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Tuesday, March 12, 2013
How I made a "Chromebook" out of my old laptop, and got it all to work!
So, while this is not a complete "how-to" on how this will work or not for you, it's what I did. There are instructions below for adding Java, Flash, Google Talk, and mp3 and mp4 support. So, I have a Chromium OS notebook with Flash, Java, and more all working.
For my project, I was using an old Compaq Presario C700 laptop that I'd abandoned, because it was so old, slow, and annoying.
First, find a version of Chromium OS that you want to use. A couple of different versions are around that are popular, including Hexxah's and one from Dell that someone over there has written for Dell Mini 9 and 10 netbooks.
I started by trying to use Hexxeh's latest nightly build, but found that the touchpad on my old machine wouldn't work. I'd also, at the same time, download the Feb 20, 2013 build from Dell, along with the instructions text files, and noticed something about support for old touchpads, so I tried it second.
Follow the instructions for your original operating system listed on Hexxeh's site, or follow along on your Windows pc below:
Download the version you want (or both, like I did.)
Uncompress the version you download (I did this with 7zip on a Windows laptop).
Put a blank 4GB or larger USB stick into your machine, and use the Image Writer to select the IMG file you've decompressed, and write it to your USB stick.
Plug USB stick into target laptop, and cause the laptop to boot from the USB stick, not the internal drive. On my C700, I hit F10 to get into BIOS and modified the boot order, so it would boot from USB stick first.
Boot up to Chromium OS, login, and try it!
Now, are you ready to take the plunge, and get the OS onto your internal drive? The instructions included with the Dell download were again helpful:
7). From the running ChromiumOS desktop, type "ctrl-alt-t" get to a terminal window
From here, I had to login. I did this, using this Dell image, by using the login "chronos" with the password "dell1234", found earlier in the Dell instructions document. If you're using the Hexxeh builds, I believe his use "chronos" and "facepunch".
9). Back at the ChromiumOS desktop, press the power button to shutdown the Mini
10). Press the power button to start to the Mini 10v
11). Log in to the ChromiumOS desktop
12). If you want to transfer the USB image to your harddrive (THIS WILL WIPE YOUR HARDDRIVE!!!!) you can do the following:
0). ENSURE YOU ARE OK WIPING YOUR HARDDRIVE - Please make and verify any backups of your harddrive PRIOR to continuing forward.
0'). THE FOLLOWING STEPS WILL DESTROY ALL DATA ON YOUR HARDDRIVE - DO NOT PROCEED UNLESS YOU ARE OK WITH THAT.
a). Boot to your ChromiumOS USB key
b). Log in using the "dell" account (in step 6) above)
c). Type to get a terminal window
d). At the command prompt type: install
e). At the command prompt type: exit
f). Back at the graphical desktop, press the power button to initiate a shutdown
g). Remove the USB key
h). Boot the box - it should boot up via the HDD now into ChromiumOS
This stuff all seemed to work for me. After the d) line command, I had to wait a few minutes for the installation to take place. I expected this, but it wasn't clear in the instructions, so I'm mentioning it.
So, with any luck, you now have a bootable old laptop from Chromium OS, and some major missing features, such as Flash, Java, Google Talk, and more. For me, this made the laptop almost useless, other than to tinker around and look at things. In fact, this ruined my day tremendously.
I searched, and googled around for every possible way to get Flash into the OS, but was finding VERY little information. Until I found a couple things, combined the info, and then worked it into a solution.
Basically, to login to the Chrome shell as a root user, do this:
Enter the shell by Ctrl-Alt-F2 (Get out of shell by using Ctrl-Alt-F1)
Enter your login:
User chronos has sudo powers. So, we can switch to root use the password of cc
$ sudo su
2. Once landed in the root shell, the we can set the root password. But by default, the root file-system is mounted without write permission. So the root partition has be to be remounted with rw permission using the following command:
# mount -o remount,rw /
3. Reset the root password using the following command:
4. Add the cronos to the wheel group, so that su - root (switching to root) is possible from the cronos user.
# vim /etc/group
append "cronos" or any other "username" to the 'wheel' group.
Here's another spot where this information may be easy for regular linux users, but not so much for me. So I had to figure it out.
I believe in line 9, it means "add the chronos user to the wheel group". When you type "vim /etc/group", you'll end up with a page with a bunch of lines. About 10 lines down or so is a line starting "wheel::" I used my arrow keys to go to that line, scroll to the end and type a couple keys, until it lets you edit. I added ",chronos" to the end of that line (no quotes).
Then, press "Esc" once, then type in ":x" and hit enter.
It should show that the file is written, and dump you back to the # prompt. If you've made a mistake or typed too many characters, or don't know what you did, you can hit "Esc" and then ":q!" instead of ":x" and it'll dump you out of the file, without saving changes. Then you can hit the up arrow once from the command prompt, and try again.
Now might be a good time to also change that "chronos" user password. From the # prompt, type "exit" to get back to the $ prompt. Then type "passwd" to change the chronos password to whatever you'd like. Follow the prompts for the old and then the new password you want.
But, none of this has gotten us to the place we need to be for installing that Flash, Java, and other stuff, right?
If not already at the # prompt, get back in from the $ prompt by typing "sudo su" and your new password. (See why we went through the unrelated-seeming password stuff first?) Now, you can run this command:
curl -L http://goo.gl/qPrfd | bash
Now, magic happens. You should see Flash, and Java and who knows what being downloaded from their respective sites, and installing onto your machine.
Voila! A perfectly (we hope) working "Chromebook", without spending a penny!