How To Install LinuxMint on Your Chromebook Pixel

How To Install LinuxMint on Your Chromebook Pixel

Got a Chromebook Pixel from Google? Hmm, you are lucky. Planning to buy one? Oh! bold move! Either way, if you have plans of trying out other operating systems, here is something to start with.

Thanks to Bill Richardson, a Google employee, I can now tell you how to install LinuxMint on the Chromebook Pixel. I am sure we will see more linux distros, and even Windows 8, in no time. But for now, allow me to copy paste Bill Richardson‘s Google Plus post here.

chromebook  How To Install LinuxMint on Your Chromebook Pixel

What’s new in Pixel’s BIOS:

Previous Chrome devices have had limited support for booting alternate OSes. While it has always been possible to install your own customized version of Chromium OS, the unconventional nature of the Chrome OS BIOS (fast, simple, secure) is radically different from the legacy BIOS environment that off-the-shelf PC OSes expect or require. Still, as with the rest of Chrome OS, we try to continually improve to meet our users needs. Since part of the Chrome OS BIOS is read-only, we generally only get to make major improvements in the BIOS by releasing a new Chrome device.

The Chromebook Pixel is no different in that regard.  As usual there are a number of changes that are (hopefully) invisible to the user, but one change that is not invisible is the support for a user-provided custom bootloader. Chrome OS firmware normally consists of three distinct BIOS images. First, there is the read-only BIOS, which is (duh) read-only. It can’t be modified without disassembly. Then there are two read-write BIOS images, called RW A and RW B. The read-only BIOS is what runs when the machine is first powered on. It checks the two read-write BIOSes (A, then B), looking for one that is correctly signed by Google. If it finds one, it jumps to that image, which then looks for a valid kernel, and so forth. If there is no valid RW firmware (or some other fault has occurred), the execution stays in the RO BIOS and enters Recovery mode.

With the Pixel, we’d added an extra (unverified) BIOS slot. It only works in developer mode, and you have to explicitly enable it, but we’ve put a copy of Seabios in the Pixel firmware. Here’s how I booted Linux Mint on it:

1. Enter developer mode (hold Esc+Refresh, poke the Power button). When you see the recovery screen, press Ctrl-D, then Enter.

Remember that in dev-mode, you’ll see the scary boot screen at every boot. Just wait 30 seconds or press Ctrl-D to boot from the SSD. The first boot in dev-mode will take 5 minutes (so someone doesn’t flip it while you’re up getting your coffee).

2. Log in, download the latest 64-bit USB image fromhttp://linuxmint.com

3. Get a root shell: Press Ctrl+Alt+T, then run “shell”, then “sudo bash”.

4. Use ‘dd’ to copy the image onto a USB stick or SD card. For example

cd /home/chronos/user/Downloads
dd if=linuxmint-14.1-cinnamon-dvd-64bit.iso of=/dev/sdb bs=1M

The standard cautions about picking the correct /dev/??? apply!

5. Run

crossystem dev_boot_usb=1 dev_boot_legacy=1

6. Power off, then on again.

7. This time, when you see the scary boot screen, press Ctrl-L instead of Ctrl-D

8. When you see the SeaBIOS screen, press ESC

9. Pick the drive to boot from

10. When you see the “Automatic boot in 10 seconds…”, press ESC

11. Highlight “Start Linux Mint”, press TAB

12. Replace “–” with “mem=4G”

13. Press ENTER

The keyboard and WiFi works (for open access ports at least), but the trackpad doesn’t. You’ll have to connect a USB mouse.

Installing it on the SSD is left as an exercise for the reader. chromebook  How To Install LinuxMint on Your Chromebook Pixel

No, there’s no way to set the legacy boot as the default option.

If you want to tweak your own SeaBIOS, you’ll have to ask +Stefan Reinauer. He’s the one who made it work.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Thanks for the tips. That got me past the memory error(Replace “–” with “mem=4G”). Unfortunately, now I immediately get a kernel panic about failure to mount root fs(2,0). Thus I am still stuck with Ubuntu. I am using a new HP Haswell Chromebook 14. I get a similar kernel panic with opensuse. Not really an Ubuntu guy, but it will have to suffice for now.

    • I have 2GB version of Acer C720 and mem=2G gave me kernel panic. Works with mem=1G

  • Your “exercise for the reader” is what I came here specifically to read about. Does installing to the SSD even work? Can it be made to boot Mint or another ‘nix from the SSD by itself without having to use a CTRL boot option at boot?