The Chrome OS team is rapidly working to brings more capabilities and stability to Linux apps on Chromebooks. Full GPU support is just beyond the horizon and while there is still much work to be done, developers are already working on bringing Crostini to some key older devices.
At inception, it was made clear that Chromebooks running the older 3.14 Linux kernel would never receive official support for Crostini. Additionally, 32-bit ARM Chromebooks are excluded from this feature for various reasons. As were BayTrail devices due to lack of Intel’s virtualization technology required to run the Crostini containers.
This left a handful of Broadwell Chromebooks hanging out in limbo with no guarantee of Linux support because of their outdated kernel. Thanks to some brilliant research from Kyle Bradshaw, it now appears these devices have hope of landing Crostini.
The project, dubbed “kernelnext,” is looking to push an update of the Linux kernel that will bring devices such as the Chromebook Pixel 2015 and Toshiba Chromebook 2(2015) from their current kernel version of 3.14 to version 4.14.
This may seem like a futile undertaking considering most of these devices are closing in on one year left of guaranteed updates but when you consider the Chromebooks on the list, it will be celebrated by many a user.
- 2015 Chromebook Pixel
- Acer Chromebase 24 – Buddy
- Acer C670 Chromebook 11 – Paine
- Acer Chromebook 15 – Yuna
- Acer Chromebox CXI2 – Rikku
- ASUS Chromebox CN62 – Guado
- Dell Chromebook 13 7310 – Lulu
- Lenovo ThinkCentre Chromebox – Tidus
- Toshiba Chromebook 2 (2015 Edition) – Gandof
For owners of Google’s 2015 Pixel, they have in their hands an iconic Chromebook that is also a powerhouse and the addition of Linux apps would be a welcome addition to the beautiful, albeit, pricey piece of hardware.
The Toshiba Chromebook 2 has a near-cult like following and rightfully so. To this day, there are many who will swear it’s still one of the best displays in the Chromebook arena.
Then, there’s the Acer Chromebase and Lenovo Chromebox. These devices are made for the desktop and what better place to utilize Linux apps then somewhere you’d be editing video or even doing some hardcore gaming.
It isn’t clear if or even when the “kernelnext” update could roll out but there are a couple of ways to keep tabs on your device to see if Linux apps have arrived. When it does show up, it looks like it will be behind a flag. You can keep an eye out for it by checking chrome://flags and searching for:
Enable VMs on experimental kernels.
Enables VM support on devices running experimental kernel versions.
First, your settings menu. If your device is equipped for Linux apps, you should see the Linux (Beta) setting directly below the Play Store in settings. If you’d like to actually check the kernel version on your Chromebook, it’s a simple as opening a crosh shell and inputting a short command.
Just press “ctrl + alt + t” to open a crosh terminal and type
"uname -a" in the terminal and hit enter. You should return a string that looks like this:
Now, the elephant in the room.
Seventh and eighth generation Intel, 64-bit ARM and even AMD Chrome devices all ship with Linux app support. Now, older Broadwell devices that will soon be EOL could get Crostini. So, what about Skylake?
I wish I had an answer for you. Every week, we hear the cries of countless who are holding onto the Samsung Pro or ASUS C302 and wondering why they have been forsaken by developers. I can tell you, the work isn’t dead but it really feels as if there is some major hangup in Skylake’s architecture that is keeping Crostini from working on these Chromebooks that aren’t even three years old.
If you own a Skylake device, I’d love to tell you that Linux apps are coming but at this point, it’s anyone’s guess. If you aren’t sure if your Chromebook is powered by a Skylake processor, here’s the list and my condolences.
- Samsung Chromebook Pro
- ASUS Chromebook Flip C302
- Lenovo ThinkPad 13
- Dell Chromebook 13 3380
- Acer Chromebook 14 for Work
We’ll keep an eye on “kernelnext” and let you know as soon as it appears it’s headed your way.