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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Some Chromebooks Won’t Get Linux Apps. Here’s What You Can Do Instead

When Chromebooks first began getting support for Android apps, there was some confusion as to just which Chromebooks would be supported. The same thing is starting to play out—though to a lesser degree—with support for Linux apps.

You’ve always been able to install Linux applications (or other Linux-based operating systems) on Chromebooks through a workaround called Crouton because Chrome OS is based on the Linux kernel. The new method for installing Linux apps is much easier than before since it’s a baked-in part of the operating system.

But not all Chromebooks will get official support for Linux apps. Here’s the deal.

Why Aren’t Some Chromebooks Supported?

The HP Chromebook X2 runs version 4.4 of the Linux Kernel

The new method for installing Linux apps on a Chromebook (internally known as Crostini) relies on changes introduced in version 3.14 of the Linux kernel. When a Chromebook is developed, its firmware is written around a specific version of the Linux kernel. The main reason for this is stability; by keeping the kernel version locked, it’s easier for Google to update Chromebooks without performance becoming compromised. A Chromebook performs just as well in year five as it does on day one.

The significant change in kernel 3.14 is better virtualization support. This means the app runs in a sandbox, so a bad process in one app doesn’t crash your whole system. This also makes the Crostini method more secure, which is a big selling point behind Chromebooks.

Some models may not have the hardware support for many Linux apps as well. A good portion of that list includes Chromebooks that use 32-bit ARM processors, while most desktop Linux apps are written for 64-bit X86 platforms.

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