Linux apps on Chromebooks have become a bit more commonplace than they were just a year ago. Many devices now support this new feature and the overall abilities of the Linux container in Chrome OS continue to grow. As the big pieces have been in place for some time, it is easy at this point to miss the less glaring omissions that are still yet to be fixed, and that is exactly what has happened with microphone support with the latest build of Chrome OS 79.
A few of those larger missing pieces to the overall Linux experience on Chrome OS have long been GPU support and proper microphone support. GPU support has been around for a bit, though it is still considered experimental and behind a flag at this point. Being placed behind a flag isn’t a huge deal, however, since those willing to tinker and mess with Linux apps are generally savvy enough to turn on a flag or two if needed. Mic support has been completely absent up to this point, however, and that has left a decent void in the abilities of Linux apps.
Thanks to the constant search for this missing ability for Linux apps by Kevin Tofel over at About Chromebooks, it turns out the developers slid mic support in for the Linux container in Chrome OS 79 without making a big fuss over it. It takes a couple command lines in both the Chrome OS shell and the Linux Terminal, but it is quite simple to get up and running and after testing, things work as you’d expect them to. We fully expect this feature to become part of the Linux container without the need to enter anything in a terminal in Chrome OS 80 or 81, but it might still remain behind a flag at that point.
How to try it for yourself
To try it out, you first need to enable Linux apps on your Chromebook. Either go to your settings > Linux (Beta) > Turn on or simply search for ‘Terminal’ in your app drawer and select the Terminal app. This will prompt you to install the Linux container if you haven’t already and you’ll be ready for the next parts.
Once all that is done and Linux is ready to roll, you need to open a CROSH (Chrome OS Shell) instance by hitting CTRL + ALT + T on your keyboard. You’ll see a black screen in a new tab appear, and on that screen you simply need to type
vmc stop termina and hit enter. Give it a second to do so, and then you need to type in
vmc start termina --enable-audio-capture, let it finish, and then close that tab. You’ll be asked if you are sure you want to close that tab, but it asks this every time you close a CROSH tab, so don’t worry about that.
That’s it! The next time you launch a Linux app via your app drawer or via the Terminal, that app will have access to you microphones on your Chromebook. This means the internal mic on the device itself will work, a mic plugged into the 3.5mm jack will work, or a USB-C audio interface or mic will also work. As long as the mic works on the Chromebook itself, it will work in Linux. The container is simply pulling the system mic settings and capabilities, so if your mic setup on your Chromebook works, there’s no reason in won’t carry over to your Linux apps.
I tested this setup with Audacity and once I selected the System Mic as the input, I was good to go. The ramifications of this addition should be pretty clear. Users who are on a Chromebook will soon have much easier access to much more powerful audio recording applications that they may be a bit more accustomed to and multiplayer games inch closer to reality with voice chat becoming available now as well. In general, having the mic available when using Linux apps of any sort is a big step in the right direction for the entire Crostini effort on Chrome OS.