Yesterday, we’ve covered three methods you can use to install Linux packages from the terminal on your Chromebook. Today, we’re going to look at how to install and use one of the most popular package management tools for Debian/Ubuntu based operating systems. Synaptic Package Manager is a GUI (graphical user interface) for the in-built APT package management system we covered yesterday. Not only does Synaptic provide a visual interface for the installation, upgrading and removal of packages, but it also gives users the ability to add repositories to access additional packages.
I covered Synaptic Package Manager a few months back. Unfortunately, the updated of the Linux container on Chrome OS to Debian Buster created some dependency issues that prevented it from running properly. After testing our various package managers and software centers, I revisited Synaptic to find it working again with a small tweak or two. Why would you want to use Synaptic? Glad you asked. Many Linux users are well-versed in using the terminal to install and run applications and many Linux distros include their own software center for searching and installing packages. You won’t get that on Linux in Chrome OS. Chromebook users that are interested in exploring new tools and applications via Linux may have little to now experience using command line tools. Synaptic puts a face on the Debian package manager and does a lot of the heavy lifting for the user. You can search for packages, see their descriptions and Synaptic will even show you what dependencies are needed to install a given package.
So, let’s walk through how to install and use Synaptic Package Manager on Chrome OS. First thing’s first, you’ll need to get Linux up and running on your device. If this is the first time you’ve used the Linux container, you can find more information on getting started here. All set? Great. Let’s get started. Synaptic is available from the Debian repository so you don’t have to do any fancy footwork to get it installed. Open up your Linux terminal and type or paste the following command and hit enter. When prompted, hit “y” and enter.
sudo apt install synaptic
Note: If your installation aborts when you hit “y” and enter, run the command again but replace
apt-get and you should be good to go.
Now, to run Synaptic you should be able to use the
synaptic-pkexec in the terminal. Unfortunately, Linux on Chrome OS is running as a virtual machine using the Chromebook as a host. For various reasons, using this command will run Synaptic without any privileges. That means you won’t be able to use Synaptic to install or upgrade packages and this will render it all but useless. To overcome this, we’ll run a different command using
sudo but first, we have to give the virtual machine access to the host display or the graphic interface won’t work. To do this we need to run the following command in the terminal.
The output for this command should be
localuser:root being added to access control list. Now we’re ready to launch Synaptic. You can do this by running the following command in the terminal.
Once Synaptic launches, you’ll be able to find packages by category or you can search by name. Clicking a package won’t install it automatically, Instead, you will “mark it for installation” and you’ll be prompted to review any necessary dependencies. Once you’ve mark the packages, simply click “apply” and wait for the installation to completer. Since Synaptic is just running “apt” commands, you’ll find your newly installed apps in your app launcher when applicable. To remove a package, just right click an installed package and click “mark for removal.” Then, click apply and the package will be removed. Synaptic is a great tool to help you find and install packages while learning your way around the terminal. Next week, we’ll explore how to add repositories to pull down packages not found in the Buster repository. Stay tuned.