I can easily configure it to allow outside access and set up my portable devices to map it as a local drive - bam! All my stuff, accessible from anywhere, and with the advantages of high-speed read/write access while at home, it's truly private and there are no on-going costs. And this functionality is available to many simply external drives, not just to dedicated and redundant NAS units.

It all just strikes me as a service companies have dreamed up solely to get more money out of people - not that it's a truly better way of working or provides more/better capabilities. Like renting software instead of buying a perpetual license - it's not good enough to sell a product anymore, we're not making enough money doing that, so we're going to rope customers into paying indefinitely for what they used to pay once for.

Call me skeptical, but I'm just not buying it.

Does the Lenovo Thinkpad Twist comes with a 239 PPI 400 nits of brightness screen and something else than Lenovo's usual crappy design?

crxssi says:

>"Does the Lenovo Thinkpad Twist comes with a 239 PPI 400 nits of brightness screen "

No, and that is why I gave "props" to the higher res screen on the Pixel before otherwise tearing it apart. It is about the only compelling feature it has, to me.

return_0 says:

To you.

crxssi says:

Yes. That is all any of us can really represent.... ourselves.

crxssi says:

>"Does the Lenovo Thinkpad Twist comes with a 239 PPI 400 nits of brightness screen "

No, and that is why I gave "props" to the higher res screen on the Pixel before otherwise tearing it apart. It is about the only compelling feature it has, to me.

nuchdog says:

Tough to justify when the entire experience is through the browser. Paying $1300 for cloud computing doesn't make sense. How good does the hardware need to be to run a cloud application?

chillrb says:

Totally agree with Jerry on this being a nice linux ultrabook. I paid over $1300 for my Samsung Series 9 13.3" running on Ubuntu 12.10. Screen is 1600 x 900, better than the Macbook Air but not even close to the Pixel. Add touchscreen capability and the cloud storage and I think they're in the right price range.

If it at least ran Android, I could see it being of some value, but $1300 for an internet browser? C'mon....

What I'm still waiting for people to point out is that three years of having a TB in the cloud is $1,800 with Google's current pricing. So essentially you're saving $500 AND getting a very nice computer. It's a win win for the cloud enthusiast. But who really needs that much cloud space anyway?

And with the free 100MB / month of LTE, you can fill just shy of 3% of that 1TB in only 2 short years.

deparson says:

For many people - even people who fill the 1TB of storage space - the need for LTE will be very small. For the vast majority of the time they will have access to WiFi - work, office, coffee shops, friends house, air port lounges, etc, etc.

LTE is to fill in the gaps and would normally be used to access information and not load or unload a cloud drive.

However, for use cases where a much larger amount of LTE data is needed those plans can be purchased of course, just like with any other mobile data plan.

Jaredshoes says:

Who are you waiting for to say that? Plenty of people have stated that useless amount of storage they're giving you that you might use 20gb of

I haven't seen any review or hands-on with the unit to try and justify the price with that figure. Although I completely agree with the fact that 95% of people won't use much of that space people who have a use for the storage would view the Pixel as a $500 savings regardless of including a computer or not.

heat3610 says:

Lol he knows that chrome os is not ready for that type of price. So he figured out an alternative until chrome gets where it needs to be.

Suntan says:

Personally, I can't see the justification in spending that much money on a laptop of any kind. Let alone one with limited software capability.

-Suntan

Still overpriced.
At 100MB/Month, I can almost fill up a whopping 3% of that 1TB free cloud storage in 2 full years.
Wow!

A device like this is meaningless until data caps go away again.

It has nothing to do with the LTE service, though. Connect to any other connection and you can upload anything.

Sure. I'll just sit at home and use this. Not exactly a great use case.

deparson says:

Or you could sit at your office, your client's office, coffee shop, friends house, airport lounge, or just about any other tech friendly public venue in the Americas :)

If you really need a ton of LTE data those plans are available of course.

MERCDROID says:

You're joking, right? You can use public wifi points on this Chromebook as you would for your laptop or tablet. It's being marketed as an ultra portable:the price doesn't instantly make it unsuitable for travel, which is the reason for its very existence, arguably.

return_0 says:

So the only place where you have internet access is your house? Where do you live, Siberia?

MERCDROID says:

Lol

34.50 says:

I can't justify this - and I think Google has the wrong approach. First with Chrome OS, you're only capable of running Chrome web apps (and couple other things), so there is a HUGE software limitation. There is no freedom to run any application like your traditional Windows/Mac OS/Linux OS's. While the design is fantastic, and the specs are great, the software is just not there yet. And if the software is not there, why include a Core i5, high resolution display?

This is just a Macbook Pro Retina Display competitor - just Google saying, "Hey Apple - so can we". This may inspire Samsung, HP, and other computer manufacturers to build better Chromebooks, but Google needs to focus on Chrome OS first and foremost.

crxssi says:

+1 exactly. Until ChromeOS can either offer locally running Linux apps or at least Android apps, it is not terribly compelling to many people. The one huge advantage it might have- being inexpensive, is completely lost on this "Pixel" experiment.

chillrb says:

Here's your full Linux https://github.com/dnschneid/crouton Just because normal people will be using regular ChromeOS doesn't mean the rest of us can't live in developer mode on the Pixel.

You're just stating exactly what Google did with the Chromebook Pixel. It's for "what's next." Not what we already have.

steve_holt says:

I personally think this laptop is intended to serve as an internal developer tool, booting to their internal linux. They've chosen to also make it available to consumers using their externally facing ChromeBook.

I spent the past week hanging out with a couple of friends who work at Google, and it struck me as odd how everyone in Google Engineering carries around a macbook pro. I expect they don't mind reducing their reliance on Apple, as they already have on Microsoft. I wouldn't be shocked to see many of their engineers start to use the Pixel as an alternative.

I think your right about it being used to replace the MacBook Pro but I also think this is the hardware being release before the software. Chrome OS is nice, I like it but when I need to do school would I have to use my Linux or Windows laptop. It would be nice if I could replace my Linux distro with Chrome, can't get rid of Windows till I know I can run any program easy on Chrome OS or a Linux distro. Google has the money and clout to get the big name programs to run on Chrome OS and when that happens I will say bye to Windows and MS.

My school suffers from the Microsoft Office - a million different versions disease, and I think Google could really help with this. People talk about how Microsoft Office is the only usable office suite, but from what I've seen, almost no one can figure out how to use Microsoft Office properly, and to almost everyone I know it's either USB or sharing through email. It has also become a part of our exams that if your computer dies and you didn't save, you have to start over from your last save, no matter how much time is left of the exam. Not really optimal, and though our school has been trying to push Office WebApps, there's still a huge problem with all the different versions of Microsoft Office being used, and people having to purchase licenses.

troyboytn says:

I love Google and it's offerings but now is NOT the time to start getting greedy Google. This hardware is not worth the sticker price no matter the spin you put on it. Any laptop without dedicated graphics should be priced under $1000. You need an Nvidia graphics chip and an I7 processor to even begin to imagine a $1300 price tag. Google doesn't quit yet have the "cool power" to constitute a ridiculous price on name alone quite yet. This is a $750-800 machine at best.

deparson says:

Agree.

Call it a $800 computer so you end up with...

Computer : $800
GoGo : $100
LTE Data : $500
Cloud Drive: $1,800
TOTAL : $3,200

Knock off, say $500, to reflect the fact that you are pre-paying and to reflect that you may not fully utilize the 1TB cloud drive for a few months and you end up with a potential value of...

$2,700

Even if you knock off $1,000 or even $1,500 because you don't think you will use the full value of the services you come in well above the price of the laptop and service package.

Now, if you don't want the bundled services then your numbers may look different but, again, that means you are not the target market for this offering.

return_0 says:

This.

crxssi says:

Or you can call it a $600 netbook with...

Computer $600
GoGo $0 value
LTE Data $0 value
Cloud Drive $0 value
TOTAL: $600 (about half what it sells for)

It really depends on the use case. For many people, the bundled "services" have little to no value.

http://www.amazon.com/Samsung-Series-Chromebook-Titan-Silver/dp/B0067U9W... $430, so add $170 for bumped specs.

return_0 says:

Enough already, gosh! How many times do you have to be told that YOU AREN'T PART OF THE TARGET AUDIENCE. Don't complain about it; you don't have to buy it.

I hate to say it but but the target audience are big time Google fanboys with a disposable income and developers. Even than, developers can buy something just as good and cheaper. I'm not knocking it or the people that will buy it, and Google can release whatever they want. I'm just saying that there is no good argument for it, and so far all the justification for it sound silly.

return_0 says:

I agree somewhat, but I hate it when people show what value a product has _to_ _them_, and then knock said product because it's priced higher than what they would pay for it.

MERCDROID says:

I bashed it at first, before I took a gander at the product page and saw all of the included services bundled with it. I'm not the target market for it, I'll admit; I am very well interested, though.

return_0 says:

Agreed. This looks like a really nice computer, but it's not for me. The $250 Samsung Chromebook isn't perfect, but it has a better value for me (and probably for most others). If I were a billionaire, though, this computer would already be sitting in my house.

crxssi says:

Well, some of us hate it when everything "cloud" is spoken as if it meets everyones' needs when it doesn't. There is no need to get all upset up this stuff, it is just a blog/discussion. I think we are all learning at lot about the devices and the people who do and don't like them.

return_0 says:

But it isn't designed to meet everyone's needs. Where did Google say it meets everyone's needs? And how small will the comment boxes become when comments are replied to?

E90 Commie says:

I think it is a nice ultrabook with Linux. As a Chrome OS device, it is way too expensive even with the included storage but running a desktop OS that can be used offline, it starts to make sense.

What I like about is certainly that the overall concept goes towards the MacBook style. A premium computer. There are things that could be improved, the storage options is one. A 128-256 GB SSD + the existing SD card slot would be perfect.

Since I don't like Windows (to me it is good for gaming but I can't stand it as my everyday OS) and Apple has become way to mainstream with way too much vendor lock-in, I think Linux is the way to go. Since I don't like budget laptops made out of plastic running Windows and where a low price tag is the strongest selling point either, I think this ChromeBook Pixel is the start of something big and fresh.

High quality Linux ultrabooks, perhaps with dualboot Chrome/Linux or Android/Linux is what it takes to take on Apple and offer a decent alternative to a MacBook. It will be very interesting to see what Google are going to do with the Pixel.

I would prefer that Android was merged with Chrome OS though.

sarriola says:

No one has mentioned the possibility of hackintoshing this thing too. Imagine triple booting it with a
Linux distribution, ChromeOS, and MacOS.

rizzay1 says:

What kills this is not only the price but the battery life of up to just 5 hours before I have to charge it again, that kinda sucks.

crxssi says:

But it is no *worse* than the battery of any other ultrabook. A tablet it is not, of course.

MERCDROID says:

So, all ultrabooks have crappy battery life? Wow, I guess that sort of defeats the purpose of them being "ultra portable." I didn't think ultrabooks would have battery life similar to my Acer Chromebook. I find myself wanting a tablet more and more by the day; switching to a tablet-bluetooth keyboard setup is increasingly in the cards for me.

return_0 says:

Agreed, battery life is something that really needs to be worked on by ultrabook manufacturers.

dan4patriots says:

whats this have to do with android? this thing runs Chrome OS not Android
When is this site getting renamed to GoogleCentral?